San Diego mayor Bob Filner says the city will discontinue its use of traffic cameras now that a contract is expiring. The cameras, which often resulted in $500 fines levied on tourists, produced $1.9 million in gross revenue in fiscal 2011, but the city was left with only $200,000 of that “after paying the officers who issued the tickets, a camera vendor and other costs.” [Union-Tribune]
I’ll be on KOGO-600 AM’s Top Story with Chris Reed tonight at 6:35 pm Pacific discussing recent CCAF cases and the problem of bad class action settlement cases generally.
Alzada Knickerbocker’s bookshop in
Davis Sacramento, California, the Avid Reader, was hit with a complaint from a serial ADA filer. She went on camera to explain what happened for the Sick of Lawsuits video series. More on ADA serial filers here. And the Desert Sun in southern California profiles the activities of San Diego resident Roy Gash, who “is or was the plaintiff in more than 200 ADA lawsuits,” and his lawyer Theodore Pinnock, whose San Diego firm Pinnock and Wakefield “has filed about 2,000 such suits.”
P.S. Thanks to commenter B.P. for correction: the suit was against the store’s Sacramento, not Davis, branch.
We’ve been following Buell-Wilson v. Ford for some time, including the U.S. Supreme Court remand. Curt Cutting’s blog has the latest in two April posts here and here. Cal Biz Lit also has good commentary.
Mitchell W. Roth had offices in Sherman Oaks, San Diego, and Riverside, per the NLJ. Roth’s appearances on the Internet include CaliforniaSpineInjury.com and the “Middle Class Advocate” blog.
Curt Cutting at California Punitive Damages takes note of a jury’s very large verdict against San Diego Gas and Electric last month, including $40 million in punitive damages, after a helicopter fatally collided with a 130-foot utility tower located on the base at Camp Pendleton. “The plaintiffs claimed that SDG&E was negligent for not installing safety lights on the tower. SDG&E says the tower had been on the base for 25 years and they would have installed lights if the Marine Corps had asked. They contend the crash was the result of errors by the crew and they plan to appeal.” (Sept. 3; Tony Perry, “$55.6 million awarded in fatal Marine helicopter crash”, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 4). Bruce Nye at Cal Biz Lit calls the verdict a “stunner” (Sept. 8).
Otherwise, the employer may just be setting itself up for wage-hour suits based on the premise that the after-hours use constitutes uncompensated overtime, says Mitch Danzig, “an attorney in the San Diego office of Boston-based Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo. Danzig advises his clients to give BlackBerrys only to employees who are exempt from overtime laws. ‘Plaintiffs’ firms are trolling for this,’ he said. ‘Now what you’re seeing on [plaintiffs'] firms’ Web sites are, “Have you been assigned a BlackBerry or a phone? If so, give us a call.”‘” (Ashby Jones, WSJ law blog, Apr. 22; Tresa Baldas, NLJ, Apr. 28). More: Jeffrey Hirsch, Workplace Prof Blog.
Following up on Jan. 22′s story from California: “It took a jury less than two hours Thursday afternoon to unanimously clear a real estate agent accused of failing in his duties to a couple he helped buy a tony Carlsbad home.” Marty and Vernon Ummel claimed that ReMax agent Mike Little had not kept them from overpaying for the house they bought with his help. (North County Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, Voice of San Diego).
In February of last year, I wrote at length about an appalling jury verdict (June 2004) and disingenuous appellate decision in an SUV rollover case:
It went generally unnoticed last November when the California Supreme Court refused to review an intermediate court’s decision in Buell-Wilson v. Ford Motor Co. But then again, it went generally unnoticed when a jury awarded an arbitrary $368 million in damages in that case, when the trial judge reduced that verdict to an arbitrary $150 million judgment, and when an intermediate appellate court reduced that figure to an arbitrary $82.6 million (which, with interest, works out to over $100 million).
The US Supreme Court remanded to consider in light of Philip Morris v. Williams. For whatever reason, the California Court of Appeals decision to be even more disingenuous and say “We don’t care about Williams” reaffirming the $82.6 million got much more attention. Bruce Nye has the best analysis of the “thumb in your eye” decision; Lisa Perrochet also analyzes the verdict. John Rohan is critical. Press coverage: Recorder/Law.com; San Diego Union-Tribune; Reuters; AP/SJ Mercury News. Ford will appeal.
Do they often do business this way? The law firm of Coughlin Stoia, known as Lerach Coughlin before the departure of now-disgraced Bill Lerach, has been vying for lead counsel status in a shareholder class action against Coca-Cola. Now Roger Parloff at Fortune “Legal Pad” (Feb. 28) reports that a special master on the case has recommended that the firm be disqualified for “extremely troubling” conduct which it then defended after exposure using “pretextual” arguments. It seems two former Coke executives approached the law firm of Milberg Weiss (predecessor before its split of Coughlin Stoia), one of them in possession of more than 3,000 company documents he’d taken on departure, many stamped “confidential”. The law firm then agreed to pay the execs at least $75,000 to serve as “consultants”, part of the deal consisting of access to the documents, which it then used in its complaint.
When the consulting agreement came to light more than a year ago, Coughlin Stoia lawyers backed [Greg] Petro’s claim that neither he nor they had thought he was taking Coke documents without authority because, among other things, Petro had been ordered, when terminated, to “clean out his office.” Special Master [Hunter] Hughes found that such a command could not “rationally be construed to authorize Petro to walk off with company documents, any more than it authorized him to take the company’s desk, chairs, and computer.”
Hughes also rejected arguments that the firm was not really buying the documents, just entering into a consulting agreement, and a public-policy style argument that Petro’s conduct should be condoned because he was a whistleblower trying to expose corporate wrongdoing.
In a footnote, Hughes found that public policy arguments weighed in the other direction: “On a very practical level, for the Court to give Plaintiffs’ counsel a pass on this conduct, would simply invite terminated employees, particularly of public companies, to on a wholesale basis remove company documents following their termination in hopes they can sell them should the company be sued.”
More: San Diego Union-Tribune, ABA Journal, WSJ law blog (where several comments defend the law firm’s conduct).
The recent controversy over attempts by organized lawyerdom to ban or restrict predispute arbitration contracts led to a Wall Street Journal editorial (“Party at Ralph’s”, Nov. 7) which in turn drew forth the following letter to the editor from David S. Rowley of San Diego (Nov. 14):
Although you got the lawyer-money connection in the Democratic anti-arbitration strategy exactly right, you skipped over the bodacious arrogance inherent in the phrase “alternative dispute resolution.” ADR is lawyer-speak for anything other than a lawsuit, making a lawsuit the “regular” way. ADR gets about the same treatment from the bar as “alternative” medicine gets from doctors.
Every time people sit down and reason together, some lawyer is losing money. Why not ban that? A lawsuit is the most expensive, time-consuming, disruptive and unpredictable of all dispute resolution models. That so many people are so quick to sue suggests that the lawyers have sold the masses on the “regular” way. What a tragic commentary on our times.
Earlier: Oct. 18. More thoughts on arbitration: ADRQueen, Oct. 16.