Posts tagged as:

race to the courthouse

Martha Neil at the ABA Journal reports on a setback for one fast-out-of-the-gate filing over the fate of Flight 370:

“These are the kind of lawsuits that make lawyers look bad—and we already look bad enough,” Robert A. Clifford, one of Chicago’s best-known personal injury lawyers, told the Chicago Tribune earlier, calling Ribbeck’s filing “premature.”

Much more from Eric Turkewitz.

P.S. Representatives of American law firms swarm bereaved families in Peking and Kuala Lumpur, talk of million-dollar awards: “a question of how much and when.” [Edward Wong and Kirk Semple, NY Times]

March 27 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 27, 2014

  • “Stupid Warning Shows Up on Leprechaun Hat” [Lowering the Bar, California Prop 65]
  • Lawyers eager to sue over Malaysia Air disaster but first someone has to find the plane [ABA Journal, Bloomberg]
  • Among the many accomplishments of distinguished economist (and total mensch) Murray Weidenbaum: introduction of White House regulatory review [Thom Lambert, David Henderson, Russ Roberts]
  • Quicker but not ultimately cheaper than an appeal: “Losing Plaintiff Hits Defendant With a Truck” [Lowering the Bar]
  • Feds’ Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) mulls idea “that the government involve itself in the lives of obese people by sending them regular text messages.” [Baylen Linnekin]
  • Posner: judge below “should have smelled a rat” on lawyer’s “shenanigans” [Alison Frankel/Reuters, ABA Journal]
  • “Connecticut chimp attack victim seeks right to sue state” [Reuters, earlier]

A plaintiff’s lawyer offers reasons (or rationalizations) for his ultra-speedy filing of a putative class action following an industrial explosion at the Caribbean Petroleum Corp. in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Only minor injuries were reported, but the blast blew out windows and forced evacuations. [WSJ Law Blog, New York Times]

Ron Miller at Maryland Personal Injury thinks the filing of suits only days after an event like the Long Island Wal-Mart trampling, at a point when key facts relevant to the nature and extent of liability have yet to be brought out, “don’t help the clients and also don’t help the general public perception of personal injury lawyers or their clients.” There are, of course, numerous tactical reasons for a race to the courthouse in various legal situations, particularly in likely class actions where lawyers who file early may seize control of the management of a collective suit. Where class action handling of cases is unlikely, however, as in the trampling case, I’ve long suspected that the main reason for the race to the courthouse is that it enables the lawyer to get his own name in the papers, thus pulling in other claimants, including some who might otherwise have signed up with less noisy lawyers.

Bill Childs at TortsProf speculates that another reason is to obtain discovery immediately before memories fade or evidence becomes unavailable in some other way. Again, I’m sure there are some cases where this factor is at work, but I also suspect there are many where the lawyer does not follow up on the hasty filing by plunging into discovery as rapidly as is practicable.

P.S. Some new reporting out on the events leading up to the shopper crush that morning, and a blog roundup from Carolyn Elefant. At “Freakonomics”, Ian Ayres: “To say that the low prices were a but-for cause of this man’s death is not to say that Wal-Mart should be legally or morally culpable for low prices.” Further thoughts from White Coat Rants. And from commenter “Dan”, below, a naughty suggestion for how to treat the claims from not-especially-injured crowd members:

…how about this idea. Everyone who self-identifies as being in the trampling crowd so they can share a jackpot for the psychological horror of it also gets put on the list of people included in a share of a manslaughter charge. Seems like a good trade; a coupon for $10 off your next Wal-Mart purchase in exchange for a few years in prison. Any takers?

P.P.S.: Eric Turkewitz advances an alternative motivation for haste, in that it might encourage potential witnesses to get in touch with the lawyer; yet another possibility, he says, is that the plaintiff family might have demanded haste.

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On February 14, 2007, the Food & Drug Administration issued a recall for certain brands of peanut butter manufactured by ConAgra. On March 1, 2007, the FDA announced it had identified the salmonella at the manufacturing plant. Enter the lawyers.

On Wednesday, a Louisville, Kentucky man who claimed he got sick after eating the peanut butter, filed suit against ConAgra. (The story featured a disclaimer I don’t believe I’ve seen elsewhere in news coverage of litigation: “Claims made in filing a lawsuit give only one side of the case.”) I certainly didn’t think that this was the first suit filed against ConAgra, but I naively thought it was one of the first. Ha! (In my defense, I wasn’t blogging at Overlawyered at the time, and I hadn’t eaten the peanut butter, so I didn’t have any particular personal or professional reason to notice the announcements of the lawsuits.)

The first suits — at least three of them — appear to have been filed on February 16, 2007, just two days after the FDA’s announcement. Each of those three involved individual plaintiffs; in case you were wondering, the first (of many) class action lawsuits seems to have waited until February 20, 2007. The huge four-day gap between the filing of the individual suits and the class-action suits is explained by the three-day Presidents Day holiday; Feb. 20 was actually the next business day.

Is there some sort of trial lawyer contest like the old Name That Tune game show? “I can file that suit in 72 hours.” “I can file that suit in 48 hours.” “Okay, file that suit!” There’s certainly no legal reason the suits need to be filed that fast; there was no approaching statute of limitations, for instance.

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