Beaumont justice and the silicosis mass torts

by Ted Frank on May 3, 2009

“The first time we ever lost a case in trial, it was 2001. We tried it in Beaumont, Texas, and lost $7.5 million. . . . The judge sat there through the trial reading a newspaper. At one point an objection was made, the bailiff taps him on the shoulder and says ‘judge, objection is being made.’ He looks at our lawyer and says ‘overruled.’ The plaintiffs’ lawyer raises his hand and says ‘no, judge, it was me.’ He says ‘sustained’ and goes back to reading the paper.” …

[U.S. Silica CEO John A.] Ulizio shares a memo that plaintiffs’ lawyer Joe Gibson sent to silica defendants in 2004 with a blunt offer: Settle our 9,000 cases for $900 million, or pay $1.5 billion in pretrial discovery alone, plus an even bigger verdict. “That’s the genius of the economics of litigation from the plaintiffs’ perspective. Sue a lot of people, sue on behalf of a lot of plaintiffs, get into an adverse jurisdiction, and then don’t make too big of a demand, so you can settle it for a relatively small percentage of the cost of defending the case,” Mr. Ulizio says.

Kim Strassel has a must-read account of how U.S. Silica beat a mass-tort fraud attempting to steal its solvency—and did so almost entirely by the luck of the MDL draw, as a different judge might have refused to conduct the hearings that exposed the wrongdoing. (See also Michael Krauss at Point of Law.)

Note that that $900 million proposal for 9000 bogus cases works out to $100,000/case—which is exactly what the Vioxx litigation settled for.

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U.S. Silica in the blogosphere
05.05.09 at 2:15 pm

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1 John Hochfelder 05.03.09 at 9:15 am

The story of U.S. Silica and John Ulizio is compelling. And it’s righteous too. Bravo! We who practice plaintiff’s personal injury law must root out the fraud, abusiveness and foolishness that pervades the civil justice system if we want juries that are more sympathetic to our clients and a public that is more receptive to our cause.

2 Todd Rogers 05.03.09 at 9:53 pm

Hero.

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