It’s behind a paywall, but TortsProf has a few highlights. Some lawyers are battling to stave off transparency that could catch out counsel and clients who tell inconsistent stories from one case to the next in the course of squeezing maximum payouts from bankruptcy trusts set up to handle claims against asbestos defendants; the trusts themselves have extensive managerial ties to leading plaintiff’s-side firms.
P.S. And House hearings [Bloomberg News, Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine].
Good Tim Carney column on the Dems’ absurd posturing in Charlotte on the auto rescue. “Here’s the truth: what Romney proposed for Detroit was more or less what Obama did.” (For extra credit, observe the parallel with some GOPers’ insistence that RomneyCare was utterly dissimilar to ObamaCare in every respect.) More: National Review; Reuters on the Chevy Volt.
Related: Romney’s ridiculous “jobs I’ll create” commercials [Ira Stoll]
We’ve already mentioned this in the context of the Chrysler bankruptcy (criticized in some quarters for having divested the reorganized company of punitive damage exposure over pre-bankruptcy conduct) but here’s Drug and Device Law gathering up decisions from various states to confirm that, no, there is no vested or constitutional right to punitive damages:
Constitutional challenges have been rejected under due process, taking, jury trial, open courts and various other state constitutional provisions. It makes sense. While compensatory damages might present a closer question (depending on issues such as retroactivity), there’s simply no constitutional right for one private party to demand that another private party be punished.
Especially not when the putative purpose of the damages, to inflict financial distress on the target, has been obviated by an intervening bankruptcy.
$1 billion so far in lawyers’ and other professional fees, and counting. [Reuters]
Yes, it’s probably the biggest and most complicated bankruptcy ever. Fees so far: $310,791,000, including $296,631 per day for lead counsel Weil Gotshal. [AmLaw Daily, Business Insider]
“U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Joan Lloyd ruled Friday that attorney Bruce Atherton and [financier] Randall Scott Waldman ‘blatantly breached’ their duty to the owner of a Louisville tool machinery company by forcing him out of business and seizing his assets. …Atherton was suspended from practicing law last month by the Kentucky Supreme Court based on his guilty plea in September in Pennsylvania federal court to charges that he aided a scheme in which other defendants allegedly ‘busted out’ small businesses by pretending to buy them, then draining their assets before the deals were completed.” [Louisville Courier-Journal via ABA Journal]
Readers might remember the Mraz case, where a driver was run over by his own truck because he failed to engage the parking brake, and a jury nevertheless awarded $55 million. (March 8 and March 21, 2007.)
The Chrysler bankruptcy threw a wrench into the appellate process. Given the number of unsecured (and secured!) creditors who were taking a haircut on what Chrysler owed them, and the weakness of the case, one would expect the claim to be extinguished. But Chrysler unilaterally (and almost certainly politically) decided not to extinguish product-liability lawsuits against it, and the Mraz case has settled for $24 million. (Amanda Bronstad, “Chrysler bankruptcy judge approves $24 million personal injury settlement”, National Law Journal, Sep. 25). Of course, the likely $8-$10 million attorneys’ fee in this case is being funded by taxpayers’ bailout money.
Critics including the Securities and Exchange Commission dispute whether receivers really deserve $27 million for their work through May in cleaning up after the collapse of Texas businessman R. Allen Stanford’s empire. [AP/USA Today; earlier]