March 4 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 4, 2008

  • Judge allows lawsuit to go forward as class action claiming consumers defrauded because gasoline expands in summer heat and so there’s less in a “gallon” [KC Star, TodaysTrucking.com; earlier at PoL]
  • Online speech: when a lawprof says it silences someone not to let them sue for defamation, it’s time to check definitions [Reynolds, Bainbridge, Volokh]
  • Should a law school invite Lerach of all people to teach legal ethics? [Massey/Faculty Lounge; earlier] Plus: Congress should investigate how widespread Lerach-style abuses were at other law firms [Columbus Dispatch editorial]
  • Usually no one gets hurt when a physician dodges having to deal with a litigious patient, but then there are those emergencies [Brain Blogger]
  • A lesson for Canada: judged by results in places like Kansas, the American approach to hate speech (i.e., not banning it) seems to work pretty well [Gardner/Ottawa Citizen]
  • “Way way too egocentric”: a marketing expert’s critique of injury law firm websites [Rotbart/LFOMA via ABA Journal]
  • More students are winding up in court after parodying their teachers on the Internet [Christian Science Monitor]
  • Money in the air? It happens the quiet little Alaskan Native village suing over global warming is being represented by some lawyers involved in the great tobacco heist [NY Times]
  • Ninth Circuit panel hands Navy partial defeat in enviro whale sonar suit; ditto federal court in Hawaii [Examiner; earlier]
  • Le Canard Noir “Quackometer” flays pseudo-science, some of its targets complain to ISP which then yanks the site: “We do not wish to be in a position where we could be taken to court” [Orac; earlier]
  • Hans Bader guestblogged at Point of Law last week, on such subjects as: courts that decide punishment before damages; presumed guilty of child abuse? inconsistent straight/gay treatment in sexual harassment law; and signs that today’s Supreme Court doesn’t exactly show a pro-business bias in discrimination cases.

{ 9 comments }

1 VMS 03.04.08 at 7:13 am

The coefficient of thermal expansion of “gasoline” is anywhere from .00053 to .0006 per degree F. 60 degrees F. is the “standard” delivery temperature for the gasoline. Although a 20 degree F increase will result in about a 1% overcharge, such is rarely the case with underground tanks which tend to keep the gasoline from temperature extremes. This should not enough to cause consumer concern and a class action lawsuit, unless it can be shown that the oil companies and gas stations involved are purposely warming their gas before delivery to the consumer. Unlike the good practice of adjusting the price of natural gas centrally to correct for variations in heat content, the retrofit costs to each gasoline pump will swamp any savings (or price increases) to the consumer to adjust for volume variations as a funtion of temperature.

There is a natural variation of the energy content of “gasoline” from about 18,500 BTU per pound to about 20,500 BTU per pound. Ethanol has about 2/3 the heat content of gasoline, and methanol has about half. So if you buy gasoline that has either of these alcohols added, you are really getting ripped off with respect to purchasing heat content.

2 Anonymous Attorney 03.04.08 at 10:02 am

Dan Gardner makes fine points about “hate speech” in Canada/Kansas. Although I wish to note that Canada has been doing this for quite some time, and the biggest targets have been white advocates like Paul Fromm. Only now that neoconnish-types like Mark Steyn are getting a drubbing does this gain traction in the respectable American media. Hmmm.

3 Todd Rogers 03.04.08 at 10:46 am

Nice analysis, VMS.

Headlines beget “outrage” beget victims beget lawsuits beget settlement. Do you think this “Big Oil Profits Outrage Syndrome” is really just a quasi-ponzi scheme cooked up between MSM and Big-Law?

4 jkoerner 03.04.08 at 11:47 am

It seems to me that Bush should just tell the Navy to go ahead with the sonar exercises regardless of what the courts say. Afterwards he could pardon anyone involved and it would be a moot point. It is not popular, but there is precendent for the President to ignore the courts on issues such as this; I think Jackson ignored the Supreme Court as did Lincoln on habeus corpus.

I realize that some may say this would break our checks and balances system, but I think it is a valid check on activist courts to know their ruling may just be ignored with no recourse. They may be more cautious as in Marbury v. Madison.

5 Jim Collins 03.04.08 at 12:20 pm

This looks like the oil companies want to have their cake and eat it too. From what I read here it sounds like thermal expansion is enough of an issue in Canada, where it would be to the consumer’s advantage, to have this equipment installed. Why is thermal expansion not an issue when it is to the oil companies advantage?

While I believe that the media’s over stating the “price gouging” issue, I still have a problem with the explaination on how gasoline prices are determined. All I see in the media is how gasoline isn’t a big money maker for retailers, that it is a draw to get people into the stores, where the real profit is made. I have one question then. If they don’t make that much money off of gasoline, then why have the pay at the pump system? The credit card companies charge a percentage for their use and the people paying at the pump don’t even enter the store.

6 anon 03.04.08 at 3:37 pm

By classic physics, the definition of a liter is 1 kilogram of water’s volume at room temperature, which is 25 Celsius. So the gasoline actually shrinks in the winter and there is more in a gallon in most of the year and less in a gallon in summer. I wonder if oil companies can countersue for money because they sell oil for less money in most of the year. Again, attorneys get big money and oil companies will transfer that load to us, the everyday consumers.

7 Paul 03.04.08 at 3:48 pm

If the oil companies lose this case, will they be allowed to sue the state and federal government for not adjusting the taxes per gallon based on temperature?

8 OBQuiet 03.04.08 at 3:55 pm

That Gas lawsuit is simply absurd. Is anyone questioning that less than a gallon was delivered when you pay for a gallon. The thermal expansion and contraction are simply a part of nature. You were promised a gallon and you got a gallon. Unless the oil company installed a heater just to ‘pump up the volume’ what’s the issue?

9 Deoxy 03.05.08 at 10:10 am

“presumed guilty of child abuse”

This is the result when ANY government entity is given (essentially) unlimited power, as we hav our Child Protection [sic] Services.

And that stuff on Britain is just plain scary.

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