Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Bernard Chazen - 96 - won landmark product liability case Henningsen v. Bloomfield Motors

Bernard Chazen Obituary - Fair Lawn, NJ | The Record/Herald NewsDue Diligence: A Legal Perspective Roy F. Viola, Jr., Esq ...
Bernard Chazen, of Englewood New Jersey, a partner in the father and son firm Chazen & Chazen, led an outstanding life as a lawyer. Many of us set out to have an impact on the law.  Bernard Chazen did.  In 1959 he persuaded the New Jersey Supreme Court to strike down as a matter of "social justice" the legal obstacles that the courts and automobile companies had placed in the way of recovery for injuries due to defective products.
The court's opinion in Henningsen v. Bloomfield Motors (1960) declared unenforceable a waiver buried deep in the fine print of the contract for purchase of a new car - blocking any lawsuit against the manufacturer.
In 1959 leading torts scholar William Prosser seized on the case as embracing the principle of strict liability for defective products.  It was a principle for which he and his former colleague Justice Traynor of the California Supreme Court had been arguing for fifteen years. 
Now, with the authority of the New Jersey Supreme Court Prosser proposed it to the influential American Law Institute which embraced it and began the product liability revolution which swept the courts of the country.  
The issue had been spurred by pediatricians and others who saw in automobile crash injuries and deaths a major public health crisis.  Daniel P. Moynihan, the late Senator then working for New York Governor Averill Harriman, had issued a an important highly publicized report titled Epidemic on the Highways.  It drew attention to the 5,000,000 automobile crash injuries per year, an era when the Big Three's horsepower race was full on and the Beachboys song 409 celebrated Chevrolet's 409 horsepower engine. Moynihan argued that exhortations to drive carefully were ineffective and that automobiles themselves must change, even though in Detroit safety was "a dirty word".
Bernard Chazen's proudest achievement as a lawyer was the spur his work gave to the movement for product safety.  The obituary posted by his family is below- GWC
 Englewood, NJ  Bernard Chazen - Englewood, NJ – age 96 on April 11, 2020 
Born to Nathan and Esther Chazen in New York, New York.
Beloved husband of Bernice Chazen for 56 years who predeceased him in 2010. A wonderful father to David, Jonathan (his wife Cynthia) and Sarah (her husband Martin). He raised his family in Englewood and served on the Englewood Board of   Education (1965-1969, President 1968-1969). General Counsel to the Englewood Redevelopment  Agency (1970-1973).
A loving grandfather to grandsons Sam, Max, Ben, Daniel and Jacob. A first  generation American citizen. Worked in his parent’s millinery shop as a child.
As a member of  America’s greatest generation he enlisted in the Navy during World War II and served as a lieutenant  aboard an LST in the Pacific Theater. Upon his return he attended Middlebury College, Columbia  University (JD) and Rutgers University (LLM) thanks to the GI Bill. He continued to serve in the Navy  reserves as a JAG officer and retired with the rank of Captain.
In 1949 he began to practice law in New  Jersey. His contributions to American jurisprudence in the field of product liability improved the lives of  all Americans. He believed that manufacturers have a responsibility to make their products safe for use.  There was a time that manufacturers of a defective products were not legally responsible to the  consumer because the consumer did not purchase the product directly from the manufacturer and  lacked privity of contract. He searched for the right case to take up on appeal and change the law. He  found it and argued the landmark 1960 case, Henningsen v. Bloomfield Motors, and pioneered modern  product liability law into what became the law of the land.
Manufacturers are now incentivized to make  safe products and avoid liability for defective products that injure consumers. He argued cases before  the US Supreme Court.
He was an Associate Editor of the New Jersey Law Journal from 1967 until his  retirement in 2008 and a prolific writer of editorials. He often lectured to other lawyers on a variety of  legal topics for continuing legal education programs run by ICLE and Inns of Court. He was appointed to  numerous committees by the New Jersey Supreme Court. He was appointed to numerous commissions  by the Governor and served on the New Jersey Law Revision Commission. He was a Certified Civil Trial  Attorney. He was considered a “lawyer’s lawyer”.

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