After two insurance companies noticed patterns of suspicious claims associated with the same Philadelphia body shop, 41 persons were charged in what prosecutors say was a multi-faceted array of fraud schemes involving the participation of insurance adjusters, police, a municipal official and tow truck drivers. “According to investigators, Galati Sr. routinely created false accounts of vehicles being damaged by accidents involving falling objects, deer, and other animals to increase amounts received for insurance claims. Investigators say Galati Sr. went as far as to have employees gather and store deer blood, hair and carcasses in the shop’s garage to be used as props in photos that were later submitted with insurance claims.” Other misconduct charged includes deliberate crashing and vandalism of vehicles, and the obtaining of a $1.8 million contract with the city of Philadelphia for which investigators claim Galati’s shop lacked the contract requirements. [NBC Philadelphia, Auto Body News]
A big win for the oil company before a Fifth Circuit panel, fighting what it says is systematic large-scale fraud in the Gulf Coast spill economic-damage settlement. [Bloomberg News, earlier here, here, etc.]
“Two Fordham University law school classmates who set up a law practice together a few years after graduating are now both facing nine-month suspensions for pursuing a fraudulent personal injury case.” Daniel Levy and Shane Rios represented a woman who claimed to have slipped in front of a Yonkers church; when they investigated the sidewalks, they found no problem with the church’s, but did find a trip hazard in front of a house across the street. They advised her that she would have a winning case only against the homeowner, not the church, and she changed her story accordingly. They proceeded to conceal the original stance of the case both from the court and from a third lawyer they brought in to help. To the New York courts, this misconduct merited a suspension only of nine months. [ABA Journal, New York Law Journal]
P.S. “Maryland would have disbarred these clowns.” [@BruceGodfrey]
Posting videos of yourself to YouTube, for example, is definitely not a good idea, at least unless they are consistent with the disability you are claiming. “Don’t go climbing trees or fixing your roof in public. And certainly do not upload to YouTube a video that shows you half-naked and covered in tinfoil, doing ‘the robot’ to the tune of Steppenwolf’s ‘Magic Carpet Ride.’” [Slate, Utah A.G.'s office] More on “dubious disability”: Lee Habeeb, NRO. Earlier on growth of federal Social Security Disability payments here and here.
A Florida cardiologist has been sentenced to six years in federal prison and ordered to pay $4.5 million in restitution after serving to review the echocardiograms of more than 1,100 prospective claimants on a fen-phen settlement trust fund; many of the claimants he diagnosed were not in fact ill. “The physician was also to be compensated $1,500 for each claimant who qualified for benefits when that person’s claim was paid, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which prosecuted the case.” At trial, he testified “that his medical reports had been forged by the mass tort lawyer who had hired him on a contingency fee basis, the record states.” As I observed in The Litigation Explosion, medicine, like law, is a profession in which the prohibition of contingency or success fees developed early, in large part because it was expected that such fees would work to the benefit of dishonest practice. [Penn Record]
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].
“A New York lawyer busted a trio of Hungarian scammers trying to fake the death of a 5-year-old girl and her mom aboard the Costa Concordia cruise ship. … ‘Even after they were busted, they said “we would have gotten away with it” if the neighbor [posing as a grandmother] hadn’t embellished the story and said the girl was missing too,’ [attorney Peter] Ronai said.” [NY Daily News] “‘They’re called “jump-ons.” It’s normal, this is just on a grander scale,’ Ronai said. ‘People will do horrible things for money.’” [UPI]
There was weirdly little resistance when a scamster named Kevin Waltzer and his associates posed as investors and defrauded three securities class action settlement funds of more than $40 million. How about better verification mechanisms? [Trask, Trentonian]
CBS News takes a look at some instances in which in-store cameras captured footage of, e.g., victims carefully positioning the spills on which they intended to slip. More: Legal Blog Watch.