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Anheuser-Busch

Not many consumers are likely to confuse the two beers as they taste quite different. Even so: “The two companies have been in a legal battle since 1906. Today, the dispute is being waged through 61 suits in 11 countries.” [AP]

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A federal judge has declined jurisdiction of the Oglala Sioux tribe’s lawsuit claiming that liquor sellers just over the Nebraska border are legally answerable for the harms of alcoholism on the reservation. The dismissal is without prejudice to possible refiling of the claims in state court; New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof had promoted the cause. [BBC]

P.S. Kristof vs. college sophomore, advantage sophomore [James Taranto, WSJ, fifth item; Robert James Bidinotto] And don’t get us started about his chemophobia.

I’ve got a piece out at Reason today in which I de-foam the Times columnist’s highly aerated assertions about beer sales near the Pine Ridge, S.D. Oglala Sioux reservation. And a followup at Cato: Kristof has written about the failures of the Drug War, so why does he not apply those lessons here? See also: NYT “Room for Debate” discussion. A different view: Eric Turkewitz.

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August 29 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 29, 2008

  • One for your “firefighter’s rule” file: firefighter perishes in blaze, his widow sues security alarm company [SF Chron, San Pablo, Calif.]
  • And another: Nassau County, N.Y. cop injured by drunk driver while on duty is suing the county over Long Island Expressway design and signage [Newsday; Kenneth Baribault]
  • Stop fighting over the $60 million in fees, judge tells feuding lawyers, your lawsuit has been over for four years now [Legal Intelligencer, corrugated paper antitrust class action]
  • Public-health prof: red-light cameras “don’t work” and instead “increase crashes and injuries as drivers attempt to abruptly stop” [Bruce Schneier via Instapundit]
  • Criminal prosecution of political attack ads? Time to rethink campaign finance law [Bainbridge]
  • Teenagers send each other racy cellphone videos, and then their legal nightmare begins [Des Moines Register]
  • Sounds interesting but haven’t seen a copy: “How To Get Sued: An Instructional Guide” by well-known blawger J. Craig Williams [Giacalone, Ambrogi]
  • Mississippi AG Hood goes after MillerCoors over caffeinated alcohol drinks, but Anheuser-Busch hired Mike Moore and sprang big for DAGA, hmmm [Alan Lange, YallPolitics]

The state of Rhode Island and town of West Warwick, the last major defendants left in the lawsuits over the Station/Great White fire, agreed to throw $10 million apiece into the settlement pot, which now reaches $175 million, to compensate the 200 injured and survivors of the 100 killed in the 2003 blaze. The town of West Warwick, population just under 30,000, is expected to have to borrow heavily to enable its payment; it has a $4 million insurance policy, but defense litigation costs will be deducted before any of that money is made available for the settlement (RedOrbit/ProJo, more, AP/Firefighting News via Childs).

Dozens of private companies named in the suits had settled earlier, including many with peripheral or remote connections to the calamity, such as beer sponsor Anheuser-Busch, which together with a beer distributor agreed to pay $21 million, and radio operator Clear Channel, which paid $22 million. West Warwick will wind up paying much less than that, although its negligent contribution to the disaster (in failing to enforce key provisions of its own fire code) would appear immeasurably greater. Earlier posts here.

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“Anheuser-Busch and a Cranston beer distributor have agreed to pay $21 million to settle lawsuits brought by survivors of a 2003 nightclub fire and relatives of the 100 people killed, according to court papers. The February 2003 fire at the Station nightclub in West Warwick began when pyrotechnics used by the rock band Great White ignited flammable soundproofing foam.” More than ninety defendants were sued, and the total of settlements has now topped $122 million from defendants “including Home Depot, which sold insulation used in the club, and Clear Channel Broadcasting, whose local rock radio station promoted the concert”. (“Rhode Island: New Settlement in Nightclub Fire”, AP/New York Times, May 24.)

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Public Citizen’s blog announced that CSPI plans to sue the beverage sellers, asking for disgorgement of profits from flavored malt beverages, unless they agree to take them off the market. Their theory? By making flavored alcoholic beverages that taste good, they are effectively marketing to children. (Because, after all, adults don’t like beverages that taste good.) CSPI also claims that it violates FDA rules to sell alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine, which would be a surprise to every restaurant that offers Irish coffee.

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Innocent bystanders have paid the bulk of settlements to date in the catastrophic fire caused by Great White’s pyrotechnic display that killed 100 people at The Station nightclub in Providence, Rhode Island. The latest victims are a television station, WPRI, and a cameraman who will contribute $30 million to a settlement fund: WPRI’s Brian Butler is accused of impeding the crowd’s exit through the front door, though Butler’s contemporaneous account suggests that he probably saved some lives at the time. “Dozens of defendants remain, including … Anheuser-Busch Inc., which sold beer at the concert; and Clear Channel Communications, which owns a Providence radio station which ran advertisements promoting the show.” (Andrea Estes, “Tentative deal set in R.I. fire case”, Boston Globe, Feb. 2; “Tentative $30 Million Settlement in Club Fire”, AP/NY Times, Feb. 2). Earlier: Feb. 2006 and Nov. 2 (Home Depot pays $5M for failure to warn, though their foam is different than the foam that caught on fire).

Score another one for personal responsibility: 29-year old St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock killed himself in April when he drove — faster than the speed limit, drunk, on a cell phone, and not wearing a seat belt — into a tow truck stopped on the side of a road. Obviously, we ought to blame… everyone except Josh Hancock for this. Three and a half weeks after the accident, his father has filed suit in St. Louis against: the restaurant where Hancock was drinking, the manager of the restaurant, the tow truck driver, the towing company, and (!) the driver of the stalled vehicle that the tow truck was assisting, for having the temerity to get his car stuck on the side of the road.

So far, he hasn’t sued the Cardinals or Major League Baseball, but, while praising the team, his lawyer pointedly refused to rule out suing them.

Clearly, his father’s attorney isn’t all that creative; think of all the other people responsible for this accident:

  • The cell phone manufacturer; Hancock couldn’t have been talking on the phone if they hadn’t been so negligent as to invent it, or if they had placed warnings on the side of the phone about not using it while driving.

  • Hancock’s girlfriend — she was on the other end of the phone. Plus, he was driving to meet her.
  • The owners of the bar he was driving to in order to meet his girlfriend. If they had been closed, he wouldn’t have been driving there; if they were easier to find, he wouldn’t have had to give his girlfriend directions.
  • The car rental company; Hancock was driving a rented SUV… because he had just had an accident in his own car. If they hadn’t rented him the SUV, he couldn’t have been driving it.
  • Anheuser-Busch, it goes without saying; no alcohol, no accident.
  • The Cardinals, for not trading him to another team; if he hadn’t been in St. Louis, he couldn’t have crashed.

While it’s hardly unusual nowadays to blame bars for injuries caused by serving drunk patrons, those suits typically involve injuries to third parties. It’s not clear to me from a quick perusal of Missouri statutes that the bar can be liable for injuries caused to the drinker himself, but the key may be in this sentence from the Post-Dispatch story, quoting the complaint filed: “The intoxication of Joshua Morgan Hancock on said occasion was involuntary.” Yes, they forced the alcohol down his throat.

I wonder if the tow truck company will countersue for the damages Hancock caused to their truck by crashing into it. That would be poetic justice, at least.

Update: KMOV has a copy of the complaint. (PDF)

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Not only that, but she assumed the whirring video cameras were just for onlookers’ personal use. Certainly she wasn’t expecting the spring break footage to turn up in commercially available compilations. So Monica Pippin is now extracting legal settlements from entities including Playboy and Anheuser-Busch; however, the Daytona Beach hotel at which the contest took place objects to being sued on the grounds that it “had no role in producing or distributing the videos and did not profit from them”. (Kevin Graham, “Lawsuit says video exploits teen’s naivete”, St. Petersburg Times, Apr. 28). Similar: Sept. 28-30, 2001; Mar. 6-7, 2002.

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The beer giant agreed to pay at least $120 million in a confidential settlement to settle a defamation suit and other litigation arising from its termination of a beer distributorship held by the family of baseball great Roger Maris. (AP/Orlando Sentinel, Aug. 24; Tiffany Pakkala, “Maris deal taps Busch for $120m”, Gainesville Sun, Aug. 25). The dispute took the form of several distinct legal actions; in 2001 a Gainesville, Fla. jury awarded the Maris family $50 million following a three-month trial at which celebrated attorney Willie Gary, representing the family, was charged with repeated misconduct (see Apr. 1-2, 2002). However, a judge later threw out ethics charges against Gary (Jan. 5 and Jan. 7, 2004). In the latest round, Gary was again representing the family, this time in a defamation suit against the brewing company; a jury was preparing to return its verdict when the parties settled. (Gregory Cancelada, “Maris family, Anheuser-Busch square off in defamation suit”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch/San Jose Mercury News, Aug. 22).

Update: another alcohol suit

by Walter Olson on February 16, 2004

Piling on in search of a Next Tobacco: “A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles [earlier this month] against the world’s two biggest brewers accuses the beer makers of advertising to minors and seeks $4 billion in disgorgement of profit.” The suit, filed by Seattle’s Hagens Berman, whose doings are oft chronicled in this space (see Sept. 9-10, 2002 and links from there, Nov. 24) targets Anheuser-Busch and SABMiller. It invokes California’s distinctively abuse-prone s. 17200 law (see Dec. 8), as well as a California law which bans alcohol advertising intended to encourage underage drinking. (Ira Teinowitz, “$4 Billion Lawsuit Filed Against Beer Giants”, Advertising Age, Feb. 4) (lawsuit website/complaint in PDF format). Two months ago, lawyers led by David Boies filed a would-be class action against a number of alcohol companies over alleged youth marketing (see Dec. 1)

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Following up on our Apr. 1-2, 2002 coverage: “Gary and one of his law partners, Madison McClellan, are charged with multiple ethics violations involving their representation of baseball legend Roger Maris’ family business during a 2001 trial against the world’s largest beer brewer, Anheuser-Busch.” Trial is scheduled for tomorrow in Ocala “on allegations including falsifying evidence, making false statements, using profanity, improperly appealing for the jury’s sympathy and insulting opposing attorneys.” (Pat Moore, “Ethics trial begins Tuesday for noted lawyer Willie Gary”, Palm Beach Post, Jan. 4)(via Legal Reader, who had it from How Appealing) On Gary’s flamboyance, see Dec. 23 as well as links from the Apr. 1-2, 2002 item. Updates Jan. 7: judge dismisses case against Gary and partner on second day of trial; Sept. 5, 2005: underlying case and related litigation settle for sum upwards of $120 million.


May 30-June 1 – “Judge Allows Lawyer to Add Shell Oil as Nightclub Fire Defendant”. Rhode Island: “Attorney Ronald Resmini, who sued for damages in federal court last month, said he added Shell Oil and its affiliate, Motiva Enterprises LLC, to his lawsuit because The Station nightclub owners distributed tickets to their club from a Shell gas station they owned. ‘They were giving away free tickets if you bought so much merchandise,’ Resmini said.” Lawyers’ quest for deep pockets has already resulted in the naming of brewer Anheuser-Busch and the town of West Warwick, among other defendants. (AP/MSNBC/7 News Boston, May 29). (DURABLE LINK)

May 30-June 1 – “Diet Drug Litigation Leads to Fat Fees”. “A federal judge in Philadelphia has awarded interim fees of more than $150 million to 83 plaintiffs’ law firms for their work in the massive fen-phen diet drug litigation that led to a $3.75 billion class action settlement. The interim fees are just a fraction of what the plaintiffs’ lawyers could ultimately earn, since it covers only work up to June 30, 2001. In their fee petition, the lawyers asked for $567 million.” (Shannon P. Duffy, The Legal Intelligencer, May 21)(see Sept. 27-29, 2002, and links from there). And, reports Texas Lawyer: “A group of Houston plaintiffs’ lawyers who were major players in fen-phen litigation in the late 1990s are now jumping into the ephedra arena and plan to use many of the tactics they learned in fen-phen suits in the new litigation.” Ephedra, an herbal remedy, promotes weight loss and energy but can have serious side effects. (Kelly Pedone, “Lessons Learned in Fen-Phen Suits Factor Into Ephedra Cases”, Texas Lawyer, Apr. 15)(see Sept. 10, 2001). (DURABLE LINK)

May 30-June 1 – “Buchanan & Press”. Viewers who tuned into the popular MSNBC debate show last night (Thurs.) saw our editor debate former ATLA president Barry Nace on the merits of Common Good’s “early offers” proposals for limiting lawyers’ contingency fees (see May 29) A full transcript is likely at some point to be posted here. (DURABLE LINK)

May 29 – Hold the gravy? Common Good, the reform organization headed by author Philip Howard, has launched a new campaign to limit the fees plaintiff’s lawyers can charge in cases that settle promptly. “The proposal would require plaintiffs’ attorneys to submit a notice of a planned lawsuit to defendants in contingency fee cases. If a settlement offer is made and accepted within 60 days of the notice, the attorney must charge an hourly rate that cannot exceed 10 percent of the settlement amount.” (Elizabeth Neff, “Plan Would Cap Contingency Fees”, Salt Lake Tribune, May 25). Petitions to this effect have been filed in recent weeks by lawyers working pro bono in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Virginia. (Daniel Wise, “Attorney Fees in Personal Injury Cases Targeted”, New York Law Journal, May 8; Adam Liptak, “In 13 States, a Push to Limit Lawyers’ Fees”, New York Times, May 26). (DURABLE LINK)

May 29 – Decorating for reconciliation. Okay, for a change, here’s a vignette that made us think maybe there’s hope for the profession: “Though hardly sentimental in the courtroom, Ms. Gold-Bikin [divorce attorney Lynne Z. Gold-Bikin of Philadelphia's Wolf, Block, Schorr & Solis-Cohen LLP] says she often urges settlement and, even, reconciliation…. Coupons for free marriage-counseling sessions are set out on the coffee table. … ‘I’m a divorce lawyer who believes in marriage. So I started collecting old wedding photos and licenses. Then I found that if I put them up around the office, clients would have to walk past them and, hopefully, think twice about what they were about to do. There are plenty of marriages we’re never going to save. But there are a lot we can work on. Many people who come here shouldn’t be getting divorced. They’re just stuck, and I hope this makes them reconsider.'” (Nancy D. Holt, “The rite of matrimony”, CareerJournal.com (WSJ), May 15; also appeared in Wall Street Journal, May 14, as the “Workspaces” column). (DURABLE LINK)

May 28 – Vitamin class action: some questions for the lawyers. Last month “appeal court justices in San Francisco did something unusual: They mailed out a letter asking lawyers in a massive vitamin price-fixing class action to explain a few things. Why, the 1st District Court of Appeal wanted to know, are so many law firms involved? How did the number of coordinated cases grow by 12 in one six-month period? How many out-of-state law firms are involved? Which of the defendants previously entered guilty or no contest pleas to criminal charges?” At least fifty class action law firms nationwide are hoping to split a $16 million fee pot, but Oakland, Calif. attorney Larry Schonbrun, the nation’s best-known objector to class actions, says there’s “no reason why much fewer law firms could not have handled this case”. And: “This is a money machine. It’s feeding at the trough.” (Mike McKee, “Enriching the Record”, The Recorder, May 27). (DURABLE LINK)

May 28 – “Sex, God and Greed”. Forbes on the priest scandals and the associated “litigation gold rush” which could leave the Roman Catholic Church facing $5 billion in payouts. “The lawyers who are winning settlements from Catholic dioceses are already casting about for the next targets: schools, government agencies, day care centers, police departments, Indian reservations, Hollywood. … The lawyers are lobbying states to lift the statute of limitations on sex abuse cases, letting them dredge up complaints that date back decades.” (Daniel Lyons, Forbes, Jun. 9). Sidebars: “Battle of the Shrinks” (role of recovered memory in some cases); “Heavenly Cash” (questionable claims). Our editor weighed in a couple of years ago on the practice of lifting statutes of limitation. (DURABLE LINK)

May 27 – “State is suing ex-dry cleaners”. California Attorney General Lockyer is suing retired owners of Mom-and-Pop dry cleaners in the town of Chico under the federal Superfund law, accusing them of pouring dry-cleaning chemicals down their drains decades ago. “Bob and Inez Heidinger — he’s 87, has Alzheimer’s disease and is blind in one eye; she’s 83, has bone marrow cancer and needs shoulder surgery” — are being sued for $1.5 million on charges (which they deny) of disposing of PCE in such a manner between 1952 and 1974, when they sold the business. Also being sued is “Paul Tullius, a 57-year-old retired Air Force pilot, and his wife, Vicki, who own a warehouse that last housed a dry cleaner in 1972 — 16 years before they bought the building without knowing its entire history.” “This is the most draconian law you could ever imagine,” says Tullius. “…Can you imagine what that does to your life? I’m sort of thinking this isn’t the country I thought it was.” (Gary Delsohn, Sacramento Bee, Apr. 28). (DURABLE LINK)

May 27 — Courtroom assault on drugmakers. A week or two ago the New York Times somewhat belatedly discovered that trial lawyers have ginned up a large amount of well-organized litigation against pharmaceutical makers over alleged side effects. (Alex Berenson, “Giant drug firms may face lawsuits”, New York Times/Oakland Tribune, May 18). Some reactions: Derek Lowe (“Because That’s Where the Money Is”, Corante, May 16), Ernie the Attorney (May 18), MedPundit (May 19), MedRants (May 19), William Murchison (“Lawyers Who Make You Sick”, syndicated/TownHall, May 20) (the last of these via SickofLawsuits.org, a new health-focused site associated with the Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse tort reform groups). (DURABLE LINK)

May 24-26 – “‘Trial Lawyers Get Spanked'”. Our editor had an op-ed Friday in the Wall Street Journal celebrating the Florida appeals court’s striking down of the absurd $145 billion class action verdict in the Engle tobacco case. (Walter Olson, WSJ/ OpinionJournal.com, May 23). Other columns on the decision include Jacob Sullum, “Appealing Price”, syndicated/Reason.com, May 23, on the appeals bond issue; and George Will, “The States’ Tobacco Dilemma”, syndicated/Washington Post, May 23, on the hypocrisy of state governments. (DURABLE LINK)

May 24-26 – Hitting the jack-potty. “A city worker has hit the jack-potty. Cedrick Makara, 55, scored a $3 million jury verdict last week because he hurt his thumb trying to get out of the john of a Manhattan building where he works.” The building’s manager and owner are on the hook. The stall in question “had a missing doorknob. [Attorney Sheryl] Menkes said Makara reached his hand through a hole where the knob should have been and pulled the door toward him just as someone entering the bathroom pushed the door in,” causing him to injure tendons in his thumb and miss six months of work as a city claims examiner. (Helen Peterson, “He’s flush after $3M potty suit”, New York Daily News, May 21). More: Boots and Sabers comments on the case (May 25). (DURABLE LINK)

May 22-23 – Court overturns $145 billion Engle award. Not to say “we told you so” about yesterday’s Florida appellate decision reversing the tobacco-suit atrocity, but, well, we did tell you so back in 1999: “The smart money is betting last week’s Miami anti-tobacco jury verdict will be overturned on the issue of class certification — whether every sick Florida smoker should have been swept into a class suing cigarette makers despite vast differences among individuals on such issues as why they decided to smoke or quit.” We had more to say about the case, also in the Wall Street Journal, a year later (July 18, 2000), as well as on this site. The latest decision is on FindLaw in PDF format and a very fine decision it is indeed — if this keeps up, the Florida courts may start getting their reputation back (Manuel Roig-Franzia, “$145 Billion Award in Tobacco Case Voided”, Washington Post, May 21). (DURABLE LINK)

May 22-23 – Must be why the show has so many fans. Received recently from the publicity department at St. Martin’s Press, publisher of our editor’s latest book: “The Rule of Lawyers by Walter Olson will be a prop in the show, Sex and the City! It will be a prop in Miranda’s apt. thoughout the season. The pilot airs early June.” (DURABLE LINK)

May 21 – Update: McMahon’s mold claim worth $7 mil. “Entertainer Ed McMahon reaped a $7 million settlement from several companies he sued for allowing toxic mold to overrun his Los Angeles home and kill his beloved dog, a national mold litigation magazine reported”. (“McMahon Gets $7 Mln in Toxic Mold Lawsuit – Report”, Yahoo/Reuters, May 7)(see Apr. 25, 2002). Addendum: blogger Stu Greene writes, “I wonder if the Prize Patrol delivered one of those oversized novelty checks with balloons tied to it.” (May 21) (DURABLE LINK)

May 21 – Auto-lease liability: deeper into crisis. Honda has become the latest automaker to announce that it will stop leasing new cars to buyers in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island (see Mar. 12-14, 2003, Aug. 26, 2002). The problem is 1920s-era “vicarious liability” laws in those three states, fiercely guarded by the trial lawyer lobby, which expose leasing and rental car companies to unlimited personal injury claims when their customers get into accidents. Honda’s pullout follows withdrawals this spring by GM and Ford as well as by J.P. Morgan Chase, a major provider of auto financing in the Northeast. (“Industry report: Honda to stop leasing in 3 states”, Detroit Free Press, May 20 (scroll down); “American Honda Finance Corp. to Suspend All Leasing In Three States”, PR Newswire, May 19; “Auto lease fleece” (editorial), New York Daily News, Apr. 22 (scroll down); SaveLeasing.com; “Ford Blames Liability Law for Decision to Stop Leasing Cars in NY”, Insurance Journal, Apr. 7; Zubin Jelveh, “Leasing Companies Exit Left and Right”, Newsday, May 4). “More than $1.5 billion in such claims are pending in New York, said Elaine Litwer, legislative coordinator for the National Vehicle Leasing Association…. [Proponents of easing the law] received a big boost last month when the 75,000-member New York State Bar Association split from the trial lawyers and said the vicarious liability law was never meant to apply to leases and supported changes.” (Barbara Woller, “GMAC leaves New York’s auto leasing market”, Journal News (Gannett, Westchester County), May 1; John Caher, “State Bar, Trial Lawyers Part Ways on Tort Reform”, New York Law Journal, Apr. 8). More: Jun. 9, 2003; Sept. 5, 2004. (DURABLE LINK)

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April 10-13 – Posting slowdown. Updates will be sparse for a while as our editor responds to a family emergency. See you, most likely, early next week. (DURABLE LINK)

April 10-13 – Public Citizen’s bogus numbers. The supposed consumer group now concedes that it put out erroneous numbers which made Pennsylvania doctors look artificially bad (“Watchdog group backs off claim that Pa. doctors top nation’s repeat malpractice payouts”, AP/Scranton Times, Apr. 2; see our Mar. 15-16 report). In January, in a move timed to undercut President Bush’s Scranton speech calling for malpractice reform, Public Citizen claimed that 10.6 percent of Keystone State doctors had paid out on more than one malpractice allegation; it now admits it can verify only a figure of 5.4 percent. The false numbers were widely reported in the press, and the AP last week published an unusual correction (AP/Kansas City Star, Apr. 4). Pennsylvania Medical Society spokesman Chuck Moran called for Public Citizen to apologize: “It’s ironic that they initiated a report called ‘Medical Misdiagnosis: challenging the malpractice claims of the doctor’s lobby’, when, in fact, they are the ones that misdiagnosed the situation.” The accuracy of the group’s figures have also been challenged in Colorado (“Monitoring malpractice” (editorial), Denver Post, Mar. 10).

There is at any rate a more fundamental problem with the litigation lobby’s contention that the current crisis is caused by a small number of bad doctors who attract most malpractice suits and should simply be driven out of practice. As Binghamton, N.Y. neurologist Dr. Jeffrey Riben points out, the number of malpractice lawsuits doctors face often have less to do with their competence than with their specialty and geographic location. “If you look around at physicians that get sued a lot, they tend to be highly prestigious names, people who get difficult cases in difficult specialties where the results are predestined not to be as good as those of people who handle simpler cases, Riben said. ‘Those are the people who have litigation. So it you want to eliminate those people with multiple suits, you would have to eliminate all of our neurosurgeons, all of our orthopedic surgeons, all of our obstetricians, anybody working in an emergency room and everybody reading mammograms,’ he said. ‘I think you would agree if we eliminated those specialties we would not improve health care.'” (Eric Durr, “Docs, public interest groups battle over malpractice issues”, Albany Business Review, Mar. 14). (DURABLE LINK)

April 10-13 – Employers liable for not filtering raunchy spam? At least if workers have complained, employers may be at risk of liability under sexual harassment law if they fail to install blocking software on email inboxes, say various legal experts. Quotes our editor (Declan McCullagh, “Por nspam: Are employers liable?”, CNET News, Apr. 7) (DURABLE LINK)

April 10-13 – Best and worst state courts for business. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce releases the results of a detailed Harris poll of business respondents. The “top five states today as evaluated by corporate America at doing the best job at creating a fair and reasonable litigation environment are: Delaware, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, and Indiana whereas in 2002 Delaware, Virginia, Washington, Kansas, and Iowa were listed as the top 5. The worst perceived states today are: Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas, exactly the same as in 2002.” California scores low marks for punitive damages and treatment of class actions; Hawaii is criticized for onerous discovery and the difficulty of getting weak cases thrown out quickly; New York and Minnesota win plaudits for their handling of scientific and technical evidence. Where does your state rank? (overview) (press release in PDF format) (poll results as Word document) (press conference) (DURABLE LINK)

April 9 – Schools roundup. In Camden, N.J., second grade teacher Eileen Blau has sued student Daniel Allen for running into her in a school hallway at an “excessive rate of speed”, thus inflicting “severe and multiple injuries, some of which are permanent in nature,” according to her suit. Young Allen, who at the time of the incident was 11 and weighed about 90 pounds, didn’t know his family was the target of a claim until the sheriff’s deputy showed up at the door. “He didn’t understand why someone would want to do this to him,” said his mother. “He said ‘Why does she hate me? Why is she doing this. I said I was sorry.'” (Bill Duhart, “Teacher sues student over hall collision”, Cherry Hill, N.J., Courier-Post, Mar. 29). The American Bar Association Journal presents an overview of suits arising when girls aren’t picked for the cheerleading squad (Stephanie Francis Cahill, “Bring It On”, Apr. 4; see Jun. 4, 2001). And “[a] group of attorneys who sued Mississippi schools for millions of dollars on behalf of custodians, bus drivers and cafeteria workers has turned to Alabama, filing more than 60 similar lawsuits”. (Scott Parrott, “Local school systems sued”, Tuscaloosa News, Apr. 4). More on the Jackson, Miss.-based School Litigation Group, which according to one of its principals, former congressman and secretary of agriculture Mike Espy, “takes a contingency fee of between 40 percent and 50 percent, depending on the complexity of the case”: Gary Young, “Overtime Suits 101″, National Law Journal, Mar. 19. (DURABLE LINK)

April 7-8 – Bag of treasures. Cornell Curry, 57 and homeless in New York City, says the Partnership for the Homeless’s drop-in center on W. 23rd St. negligently lost a duffel bag of his belongings last fall; he had been unable to stop by to retrieve the belongings because he was spending three weeks in jail after being arrested for public urination. The shelter “admits it did toss one of Curry’s bags in the garbage, but said that one contained only three soiled pieces of clothing.” Au contraire, says Curry in his lawsuit: he avers that the contents of the lost duffel bag included “an $18,000 star sapphire ring, a $4,000 gold watch, $200 in cash and ‘extremely valuable’ photographs, including his parents’ 1937 wedding photo”, entitling him to $2 million in compensatory and $2 million in punitive damages. Last month Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Rosalyn Richter denied a motion to throw out the claim: “It is simply too early to resolve whether the plaintiff did, in fact, leave the bag in the defendant’s possession and whether the plaintiff also shares some responsibility for the alleged loss,” Richter said. (Helen Peterson, “Homeless, or Mister money bag?”, New York Daily News, Mar. 20). (DURABLE LINK)

April 7-8 – Malpractice crisis hits sports-team docs. Some of organized sports’ most memorable highlights have come when athletes played through pain and injury, but increasingly the result is to create a risk of litigation against team physicians, who are exposed to monetary damages that are potentially enormous given their patients’ potential loss of earning power. Some doctors are withdrawing from the care of professional athletes, and organized football is discussing schemes to indemnify team doctors for their escalating insurance bills. (Jason Cole, “With malpractice rates skyrocketing, many doctors are hesitant to care for professional athletes”, Miami Herald, Apr. 2). Our editor’s Feb. 27 Wall Street Journal piece on lawsuits blaming obstetricians for cerebral palsy is now online, thanks to the folks at Texans for Lawsuit Reform. And welcome readers from Sydney Smith’s excellent medical weblog MedPundit, which has run posts in recent weeks on California’s MICRA and insurance rates, what happens to patients who win awards (plus North Carolina crisis notes), the problem with physician “report cards”, Public Citizen, and a link to this Tallahassee Democrat op-ed (Mar. 3) on how Florida’s malpractice crisis is harming its medical schools. (DURABLE LINK)

April 7-8 – Edwards leads in fund-raising. The North Carolina senator aces his Democratic rivals in the White House money race: “The key to Edwards’ success may have come from trial lawyers, a group of which Edwards is a part and from whom he received 80 percent of political action committee money in recent years.” (“Dem Presidential Hopefuls Compete for Cash”, FoxNews.com, Apr. 2; Richard A. Oppel, Jr., “With $7 Million in Donations, Kerry Trails Democratic Rival”, New York Times, Apr. 3). However, a January poll conducted for the Raleigh News & Observer found the senator none too popular in his home state: “The poll found that 47 percent of active Tar Heel voters disapprove of Edwards’ decision to seek the presidency, while 37 percent approve”. (“Poll: Edwards wouldn’t beat Bush in North Carolina”, AP/Charlotte Observer, Jan. 18) (via “Robert Musil“). (DURABLE LINK)

April 7-8 – U.K.: “Killer wrongly sacked for axe attack”. “A convicted murderer who tried to attack a colleague with an axe was wrongly sacked from his job, an employment tribunal ruled yesterday.” The tribunal in the British Midlands ruled that Preston city council was wrong to fire James Robertson, 50, without notice from his health inspector post after he “brandished the [axe] in an Indian restaurant in Preston after an argument”. However, the tribunal ordered the council to pay only “two weeks’ wages, or £807, for breach of contract,” rejecting a plea for more extensive compensation by Robertson, who “gave evidence while handcuffed to a prison guard.” The council “had employed him when he was released from jail on licence after being convicted of kicking a man to death in Glasgow in 1971.” (Daily Telegraph, Apr. 3) (& welcome Dave Barry readers — the great humorist generously calls us “the always fascinating Overlawyered.com” (archives not working, Apr. 7)). (DURABLE LINK)

April 4-6 – Gun lawsuit preemption moves forward. On Wednesday a House Judiciary subcommittee held a hearing on H.R. 1036, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which would “prohibit civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages resulting from the misuse of their products by others.” Our editor testified in favor of the measure (his prepared statement). The proceedings were televised live on C-SPAN III and rebroadcast overnight on C-SPAN II (schedule, Apr. 2). Yesterday the full House Judiciary Committee gave its approval to the legislation, with Virginia Democrat Rick Boucher joining all panel Republicans in support of the measure. John Tierney’s New York Times account (“A New Push to Grant Gun Industry Immunity From Suits”, Apr. 4) quotes our editor on the subject and mentions The Rule of Lawyers (see second page of article). (DURABLE LINK)

April 4-6 – C-SPAN again. Speaking of C-SPAN II, the network’s “BookTV” feature will be rebroadcasting our editor’s Manhattan Institute speech on The Rule of Lawyers at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, April 5. (DURABLE LINK)

April 4-6 – A bond too far. Even the editorialists of the New York Times agree that it’s “absurd” and “the kind of ruling that erodes the credibility of our legal system” to require Philip Morris to post a ruinous $12 billion bond before it can appeal the class action ruling of a judge in plaintiff-friendly Madison County, Ill. (“Too Costly an Appeal”, New York Times, Apr. 4)(see Wednesday’s post; more). “As for Judge [Nicholas] Byron, it’s difficult to divine if he was playing jurist or friendly croupier. He sought to sweeten the pot by awarding the State of Illinois $3 billion in punitive damages, out of the total $10.1 billion judgment.” (“A Madison County jackpot”, Chicago Tribune, Apr. 2). Perhaps influenced by the prospect that the state will be thrown this slice of the booty, the Illinois Senate is refusing (for now) to lift a finger to reduce the bonding requirement (“Panel nixes bill to help Philip Morris”, Chicago Sun-Times, Apr. 4)(Update Apr. 30: judge agrees to reduce bond somewhat). (DURABLE LINK)

April 2-3 – Appeals bonds, again. Once again the business end of an otherwise outlandish mega-verdict turns out to be the requirement that a defendant post a bond before it can appeal: Philip Morris says it is unable to put up the requisite $12 billion needed to appeal the recent Madison County, Ill, verdict against it (see Mar. 24). Officials of the fifty states are running around in near-hysteria: they’re bothered not by the possible injustice or community-and-investor disruption involved in bankrupting the giant company, whose holdings include Kraft Foods and Oscar Mayer, but instead by the prospect that an insolvency will jeopardize the flow of billions of dollars into their own coffers under the tobacco settlement. So the AGs, supposedly second to none in their loathing of the tobacco companies, are making noises about intervening to try to get the appeals bond requirement lowered. This is the second time around (at least) for this issue: state governments also mobilized after the Engle tobacco case in Florida threatened bonding requirements high enough to destroy the industry. See also the Loewen case (Ameet Sachdev, “States line up against smoking case bond”, Chicago Tribune, Apr. 1; Neil Buckley, “Philip Morris ‘cannot afford’ $12bn bond”, Financial Times, Apr. 1; “Philip Morris woes hurt stock”, AP/Seattle Times, Apr. 1; “Appeals bond a symptom of need for tort reform”, Bloomington (Ill.) Pantagraph, Apr. 1; related). (DURABLE LINK)

April 2-3 – After the R.I. club fire. “Ignoring calls from peers to hold off on lawsuits for now, a Providence lawyer [earlier this month] fired the second salvo in what is expected to become a barrage of litigation resulting from the fire at The Station. The lawsuit was filed in Providence Superior Court on behalf of Lisa Kelly of Swansea, a 27-year-old single mom who was among the 99 people killed in the Feb. 20 blaze at the West Warwick, R.I., nightclub. The lawsuit was filed by Ronald Kingsley, the father of Kelly’s daughter, Zoe Jean Kingsley. Kelly’s mother, Barbara Nagle of Attleboro, yesterday said she knew nothing about the suit and that Kingsley hadn’t had any contact with his daughter in three years as far as she knew….

“The latest lawsuit names 19 individuals and companies as defendants, including the St. Louis-based beer giant Anheuser-Busch Inc., whose Budweiser brand accompanied some advertising for the ill-fated show. Anheuser-Busch Inc. yesterday denied any role in promoting or sponsoring the concert in a statement sent to the Herald. ‘The company that distributes Anheuser-Busch Inc. products in Rhode Island is an independent business that has the right to use our beer brand name in its advertising,’ wrote Stephen Lambright, a company lawyer.” (Thomas Caywood, “Second suit filed over fire at Station”, Boston Herald, Mar. 11)(see Mar. 10-11). See also Roger Parloff; “Where There’s Smoke, There’s Ire”, Fortune, Mar. 19; Deroy Murdock, “Lawyers turn tragedy to farce”, Scripps Howard/Naples, Fla. Daily News, Mar. 28. (DURABLE LINK)

April 2-3 – “Mayor: WTC Personal Injury Suits Could Bankrupt NYC”. “New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday warned that personal injury lawsuits filed by people who claim their long-term health was damaged by the clean-up of the World Trade Center site could bankrupt the city in the next 20 years.” (Reuters/Yahoo, Mar. 31). See also Paul Howard (Manhattan Institute), “A 9/11 Tort-Fest”, New York Post, Aug. 10, 2002, and New York Law Journal coverage: Mark Hamblett, “9/11 Victims’ Suits Flood Court to Meet One-Year Time Limit”, Sept. 11; Tom Perrotta, “New York City Creates Unit for Suits From Sept. 11″, Sept. 12; Daniel Wise, “Sept. 11 Fund Master Found to Give ‘Fair Compensation'”, Oct. 2). (DURABLE LINK)

April 1 – Maybe crime pays dept.: not an April Fool’s joke. Gerald Skoning’s annual National Law Journal roundup of the year’s weirdest cases in labor and employment law includes the following gem: “Richard N. Shick — while employed as a caseworker in the Illinois Department of Public Aid — robbed a convenience store in Joliet, Ill., armed with a sawed-off shotgun. Afterward, he sued the department, claiming that he was discriminated against because of his disabilities and his sex, the trauma of which caused him to commit the robbery. The jury awarded him $5 million in damages and $166,700 in back pay. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois partially vacated and dismissed the judgment, but awarded $303,830 in front pay, even while he serves a 10-year sentence. Thankfully, the 7th Circuit reversed.” (“Legal Weirdness at Work”, Mar. 26; Gail Diane Cox, “Here’s the tort reform poster boy for 2002″, National Law Journal, Oct. 28). Also on Skoning’s list: voodoo signs ruled not an unfair labor practice; employer dodges harassment charge after conduct is ruled “even-handedly offensive” rather than discriminatory; hemorrhoids not a protected disability under ADA. (DURABLE LINK)


April 10 – Soap star: ABC wrote my character out of the show. “A former star of ABC’s daytime drama ‘All My Children’ has filed a lawsuit for nearly $32 million, claiming that the network lied to him and damaged him professionally and financially.

“Michael Nader, who played the dark, dashing and rich Hungarian Count Dimitri Marick on ‘All My Children’ for nearly 10 years, says in court papers that he ‘became ill’ in February 2001 and went on medical leave.

“Nader, 57, was in fact in drug treatment after a narcotics arrest in Manhattan’s East Village. The district attorney’s office said he pleaded guilty and was sentenced May 22, 2001, to three years of probation.

“Nader’s Dimitri character …was written out of the show in 1999. The character was resurrected in 2000 but was written out again in 2001 after Nader’s arrest and rehab. … Nader says [in court papers] he told ABC in March 2001 that he was ready to work but officials there told him to continue on medical leave. … [Later they] refused to release him from his [$1.7 million five-year] contract [signed in April 2000] so he could work elsewhere.” (“Former ‘All My Children’ Star Files Suit”, AP/Newsday, Apr. 3). (DURABLE LINK)

April 10 – “Peter’s Pence”. Baltimore plaintiff’s lawyer and political czar Peter Angelos, who had been demanding $1 billion in fees for representing the state of Maryland in its tobacco suit, has ended the dispute by agreeing to take a mere $150 million instead. The people over at the National Association of Manufacturers’ Human Resources Policy Department feel awfully sorry for the Orioles owner for having to settle for such a measly amount and have launched a “Peter’s Pence” campaign by which readers can collect the spare change off their dresser tops and send it to him to help make up some of the extra $850 million (“Workplace Watch”, NAM, April; Daniel LeDuc, “Md., Angelos Reach Tobacco Fee Deal”, Washington Post, Mar. 22). (DURABLE LINK)

April 10 – “Can Pain Treatment Survive Our Addiction to Law?”. After suffering the effects of a partially collapsed lung, writer Jonathan Rauch learns firsthand how much pain sufferers have to lose if our runaway litigation system takes away their access to the revolutionary pain relief medication OxyContin (National Journal/Reason Online, Apr. 6). See also Damien Cave, “No relief”, Salon, Apr. 4; Duane Freese, “In Rx, Who’s To Blame For Abuse?”, TechCentralStation.com, Feb. 14; and earlier reports on this site: Jan. 23-24, 2002, Aug. 7-8 and July 25, 2001. Updates: see May 30, Aug. 27. (DURABLE LINK)

April 8-9 – An eggshell psyche at U.Va. Law. Worst harassment suit of the year? At the University of Virginia, first-year law student Marta Sanchez on Feb. 26 filed “a claim of assault and battery in Albemarle Circuit Court, seeking $25,000 in compensatory damages and $10,000 in punitive damages” against Prof. Kenneth Abraham, a nationally prominent scholar in tort law. To quote Wendy McElroy’s summary of the case: “During an introductory program last August, Abraham demonstrated a legal principle known as the ‘egg-shell skull rule’ from Vosburg v. Putney, a case commonly taught in torts classes [in which one child's minor battery on another unexpectedly causes major harm to the victim]. Abraham announced his intention to show the class of about twenty students how a slight contact could be actionable. Then Abraham briefly touched Sanchez on her fully clothed shoulder. …Former students confirm that the shoulder tapping is a standard part of Abraham’s lesson on Vosburg. Sanchez says the tap flooded her with memories of being terrorized, raped and molested when she was 11 years old and living in her native land of Panama.” “What some would characterize as mere touching to this victim was an extreme event,” said Sanchez’s lawyer, Steven Rosenfield. “What makes it different is that she was the victim at the hands of men in the past.” (DURABLE LINK)

SOURCES: Nick Denton, “University student sues law professor”, Cavalier Daily, Mar. 27; AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Mar. 26; Wendy McElroy, FoxNews.com, Apr. 2; Justin Park, “Student sues professor”, Virginia Law Weekly, Mar. 22 (PDF); blogs InstaPundit, Mar. 25 and Mar. 26 and DaveTepper.net, Mar. 25.

April 8-9 – Zero tolerance leaves ‘em gasping. School districts across the country are decreeing that “students with asthma must keep their emergency inhalers in the school office, rather than on hand.” Better time your attacks for after school, guys (Catherine Seipp, Reason, Apr.). (DURABLE LINK)

April 8-9 – “Former clients sue attorney O’Quinn”. “Twenty former clients of lawyer John O’Quinn are suing him for alleged mishandling of the Kennedy Heights and Chevron contamination settlement, in which they received $12 million instead of the $500 million that he asserted their claims were worth.” Billed at the time as a major “environmental racism” case, the Kennedy Heights litigation asserted that toxic residues had caused cancers and other ailments among the largely African-American residents of the Houston neighborhood, a charge disputed by defendant Chevron. But were the clients really unaware that it’s standard practice for lawyers in this country to talk up a far higher valuation for injury claims than those claims are actually likely to settle for? The former clients also say O’Quinn used his involvement in the Kennedy Heights case for image-buffing purposes to help beat a 1998 disciplinary rap. “A similar [pending] lawsuit was filed in 1999 by about 80 former plaintiffs who were Kennedy Heights residents claiming O’Quinn allegedly shortchanged them on a settlement.” (Jo Ann Zuniga, Houston Chronicle, Apr. 3). In 1999, when former breast implant clients filed a complaint against O’Quinn, the combative litigator struck back with a libel suit against the women’s lawyer which resulted in a quick gag order shutting down the story (see Aug. 4, 1999). (DURABLE LINK)

April 8-9 – Traffic-cams: Volokh v. Labash. UCLA law prof Eugene Volokh, in a contrarian vein, ventures to defend the red-light cameras that some cities use to generate speeding tickets, arguing that if they are operated in a non-abusive way they hold out promise of being more objective than traffic cops (“The Cameras Are Watching — And It’s a Good Thing”, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 26, reprinted at author’s site). However, Matt Labash’s new investigation for the Weekly Standard shows that the use of cameras in practice has been anything but free from error and abuse (example: cities’ propensity to shorten the duration of yellow lights to bolster revenues). There will be little reason to trust the system’s integrity so long as cities go on letting a contractor run the program in exchange for a share of ticket revenues: as we’re always emphasizing on this site, contingency fees and trustworthy law enforcement just don’t mix (see Sept. 6, 2001) (Matt Labash, “Inside’s the District’s Red Lights”, Weekly Standard, Apr. 1; “The Yellow Menace”, Apr. 2; “The Safety Myth”, Apr. 3; “Getting Rear-Ended by the Law”, Apr. 4; “Fighting the Good Fight”, Apr. 5). (Update/correction: the original post named Lockheed Martin as the contractor in charge of the program, but a reader advises us (see letter, Apr. 19) that Lockheed sold its photo traffic-enforcement division to Affiliated Computer Services Inc. of Dallas, Texas on August 24, 2001; we have corrected the text accordingly). (DURABLE LINK)

April 5-7 – Right to yell “fire”. In Denver, Claudia Huntey is suing her landlord, which she says violated disability-rights law when it evicted her. “She was cruelly thrown out of her apartment solely because she makes involuntary vocalizations due to her Tourette’s syndrome,” said her attorney, John Holland, who said the apartment managers should have made greater efforts to accommodate Huntey’s condition after repeated complaints from other residents of the complex. “What happened to Claudia Huntey is a societal wake-up call reminding us that this continuing struggle is far from over,” said Holland. For neighbors, the wake-up calls were of a different nature: Huntey suffers from more than usually intense symptoms of Tourette’s, as a result of which “[t]he intensity of the constant, involuntary sounds cause her ribs and chest muscles to ache, and she is chronically hoarse from yelling. … For reasons she does not understand, Huntey most often says or yells, ‘Fire!'”. (Sue Lindsay, “Tourette’s sufferer sues, charging unfair eviction”, Rocky Mountain News, Apr. 4). (DURABLE LINK)

April 5-7 – From the grave, instructions to sue. Brooksville, Fla.: “A woman who hanged herself in jail while waiting to face charges in her husband’s death asked in a suicide note that her lawyer sue the jail for allowing her to die. … [Laren] Sims, 36, was awaiting extradition to California to face charges of killing her attorney husband, Larry McNabney, and burying him in a vineyard. ‘My impression is she’s got a scam going even in death,’ said San Joaquin County prosecutor Lester Fleming, who was trying to extradite Sims to California. ‘It’s just an amazingly cold-blooded note.'” (“California woman accused in husband’s murder urged suit based on suicide”, AP/Boston Globe, Apr. 4). (DURABLE LINK)

April 5-7 – Avoid having a medical emergency in Mississippi. The malpractice-suit crisis in the Magnolia State just keeps getting worse: “The Mississippi Trauma Advisory Committee has suspended re-inspection of its hospitals for a year to give health officials time to address the growing problem of surgeons leaving the system.” The state legislature, in which trial lawyer-legislators occupy strategic positions (see June 15, 2001), adjourned without heeding the doctors’ plea for legal relief. (“Mississippi in trauma crisis as surgeons leave”, AP/Memphis Commercial Appeal, Mar. 19)(& see Jun. 3-4, 2002). (DURABLE LINK)

April 5-7 – Advice the whole country could use. P. J. O’Rourke, reviewing two etiquette books: “[M]uch of their advice [the "Etiquette Grrls"] is needed by the entire nation: ”It is much, much more polite simply to tell someone ‘See you in hell’ than ‘See you in court.”’ (New York Times Book Review, Mar. 24). Also: Michael Kinsley on suing as “our national sport” (scroll to near end) (“Social Hypochondria”, Washington Post, Mar. 1). And: author Philip Howard (The Death of Common Sense) is launching a new organization called the Coalition for the Common Good that will gather participants from across the political spectrum in an effort to curb legal excess (Michael Barone, “The Common Good”, U.S. News, Mar. 25; Stuart Taylor, Jr., “How More Rights Have Made Us Less Free”, National Journal/The Atlantic, Feb. 12). (DURABLE LINK)

April 3-4 – High court nixes back pay for illegal aliens. Last week, in Hoffman Plastic Compounds v. NLRB, the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote ruled that illegal aliens can’t collect damages for being fired from jobs it was never lawful for them to hold (Gina Holland, “Supreme Court Restricts Illegal Workers’ Rights in Employment Cases”, AP/Law.com, Mar. 28; see Oct. 28, 1999). Our editor has a new piece out in National Review Online today (Wed.) expressing relief that for the moment at least the country will be free of this absurdity. (Walter Olson, “A Wink Too Far”, Apr. 3). For a contrasting view, here are the editorialists at the San Francisco Chronicle (“Green light for abuse”, Apr. 2).


April 3-4 – “Addictive” computer game blamed for suicide. 21-year-old Shawn Woolley of Hudson, Wisc. played the popular online game EverQuest a whole lot. Then he committed suicide. Now his mother Elizabeth says she plans to sue Sony Online Entertainment, saying the game should have come with a warning label concerning its “addictive” nature, and she’s lined up attorney Jack Thompson, veteran of earlier litigation attacks on videogame companies (see, for example, July 22, 1999). A psychiatrist had diagnosed Shawn with depression and schizoid personality disorder which “fed right into the EverQuest playing,” claims Mrs. Woolley. “It was the perfect escape.” A specialist in “computer addiction” appears on cue in the article, as if summoned by the lawyer, to say that “The manufacturer of EverQuest purposely made it in such a way that it is more intriguing to the addict” and that it “could be created in a less addictive way, but (that) would be the difference between powdered cocaine and crack cocaine.” Moreover, “[h]aving low self-esteem or poor body image are also important factors, he said.” (Stanley A. Miller II, “Death of a game addict”, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mar. 30) (and see letter to the editor from attorney Jack Thompson, Apr. 11). (DURABLE LINK)

April 3-4 – Microsoft case and AG contributions. Columnist Robert Novak rather rudely totes up the very considerable contributions that Microsoft’s rivals have been making to the campaigns of state attorneys general like Bill Lockyer in California and Carla Stovall in Kansas, both of whom are running for governor (Robert Novak, “Money driving Microsoft case?”, Chicago Sun-Times, Apr. 1) (& see Apr. 15). Blogger Ed Driscoll reminds us that AGs also have another constituency that wants them to keep the pressure on Redmond, namely trial lawyers who stand to gain a fortune from the private suits against the company (Mar. 31; see Jeff Taylor, “Symposium: Microsoft Endgame?”, National Review Online, Nov. 5, 2001).

April 3-4 – Ninth Circuit orders Agent Orange payments. The federal appeals court that does so much to provide this site with material has ordered that Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and later contracted prostate cancer and diabetes be given disability payments, “setting a precedent that could cover many illnesses linked to the defoliant.” (“Some Agent Orange Veterans Win Payments”, Reuters/New York Times, Apr. 2). The problem remains that health authorities are by no means agreed that the compound had anything to do with those ailments or most of the others complained of. (Howard Feinberg, “Vetting Agent Orange”, TechCentralStation.com, Mar. 11; Reason links, Feb. 28) (see Jan. 7-8).

April 1-2 – Intel Corp. versus yoga foundation. For more than a year lawyers for giant chipmaker Intel Corp. have been menacing the Yoga Inside Foundation of Venice, Calif., claiming that the nonprofit group’s name infringes on its own “Intel Inside” trademark. “Yoga Inside has nothing to do with computers. It provides free yoga classes in schools, treatment facilities, shelters, prisons and underprivileged communities.” Founder Mark Stephens says the similarity of the slogans “never even crossed my mind” until the company complained. Because of the large sums it has spent to promote its trademark, “Intel argues, the linguistic construction ‘(Blank) Inside,’ whether concerning state-of-the-art technology or a centuries-old spiritual practice, should uniquely belong to the chipmaker.” As for the bad karma to be had in picking on a little group like this, “We’re certainly sensitive about that,” said Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy. “But our hands are tied because of the way the law is structured”. (David Lazarus, “Intel forces yoga group to fight for its name”, San Francisco Chronicle, Mar. 29; Slashdot thread) (DURABLE LINK)

April 1-2 – No more ANZAC Day marches? Australia has rapidly Americanized its liability system and is now paying the price in the form of a drying up of insurance for local events such as ANZAC Day, which honors veterans. “Federal Assistant Treasurer Helen Coonan called [a Mar. 27] forum to share ideas after a series of community events had to be cancelled because of the insurance crisis. … Earlier, Senator Coonan said it was common sense to restrict the ability of those injured while drunk, drug-affected or committing a crime to sue for compensation.” (“States thrash out insurance crisis”, AAP/News.com, Mar. 27; “Quick insurance savings ruled out”, AAP, Mar. 27). With medical claims spiraling, New South Wales health minister Craig Knowles has warned that the nation’s “main medical malpractice insurer could collapse within weeks”, which could leave 60 percent of Australia’s doctors “uninsured for private practice work, and throw the health system into chaos”. (Mark Robinson, “Doctors’ insurer on brink of collapse”, Sydney Morning Herald, Mar. 22). (DURABLE LINK)

April 1-2 – Roger Parloff on 9/11 fund. “If the victims may have no viable claim in the tort system after all, because no one was really at fault for their deaths other than the terrorists, then why must a compassion-driven, taxpayer-financed fund pay what the tort system might theoretically have extracted from a totally hypothetical, deep-pocketed, unambiguously guilty defendant? … [Critiques of the Feinberg proposals as insufficiently generous] demonstrate the otherworldly sense of entitlement that the tort system now fosters.

“In setting up an alternative to the tort system, Congress made an admission that cannot be retracted. … What they said, in essence, was this: In all probability, skilled plaintiffs’ lawyers representing sympathetic victims would convince juries that the airlines were responsible for what happened. That’s because plaintiffs’ lawyers have become expert at redirecting blame from judgment-proof targets toward minimally blameworthy, solvent targets. We all know that such ‘fault’ is, to some degree, a fiction. It’s just a compassionate way to ensure that grievously injured, inadequately insured people get taken care of. The trouble is, when catastrophes get big enough, not even corporate entities are sufficiently deep-pocketed to pay without other innocent human beings suffering as a result. In blaming and bankrupting the airlines — or the private security firms, or the airports, or the municipalities that operate them, or Boeing Corporation, or any of the other usual suspects — we will obviously be scapegoating minimally blameworthy corporations for the nation’s universal unpreparedness. In so doing, we will be creating new waves of innocent victims: airline employee-shareholders who, like Enron’s, see their retirement funds vaporize; public and private employees who are thrown out of work; local residents whose public services deteriorate and whose taxes rise when their local municipal authorities in New York, New Jersey, or Boston go broke.” So now how about applying those lessons in other areas of mass tort litigation? (Roger Parloff, “Tortageddon”, The American Lawyer, Mar. 18). (DURABLE LINK)

April 1-2 – Gary & Co. shenanigans at Maris trial. Last August, after a three-month trial, a Gainesville, Fla. state court jury awarded the family of late baseball star Roger Maris $50 million against Anheuser-Busch Inc. in a dispute over the termination of a beer distributorship. The family had earlier lost an antitrust case against the beer company in federal court. They were represented at the August trial by noted Stuart, Fla. attorney Willie Gary (slavery reparations 1, 2, 3, Loewen, Disney, Coke, Gannett, Microsoft, etc.) who joined the family’s legal team two months before trial on a contingency fee basis.

Court records depict the trial, presided over by senior judge R.A. Green Jr., as a veritable carnival of lawyer misconduct. “At the beginning of this trial,” wrote Judge Green, “it became apparent to the court that counsel, primarily plaintiff’s counsel, would ‘press the limits’ of proper conduct and compliance with directives of the court.” Judge Green found two attorneys on Gary’s team, including his co-counsel and partner Madison McClellan, to be in contempt, whicle Gary himself “was ejected from the courtroom at one point and silenced by the judge on another occasion for uttering a profanity”. Moreover, “the Maris legal team sent a private investigator to conduct surveillance on the defense lawyers’ offices”, to which the defense lawyers responded with counter-surveillance. Judge Green then took the highly unusual step of appointing special master Stephen N. Bernstein to conduct a confidential investigation of lawyer misconduct at the trial. In a 35-page report, the special master concluded that the behavior of Gary and the other lawyers was “an insult to the integrity of the legal system,” and “resulted in an atmosphere that elevated tactics in pursuit of opposing counsel over the duty to pursue truth.” (Larry Keller, “Maris Trial Had Its Share of Misbehaving Lawyers”, Miami Daily Business Review, Jan. 28). Updates Jan. 5 and Jan. 7, 2004: (ethics charges against Gary thrown out by judge); Sept. 5, 2005 (case and related litigation settle for sum in excess of $120 million). (DURABLE LINK)

April 1-2 – New traffic records on Overlawyered.com. Our best month ever for number of pages served (March), best week ever (last week) and best day ever (last Wednesday). Thanks for your support!


March 30-April 1 – Gary to Gannett: pay up for that investigative reporting. In December 1998 the Pensacola, Fla. News Journal published a investigative series alleging that a Lake City business by the name of Anderson Columbia pulled political strings to evade environmental and other rules while obtaining lucrative state road contracts. Now noted plaintiff’s lawyer Willie Gary (key cases: Loewen, Disney, Coke, reparations 1, 2) has been retained by Anderson Columbia and is demanding $1.5 billion, which far exceeds the value of the newspaper itself, in a libel suit against the News Journal and its parent Gannett. The suit, filed downstate in Fort Lauderdale, “also cites two 1990 stories reporting allegations of environmental damage and poor-quality work and an editorial that last year criticized Escambia County commissioners for their dealings with Anderson Columbia.” (Bill Kaczor, “Gary client sues newspaper, Gannet [sic] Co. for libel, seeks $1.5 billion”, Mar. 23) In other pending cases, Gary is representing bias plaintiffs against Microsoft “and is seeking a $2.5 billion breach-of-contract judgment against beer giant Anheuser-Busch on behalf of the family of former home run king Roger Maris.” The Stuart, Fla. lawyer’s choice of clients in the past has not always matched his populist image: for example, he’s represented Florida’s “fabulously rich” Fanjul family in the defense of a suit charging that its mostly black sugar cane cutters were underpaid. (Harris Meyer, “Willie Gary’s Sugar Daddies”, New Times Broward/Palm Beach, Mar. 25, 1999)

March 30-April 1 – Dangers of complaining about lawyers. “Beware: Accusing your lawyer of wrongdoing soon could be even more intimidating. It could land you in court, running up a legal bill to defend yourself against a defamation lawsuit.” A pending change in Georgia rules would open clients and others who talk to lawyer-discipline authorities to defamation suits from the lawyers they criticize — even if the charges against the lawyer are upheld, and even if the statements are made in private to only a few investigators. Critics say the prospect of being sued for defamation, win or lose, would chill legitimate complaints, while bar official David Lipscomb says it’s a difference between two philosophies: “One is you allow a few lies to encourage people to file complaints,” he says. “And the other is you should hold people to a standard of truth, and if that chills some of the complaints, then that’s a price we are willing to pay.” Hmmm … when that same philosophical dispute comes up concerning litigation itself, doesn’t our legal establishment usually favor bending over backwards to keep from chilling dubious complaints? And isn’t it only fair to ask them to live with the same culture of easy accusation that so often results? (Lucy Soto, “Complain about a lawyer at your own risk of peril”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mar. 26).

March 30-April 1 – No cause to be frightened. An Iowa court of appeals has ruled that a man who entered a convenience store at 4:30 a.m. wearing a disguise and ordered a clerk to empty the cash register did not commit robbery for legal purposes. James Edward Heard came in to a Davenport, Ia. Coastal Mart store “wearing a paper bag over his head and athletic socks on his hands” and, according to court records, “greeted cashier Aimee Hahn by saying either ‘Happy Halloween’ or ‘Trick or treat’ and then, in a soft voice, asked her to give him ‘the money.'” (The date was May, not October). After Ms. Hahn complied, he ordered her to lie down and fled. Mr. Heard admitted the facts of the case and was convicted of second-degree robbery, but the appeals court overturned his conviction, ruling that Heard’s actions did not imply a threat of “serious injury” as defined by law. The district attorney called the ruling “terrible”. (Clark Kauffman, “Court rules no threat, no robbery”, Des Moines Register, March 15) (via Jerry Lerman’s Bonehead of the Day Award).

March 29 – Putting the “special” in special sauce. A Toronto family claims its nine-year-old daughter found a severed rat’s head in her sandwich and wants C$17.5 million (U.S. $11.2 million) from McDonald’s Canada. According to her family’s lawyer, Ayan Abdi Jama, “having been enticed by McDonald’s pervasive child-focused advertising”, ordered a Big Mac which was “served in a paper wrapper bearing the Disney ‘Tarzan’ logo”, and proceeded to “partially ingest” the bewhiskered rodent portion, suffering as a result extensive psychiatric damage. Her mom was so shocked by the event that she can no longer carry on normal daily activities or earn a living, the suit further alleges, and her sister will quite likely be similarly affected when she grows up, so they deserve lots of money too. The complaint further alleges that “customers should be warned to inspect sandwiches prior to consumption” and that McDonald’s was negligent for not issuing such a warning. (“Alleged rat’s head in Big Mac triggers lawsuit”, CBC News, Mar. 27; “McDonald’s Canada lawsuit claims rat head in burger”, Reuters/FindLaw, Mar. 28; complaint in PDF format (very long), courtesy FindLaw).

March 29 – “Workers win more lawsuits, awards”.Employees who claim they’ve been harassed or discriminated against are winning many of their cases, and the financial awards they’re receiving often far eclipse those of years past.” The new spate of layoffs is likely to push those numbers higher, and companies that have gone off chasing youthful New Economy workforces invite costly age-bias claims, according to our editor, who is quoted. (Stephanie Armour, USA Today, March 27).

March 28 – The malaria drug made him do it. Last week federal prosecutors indicted former Congressman Ed Mezvinsky on 66 counts of fraud, saying he bilked banks and investors out of more than $10 million trying to make up his losses after himself falling victim to an African advance-fee scam. Mezvinsky now says his errant conduct arose from psychiatric side effects of the anti-malaria medication Lariam, which he took while on his business trips to Africa, and he’s suing the giant drugmaker Roche, along with Philadelphia’s Presbyterian Medical Center, his physician and a pharmacy, saying they should reimburse the losses of the people who entrusted their money to him and also pay him damages. “Clearly the responsibility lies with the manufacturers,” said his lawyer, Michael F. Barrett. (“Mezvinsky files suit over drug”, AP/Philadelphia Daily News, Mar. 24; Jim Smith, “$10M classic swindle”, Philadelphia Daily News, Mar. 23)(more on advance-fee scams). (DURABLE LINK)

March 28 – Ideological pro bono. We should be grateful to lawyers for the idealistic work they do free (“pro bono“) on behalf of worthy causes, right? Well, that may depend on what causes you find worthy. A new Federalist Society survey confirms that pro bono work at the nation’s biggest law firms tilts heavily toward liberal-left causes, such as gun control and racial preferences, as opposed to conservative or libertarian ones. (Pro Bono Activity at the AmLaw 100; Peter Roff, “Pro Bono, Pro Liberal”, National Review Online, March 14).

March 27 – Junk-fax bonanza. An Augusta, Ga. jury has found that the Hooters restaurant chain unlawfully allowed an ad agency to send unsolicited ad faxes offering lunch coupons to businesses and individuals in the Augusta area. Because the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) specifies that each sending of an improper fax incurs a $500 fine, which is tripled if the offense is willful, “attorney- turned-plaintiff Sam G. Nicholson and 1,320 class members … stand to share an estimated $4 million to $12 million from a suit Nicholson filed in 1995.” Each recipient of the six unsolicited faxes will be entitled to a minimum of $3,000 for the inconvenience, and $9,000 if damages are tripled. Hooters says its local manager signed up for a fax-ad service without realizing that its services were illegal or that federal law made advertisers as well as fax-senders liable for violations. (Janet L. Conley, “Just the Fax, Ma’am: Unsolicited Ad Spree May Cost Hooters Millions”, Fulton County Daily Report, Mar. 26). For earlier stages in the junk-fax saga, see Oct. 22, 1999 and Mar. 3, 2000.

March 27 – Shot, then sued. Batavia, Ill. police officer Chris Graver won numerous awards and accolades for bravery after surviving a shootout with a gunman in which he was critically injured and the gunman killed. He’s relieved that the gunman’s survivors have now finally agreed to drop their lawsuit against him. The legal action “was kind of aggravating. You get three bullets in you, almost die, and there’s still lawyers lining up to file a lawsuit against you.”(Sean D. Hamill, “Lawsuit dropped, but officer still tormented by shooting”, (suburban Chicago) Daily Herald, Mar. 23).

March 26 – “Teacher sues parent over handshake”. “A Utah elementary school teacher is suing a parent for allegedly shaking her hand so hard during a parent-teacher conference that she has had to wear a hand brace, undergo surgery and drop out of advanced teaching classes.” The suit, by teacher Traci R. England, says that parent Glenda Smith was irate and charges Smith with “vigorously pumping [England's] arm up and down,” with the result that England “missed work, incurred medical expenses of more than $3,000 and dropped a university class, making her ineligible for a pay raise of $2,000 per year. Her attorney, Michael T. McCoy, is seeking damages for his client, including pain and suffering, in excess of $250,000.” (Dawn House, Salt Lake Tribune, Mar. 23).

Update: we received the following email in November 2005:

I am the teacher in your post. The injury occurred November 20, 2000. Five years later, I have had 7 (yes, seven) surgeries. Each surgery resulted in a loss of 3 weeks of teaching. Over the years, I have suffered from the irresponsible choice an angry parent made over her son’s grades. My students were affected as a result of multiple and lengthy absences. I continue to take medication for inflammation and pain. I have ugly scars on my forearm, wrist, and palm. Did I receive the $250,000 originally asked for in the claim? Not even 10%. How’s that for justice? My lawsuit was never superfluous, nor was it irresponsible. I resent my name and litigation information being present on your site. Please remove it. It does not belong there. You have not done your homework. — Traci England

For our reply, see letters column of Nov. 18, 2005.


March 26 – California electricity linkfest. We’ve neglected this one, what with being on the other coast and all, but here are some catch-up highlights: “California policymakers … froze the retail price of electricity and utilities lost so much money as to face bankruptcy. They barred utilities from signing long-term supply contracts and saw spot prices soar. They dragged their feet on new power-plant construction and found electricity in short supply. They ignored the need for more long-distance transmission lines and then couldn’t import enough power to meet demand. They shielded consumers from higher utility bills and gave them rolling blackouts instead.” And with each round of failure they propose to push the state further into the power business. (William Kucewicz, “California’s Dreaming”, GeoInvestor.com, Feb. 12). The “major crisis could have been averted” had the state last summer allowed utilities to enter long-term contracts with slightly higher rates, but “it’s clear that [Gov. Gray] Davis didn’t act last summer because he was afraid. He feared that long-term contracts could have been criticized if power prices dropped in the future, and that even a minor increase in rates would bring fire from consumer activists.” (Dan Walters, “Crisis also one of leadership”, Capitol Alert/Sacramento Bee, March 25) (via Kausfiles). Pennsylvania, Texas and Ohio all show promising models of genuine deregulation, as opposed to the fake version paassed off by Golden State lawmakers (“California Dreamin'” (editorial), Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 19).

As for the supply side: “In the last decade the population [of California] has climbed 14%, to 34 million”, while peak demand for electricity has climbed 19%. “The number of big power plants built since 1990: zero.” (Lynn Cook, “My Kingdom for a Building Permit,” Forbes.com, Feb. 19). “In the 1970s California’s power regulators got all excited about renewables. The state is now littered with high-cost, low-efficiency wind and solar facilities that produce limited amounts of unreliable power, for which ratepayers have overpaid by at least $25 billion in the intervening years. In 1996 the regulators were persuaded by a cabal of efficiency mavens and end-of-growth pundits that demand for electrons was leveling off and would soon decline, while supply was plentiful and would soon become a glut. They regulated accordingly.” (Peter Huber, “Insights: The Kilowatt Casino”, Forbes.com, Feb. 19)(see also Oct. 11)

And we all knew the trial lawyers would manage to get into it somehow, didn’t we? Not long ago San Francisco launched what is apparently the first “affirmative litigation” office meant to turn suing businesses into an ongoing profit center for the city in partnership with private law firms (see Oct. 5). The political leadership of that city having been a voice for the worst possible policies at each step along the way to where we are now, now City Attorney Louise Renne has sued 13 energy producers for supposedly conspiring to create the crisis. “Joining the lawsuit as co-counsel is attorney Patrick Coughlin of Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach in San Francisco. Coughlin worked with the city in its successful litigation against the tobacco industry.” (Dennis Opatrny, “San Francisco City Attorney Lays Energy Crisis at Feet of Power Companies”, The Recorder, Jan. 22; Paul Pringle, “Power struggle: Finger-pointing intensifies as California woes grow”, Dallas Morning News, Jan. 29).

MORE: Victor Davis Hanson, “Paradise Lost”, Wall Street Journal/OpinionJournal.com, March 21; Gregg Easterbrook, “Brown and Out”, The New Republic, Feb. 19; Robert J. Michaels (California State Fullerton), “California’s Electrical Mess: The Deregulation That Wasn’t,” National Center for Policy Analysis Brief Analysis No. 348, Feb. 14; Paul Van Slambrouck, “How California lost its power”, Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 19 (“California actually has been a pioneer in energy conservation and is one of the most energy-efficient states in the nation, according to conservation experts like Ralph Cavanagh of the New York-based Natural Resources Defense Council”; so much for that proposed cure); Reason Public Policy Institute; Cato; NCPA.

March 23-25 – Non-gun control. “Two second-graders playing cops and robbers with a paper gun were charged with making terrorist threats. The boys’ parents said the situation should have been resolved in the principal’s office, but [Irvington, N.J.] Police Chief Steven Palamara on Wednesday defended school officials and the district’s zero-tolerance policy.” (“Second-graders face charges for paper gun”, AP/CNN, Mar. 21). And earlier this year Rep. Ed Towns (N.Y.) “introduced bill H.R. 215, a measure to ban ‘toys which in size, shape or overall appearance resemble real handguns,'” part of a spate of anti-toy-gun legislation in various jurisdictions. (Lance Jonn Romanoff, “Someone call the National Toy Rifle Association”, Liberzine, Feb. 19).

Meanwhile Ross Clark of the estimable Spectator of London notes in his regular column, “Banned wagon: a list of the things which our rulers wish to prohibit”, that a Labor MP has proposed banning the carrying of bottles and glasses on the street, because they are capable of use as offensive weapons in altercations: “It was never likely that our legislators would be happy banning just items purposely designed for killing people, such as handguns and samurai swords. There are some who will not be satisfied until the human environment is constructed entirely from soft substances which cannot conceivably be used as weapons” (Feb. 10).

March 23-25 – Brockovich a heroine? Julia really can act. One of the most entertaining aspects of that entertaining movie, “Erin Brockovich“, is the pretense that its script has more than a nodding acquaintance with the real-life history of the Hinkley case (Michael Fumento, “Erin Go Away!”, National Review Online, March 21)(our take: Reason, October).

March 23-25 – Guest editorial: ABA’s judicial role. “Good riddance to the American Bar Association’s judge-vetters. Who elected them? Now they can criticize and praise judicial nominees like any other lobby or trade association.” (Mickey Kaus, “Hit Parade”, Kausfiles.com, March 22; see David Stout, “Bush Ends A.B.A.’s Quasi-official Role in Helping to Pick Judges”, New York Times, Mar. 22).

March 23-25 – “Fired Transsexual Dancers Out for Justice”. “Two transsexuals say they were given walking papers from their go-go dancing jobs at a trendy Chelsea club because the nightspot decided they wanted to hire ‘real girls.'” Amanda Lepore and Sophia LaMar, post-operative transsexuals who used to dance at Twilo, are suing the West 27th Street club for $100,000, charging wrongful firing. “This was just a case of out-and-out discrimination,” said their lawyer, Tom Shanahan. The nightclub denies that it discriminates against gals who used to be guys. (Dareh Gregorian, New York Post, March 22). In other news, a “judge has peeled away more than half of stripper Vanessa Steele Inman’s $2.5 million verdict against a Georgia nightclub, the Pink Pony, and its owner.” (Richmond Eustis, “$1.6M Punitives Award Peeled From Stripper’s Legal Victory”, Fulton County Daily Report, March 8; see July 26, 2000). Update Apr. 17, 2004: court of appeals overturns Inman’s verdict (more exotic-dancer litigation: Dec. 4, Aug. 14, May 23, Jan. 28, 2000)

March 21-22 – Hostage-taker sues victims. “Richard Gable Stevens’ hostage-taking rampage at Santa Clara’s National Shooting Club 18 months ago will cost him the next 50 years of his life behind bars in state prison,” Judge Kevin Murphy ruled earlier this month. “Stevens, 23, was convicted of kidnapping, robbery, false imprisonment, threats and assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the July 5, 1999 incident. … Murphy questioned the sincerity of Stevens’ remorse, noting that he has filed a lawsuit for monetary damages against the very people he was convicted of having wronged.” (Bill Romano, “Man gets 50 years for rampage at gun club “, San Jose Mercury News, March 10 (search fee-based archive on “Richard Gable Stevens”, retrieval $1.95) The incident ended when Stevens was shot and wounded by one of his intended victims. According to columnist Vin Suprynowicz, police found a note in which Stevens told his parents he would get revenge on them because they would be bankrupted by lawsuits from the survivors of his intended victims (Vin Suprynowicz, “No serial killings this week in Santa Clara”, Las Vegas Review-Journal, July 11, 1999). (DURABLE LINK)

March 21-22 – Reparations-fest: give us Toronto. Among the latest claimant groups to attract notice with demands for reparations: descendants of early New Mexico settlers asserting land claims that predate the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, under which Mexico ceded much of its northern territory to the U.S. (Christian Science Monitor, March 6). In Canada, the Indian Claims Commission, a federal agency, “says it is handling roughly 480 land-claims cases. There are dozens more in the courts. ” Nearly 200 years after the fact, a band of Mississaugas “are seeking retroactive compensation from Ottawa for the Toronto Purchase, a quarter-million acres covering the whole of Toronto and into the suburbs. … Last summer, the Squamish Indians settled their claim to some prime real estate in North Vancouver for nearly C$92.5 (US$58) million.” (Ruth Walker, “Indian land claims flood Ottawa”, Christian Science Monitor, March 20).

At National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg wonders whether it might not after all be worth paying trillions if it actually got the racial-spoils lobby to cool it once and for all on preferences, quotas, set-asides and the rest of the list — as if it would ever do that (“Reparations Now”, March 19). And reparations lawyers in California have neatly arranged for their targets and the state’s taxpayers to conduct a lot of their research for them: “California Gov. Gray Davis this month signed the Slaveholder Insurance Policy law, which requires all insurers whose businesses date to the 19th Century to review their archives and make public the names of insured slaves and the slaveholders through the state’s insurance commissioner. … Davis also signed the University of California Slavery Colloquium law directing college officials to assemble a team of scholars to research slavery and report how some current California businesses benefited.” (V. Dion Haynes, “California Tells Insurers: Open Slave Records”, Chicago Tribune, Oct. 20.) See also Jeffrey Ghannam, “Repairing the Past”, ABA Journal , Nov.).

March 21-22 – (Another) “Monster Fee Award for Tobacco Fighters”. “New York’s Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes & Lerach and San Francisco’s Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein are among 10 firms that will share $637.5 million in fees for their role in helping California cities and counties capture their share of a $206 billion settlement agreement with the tobacco industry. The Tobacco Fee Arbitration Panel announced Tuesday that private lawyers in California should be awarded the fees for the more than 130,000 hours they [say they -- ed.] worked in helping cities and counties grab half the $25 billion awarded California in the master settlement agreement. The state takes the other half. That works out to approximately $4,904 per hour for the lawyers.” (Kirsten Andelman, The Recorder, March 9).

March 21-22 – Welcome visitors. We’ve noticed this site being mentioned or linked to lately on weblogs Pie in the Sky (Mar. 17: “As a soon-to-be-lawyer, Overlawyered.com is going on my permanent bookmark list. Don’t worry, I’m going to be a transactional attorney- I won’t be doing any litigation (like the kind in the site linked to, or any other).”) and AFireInside; on the NetCool Users Group disclaimer; and on pages including Russell Shaw’s, Univ. of Calif. Libertarians, Swanson Group, LeaveThePackBehind.org (tobacco-Canadian), PelicanPolitics.com, UtterlyStupid.com, FoldingJonah, TheRightTrack.org (“Alaska’s Conservative Digest”), and Dave and Holly’s.