- Texas jury awards $27 million against McDonald’s in negligent security case [Bloomberg]
- NYC cop sues after being acquitted on rape charges, and from the difference in coverage between the NY Daily News and Slate, you might not realize it was the same case;
- “Obamacare was no inartful compromise; it was a brutal cramdown.” [Michael Greve, Law and Liberty, on Halbig]
- American Tort Reform Foundation nominations of “judicial hellholes” this year include Louisiana, South Florida and NYC [Abnormal Use]
- Antitrust’s awful academics [Tom Bowden, Ayn Rand Institute]
- New York Assembly Speaker Silver “earned up to $750,000 in 2013 working a few hours per week” at prominent tort firm [NY Daily News]
- Europe: Gardeners with sit-on lawnmowers face buying motor insurance [Telegraph]
- Court will hear case of mariner charged with Sarbanes-Oxley records-destruction violation for discarding undersized fish [Jonathan Adler, Eugene Volokh, Daniel Fisher]
- SCOTUS goes 9-0 for wider patent fee shifting in Octane Fitness v. ICON and Highmark v. Allcare Health Management System Inc. [Ars Technica, ABA Journal, earlier]
- Constitutional principle that Washington must not give some states preference over others could face test in New Jersey NCAA/gambling case [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
- Supreme Court grants certiorari in Dart Cherokee Basin Operating Co. v. Owens, a class action procedure case on CAFA removal [Donald Falk, Mayer Brown Class Defense Blog]
- “Supreme Court’s Daimler decision makes it a good year for general jurisdiction clarity” [Mark Moller, WLF, earlier] Decision calls into question “the jurisdictional basis for this country’s litigation hellholes” [Beck]
- How liberals learned to love restrictive standing doctrine [Eugene Kontorovich, more]
- “California Shouldn’t Be Able to Impose Regulations on Businesses Outside of California” [Ilya Shapiro on cert petition in Rocky Mountain Farmers Union v. Corey (fuel standards)]
The Supreme Court’s ruling last month in a case on the limits of jurisdiction, Bauman v. DaimlerChrysler, was on its face a rejection of recently-fashionable notions of “universal jurisdiction” under which disputes labeled as serious human rights matters could be brought to courts more or less anywhere for adjudication. But according to Richard Samp, by clarifying the prerequisites for general jurisdiction, the case could if taken seriously revolutionize (for the better!) some other kinds of litigation for which forum-shopping has been the norm — in particular class action litigation, which is often filed in plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions where the defendants would not be considered “at home” under the standard laid out by Justice Ginsburg. [Washington Legal Foundation]
…are likely to be bad news in more ways than one [Belleville, Ill., News-Democrat on arrest of St. Clair County, Ill. Circuit Judge Michael Cook] St. Clair County is adjacent to Madison County in the Metro-East area of Illinois near St. Louis, and shares in its reputation as a “difficult” jurisdiction for unwary litigants. More: AP today.
In May 2001, Cheryl Jane Hale was driving four children to a sleepover in her 1987 Ford Bronco. She didn’t bother to have the children wear their seat belts, so, when she took her eyes off the road to argue with the backseat passengers, and thus drove off the road and flipped the car, 12-year-old Jesse Branham was thrown from the car and suffered brain damage. A jury in Hampton County, South Carolina (the second jury to be impaneled—the first one was dismissed in a mistrial when it was discovered after two weeks of trial that five of the jurors were former clients of Branham’s lawyers) decided that this was only 45% Hale’s fault, held Ford 55% responsible, which puts Ford entirely on the hook for $31 million in damages.
On Monday, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed because of prejudicial closing arguments that relied heavily on inadmissible evidence. More importantly for lawyers practicing in South Carolina, the Court adopted “the risk-utility test with its requirement of showing a feasible alternative design.”
How bad of a judicial hellhole is Hampton County? Though Hale was a co-defendant, she cooperated with the plaintiffs throughout the trial in their case against Ford, even sitting at the plaintiffs’ table; but because the judge classified Hale as a co-defendant, it meant that Hale got half of the peremptory challenges of the “defense.” More from Comer; no press coverage that I’ve seen yet. (cross-posted from Point of Law)
The American Tort Reform Association is out with its annual ranking of the jurisdictions where it thinks civil defendants are farthest from being assured a fair trial, and they are:
- West Virginia
- South Florida
- Cook County, Ill.
- Atlantic County, NJ
- Montgomery and Macon Counties, Ala.
- Los Angeles County, CA
- Clark County (Las Vegas), Nev.
The list reflects the views of big-company managers and lawyers as to tort lawsuits; a poll of, say, doctors might result in different nominations (Brooklyn, Bronx, Long Island*, Philadelphia) and one of class-action or patent-infringement defendants would likely produce yet other lists.
ATRA has a supplementary “Watch List”, nicknamed by some of us “Heckholes”, of toasty but not quite infernal jurisdictions, on which it places the Rio Grande Valley and Gulf Coast of Texas, Madison County, Ill., Baltimore, Md., and St. Louis city and county and Jackson County, Mo. It also offers side essays on notable scandals among high-rolling lawyers, trial lawyer-AG alliances, and pro-plaintiff’s-bar lobbying efforts.
Some coverage of the report: Pero, ShopFloor (with this and this on AG alliances), Ambrogi, Genova, CalBizLit (“We’re Number 6! We’re Number 6!), TortsProf, Miller (Baltimore), and Turkewitz (cross-posted from Point of Law; also note this recent post).
* Commenter VMS makes a case that Long Island does not belong on such a list.
- Beck and Herrmann fisk a NEJM anti-preemption editorial. [Beck/Herrmann; NEJM]
- Lessons of the Grasso case. [Hodak]
- You think BigLaw has it bad? Plaintiffs’ attorney who invented the benefit-of-the-bargain theory for pharmaceutical class actions where no one has suffered any cognizable injury, has made his firm tens of millions, but still hasn’t made partner. “Zigler said he never meets most of the people he represents in these high-profile cases.” [St.L. Post-Dispatch; related analysis from Beck/Herrmann]
- Speaking of harmless lawsuits, “an atrocity in Arkansas,” as Arkansas Supreme Court ignores basic principles of due process and civil procedure to certify an extortionate pre-CAFA class action from MIller County. [Hmm, that’s Beck/Herrmann again; General Motors v. Bryant; related from Greve]
- Speedo competitor: unfair competition to say your innovative swimsuit has an advantage just because 38 out of the last 42 world records (as of June 30) were broken in the suit. [Am Law Daily]
- Background on bogus shower curtain scare story (earlier). [NYT; related AEI event]
- EMTALA-orama: don’t discuss payment in the emergency room if you don’t want to get sued. [ER Stories]
“As long as I am allowed to redistribute wealth from out-of-state companies to in-state plaintiffs, I shall continue to do so. Not only is my sleep enhanced when I give someone else’s money away, but so is my job security, because the in-state plaintiffs, their families and their friends will re-elect me. ”
– Richard Neely, Justice, West Virginia Supreme Court, The Product Liability Mess at 4
There was an auto accident in Dallas; plaintiffs sued Volkswagen in Marshall, Texas, in the notoriously plaintiff-friendly Eastern District of Texas, which has a hugely abnormal number of product liability cases—17% of all federal automobile product liability lawsuits in the United States. Let us quote from In re Volkswagen of America, Inc., 506 F.3d 376 (5th Cir.2007), earlier discussed on POL Nov. 27 and Feb. 23:
Volkswagen moved to transfer venue to the Dallas Division of the Northern District of Texas (“Dallas Division”). Volkswagen asserted that a transfer was warranted as (1) the Volkswagen Golf was purchased in Dallas County, Texas; (2) the accident occurred on a freeway in Dallas, Texas; (3) Dallas residents witnessed the accident; (4) Dallas police and paramedics responded and took action; (5) a Dallas doctor performed the autopsy; (6) the third-party defendant lives in Dallas County, Texas; (7) none of the plaintiffs live in the Marshall Division; (8) no known party or significant non-party witness lives in the Marshall Division; and (9) none of the facts giving rise to this suit occurred in the Marshall Division.
The district court refused to transfer to the Northern District, VW sought mandamus, and got it on the second try, with the Fifth Circuit ordering transfer. (See also John Council, “5th Circuit Restricts Trial Courts’ Discretion in Venue Motions”, Texas Lawyer, Nov. 5; John Council, “5th Circuit Case Could Reduce Product Liability Caseload in Texas’ Eastern District”, Texas Lawyer, Aug. 7).
In February, however, the Fifth Circuit vacated the decision, and granted en banc rehearing. Argument is Thursday in New Orleans, and the decision will determine whether the Fifth Circuit will tolerate forum shopping in the federal courts. (Michelle Massey, “Appeals court scheduled to hear arguments over forum shopping”, SE Texas Record, May 20). The case is of special importance to the patent bar, given the fact that Marshall, Texas, has become the unlikely capital of United States patent litigation. Blog coverage: PatentlyO, Prior Art.
En banc briefs in 07-40058, In re Volkswagen AG:
- Petitioners (Volkswagen)
- Respondents (plaintiffs)
- Product Liability Advisory Council, amicus on behalf of petitioners
- American Intellectual Property Law Association, amicus on behalf of petitioners
- Railroads, amicus on behalf of petitioners
- Law professors, amicus on behalf of respondents
- Trial lawyers, amicus on behalf of respondents
Department of Strangely Shifting Academic Positions: In December 2007, law professor Georgene Vairo wrote a LexisNexis Expert Commentary on the Volkswagen case explaining its consistency with Supreme Court precedents, and writing
The Fifth Circuit is not alone in permitting the use of mandamus in limited circumstances. For example, in Lemon v. Druffel, 253 F.2d 680 (6th Cir. 1958), a case decided shortly after Congress codified § 1404(a), the Sixth Circuit ruled that mandamus was an appropriate remedy to test a district court’s discretion on a motion to transfer.
In April 2008, she signed on to a brief taking precisely the opposite position, which does not cite Lemon. Curious.