After appearing on a television program with him a couple of months ago, I received an invitation to Mark Lanier’s Christmas party (special guest Sting):
The non-transferable invitation consists of a booklet with a password; and, most strikingly, a metal wind-up toy Ferris wheel, about seven inches in diameter. (I have not investigated whether the Ferris wheel is CPSIA-compliant.)
Should I go? I’m charmed by the hospitality, but I don’t have a date, and, moreover, it’s kind of blood Christmas cheer. (On the other hand, in the words of a former CCAF attorney, “Think of it as a modest tort tax refund.”)
…will be taking on class action lawyers tonight, with guests that include Ted Frank, Texas lawyer Mark Lanier, and Marie Gryphon of the Manhattan Institute. (9 p.m. EST)
Dionne Searcey of the Wall Street Journal quotes me in a piece this morning on Texas lawyer Mark Lanier’s high hopes for the BP/Transocean Gulf spill litigation.
Mark Lanier and other plaintiffs lawyers are giving a series of interviews where they complain that the Ernst v. Merck decision (discussed yesterday) is “judicial activism that reinterprets the evidence.” (E.g., in Texas Lawyer.) This is nonsense. Ernst follows well-stated precedent. Indeed, I predicted precisely this result and precisely the case the appellate court would use to strike down the decision the week of the jury’s verdict.
[click to continue…]
AP reports a Texas court has thrown out the infamous Ernst $26 million judgment; a New Jersey court has tossed $9 million of the judgment in McDarby. More details on Point of Law as available.
Ernst was the first Vioxx suit to go to trial. A jury awarded $253 million. Mark Lanier waited months before asking for a final judgment; at the time, I suggested that this was because he knew the case would be reversed on appeal, and did not want the bad publicity. Indeed, the appellate decision perhaps comes too late for Merck: the number of lawsuits increased from 6000 to 60000 in the months following publicity over the jury verdict, costing Merck billions of dollars in the later extortionate settlement.
With these two decisions, only three plaintiffs’ verdicts in favor of Merck remain.
Update: I still haven’t seen the McDarby decision, but an updated AP story indicates that it upheld the compensatory damages of $4.5 million, overturned the $9 million punitive damages verdict, and overturned the consumer-fraud judgment (which also saves Merck millions of dollars in plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees).
Libertarian medical school blogger “Frommedskool” has been critical of the Vioxx litigation (regularly citing to our coverage at Point of Law). An April 2006 post about the Cona/McDarby case, however, appears to have generated a December 2007 comment from someone calling himself Mark Lanier, the plaintiffs’ attorney in the case:
Third, there was a huge amount of info Merck had that it never gave the FDA, there were smoking gun memos and emails, and there was huge harassment of the medical community done by Merck. For example, Merck did a full meta-analysis of placebo trial that showed a statistically significant increase in heart attacks, but Merck excised that from the report given the FDA. Even Merck’s head admtted they should have given the analysis to the FDA.
(Point of Law discussed the so-called withholding of the meta-analysis back in 2006. It wasn’t all that.) Fascinatingly, this comment immediately provokes comments from another lurker (just two hours later?!) claiming to be a plaintiff, reasonably asking why, if the evidence was so good, Lanier was agreeing to settle 47,000 plaintiffs’ cases for under $5 billion, essentially a nuisance settlement given that victorious plaintiffs were being awarded in the millions and tens of millions.
[click to continue…]
Actually, attorney Mark Lanier’s massive bash, for thousands of attendees “including, seemingly, every judge and politician in Texas”, would have gone forward whether or not Merck had plunked down billions, and with Lanier saying he expects only $30 million in fees plus $10 million in expenses in the affair, which was once expected to yield a much bigger payday, the atmosphere might even be subdued. (Lattman, Nov. 13). Earlier coverage of Lanier Christmas parties here and here; the only parties we’ve heard of to compare are Willie Gary’s.
Apple—usually the victim of plaintiffs’ attorneys (e.g., May 23; Feb. 2; Oct. 27; Aug. 9, 2005, etc.)—has decided to glorify one, Mark Lanier, with a three-page puff piece co-advertising Lanier and Mac computers. The story falsely portrays the multi-millionaire as a “David” going up against a Goliath, falsely claims he won two Vioxx cases (one of his “wins” was for fifteen dollars), and falsely claims he received a $250 million “judgment” in a Vioxx case (not so). For more on how Lanier really operates, see today’s Point of Law post and Point of Law’s Vioxx litigation coverage. (h/t W.F.)
To celebrate Beaumont tobacco/asbestos lawyer Walter Umphrey’s seventieth birthday, fellow Texas Tobacco Five member John Eddie Williams took over a private aircraft hangar — Umphrey’s own, in fact — “moved out the two private jets and the helicopter, added on a two-story party tent and threw a no-holds-barred tribute to Umphrey.” Music was provided by Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Rotel and the Hot Tomatoes, performing on two different stages, and there was some pretty decent food too. Among the 400 attendees: gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn. (Shelby Hodge, “Wild soiree in hangar was Western to the hilt”, Houston Chronicle, May 14). Of course it was a mere kaffeeklatsch compared with a Willie Gary or Mark Lanier party.
Now back to your previously scheduled news story about excessive CEO compensation.
That’s the Houston Chronicle’s society-page coverage of the annual Christmas party thrown by attorney Mark Lanier, who this year brought in Dolly Parton to entertain 7,000 guests. (Shelby Hodge, “No objections raised at bash”, Dec. 14). See Dec. 23, 2003 (similar).
Someone had been buying just about all of the advertising space on Google for most of the search terms relating to the recent Ernst v. Merck case with the headline “$250,000,000 Vioxx award,” (or, even more inaccurately, “$250,000,000 Vioxx settlement”) so I decided to see what new schemes the Internet had cooked up for chasing clients. The result is this page, which offers to “refer your Vioxx case” to “Mark Lanier law firm” to review.
The most entertaining part of the site is that there are eight check-boxes to describe the plaintiff’s symptoms, presumably so that lawyers can easily evaluate the submitted case:
Patient had Heart Attack
Patient had a Stroke
Patient had other Heart Problems
Patient Passed Away/Deceased
Patient had Unstable Angina
Patient had a Pulmonary Embolism
Patient had Arterial Thrombosis
Patient had Transient Ischemic Attack
Note the utter absence of an “arrhythmia” checkbox that would describe Robert Ernst’s symptoms, though hundreds of thousands of people suffer fatal arrthymias every year. On the other hand, given the fourth check-box, perhaps Vioxx plaintiffs’ attorneys plan to sue on behalf of everyone who took Vioxx, and then died. If they wait long enough, that will eventually be all of them. Earlier Vioxx ads/spam: Jan. 5; Dec. 22.
Social conservative trial attorney Mark Lanier, late of the Ernst v. Merck Vioxx verdict, is contemplating a 2008 Texas Senate run, sez the New York Times. (Alex Berenson, “Vioxx Verdict Raises Profile of Texas Lawyer”, Aug. 22).
The Democrats’ complete sell-out to the litigation lobby in 2004 quite likely cost them the presidential election because of the unprecedented counter-reaction by the business lobby, and the Dems have shown no signs of ceasing their self-destructive path of obstructing tort reform in the 109th Congress. It doesn’t even look like the Party is even going to get a mess of pottage out of it, because the litigation lobby isn’t going to keep funding the Democrats almost exclusively if they can protect their billion-dollar special interests through trial-lawyer RINO Republican politicians. See also Aug. 21 and Aug. 18.