It’s a fairly mild enactment as these things go, but any hint that juries are free to acquit a defendant to avoid injustice is deeply controversial in establishment legal circles [Tim Lynch/Cato Institute, Radley Balko, Reason]
I’ve got a piece in today’s New York Post on why doctors and medical providers should be interested in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation “early offers” experiment in malpractice reform. Earlier here, etc. Note also that Christopher Robinette at TortsProf has added to his illuminating series of posts on the idea with new contributions here and here (& Allen McDuffee, Washington Post “Think Tank”.)
Overriding a veto from Gov. John Lynch, the New Hampshire legislature on June 27 enacted SB 406, establishing the nation’s first “early offer” system for medical malpractice claims. The law establishes incentives for defendants to make offers early in the litigation process that cover plaintiff’s economic losses such as medical bills and lost wages. The early-offer process is at claimants’ option only; claimants are free not to request such an offer. [Kevin Pho; supportive website; trial lawyers' opposition website]
Importantly, the new procedure also contains pioneering elements of loser-pays in both directions. If a claimant chooses to accept a defendant’s early offer of economic-loss expenses, the defendant will pay an additional sum to reflect a scheduled assessment of pain and suffering, plus the reasonable costs of attorney representation. However, if the claimant invokes the early-offer process but then turns down the offer as inadequate, there is a real risk of a fee shift in the opposite direction:
XII. A claimant who rejects an early offer and who does not prevail in an action for medical injury against the medical care provider by being awarded at least 125 percent of the early offer amount, shall be responsible for paying the medical care provider’s reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred in the proceedings under this chapter. The claimant shall certify to the court that bond or other suitable security for payment of the medical care provider’s reasonable attorney’s fees and costs has been posted before the court shall consider the case.
At TortsProf, Christopher Robinette explains in some detail (contrary to an error-filled screed in a Litigation Lobby outlet) why this adds up to a generally good deal for claimants (who, of course, are free not to trigger the process if they disagree) as well as making the system fairer. “Early-offer” proposals have been championed over the years by Jeffrey O’Connell, the distinguished University of Virginia torts scholar, and by Philip K. Howard of Common Good, among others. More on loser-pays here.
[Research assistance: Cato Institute intern Byron Crowe; cross-posted at Cato at Liberty]
More from John Steele Gordon at Commentary: “This looks like a big step in the right direction.”
Under a bill introduced by a New Hampshire legislator, “state employees who interact with the public would not be allowed to wear perfume. Rep. Michele Peckham, R-North Hampton, is the prime sponsor of the perfume bill, which she said she put forward after a constituent asked her to do so. She said there are people allergic to fragrances. ‘It may seem silly, but it’s a health issue,’ Peckham said. ‘Many people have violent reactions to strong scents.'” [Union-Leader via Radley Balko, who calls it reductio creep] Similar proposals have surfaced in places like Portland, Ore., and “perfume sensitivity” lawsuits have been reported from Detroit and New Jersey (& welcome WSJ Law Blog readers; day’s “Five Must-Read Stories”).
Another twist on the assertion that state laws against wiretapping and unauthorized recording make it unlawful to record the cops: police in the town of Weare, N.H. charged a man with wiretapping after he placed a cellphone call during a traffic stop “because the officer’s voice could be heard in the background of his phone call.” [Lowering the Bar]
Is the parking lot of the Newington, N.H. “normal[ly] configured,” had there been earlier drivers who bumped into the pole, and should either point matter in the lawsuit he’s filed as a result? [Seacoast Online via Siouxsie Law]
“A state lawmaker tells WMWV-FM that the Mount Washington Hotel and Resort has told other businesses with ‘Mount Washington’ in their name to stop using it or face a legal challenge.” The hotel says it has challenged only three lodging businesses and does not intend to go after other local businesses named after the mountain. [AP, WMUR, Boston Globe]
P.S. Commenter Mannie: “It gets better. The IOC routinely harasses businesses on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula for using the name ‘Olympic.'”
The suit argues that the student wasn’t given adequate warning that attaching electrical clamps to his nipples could be dangerous. Earlier reportage on the case quoted students who accused the teacher of encouraging horseplay and making light of the dangers of mild shocks; the teacher later resigned but did not face criminal charges. [Joey Cresta, Foster's Daily Democrat/Boston Herald (Dover, New Hampshire)] More: Lowering the Bar (“Nor am I buying the Mountain-Dew-enticement allegations.”)
Updating our March 2008 coverage: The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled last month that an attorney could properly be convicted of extortion for sending a demand letter threatening patently baseless litigation. The lawyer had sent the letter (which included a demand for monetary payment) to a hair salon threatening litigation over its purportedly discriminatory setting of different rates for men’s and women’s haircuts. A crucial element in the decision was that the lawyer did not in fact have a client in hand with a potential complaint as an actual customer of the salon. [Eugene Volokh, Above the Law; State v. Hynes, PDF] “Assistant Attorney General Elizabeth Baker said Hynes sent letters to at least 19 salons in the state.” [Concord Monitor 2008 coverage]
Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have submitted an amicus brief in the case, urging the New Hampshire Supreme Court to uphold the website’s position on First Amendment grounds. The popular site Mortgage Lender Implode-O-Meter had published a New Hampshire Banking Department document containing information about a private company; that company proceeded to sue the site demanding that the document be taken down, and also demanded discovery of how the document had come into the site’s possession. Earlier here.