By Dorothy Du
IBM Creation “Watson” May Have the Potential to Assist in Legal Research
Watson, an IBM super computer four years in the making, competed on the popular TV game show Jeopardy! on February 14 through 16. On the 16th, Watson prevailed against former Jeopardy! champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, tallying in at a total of $77,147 in winnings — more than triple each human contestant’s totals, as PC World reports. Robert Weber, IBM’s senior vice president of legal and regulatory affairs and general counsel explained in The National Law Journal that Watson could be useful in performing some of the basic legal research that junior associates are often assigned. PC World explains that Watson is equipped with a natural language processing system called DeepQA that allows it to understand a complex question, even one involving wordplay; the system uses six million logic rules in order to mine 200 million pages of content for human-like answers. Weber believes DeepQA could prove useful for “gathering facts and identifying ideas when building legal arguments” and says the technology could even “come in handy, near real-time, in the courtroom.” Jennifer Chu-Carroll, who helped create Watson, told Computer World: “Watson is a significant step, allowing people to interact with a computer as they would a human being.”
Recent Cases Support the Use of Internet to Assist Counsel in Voir Dire
ABA Journal reports that conducting Internet searches to uncover personal details about potential jurors in order to facilitate in jury selection during voir dire has become increasing popular. Quinn Emanuel reports that a New Jersey appellate court in Carino v. Muenzen held that it was unreasonable to prohibit counsel’s use of the Internet during jury selection. And the Missouri Supreme Court in Johnson v. McCullough affirmed a decision to grant a new trial because a juror had failed to disclose his prior lawsuits, but added the qualification that in light of advances in technology allowing access to information about potential jurors, it was appropriate to increase the burden on parties to bring such matters to the court’s attention earlier. With more than 500 million people on Facebook, 175 million on Twitter, and over 70 million actively using LinkedIn, the Internet has become a revolutionary tool allowing jury consultants and trial lawyers to uncover facts that may be may not be discoverable via traditional jury questionnaires. Internet searches allow counsel to select jurors that with particular political affiliations, community involvement, sexual orientation, or income level, Reuters reports.
FDA Deputy Commissioner Speaks About New Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)
On February 17, Michael Taylor, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods gave his first speech on imports since the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law by President Obama this year, Quality Assurance Magazine reports. The FSMA represents the biggest reform of U.S. food safety regulation in decades, and was drafted partially in response to a number of high-profile food-related incidents between 2007 and 2010, as Sidley Austin details. Taylor indicated that, in light of the fact that 50 percent of our fresh fruits, 20 percent of our vegetables, and 80 percent of our seafood is imported, the FDA sought to establish a new paradigm for regulating imported food through the FSMA, according to the FDA. Taylor stated that “food safety is not only the right thing to do, it is good business,” noting “the major disruptions to our economies and to international trade that occur in the wake of major foodborne illness outbreaks and product recalls.” Food Safety News says the new law gives the FDA new tools to manage imports, such as the power to create agreements with exporting countries that facilitate inspection and certification of food in the country of origin.
California Judge Dismisses Another Class Action Lawsuit Against Pacemaker Manufacturer
MassDevice reports that Judge Manuel Real of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California recently dismissed a class-action lawsuit against Guidant Corp., a subsidiary of medical device company Boston Scientific. The plaintiff, who had the “Insignia 1298” pacemaker implanted in 2004, was understandably concerned when he heard in the news that pacemakers like his were failing, explains Drug and Device Law. Rather than waiting or undergoing surgery, he decided to sue Guidant Corp., the manufacturer of the pacemaker. The plaintiff’s complaint in Cohen v. Guidant Corp. was dismissed on grounds of “preemption and want of injury, facts, and particularity.” According to the judge’s order, the complaint failed to provide factual support showing that there was a specific defect in the pacemaker. The court also stated that fear of future injury, in the absence of an actual manifestation of a defect that results in injury, is not a legally cognizable claim under California law.