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lead paint

Following news of a $67 million settlement over lead exposure in New Orleans public housing, various residents feel unfairly left out. Lawyers in charge explain that the case covers only a set class of plaintiffs: to qualify for funds, claimants must (quoting the broadcast account) have lived in New Orleans public housing before Feb. 2001, have been born before late 1987, and be able to show medical records indicating lead poisoning before the age of six. [WDSU; auto-plays video including starter ad with no halt button]

Unfortunately, the televised report makes it very hard to evaluate the strength of the protesters’ complaints, since it does not sort out such questions as: are they saying that their personal situations do qualify for compensation under the settlement’s terms, but that they missed out by not being notified in time? Or are they claiming instead that the settlement should have been negotiated to compensate a more broadly defined class, such as persons whose claims are more recent? If the latter, as one passage in the report suggests, their right to seek compensation by way of a separate suit may not actually have been extinguished. Some related minutes here.

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January 3 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 3, 2014

  • Taxpayers on hook: “N.J. boy left blind and brain-damaged after being beaten by father awarded $166M by jury” [Newark Star-Ledger]
  • “Psychic Love Spell Center stole my money, lawyer alleges in lawsuit” [Houston; ABA Journal]
  • “You can’t win these suits… Move on with your life.” Good advice for someone falsely accused of rape? [Roxanne Jones, CNN]
  • Critical look at California judge’s lead paint ruling [Daniel Fisher/Forbes, earlier here, here]
  • $6 check and apology over “F-word”: “Pub owner’s sarcastic response to Starbucks cease-and-desist letter goes viral” [ABA Journal]
  • Suburb doesn’t want to accept public transit, but feds force its hand by use of controversial disparate impact theory [Dayton Daily News]
  • Randy Barnett: libertarianism as a vehicle for moderation, toleration and social peace [Chapman Law Review/SSRN; one of my favorite academic papers from last year]

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The Bloomberg View columnist discusses the new ruling by a California state judge that companies that once made lead paint, and their successors, owe a billion dollars plus to California counties and cities over marketing of lead paint as long ago as the 1920s and earlier. I’m quoted:

As Walter Olson of the Cato Institute noted to me in an e-mail, “Many of the key business decisions being sued over took place closer to Abraham Lincoln’s time than to our own, and if the companies had gone to twenty leading lawyers of the day and asked, `could this ever lead to nuisance liability under such-and-such facts’ would have been told `of course not.'” Can you really sue a company for doing something that was well within the law? Or, as in one case, a company that bought a company that did something that was well within the law? As Olson points out, “when ConAgra bought Beatrice Foods, most business observers never even realized there was the tiny sliver of a paint company in there among the household food brands, but that one little sliver of successor liability could far exceed the then-value of all the rest.”

More from @Popehat on Twitter: “My wrongful death suit against Mongolia for Genghis Khan’s crimes against my ancestors moves forward!”

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December 18 roundup

by Walter Olson on December 18, 2013

  • California judge tells three large companies to pay $1 billion to counties under highly novel nuisance theory of lead paint mostly sold long ago [Business Week, The Recorder, Legal NewsLine, IB Times]
  • Coincidence? California given number one “Judicial Hellhole” ranking in U.S. Chamber report, followed by Louisiana, NYC, West Virginia, Illinois’ Metro-East and South Florida [report in PDF; Daniel Fisher/Forbes (& thanks for mention of Overlawyered), Legal NewsLine]
  • Frivolous ethics charge filed by Rep. Louise Slaughter, Common Cause and Alliance for Justice against Judge Diane Sykes over Federalist Society appearance is quickly dismissed [Jonathan Adler]
  • On heels of San Antonio Four: “Texas pair released after serving 21 years for ‘satanic abuse'” [Guardian, Scott Greenfield]
  • White House delayed onerous regulations till after election; Washington Post indignant about the delay, not the regs [WaPo, Thomas Firey/Cato]
  • “GM vs Bankruptcy – How Autoworkers Became More Equal Than Others” [James Sherk, Bloomberg]
  • According to one study, North America’s economically freest state isn’t a state, but a Canadian province [Dan Mitchell]
  • “If you thought it wasn’t possible to lower the bar for lawyer advertising, of all things, you were wrong.” [Lowering the Bar, first and second round]

With a widely watched case filed by California local governments reaching trial, the plaintiffs’ claims are in the news. “Even with quotes cherry-picked to make paint manufacturers sound awful, however, [Mother Jones's] case seems weak.” The columnist quotes my book The Rule of Lawyers on the enormous cumulative changes in the American liability regime, which have made it thinkable (at least to some governments and lawyers) to impose retroactive liability today for business decisions in the 1920s that were clearly lawful at the time. [Bloomberg; more on the history of lead paint use from the defense side).

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July 27 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 27, 2013

  • Authorities arrest woman they say obtained $480,000 by falsely claiming injury from Boston Marathon bombing [CNN]
  • More on the buddy system by which Louisiana officials pick private-practice pals for contingency contracts [WWL, The Hayride, Melissa Landry/La. Record; earlier on levee district's new megasuit against oil industry]
  • “Why would the President meet with the IRS chief counsel rather than his own counsel at OLC, and without the IRS commissioner present?” [Paul Caron, TaxProf] “The IRS as microcosm”: government lawyers lean left politically [Anderson, Witnesseth]
  • California county lead paint recoupment case finally reaches trial, judge jawbones defendants to settle [Mercury-News, Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine]
  • The insanity of film production local incentives, Georgia edition [Coyote]
  • Questioning NYT’s underexplained “Goldman aluminum warehouse scam” tale [Yglesias, Stoll, Biz Insider]
  • Yes, government in the U.S. does do some things to accommodate Islam, now don’t get bent out of shape about it [Volokh]

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  • “The Emperor’s Clothes: Should jury bias against corporations receive legal recognition?” [Michael Krauss on Alabama legal malpractice case]
  • Which did more to compromise gas can usability, regulation or liability? [Coyote, Jeffrey Tucker a year ago at LFB, earlier here, etc.]
  • Wow: Litigation Lobby stalwart Joan Claybrook signs her name to letter claiming there’s “no evidence” of “significant fraud” in asbestos litigation [WSJ letter] “Peter Angelos’s Asbestos Book” [WSJ] “House panel passes asbestos trusts transparency bill” [Law360, Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine]
  • “Indiana’s ‘Government Compliance’ Presumption Against Defect and Negligence” [John Sullivan, D&DL]
  • CPSC Commissioner Nancy Nord on the commission’s certificates of compliance;
  • A way to head off the product-suit technique for bypassing workers’-comp limits? “Pennsylvania Supreme Court Allows Waivers for Future Negligence by Third Parties” [Krauss, Point of Law]
  • California cities’ lead-paint-as-nuisance suit may be headed for trial [Max Taves, Recorder]

Was she unaware a house of that vintage might have lead paint, then? “A woman who bought a 110-year-old home from Kalamazoo for $3,200 has agreed to a $115,000 settlement with the city after she said officials failed to disclose the possibility it contained lead-based paint.” Brandi Crawford bought the house last year and this March filed a claim saying “city officials didn’t provide her with an Environmental Protection Agency-approved form warning her of the potential of lead-based paint in the home. Crawford said her child had elevated lead levels.” [AP/Detroit News]

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Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on January 17, 2013

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on August 22, 2012

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  • EPA continues crackdown on older-home renovation in the name of lead paint caution [Angela Logomasini, earlier, see also re: lab testing]
  • Solyndra’s many enablers: 127 in House GOP just backed federal energy loan guarantees [Tad DeHaven/Cato]
  • “In defense of genetically modified crops” [Mother Jones, no kidding] “How California’s GMO Labeling Law Could Limit Your Food Choices and Hurt the Poor” [Steve Sexton, Freakonomics]
  • “EPA fines oil refiners for failing to use nonexistent biofuel” [Howard Portnoy, Hot Air]
  • Consultant eyed in Chevron-Ecuador case [PoL] Radio campaign targets conservatives on behalf of trial lawyers’ side [Fowler/NRO] Lawyer suing Chevron: “We are delivering a bunch of checks to [NY Comptroller] DiNapoli today” [NYP]
  • Getting taxpayers off the hook: Congress might curb flood insurance subsidies [Mark Calabria/Cato]
  • “Lessons from British Columbia’s Carbon Tax” [Adler]

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January 6 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 6, 2012

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November 14 roundup

by Walter Olson on November 14, 2011

September 14 roundup

by Walter Olson on September 14, 2011

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By a mostly partisan vote of 50 to 44, the U.S. Senate confirmed Rhode Island plaintiff’s lawyer and political kingmaker Jack McConnell to a federal district judgeship. McConnell made his Motley Rice law firm, based in South Carolina, into Rhode Island’s biggest political donor during the same period that state officials were hiring him to run, on contingency fee, what it was hoped would be a hugely lucrative suit against former makers of lead paint. The Motley firm, with associated law firms, is credited with having made billions from tobacco and asbestos litigation and has recycled large sums into the campaign coffers of state attorneys general and other friendly politicians. [Daily Caller, Plains Daily (North Dakota contributions), Politico, ShopFloor] Earlier here, here, here, etc.

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April 10 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 10, 2011

  • Civil libertarian Wendy Kaminer on feminism and the Yale speech complaint [Atlantic, earlier]
  • Baylen Linnekin’s Keep Food Legal organization is having a membership drive;
  • Bounty-hunting West Coast lawyers can now sue employers for large sums over temperature and worker-seating violations of the California Labor Code [Cal Labor Law]
  • Current set of urban, suburban parking policies amount to “another great planning disaster.” [Donald Shoup, Cato Unbound]
  • $7500? Tennessee lawyer charged with rape of client released on $7500 bond [WMC via White Coat]
  • Stella Liebeck hot coffee case: Abnormal Use suspects that Cracked never read its FAQ on the subject (or for that matter many of our own postings);
  • Baltimore public housing refuses to pay lead poisoning awards; “too strapped” [Baltimore Sun]
  • “Mr. Potato Head” contest cited in discrimination lawsuit charging anti-Irish bias [Lowering the Bar]

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Ted at Point of Law has a post mortem on a decision that’s pretty bad, but not as bad as it might have been. More: Legal Ethics Forum, John Sullivan/Civil Justice Association of California, Wood/ShopFloor. Thanks, by the way, to CJAC for citing my writing in their amicus brief (PDF, see p. 10).

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The Environmental Protection Agency — currently rolling out new regulations expected to substantially boost the cost of home renovation projects and drive many smaller, less formal repair providers from the market, all in the name of lead reduction — turns out to have lead exposures at its own headquarters exceeding the relevant federal standards in one case by 92,500 percent [Daily Caller] Can it fine itself?

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