Posts Tagged ‘asbestos’

Liability roundup

  • “Is Arbitration Awful? The New York Times Thinks So.” [New Jersey Civil Justice Institute, earlier here and here] And speaking of that paper, I’m going to miss Joe Nocera’s incisive coverage of the litigation business in his column, often linked here; he’s off to other duties at the Times [Politico/New York]
  • Yet more from the Times, longread on litigation investing and champerty: “Should You Be Allowed To Invest In a Lawsuit?”
  • Mikal Watts through the years: “It was part of my strategy to affect the stock price, which I was very successful at.” [Madison County Record, more]
  • “No negligence liability for injuries by fellow players in contact sport” [Eugene Volokh, martial arts, Colorado Court of Appeals]
  • Defense lawyer claims adversary had advance word about jury deliberations, grabbed $25 million settlement [Chicago Law Bulletin]
  • Is data privacy the next source of mass lawsuits? [Chamber Institute for Legal Reform]
  • Funds needlessly drained: “Asbestos reforms needed to protect first responders and veterans” [Rep. Blake Farenthold, The Hill]

Rachel Maines on the evolution of asbestos guilt

In the past forty years some 8,000 businesses and other entities have been named as defendants in American asbestos litigation. The story has often been told (among other places, in my book The Rule of Lawyers) of how this litigation spread in widening concentric rings to ever more peripheral defendants. The first major targets were companies that had been deeply involved with mining, processing and distributing asbestos; after these companies went bankrupt, the second ring included manufacturers of construction materials, heating and electrical products, and other goods that had included asbestos for the insulation or flameproofing properties for which it was long almost ubiquitous. By the time many of those companies were at length pulled into insolvency, the litigation had spread further to a much wider circle of defendants that had not themselves done any manufacturing involving asbestos, but had used such materials in factories, offices, schools, power plants, and so forth.

I’ve also discussed (in this 2007 Reason piece) some of the ways in which government itself promoted the injurious use of asbestos in industrial settings, above all wartime shipbuilding. But I didn’t get into another dimension of the issue, which Rachel Maines (visiting scientist at the Cornell School of Electrical and Computer Engineering) develops in a compelling article on “The Asbestos Litigation Master Narrative: Building Codes, Engineering Standards, and ‘Retroactive Inculpation.'” [via TortsProf, 2012, and very belatedly being linked here]. Maines:

As Cardozo Law School professor Lester Brickman correctly observes, most asbestos claims “were the result of defendant’s retroactive inculpation for acts committed decades earlier that were not wrongful at the time.” I concur with Brickman in this but go beyond him in arguing here that the vast majority of current asbestos claims result, in fact, from past efforts to enable compliance by property owners and building contractors with building codes and engineering standards at the Federal, state, and local levels that specified and approved asbestos in code-compliant assemblies. In many cases, the use of asbestos was required by law; no asbestos-free assemblies were approved in, for example, cathodic wrap for underground steel gas pipe, hot-air register insulating paper, and electrical insulation for conductors in switchboards. There is still no equivalent-performance substitute for asbestos in high-temperature gaskets and some types of high-performance motor vehicle brakes….

In effect, the tort law system that has supported asbestos litigation since 1973 drove much older and well-established building law, and the engineering standards incorporated into it, into a legal shadow from which it has yet to emerge, penalizing the makers and owners of products manufactured in compliance with construction regulations as negligent and characterizing all products that contained asbestos as “defective” and “unreasonably dangerous.” Historians will recognize this as an economically consequential case of the fallacy of presentism: the imposition of modern values on the past. In 1987, Federal judge Christine Cook Nettesheim accurately characterized the initial 1973 asbestos case, Borel v. Fibreboard, as “an icon of hindsight analysis.”

Read the whole thing, which has much other interesting material about the triumph of the “master narrative” of asbestos litigation promoted by plaintiff’s lawyers and their allies.

Liability roundup

July 15 roundup

Liability roundup

  • Home lab butane cannabis fatality: “The Hash Oil contributory negligence lawsuit you’ve all been waiting for” [Elie Mystal, Above the Law]
  • With Sheldon Silver out of the speaker’s chair, New York has better chance at reducing sky-high litigation costs [Manhattan Institute, earlier on scaffold law]
  • Per Norton Rose Fulbright annual business survey, responding companies more than twice as likely to be facing five or more lawsuits if based in U.S. than if based elsewhere [Norton Rose Fulbright, Bob Dorigo Jones]
  • “Hearing: H.R. 1927, the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2015” [April House Judiciary Committee with John Beisner, Mark Behrens, Alexandra Lahav, Andrew Trask]
  • Legal outlook for Illinois defendants deteriorates as Madison County sees resurgence in suits and Cook County remains itself [ICJL]
  • Brown v. Nucor Corp.: did Fourth Circuit just try to gut Wal-Mart v. Dukes rules against combining bias plaintiffs in dissimilar situations into class action? [Hans Bader/Examiner, Derek Stikeleather/Maryland Appellate Blog]
  • No wonder New York City consolidation trials are so popular with asbestos lawyers if they yield average of $24 million per plaintiff [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine] Information in eye-opening Garlock asbestos bankruptcy (allegations of perjury, witness-coaching, etc.) now unsealed and online [same, earlier]

May 13 roundup

April 14 roundup

  • Please, someone: you can’t just donate money to the Tulsa police and get full deputy powers, can you? [Tulsa World via @RayDowns]
  • Illinois bench-‘n’-bar buzz angrily at Gov. Rauner who broke rule re: not mentioning lawyers’ campaign cash to judges [Chicago Daily Law Bulletin]
  • “New York’s Asbestos Court Mulls Changes After Sheldon Silver Scandal” [Daniel Fisher] “‘Judicial malpractice’ not to probe court tied to Silver: Judge” [New York Post]
  • Let’s all panic about arsenic in wine, or maybe let’s all not [Nick Farr, Abnormal Use (“The highest arsenic levels cited in the lawsuit are less than half of the limits set by other countries such as Canada”), and more on class action lawsuit]
  • “Tennessee Sacrifices Property Rights On The Altar Of ‘Gun Rights'” [Doug Mataconis, Outside the Beltway; earlier here, here, and here]
  • Odd that while we make wedding cake bakers and florists common carriers, the old “cab-rank” (any paying client) rule for lawyers has come to seem almost unthinkable [Adam Liptak, NYT on big law firms’ avoidance of representing clients on the unpopular side of major gay rights cases] Similarly: Paul Karl Lukacs, L.A. Daily Journal. Related: “maelstrom of criticism” directed at Harvard lawprof Laurence Tribe over his Supreme Court representation of coal company against EPA [Orin Kerr]
  • Just for fun: the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, in license plates [my post at Cato at Liberty]

Liability roundup

  • “Judge dismisses Brady Center’s lawsuit. Ammo retailers not to blame for Aurora theater killer” [Denver Post via @davekopel]
  • “Ever been in a crowded subway car when a gunfight broke out? I have.” And it relates to slip-fall cases [Eric Turkewitz]
  • No more of Prosser’s tricks: Scalia warns modern Restatements “of questionable value, must be used with caution” [Orin Kerr]
  • Impact of revelations in Garlock document trove continues to ripple: “Insurer Claims Asbestos Fraud Tainted Pittsburgh Corning Bankruptcy” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes, earlier]
  • Trial lawyer allies want to make California’s insurer-shackling Prop 103 even (if possible) worse [Ian Adams, Insurance Journal, see also]
  • “The settlement shakedown”: Scott Shackford on the Moonlight Fire case in California [Reason, earlier]
  • This must be what they call a hellhole jurisdiction [comic book cover via Jim Dedman, Abnormal Use]

March 18 roundup

  • “The FAA Says You Can’t Post Drone Videos on YouTube” [Vice] Agency rethinking position following outcry? [Photography Is Not a Crime]
  • Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) proposes bill directing Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to issue safety rules for detergent pods [Paula Bolyard, Heartland, quotes me; earlier] Bonus: Lenore Skenazy on CPSC zipper hooded sweatshirt recall;
  • New Jersey high court — Gov. Christie’s appointees included — will now take over direct enforcement of court’s previous decisions (“Mount Laurel”) requiring towns to adopt low-income housing quotas [Bergen County Record, earlier]
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs revises federal guidelines on Indian Child Welfare Act, and a nonprofit group of adoption attorneys says that not only were it and other stakeholder groups not consulted, but “entire sections” of the revision “completely disregard the best interest of children,” something ICWA alas encourages by its text [American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, earlier]
  • Should winning class action plaintiff lawyers be able to mark up their expenses, such as photocopying, as two law professors propose? [Andrew Trask last year]
  • “Attorney who appeared in more than 3,000 asbestos cases disbarred … ‘Excuse Man’ also loses license” [Chamber-backed Madison-St. Clair Record]
  • If you see an online ad for $199 divorce, maybe think twice before giving them your debit card info over the phone [KTVK, Phoenix]

March 4 roundup