Remeber that protestor that was run over in Isreal

Remeber that protestor that was run over by a bulldozer in Isreal a couple years back? Well her parents have decided to sue Caterpillar Inc.

The parents of a 23-year-old activist killed while trying to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home is suing Caterpillar Inc., the company that made the bulldozer that ran over her.

That incident seemed like murder to me and they have every reason to go after the IDF, but to sue Caterpillar just doesn’t make any sense.

Cindy Corrie, said in a statement released by the Center for Constitutional Rights, a law firm handling the case. “We believe Caterpillar and the (Israeli Defense Forces) must be held accountable for their role in the attack.”

'Cause everyone knows earth movers are nefarious devices designed solely for the purpose of murder and mayhem. Fucking Christ…

Based on the quoted statements this sounds like a purely political attention move not any kind of sound legal theory. I can’t even imagine how attenuated the chain of causation is that you’d have to argue to connect the commercial actions of Catepillar to the military actions of a foreign military. It’s insane. And I don’t even think that you can call this the fault of a cheesy plaintiff’s attorney or a result of the “litigation crisis” in the US. It sounds like a left-leaning political action group filing a lawsuit to get some press.

OK I read the article and their legal theory is that

Caterpillar violated international and state law by providing specially designed bulldozers to Israeli Defense Forces that it knew would be used to demolish homes and endanger people

“Specially designed bulldozers” ?? I mean I thought Bulldozers were DESIGNED to crush homes and other structures - that’s what they DO. Plus, where’s the proximate cause? Catepillar has to police the use of their equipment by the end users? “I’m sorry mr construction contractor but I cannot sell you a bulldozer unless you show me exactly what you will be doing with it and allow my inspectors to make sure nobody every gets squished” ?

What’s next: suits against Uzi and Galil for wounds inflicted by soldiers in the IDF?

Who builds those Israeli attack helicopters? Sounds like they better get their house counsel warmed up :).


PS I don’t know federal civil liability law but I would bet this suit gets dismissed like a bad habit. It just sounds WEAK as a legal theory. And federal court does have fairly good dismissal and summary judgement procedures IIRC.

Dan, I’m more inclined to believe this is a reasonable suit having read your quote about their legal theory.

Wasn’t a big part of the Israeli defense for their action that they had poor visibility due to all the armor? I seem to remember something along those lines, but I assumed that the IDF had modified the commercially available bulldozer. If it’s being designed to protect the operator, I think it’s reasonable to hold the designers responsible for unintended consequences of poor visibility. I mean the girl had on bright orange jumpsuit and megaphone, so we’re talking incredibly bad visibility. Did the designers think visibility would be unnecessary?

So the onus is on the company designing the bulldozer to ensure that people who willingly stand in front of their product are safe? Sheesh.
So if they modify the armour and one of the drivers is shot by a sniper, does his family then have the right to sue the company or the group that forced the lawsuit?

Someone get Clint Walker’s opinion on this.


Specially designed bulldozers

The legal theory is probably a mess, but they are making custom modifications especially for the IDF, right?

There is a problem with this whole suit on the issue of the comparative negligence of the slain girl herself, which I’ll skip past.

You could in theory construct a legal theory stretching a chain of causation to Catepillar: you could say that if the bulldozers were modified for combat engineering with armor and such, they have less visibility, and if they are also forseeably used around unarmed civilians who are protesting close to the dozers while the dozers are moving, this could create a hazardous condition which Catepillar should have forseen due to the international press attention etc. Its awfully damn thin, but you could make the argument.

However, what kills the suit out of the gate IMO is the fact that Catepillar is just way too far up the chain of causation for them to be liable in any reasonable court IMO. The first line of attack should be the IDF and the Israeli government. Why are they not being sued ? (Probably b/c of treaty restrictions or national sovereignity). If there is any fault or negligence here (and I don’t know enough to say there is - the whole situation sounds messy and possibly the slain girl may have used poor judgement) then the fault is with the IDF and the nation of Israel. Heck, before you get to Catepillar, the local Palestinians have WAY more liability than Catepillar (for failure to warn). Of course I don’t think the the Palestinians should be a target either, again the proper target (if there is any merit to the suit) is the IDF. Double Heck, before you get to Catepillar, maybe you shove some liability onto the Palestinian Authority for participating in creating the dangerous conditions.

Bottom line is, even if you do stretch a crazy attenuated chain of causation and forseeability to Catepillar, there are several entities ahead of Catepillar in the chain of causation, and all of them performed activities that IMO make it totally unforseeable for Catepillar to be aware that there was a danger.

This is something that I think is a real weakness in American tort law: drawing out a big long chain of causation and then going for the deep pocket at the end who happens to be subject to local jurisdiction rather than the actual (or at least alleged actual) tortfeasors, who may be shielded by foreign laws, treaties or diplomatic immunities. It’s like the families who sued the Airline for the Lockerbie bombing instead of the Libyan government. Now in that case the Libyan government later did reach some kind of reparations deal IIRC and the families of the deceased did get some compensation (I vaguely recall). That happened due to diplomatic processes IIRC, although perhaps there was a world court suit there too.

If the girl’s family wants to sue and thinks they can show the girl had little or no fault and that the IDF was negligent then they should press a claim against Israel, diplomatically or in the world court if they can. But suing Catepillar is lame, and wrong IMO.

One more thought here: I’m not sure if the legal principal of duty applies in this case, but if it does it kills the case deader than a doorknob. There’s just no way in freaking hell that Catepillar owes a duty to the dead girl’s parents, certainly not the kind of duty that requires them to go to a foreign country and monitor military operations. Its ridiculous.

The tort logic is logcially pretty dumb, yes. But then again - to create a less inflammatory example - if some asshole in Libya blew up a relative of mine on a plane, and the Libyan government & US governments were studiously ignoring the issue, I’d have no qualms at all about suing any corporation I could find to create the political pressure necessary.

As a side note, wasn’t the Lockerbie suit based on the airline’s incompetent flight screening?

Another side note: suing the crap out of anyone who supplies the Israeli army with equipment to shoot Palestians sure sounds like the South African campaigns…

And on the flipside, you can always sue the crap out of the people that provide the suicide bombers with semte, but then again…

There’s something a bit special about IDF bulldozers. They are designed to crush homes that belong to other people, while they are still living in them. That’s why they are so heavily armoured; more like a tank than your average workaday bulldozer. One could argue that the design of the bulldozer would make it pretty obvious that it wasn’t going to be peaceful civilian purposes. I don’t know if that makes them liable for anything, but it is something that one might like to publicize to shame the company for its actions.

Because in order to crush homes while people are still living in them you need armor? Was the bulldozer that crushed Arthur Dent’s house armored?

No, they’re armored because otherwise snipers would take out the drivers from entirely different and possibly vacant houses!

I did a bunch of reading about this yesterday. The most likely theory is that she was maneuvering around the bulldozer and she fell. Some of her own friends that were there have said that they think she may have fallen and the bulldozer driver couldn’t see her.

I’m not ruling out the possibility that she was deliberately run over, but I think the burden of proof has to be on the accusers on that one.

Also, can I sue Caterpillar too? I was once driving past a construction site and I saw one of their bulldozers and it reminded me of how much I hate sitting in a cubicle all day and I was depressed for an hour.

What a weird statement. I didn’t realize that who held the deed to a house affected the engineering requirements of its demolition.

And did you mean “While people still want to live in them” or “While people are still inside the building”?

I would guess that the typical Caterpiller buyer or potential customer is much more likely to think “cool – Caterpiller makes stuff for the IDF – they’re the good guys” than they are to think “OMG! Caterpiller is teh evil for helping the jews oppress those poor palestinians!”

I meant exactly what I said: living in them means that they are occupying it. It doesn’t infer that they are actually in it at the time. If I am living in the UK, I can actually be in Australia on holiday when I say that. There’s no need to try and extract meaning from my statement that doesn’t exist in order to get me saying something I never intended. While there have been reports of homes bulldozed while the owners were still inside, that is not what I actually said.

What I meant was that the bulldozers are designed to protect the drivers from hostile humans, not the accidental falling of bricks. They are built like tanks because the people in the places that they bulldoze aren’t happy about being bulldozed and will attack the bulldozers, usually with rocks and guns. It’s not like they are in the West Bank to carry out civilian duties, helping out the local communities and being shot by evil Palestinian snipers. They are there to turn people out of their homes.

Just to give an idea of how these things are hardly civilian vehicles:

That thing’s like a sandcrawler! Mobile fortress.

Still I tend to agree it would be pretty hard to hold this company liable for the actions of a driver in another country. Maybe if you sue the IDF the IDF could sue Caterpillar or something for poor design but I don’t see how you sue them right off the bat. The theory about an attempt to publically shame Caterpillar sounds more likely to me.

I agree with the publicity angle. And there’s also the prospect of obtaining a settlement from Catepillar. Who is paying the legal bills for the plantiffs?

Yep, this seems much more like a political use of the courts to make a point and get some attention rather than a suit that will actually succeed. But that goes on all the time.

As to the issue of the specially designed bulldozers, the implication I gather from the posts here seems to be that since they are “armored”, “combat” bulldozers somehow they are evil and convey liability to the manufacturer. But what if the IDF had used full on military tanks to crush the homes? Their tanks could probably do that job but they probably choose not to use them for reasons of maintenance costs and the risks of damage to the very expensive tanks. (I’m guessing that even those armored bulldozers are far cheaper than real tanks).

If this girl had been crushed by a tank, even a tank built by a US company, would it be proper to sue the tank manufacturer?

The point that I’m making (apparently not clearly) is that the military use of the bulldozer by the IDF breaks the chain of causation back to Catepillar. Once you take an item designed for use in a combat zone, (or any item for that matter) and USE it in a combat zone, then IMO you the user take the liability.

The proper forum for the family’s grievances is a claim for compensation from the state of Israel. If that doesn’t work and the US State Dept won’t help then political action (ie advocating or voting for a change in US policy) is another proper approach. Failing those, a suit in the world court. Mind you the IDF still has the defense of non-negligence or comparative negligence by the girl.

But to use the US courts for this is part of a bad trend of mis-using our legal system for political purposes (practiced by both parties and all idealogical stripes).

Rather than capping damages as a sort of lawsuit reform I would really really like to see better tools to dismiss BS cases quickly and brutally.