- Lester Brickman, others testify before House subcommittee on proposed asbestos-reform FACT Act [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine]
- “B.C. student-turned-dominatrix awarded $1.5M after car accident left her with new personality” [National Post]
- Here, have some shredded fairness: New Jersey lawmakers advance False Claims Act bill with retroactive provisions [NJLRA] Maryland False Claims Act, which I warned about last year, reintroduced as leading priority of new attorney general Brian Frosh [Maryland Reporter; my coverage here, here, etc.]
- Oregon: a “man badly burned when he poured gasoline on a fire is suing Walmart, claiming the gas can he bought there was defective.” [KOIN]
- Minnesota jury is latest to buy sudden-acceleration case, awards $11 million against Toyota [Reuters]
- Insurers, trial lawyers gear up for Texas legislative fight over hailstorm litigation [Bloomberg/Insurance Journal]
- Breaks ankle in “watch this” stunt, files negligence claim, but some spoilsport posted the footage to YouTube [U.K.: City of London police]
Sheldon Silver’s arrest prompts Jeffrey Toobin to relate a war story regarding the now-defunct law firm known as Morris Eisen, P.C., “an outfit so extravagantly corrupt, so hilariously dishonest, and so creatively malign as almost to defy belief.” (I’ve written a number of times about the Eisen firm myself.) Eisen’s son-in-law, who had gotten his start with the firm, went on to found the firm of Weitz & Luxenberg, where Silver had his no-visible-duties job and to which he occasionally sent lucrative asbestos referrals from his friends at the Columbia clinic and elsewhere.
Weitz & Luxenberg (which has not been charged with any wrongdoing in the federal investigation, and says it has asked Silver to take a leave of absence) is also a big political player nationally, not just in New York. As Kim Strassel notes at the WSJ, “Then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s top contributor from 2009 to 2014 was Weitz & Luxenberg. The firm played the same role for Bruce Braley, the trial-lawyer Democrat who just lost an Iowa Senate race.” The other large asbestos firm to receive lucrative patient referrals from Dr. Robert Taub’s now-discontinued Columbia University mesothelioma center is the Simmons firm of Illinois, another big political donor that Strassel says has been the single biggest backer of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Previously on the Silver arrest here and here. More: “Tarnished Silver: Speaker’s arrest upends most everything in Albany” [Andrew Hawkins, Crain’s New York (“his support for the teachers’ union has kept education reformers at bay”); Henry Goldman, Bloomberg; Wayne Barrett on Silver’s “Friends of Shelly” network of pals, including Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (“In his varied posts, Lippman has long overseen the very courts hearing the asbestos and other cases brought by Silver’s firm.”)
And this Joseph Nocera column from the weekend, which is particularly strong on Silver’s influence over the judiciary in New York, built up through methods all “perfectly legal.” But note this NYT correction stating that Nocera’s discussion of the judiciary in that column was “premised on several factual errors.” (More on that: New York Sun.) The New York Post believes the feds are sniffing around Manhattan trial courts.
“Ugly” question raised by arrest of New York assembly speaker Sheldon Silver: how often do law firms trade cash to doctors for mesothelioma referrals? [Alison Frankel/Reuters, Science magazine, earlier] And from the New York Times:
…mesothelioma doctors and personal injury lawyers specializing in asbestos-related litigation have developed over the years what some medical ethical experts describe as an unseemly alliance.
For plaintiffs’ lawyers, mesothelioma patients are a bonanza, worth $1.5 million to $2 million on average per case, according to legal experts; individual cases can yield much more. The hunger for these clients is evident to anyone who has watched late-night cable television and seen the garish ads aimed at those afflicted with the disease….
A symbiotic relationship has emerged, with lawyers financing research on the disease for doctors who send along streams of potentially lucrative clients.
- “Silver’s perversion of a health-care grant that was earmarked for post-9/11 programs” [New York Daily News editorial] Columbia University closes its Mesothelioma Center, deeply involved in the scandal, which had been given a commendation by the New York Assembly in 2011 as its director quietly referred millions in cases to Silver [Daily News]
- Circle wagons first, name committee chairs later: Albany in panic over Silver nab [New York Post, Albany Times-Union]
- Lawyer referral fees, nonprofit cash figured in Lerach/Weiss scandal as well [Daniel Fisher, more]
- Eric Schneiderman, Kathleen Rice… “Law Firm at Center of Silver Scandal Donated Huge Sums” to Moreland Commission figures [New York Observer]
- More: New York Post on, inter alia, strong position held by Weitz & Luxenberg in New York courts; Wayne Barrett/Village Voice 2009 on Silver’s work in obtaining Chief Judge job for old friend Jonathan Lippman. And from Bob McManus at the New York Post: “Orange Is The New Silver.”
According to multiple reports, the FBI has taken New York assembly speaker Sheldon Silver into custody following a corruption investigation. Silver is widely thought to know more about the internal workings of Albany than any other person, so if he begins talking things could get interesting. Our previous coverage of Silver — and there’s been a lot — is here, or chronologically at this tag. My coverage of him 2005-2010 at Point of Law is here.
More: The complaint (courtesy WSJ) alleges improprieties with income both from a real estate law firm and from asbestos legal cases. On the latter, it alleges that Silver directed state research money to a university doctor in Manhattan, and that the doctor referred lucrative asbestos cases to Silver’s firm of Weitz & Luxenberg. The doctor is described as a “well-known expert” who “conducts mesothelioma research” and who had created a center at his university by or before 2002 related to that subject. The doctor, not named in the complaint, “has entered into an agreement with the USAO SDNY [U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York] under which he will not be prosecuted for the conduct described herein, and that obligates him to provide truthful information to and cooperate with the government.” [pp. 24-25] Related post: Cato at Liberty.
Yet more: Remembering when the National Council of State Legislatures awarded Silver its “prestigious” and delightfully named “William M. Bulger Excellence in State Leadership Award” [Howie Carr, New York Post via Margaret Soltan]
“U.S. personal injury lawyers allegedly concealed evidence and induced clients to commit perjury to drive up asbestos-related settlements and garner bigger fees, according to lawsuits unsealed on Tuesday in the bankruptcy of a gasket maker.” [Reuters, earlier] My 1998 piece on asbestos witness-coaching is here.
- From the Manhattan Institute “Trial Lawyers Inc.” project, “Wheels of Fortune” (PDF), twin report on lawyers’ exploitation of SSDI (Social Security Disability) and ADA cases;
- Theodore Dalrymple on the flaws of the US litigation system [Liberty and Law]
- Testimony: “after he inquired about the 40 percent fee charged by [co-counsel] Chestnut, [Willie] Gary threatened to ‘tie up [client] Baker’s money in the courts for years so he would never live to see it.'” [Gainesville Sun]
- ATRA takes aim at rise of asbestos litigation in NYC [“Judicial Hellholes” series, Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine, New York Daily News (“national scandal”)]
- Another reminder that while plaintiff’s lawyers conventionally assail pre-dispute employment arbitration agreements, they routinely use them themselves [LNL]
- New U.S. Chamber papers on litigation trends: “Lawsuit Ecosystem II“; state supreme courts review;
- Changes ahead for class action rules? [Andrew Trask]
- Illinois legislature rams through trial lawyer bills before new governor takes office [Chamber-backed Madison Record: retroactive lifting of statute of limitations on asbestos suits, reduction of jury size from 12 to 6]
- “The NFL Concussion Settlement: Class Action Exploitation” [Howard Erichson]
- Thanks to plaintiff-friendly California law, suits over “Made in USA” labels proliferate [WSJ]
- Fraud complaints related to Hurricane Katrina above 30,000 and more continue to come in [Insurance Journal]
- Pennsylvania Supreme Court addresses products liability in case of Tincher v. Omega Flex, Inc., but falls short of coherence or clarity [Deborah La Fetra, Pacific Legal Foundation; Max Kennerly with a plaintiff’s-side view].
- “Fraud on a Federal Court Allows Vacation of Remand Orders” [Fourth Circuit asbestos suit against Colgate-Palmolive; Beck, Drug & Device Law]
- New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act now menaces unwary businesses nationwide [Joanna Shepherd, more]
- How legal doctrine changes in a state-based system: “The Diffusion of Innovations in Tort Law” [Kyle Graham]
- Are courts growing (appropriately) disillusioned with cy pres? [James Beck and Rachel Weil, WLF; Beck, D&DL, on Redman v. RadioShack]
- “Asbestos lawyers want $2.5 million for losing fight to keep Garlock records sealed” [@DanielDFisher on Legal NewsLine report] “Third Circuit rules against plaintiff who ‘just knew’ asbestos was used in Navy vessels” [Heather Isringhausen Gvillo, LNL]
- Eric Alexander on the runaway $9 billion Actos verdict [Drug and Device Law, citing Dr. David Kessler, former FDA chief, as “plaintiff’s mouthpiece”; earlier on Actos/Takeda case]
- “Third-Party Bad Faith Claims Add $800M to Florida Auto Insurance Costs: IRC” [Insurance Journal]
- Discussion of proposals to change contributory negligence for bicyclists in D.C., mucho comments [Greater Greater Washington]
- “Missouri Supreme Court Invalidates State’s Legislative Cap on Punitive Damages” [Mark Behrens]
- Florida judge strikes down state’s workers comp system [Insurance Journal, WorkersCompensation.com, David DePaolo, Bradenton Herald]
- State of Washington will pay $10 million to family on theory it should have closed highways earlier in ice storm [Seattle Times]
- “Allegations that biglaw aided concealment of asbestos torts survives at the pleading stage” [John Steele, Legal Ethics Forum]
- “Pennies for Plaintiffs, Millions for Lawyers” — but some judges revolt [Megan McArdle, Bloomberg]
- Trial lawyers gain sympathetic press ear for suits over lack of bollards in front of stores as precaution against runaway drivers [Fair Warning]
- …similarly for suits seeking to abolish “Baseball Rule,” obtain damages when foul balls strike spectators [Bloomberg, earlier]
- More on California car dealer’s suit against asbestos law firm [Legal NewsLine, earlier]
- Say nay, laddie: Unsettling new Scotland law will assign each child state interest guardian (“named person”) [BBC, Scottish government, more, Josie Appleton/Spiked Online, opposition group and another] More: Skenazy.
- Why Judge Alex Kozinski doesn’t like jury nullification [Reason interview last year]
- “Asbestos Ruling Boosts Transparency —- and Threatens Plaintiffs’ Attorneys” [Paul Barrett, Business Week, on Garlock ruling]
- Winona, Minn. town cap on rental conversions violates property owners’ rights [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
- Challenger claims Ohio attorney general’s hiring of debt collection firms amounts to pay to play [Columbus Dispatch]
- Mixed verdict in Philadelphia traffic court prosecutions [Inquirer, ABA Journal, earlier]
- Save the date! Cato’s annual Constitution Day returns Wed., Sept. 17, with panelists and speakers like P.J. O’Rourke, Nadine Strossen, Tom Goldstein, Judge Diane Sykes, Roger Pilon, and a host of others [details]