Posts Tagged ‘Mikal Watts’

Litigation funding, mass torts, and phantom clients

The Peter Thiel/Hulk Hogan story has brought the topic of litigation finance into the news, and a recent Alison Frankel column notes an alleged secret $10 million investment in the BP gulf spill case that might possibly have served as overstimulus: “Most of 40,000 seafood workers …turned out to be phantom clients…one, famously, was actually a dog.” [Reuters]

November 25 roundup

  • Mississippi federal indictments in Mikal Watts BP case include fraud charges (arising from multiple wire transfers) against man who a decade ago, when pastor of a Hammond, La. church, pleaded guilty to fraud charges arising from fen-phen client recruitment [Robin Fitzgerald, Biloxi Sun-Herald]
  • Critique of Madison Fund project proposed by Charles Murray in new book By the People: Rebuilding Liberty Without Permission, I get a mention [Philip Wallach, New Rambler Review, earlier on book]
  • “So You Had Sex With Charlie Sheen and Want to Sue: 5 Legal Hurdles” [Eric Turkewitz, Hollywood Reporter]
  • “[Online form provider] LegalZoom Fought the North Carolina Bar on claims of UPL and Won” [Ben Barton, BNA]
  • After prison escape manhunt: “‘Psychic’ Sues Governor Of New York For Reward Money” [Bob Dorigo Jones]
  • Suit challenges D.C.’s methods for seizing and disposing of houses over very small tax liens [Christina Martin and Todd Gaziano (Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed an amicus brief), Washington Post, earlier on business of tax liens here and here]
  • Change in patent venue rules sought: “EFF asks appeals court to ‘shut down the Eastern District of Texas'” [Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica, more on E.D. Tex.]

“That Time a Dog Claimed $46,000 in Damages From the BP Oil Spill”

Paul Barrett, Bloomberg/Washington Post, quotes the indictment:

On or about January 16, 2013 defendant MIKAL C. WATTS submitted or caused to be submitted a ‘Presentment Form’ to BP claiming ‘costs and damages’ in the amount of $45,930.00 in the name of ‘Lucy Lu’ and claiming ‘Lucy Lu’ was a deckhand on a commercial seafood vessel. ‘Lucy Lu’ was a dog.

More from Alison Frankel, Reuters, on the Texas lawyer’s “fighting for the little guy” rhetoric: “If Watts did what he’s alleged to have done, it’s no excuse that his crimes were committed in litigation against BP.”

Liability roundup

  • “Is Arbitration Awful? The New York Times Thinks So.” [New Jersey Civil Justice Institute, earlier here and here] And speaking of that paper, I’m going to miss Joe Nocera’s incisive coverage of the litigation business in his column, often linked here; he’s off to other duties at the Times [Politico/New York]
  • Yet more from the Times, longread on litigation investing and champerty: “Should You Be Allowed To Invest In a Lawsuit?”
  • Mikal Watts through the years: “It was part of my strategy to affect the stock price, which I was very successful at.” [Madison County Record, more]
  • “No negligence liability for injuries by fellow players in contact sport” [Eugene Volokh, martial arts, Colorado Court of Appeals]
  • Defense lawyer claims adversary had advance word about jury deliberations, grabbed $25 million settlement [Chicago Law Bulletin]
  • Is data privacy the next source of mass lawsuits? [Chamber Institute for Legal Reform]
  • Funds needlessly drained: “Asbestos reforms needed to protect first responders and veterans” [Rep. Blake Farenthold, The Hill]

Liability roundup

  • Mechanics of high-volume injury litigation: “A disgruntled former law firm employee spills secrets on a mass tort factory” [Paul Barrett, Business Week] More on chasing clients: new Chamber Institute for Legal Reform research finds 23 of top 25 Google key words linking ads to user searches are for personal injury law firms; TV advertising by lawyer is projected to reach $892 million in 2015, up 68% from 2008. Yet more: Daniel Fisher/Forbes (“San Antonio car wreck attorney” goes for $670 per click on Google), Tampa Bay Times (“Highly groomed attorney duo …shown moving in slow motion on courthouse steps to a hard rock beat”);
  • Flurry of other new papers by U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, many connected with its annual Legal Reform Summit, include one on how the trial bar has been successful at lobbying the Obama administration. Plus a new edition of “101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems”;
  • In speech, Rudolph Giuliani recalls tort-law challenges he faced as NYC mayor [Corpus Christi Caller-Times]
  • A quarter century later, trial lawyers’ initiative to take revenge against insurer adversaries continues to harm California insurance customers [Ian Adams, “The troublesome legacy of Prop 103,” R Street Institute, paper in PDF, summary]
  • A story we’ve covered before: Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood and the flow of funds from and to private lawyers he hires [Steve Wilson/Mississippi Watchdog, quotes me]
  • Most New York counties have passed resolutions calling for reform of the state’s unique scaffold law [Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York]
  • You’d think indictment of Mikal Watts, Texas law major-leaguer with friends in high D.C. places, would be playing bigger in the press [Tim Carney]

Politics roundup

  • NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver hangs blame for a retrospectively unpopular position on the *other* Sheldon Silver. Credible? [NY Times via @jpodhoretz]
  • Julian Castro, slated as next HUD chief, did well from fee-splitting arrangement with top Texas tort lawyer [Byron York; earlier on Mikal Watts]
  • 10th Circuit: maybe Colorado allows too much plebiscitary democracy to qualify as a state with a “republican form of government” [Garrett Epps on a case one suspects will rest on a “this day and trip only” theory pertaining to tax limitations, as opposed to other referendum topics]
  • “Mostyn, other trial lawyers spending big on Crist’s campaign in Florida” [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine; background on Crist and Litigation Lobby] “Texas trial lawyers open checkbooks for Braley’s Senate run” [Legal NewsLine; on Braley’s IRS intervention, Watchdog]
  • Contributions from plaintiff’s bar, especially Orange County’s Robinson Calcagnie, enable California AG Kamala Harris to crush rivals [Washington Examiner]
  • Trial lawyers suing State Farm for $7 billion aim subpoena at member of Illinois Supreme Court [Madison-St. Clair Record, more, yet more]
  • Plaintiff-friendly California voting rights bill could mulct municipalities [Steven Greenhut]
  • John Edwards: he’s baaaaack… [on the law side; Byron York]
  • Also, I’ve started a blog (representing just myself, no institutional affiliation) on Maryland local matters including policy and politics: Free State Notes.

December 23 roundup

  • Metro-North train crash spurs calls for mandatory crash-prevention devices. Think twice [Steve Chapman]
  • BP sues attorney Mikal Watts [Insurance Journal] Exaggerated Gulf-spill claims as a business ethics issue [Legal NewsLine]
  • Pot-war fan: “Freedom also means the right not to be subjected to a product I consider immoral” [one of several Baltimore Sun letters to the editor in reaction to my piece on marijuana legalization, and Gregory Kline’s response]
  • Aaron Powell, The Humble Case for Liberty [Libertarianism.org]
  • Allegation: lawprof borrowed a lot of his expert witness report from Wikipedia [Above the Law]
  • Frivolous “sovereign citizen” lawsuits on rise in southern Jersey [New Jersey Law Journal, earlier]
  • Star of Hitchcock avian thriller had filed legal malpractice action: “Tippi Hedren wins $1.5 million in bird-related law suit” [Telegraph]

Lawyers roundup

  • Feds investigating prominent Texas attorney and many-time Overlawyered mentionee Mikal Watts [MySanAntonio via PoL]
  • Florida high court: lawyers not privileged to defame parties during informal witness questioning [Delmonico v. Traynor]
  • Client’s story: not only did attorney try to kill me, he also gave me bad advice [Lowering the Bar]
  • Some lawyers for city of Cleveland seek union representation, following municipal attorneys in S.F., D.C. and Houston [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
  • Watch what you say about lawyers, part CLXXVI [NYLJ, “shakedown”]
  • Former ATLA president Barry Nace fights disciplinary proceeding in W.V. [Chamber-backed WV Record]
  • Minnesota lawyer who billed client for time he spent having sex with her won’t be allowed to practice for more than a year [TheLawNet, earlier on this candidate for “ultimate Overlawyered story”]
  • Should she take the job offer from an apparently unethical attorney? If she has to ask… [Elie Mystal, Above the Law]

November 14 roundup

Gulf spill: “I never signed up with anybody”

Campbell Robertson and John Schwartz of the New York Times find that many Vietnamese-Americans who are listed as law firm clients in the BP Transocean spill proceedings would rather not be law firm clients. “Like [Tim] Nguyen, some maintain that they never signed up with lawyers, but found that claims had been filed on their behalf (about 50 people have made formal complaints to the claims facility along these lines).” Nguyen found himself a client of lawyer Mikal Watts, “and to his further surprise, as a Louisiana shrimper rather than a Mississippi shipyard worker.” Watts, a big-league Texas tort lawyer, has reported having 43,000 spill clients, many mass-recruited from minority and poorer communities; he says he has a “signed contingency-fee contract with every client,” and that he has released clients who changed their mind about representation. “People familiar with the claims process [of one 26,000-claimant subgroup] said nearly every submission was listed as a deckhand with identical earnings.” Watts says the claims fund, administered by Kenneth Feinberg, has kept changing the documentation it asks for.