August 1, 2012
Yesterday, the Missouri Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, struck down a 2005 state law capping non-economic damages at $350,000 in medical malpractice cases as infringing on “the jury’s constitutionally protected purpose of determining the amount of damages sustained by an injured party” and therefore violating the right to trial by jury.
The ruling represents a major blow to the state’s tort reform advocates. Moving forward, newly invigorated trial lawyers will seek greater damages for their clients, dramatically increasing medical malpractice premiums for doctors, who will have to shift the cost burden off to patients. Former Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, in an interview with the Associated Press, said it best: ”It’s devastating news, quite frankly, for health-care providers and patients and job-creators in the state.”
In response to the verdict, Tim Dollar [insert pun here], President of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, told the Associated Press: “Everyone who believes in the constitution should be thrilled with this decision today.”
Well, we’re not. But proponents for “merit” selection in judicial elections surely are. Over at the National Review’s “Bench Memos,” Carrie Severino finds the hands of the legal aristocracy all over this ruling. “The trial bar’s influence appeared evident in the majority opinion’s reasoning,” says Carrie.
“The dissent explained: ‘[The decision overrules] more than 20 years of [Missouri] precedent that authoritatively decided this issue. The majority opinion reflects a wholesale departure from the unequivocal law of this state and leaps into a new era of law.’”
March 26, 2012
Thinking of cruising by the Apple store to check out the new iPad? Beware. According to one New York attorney, the very act of entering or exiting Apple’s signature glass doors represents a “danger.”
It seems an elderly Queens woman suffered a broken nose after accidentally walking into the door at her local Apple store. The incident awakened one local litigation jockey to the extreme peril inherent in Apple store designs – a hazard that, up until now, had lurked unnoticed by the millions upon millions who have passed through Apple’s doors worldwide. “Apple wants to be cool and modern and have the type of architecture that would appeal to the tech crowd,” explains the woman’s attorney, “but on the other hand, they have to appreciate the danger that this high-tech modern architecture poses to some people.”
In the old, pre-McDonald’s $3 million coffee cup days, a person who stumbled into a door might have been embarrassed by his/her own clumsiness. Today, it’s a golden opportunity to play the litigation lottery. So what’s a self-inflicted broken nose worth these days? A cool $1,000,000 according to the lawsuit filed against Apple.
March 5, 2012
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform is out with a report detailing the use of Google, Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media in the never-ending attempt by the trial bar to dig up some new company to sue. According to the Institute’s analysis, personal injury law firms “will spend more than $50 million on Google keyword advertising alone” this year – more than triple the amount spent by the Obama campaign in the 2008 election and more than double the amount Apple spent on social media aimed at pushing the iPhone and iPad. Asbestos-specialist Danziger & De Llano, spends an estimated $16 million-plus trawling for clients on the Internet, directing search traffic to dozens of websites the firm sponsors. Plaintiffs firms are also using social media to offer “large rewards” for “whistleblowers” and alerting potential litigants to new opportunities to sue under the Dodd-Frank financial services law.
February 24, 2012
A shocking video posted by the American Tort Reform Association, publisher of the invaluable Judicial Hellholes report, reveals in graphic detail how the trial bar cooks up lawsuits in order to “win the lottery.” In the video, a plaintiffs’ expert outlines the scam:
“Those top lawsuits are big money, hot topic, big issues in Louisiana. Now I also say it’s like winning the lottery because that’s the plan with these legacy lawsuits. We’ve got an 11-step plan to win this lottery.”
Later in the video, the speaker spells out how to pick litigation targets:
“When I sue someone, and prevail, they’re just going to turn around and go belly-up, so we gotta look for those deep pockets.”
Watch the whole video. See how the greedy fix the litigation lottery.
February 22, 2012
With the ink still drying on landmark 2011 legislation capping non-economic damages, several lawmakers and Tennesseans for Economic Growth are pushing for another round of tort reform to cut down on frivolous litigation and bolster the state economy. Among the reforms being proposed:
- A “loser pays” provision requiring the side that loses a motion to dismiss to pay all legal costs.
- A reform to encourage both sides of a lawsuit to negotiate in good faith during settlement talks.
- A reform to protect emergency room doctors from frivolous medical malpractice suits.
Needless to say, these reform proposals have elicited howls of protest from Tennessee’s powerful trial lawyer lobby. That means Tennesseans for Economic Growth must be on the right track.
October 10, 2011
With modern day Greece teetering on the edge of default, it’s easy to think we have nothing to learn from the Greeks – unless, perhaps, we look back to our democratic forerunners of 2,400 years ago. In her new book, The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life, Bettany Hughes informs us that Athens circa 399 B.C. had already anticipated and adopted remedies to protect against the ancient equivalent of what we all recognize as a scheming trial lawyer.
“It is in democratic Athens that the sycophant is born: a man on the make who brings a trumped-up court case; someone who thinks he’ll be able to score off the very presence of a justice system. Sycophantai were the fifth-century legal equivalent of ambulance-chasers; citizens who brought cases on flimsy charges so they the could be paid for attending court, and might possibly even net damages. And so steep fines have been introduced – if you don’t succeed in getting any more than one-fifth of the votes, you have to pay the state back.”
That’s right. The ancient Greeks invested loser pays legislation!
September 28, 2011
As part of his job creation package, President Obama is proposing to allow unsuccessful job applicants to “sue if they think a company of 15 or more employees denied them a job because they were unemployed.” In other words, “give me a job or I’ll sue!” Maybe job applicants should just bring a trial lawyer along on their next interview.
September 23, 2011
Is it just my imagination or does every new Obama jobs bill include at least one little nugget for his allies at Trial Lawyers, Inc.? Joel Griffith of Big Government points out that a clause buried inside Obama’s American Jobs Act “exposes states to frivolous lawsuits” by requiring states that receive federal funds under the bill to give up their “sovereign immunity rights” guaranteed under the Constitution’s 11th Amendment. Translation: trial lawyers have a new loophole to gouge state governments (and, by extension, taxpayers).
By far the most generous contributors to President Obama’s 2008 campaign were – you guessed it – lawyers and lobbyists, funneling nearly $44 million to elect a president who has been, to put it kindly, sympathetic to their interests. So far in the 2012 election cycle, the Obama campaign has secured over $6 million from 54 lawyers known in modern campaign parlance as “bundlers.” Bundlers, OpenSecrets helpfully points out, are “people with friends in high places who, after bumping against personal contribution limits, turn to those friends, associates, and well, anyone who’s willing to give, and deliver the checks to the candidate in one big ‘bundle.’”
You’d think any individual wealthy enough to rise to the exalted status of Bundler to the President of the United States would be one of those our president is targeting to pay his/her “fair share” to the government. Of course it’s easier to pay your fair share when higher taxes are returned to you in the form of higher legal fees.
April 14, 2011
As if we didn’t have enough home-grown lawsuits clogging U.S. courts, the trial bar is hard at work trying to import foreign-based claims. According to U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue, there has “been a sharp rise over the past 15 years in lawsuits brought against U.S. companies based on alleged personal or environmental injuries that occur overseas,” including cases against Dow Chemical, Shell Oil and Dole Foods. In Nicaragua, writes Donohue, the trial bar:
“lobbied to change Nicaraguan law retroactively to deprive the defendants of due process, fabricated testimony from plaintiffs who never worked at a banana plantation, and conspired with a local judge to rig judgments.”
Even as they work to import overseas lawsuits into the U.S., the trial bar is also actively trying to export America’s broken legal system so they can sue American companies in foreign venues. The sleazy tactics of the trial bar don’t just undermine justice, Donohue rightly points out, “they will destroy jobs, competitiveness, and economic growth.” But as far as Trial Lawyers, Inc. is concerned, that’s a small price to pay for a Powerball-sized contingency fee.
February 7, 2011
Under a new “alliance” between the Obama Department of Labor and the trial bar, anyone who complains to the government about their bosses will be patched through to the American Bar Association so they can get a contingency fee lawyer to take their case. Fox Business News has the full story. (Hat tip to Ed Murnane’s Illinois Civil Justice League).
The ABA calls the move “unprecedented” – which it is, but not in the way the lawyers mean. Getting more fee-grubbing lawyers in between employees and employers will doubtless spark more lawsuits. More lawsuits against small businesses means fewer jobs.
Vice President Joe Biden hailed this litigation stimulus plan because “most all” of the fees” will be “contingency on the back end.” Biden’s son Beau was a heavy-hitting trial lawyer before he traded in his famous name to become Delaware’s Attorney General.
It’s a pretty good bet that the Obama re-election campaign will get cut in on any additional contingency fees generated by this cozy arrangement. During the last election cycle, lawyers funneled more than $90 million (thanks Open Secrets) into campaign coffers – the vast majority to Obama.