Getting Better

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We included "Getting Better" among our allusions to Beatles songs in one of last week's posts. It's a light ditty from the Sergeant Pepper album and is an interesting example of a Lennon-McCartney song (on some early albums -- er, LPs, er CDs -- the writing credit for their songs was listed as "McCartney-Lennon") because the optimistic McCartney-esque "it's getting better" is counterbalanced by Lennon's murmuring of "it couldn't get much worse." We side with McCartney on this issue and, indeed, on most issues. In the movie Vanilla Sky, the Kurt Russell character describes himself as a guy whose favorite Beatle used to be Lennon but, now that he's the father of kids and has seen a few things, his favorite Beatle was now McCartney. We agree. Life is tough enough, and we need silly love songs more than primal screams.

One doesn't have to believe in the myth of human perfectability to have a healthy respect for progress. In this society, in this culture, at this time, things mostly are getting better. One might not have said that in Europe in 1100 or 1939. We hear a lot of grousing now about how our kids might grow up in a tougher world than ours. But improvements are all around us. Just look at dentistry. And American beer. Probably not preemption law.

Anyway, we should all support efforts to improve on things. Which brings us to the rule against admitting evidence of subsequent remedial measures. In one sense, it's easy to see why subsequent remedial measures might be relevant to a claim of product defect. If the issue is whether a product should have been safer, does the manufacturer admit as much by making the product safer? A reflexive affirmative answer to that question is facile and foolish. The competitive marketplace is reason enough for manufacturers to try to improve their products. Further, at any given time, there is a state of the art. It's simply unfair to suggest that a subsequent improvement proves that the earlier version was defective.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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