Re: The Lessons of ValuJet 592

Subject: Re: The Lessons of ValuJet 592
From: Dick Gaskill <dickg -at- AG3D -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 29 May 1998 12:28:47 -0700

The story sounds phony to me. I seriously doubt that a "trained
computer professional" would be stupid enough to leave a "unit" of any
kind turned on while servicing it, especially when removing or replacing
a board, no matter what kind of documentation was provided with the
unit. Sounds like another internet hoax.

FYI, it does not matter whether you name is in the manual, software, or
whatever, if your company is incorporated, at least within the USA. As
an employee of a US corporation, you cannot be individualy sued. The
same is true for not-for-profit corporations, BTW.

-dg

----------
From: Hutchings, Christa [SMTP:cwhutchings -at- HOMEWIRELESS -dot- COM]
Sent: Friday, May 29, 1998 9:06 AM
To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
Subject: Re: The Lessons of ValuJet 592

Jane Credland wrote:

>The documentation is a
>mitigation of the company's damages, but it's not going to
exonerate
them
>from responsibility.

Absolutely! This all reminds me of something I read several
years ago
about an Indian computer company that basically went belly-up
due to a
wrongful death lawsuit "attributed to documentation."

Apparently this company had a great product for an excellent
price, and
had been very well received in test markets. Industry analysts
predicted
that the company would do very well in the U.S. and it was
poised to
make a big splash here.

Unfortunately, soon after the product release, a pregnant woman
electrocuted herself and her 5-month fetus when she
inadvertently drove
a screwdriver into the unit while installing a board. Now, this
woman
was a trained computer professional, but made the mistake of
opening up
the unit on her living room floor. As she knelt over the unit
with a
screwdriver, her 3-year child jumped on her back, knocking her
forward
and driving the screwdriver into the unit. The woman and her
fetus were
killed and the 3-year old injured. The woman's husband sued the
company
and won millions, effectively driving the company out of the
U.S. market
and (I believe) into bankruptcy.

The plaintiff's lawyer convinced the jury that the company was
negligent
regarding design safety, using as his primary example the fact
that the
product manual looked like a comic book (a design that had
actually
received accolades for its innovative approach). There were
other
arguments also, but the jury found for the plaintiff on the
basis that
the company's comic book style manual created a false sense of
security
in customers and encouraged a nonchalant attitude toward
standard safety
procedures.

I don't remember if only the company was sued or if the tech
writers
were also named as individuals in the lawsuit, but it sure makes
me
think twice about putting my name in a manual!

Chris Welch-Hutchings
Sr. Technical Writer
Home Wireless Networks, Inc.
Norcross GA (USA)
mailto:cwhutchings -at- homewireless -dot- com


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