Roundup – June 4

by David Nieporent on June 4, 2007

Is it, or isn’t it?

  • It is: “Hopefully this means a better life,” says the energy company employee who won a $40 million judgment (almost half of it punitives) against Qwest Communications after the telephone pole he was working on collapsed and injured him. He was lucky; had he worked for the phone company, he likely would have been barred from suing by worker’s comp laws.
    “I could hear my heart pounding, pulsing faster and faster, and I tried keeping calm, but when they started reading the verdict I was in a state of shock,” he said. “It’s justice.”

  • It isn’t: “The lawsuit wasn’t about money, he said.” That’s New Hampshire resident Joseph Hewett, the rejected applicant for The Apprentice who settled his age discrimination lawsuit against Donald Trump and the producers of the show.
    “This was never about a disgruntled applicant trying to get back at (Trump’s) organization, it just gave me an opportunity to advocate on behalf of a protected class,” he said. “This was about the fact that I believe an entire class was aggrieved.”

    His evidence that age was what kept him off the show was a slam dunk; after all, he “claimed he was qualified for the show because he graduated magna cum laude from college and because of his ‘many years of experience maintaining large commercial properties.'”

  • Well, maybe it is: Human rights advocacy groups have been (mis)using the Alien Tort Claims Act for years to litigate foreign events in American courts, but those advocacy groups were motivated primarily by ideology. Now class action law firms, sensing an opportunity, are getting in on the action. Overlawyered repeat offender Motley Rice (many links) is suing officials of the United Arab Emirates on behalf of boys from South Asia and Africa who claim to have been kidnapped and enslaved as camel jockeys in the UAE; the case has no connection whatsoever to the U.S.

    The human rights movement isn’t thrilled because they figure that these lawyers are really in it for the money and not the cause; conservative tort reformers aren’t thrilled because they see it as just another example of entrepreneurial lawyering by trial lawyers.

    John M. Eubanks, a lawyer with Motley Rice who represents the former jockeys, disputed both points.

    “We’re trying to right wrongs that have been committed,” Mr. Eubanks said. “It’s not about money. It’s about exacting some form of justice.”

    Uh, yeah:

    Pressed, Mr. Eubanks conceded that the case was at least partly about money. “There is a contingency fee,” he said. “These cases do cost a lot of money. We don’t get paid unless we collect.”

{ 4 comments }

1 Walter E. Wallis 06.04.07 at 10:34 am

How about, as soon as someone says it isn’t about the money a stipulation be entered banning money verdicts.

2 Deoxy 06.04.07 at 1:11 pm

WEW,

There’s nothing inherently wrong with money verdicts; in fact, somtimes, it’s really the RIGHT verdict.

What should be done, then, when they claim it’s “not about the money”?

Easy – set up a lottery fund (Amricans sure seem to lov lotteries). All money from such suits goes into such a fund, to be given away at random to a tax-paying citizen of the jurisdiction in which the case what decided.

So, a Texas verdict puts money in a Txan pocket… at random.

No more fake claims of “not about the money”. No (or at least extremely mild) perverse incintives. Win-win!

3 Tom T. 06.04.07 at 9:46 pm

It does seem unfair that one individual gets to keep the punitives; it seems like something that should be turned over to a public fund. Although if that were true, then they would be open to accusations of conflict for litigating on behalf of the public.

It’s interesting that the pole wasn’t inspected in fifty years. I wonder how long they’re supposed to last? Here in the Washington DC area, it’s recently come to light that up to 25% of the city’s fire hydrants are not functional. I guess it’s easy for infrastructure to go unnoticed.

4 Walter Olson 06.04.07 at 10:44 pm

For those who’d like to check out the defense side of the underage jockey story, the government of Dubai (one of the United Arab Emirates) has a website here.

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