Posts tagged as:

shotgun defendant selection

Sue ‘em all: “Eighty-six current and former members of a Yale University fraternity are being sued over a deadly tailgating crash at the 2011 Yale-Harvard football game. … [Lawyers] say insurance for the national Sigma Phi Epsilon organization doesn’t cover the local chapter, so they have to sue the local fraternity and its members.” That’s “have to” in the sense of “can obtain more money if they.” [Associated Press]

Torts roundup

by Walter Olson on March 6, 2013

  • Despite sparseness of evidence, lawyers hope to pin liability on hotel for double murder of guests [Tennessean]
  • Celebrated repeat litigant Patricia Alice McColm sentenced after felony conviction for filing false documents in Trinity County, Calif. [Trinity Journal, more, Justia, earlier] Idaho woman challenges vexatious-litigant statute [KBOI]
  • “2 Florida Moms Sentenced for Staged Accident Insurance Fraud” [Insurance Journal, earlier]
  • With Arkansas high court intent on striking down liability changes, advocates consider going the constitutional amendment route [TortsProf] Fifth Circuit upholds Mississippi damages caps [PoL]
  • What states have been doing lately on litigation reform [Andrew Cook, Fed Soc] Illinois lawmakers’ proposals [Madison-St. Clair Record] Head of Florida Chamber argues for state legal changes [Tampa Tribune]
  • Crowd of defendants: “Ky. couple names 124 defendants in asbestos suit” [WV Record]
  • A bad habit of Louisiana courts: “permitting huge recoveries without proof of injury” [Eric Alexander, Drug and Device Law]

A judge in Morris County, N.J. is expected to rule soon whether to dismiss Shannon Colonna as a defendant in a lawsuit over a car crash. Colonna was far from the scene at the time, but plaintiffs said she had sent a text message to the driver whose inattention caused the accident, and thus aided and abetted his negligence. [The Record; AP; NJLRA] Update: judge dismisses claims against Colonna.

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Longtime Twin Cities attorney John Murrin lost money in a dodgy business deal, and started out by pressing what critics agree were some meritorious complaints arising from it. But courts began to look askance as he added more and more actions, pleadings and (nearly four dozen) defendants. Now a sanctions order has resulted in a bankruptcy proceeding. ["Lawyer's tactics leave him bankrupt," Minneapolis Star-Tribune].

The Supreme Court’s admirable Twombly and Iqbal precedents give a federal district court the means to turn back a shotgun lawsuit against a horde of undifferentiated defendants [McFarland v. APP Pharmaceuticals LLC, slip op., 2011 WL 2413797 (W.D. Wash. June 13, 2011) via Beck, Drug and Device Law]. Quoting the court:

[A]lleging that 93 defendants all manufactured, distributed, and/or sold all of the products that caused all of plaintiff’s injuries is not plausible. In addition, plaintiff’s allegations are internally inconsistent. The complaint alleges that “each” of the defendants manufactured the heparin that caused her injuries, but also alleges that each of the 93 defendants “separately manufactured, marketed, distributed, wholesaled, and/or sold” heparin. The inconsistencies between those allegations, which are not pled in the alternative, further highlight the implausibility of plaintiff’s allegations.

James Beck writes, “Basically, the plaintiffs in McFarland didn’t want to do even the most basic spadework of identifying the correct defendants before bringing suit, so they threw in the kitchen sink in the hope that the defendants would end up having to spend the time and effort to figure things out.” After Twombly and Iqbal, that’s become a less effective legal tactic — one of many reasons to resist the Litigation Lobby drive to get Congress to overturn the two pleading decisions.

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By reader acclaim: the family of a Pennsylvania woman who attended — but did not participate in — a New Jersey “Polar Bear Plunge” charity event has sued the event sponsors and many others. Tracy Hottenstein was last seen alive around 2:15 a.m. on the night of drinking after the festivities, and was later discovered in the bay having, per Cape May County authorities, “died accidentally from hypothermia and acute intoxication.” In addition to the event sponsors, the suit names “the owners of two bars she was at on the night she died and the couple who invited her to dinner at their home that evening. Also named is the hospital where she died and the doctor who pronounced her dead, as well as the Sea Isle City Police Department and individual officers who — the suit claims — did not allow rescue workers to perform lifesaving treatment for hypothermia after they discovered Hottenstein had no pulse.” [AP/NJ.com]

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August 12 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 12, 2010

  • “Father demands $7.5 million because school officials read daughter’s text message” [KDAF via CALA Houston]
  • How many different defendants can injured spectator sue in Shea Stadium broken-bat case? [Melprophet]
  • Prominent trial lawyer Russell Budd of Baron & Budd hosts Obama at Texas fundraiser [PoL]
  • DNA be damned: when actual nonpaternity doesn’t suffice to get out from under a child support order [Alkon, more]
  • “Sean Coffey, a plaintiffs’ lawyer-turned-candidate for New York Attorney General, made more than $150,000 in state-level campaign contributions nationwide over 10 years.” [WSJ Law Blog] “Days before announcing a shareholder lawsuit against Bank of America, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli accepted $14,000 in campaign donations from a law firm hired to help litigate the case.” [WSJ]
  • Big new RAND Corp. study on asbestos bankruptcy trusts may spur reform [Lloyd Dixon, Geoffrey McGovern & Amy Coombe, PDF, via Hartley, more, Daniel Fisher/Forbes, background here and here] Update: Stier.
  • Public contingency suits? Of course the elected officials are in control (wink, wink) [The Recorder via Cal Civil Justice]
  • Copyright enforcement mill appears to have copied its competitor’s website [TechDirt via Eric Goldman]

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March 2 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 2, 2010

California: “Stanley Hilton, 60, of Hillsborough, said in unique court papers that his wife of 13 years divorced him and took their young triplets with her last year because of ‘around-the-clock’ jet noise at SFO. …Hilton last week sued (PDF) SFO, Hillsborough, the counties of San Mateo and San Francisco, dozens of airlines and jet manufacturers, and the real estate agents and couple that sold him his home on Darrell Road for $1.475 million in April 2003.” Hilton, who is representing himself pro se, “is a former civil litigation attorney with a law degree from Duke University and was an active member of the State Bar of California for most of the past three decades, records show. However, the Bar said courts deemed Hilton ineligible to practice law in August.” [San Mateo County Times, SF Chronicle "The Scavenger", Lowering the Bar.]

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October 22 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 22, 2009

  • Unsafe at any read: new Ralph Nader novel panned by Chris Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation [Barnes and Noble Review via Suderman, Reason]
  • Microsoft says “most, if not all” customer data from T-Mobile Sidekick smartphones has been recovered, but class action lawyers say they’re undeterred [Seattle P-I]
  • Sue them all and sort things out later? Lawsuit over Air France Airbus crash off coast of Brazil names long list of aerospace suppliers as defendants [Reuters]
  • “No cash for this clunker”: opposition mounts to proposal for Massachusetts public law school [Boston Herald editorial via Legal Blog Watch, earlier link roundup at Point of Law]
  • Ralph Lauren experiences Streisand Effect over skinny-model nastygram [Althouse, earlier]
  • High-profile L.A. plaintiff’s lawyer Walter Lack speaks under questioning about role in Nicaraguan banana-worker suit against Dole [Recorder, earlier, background] And: “Dole on a Roll: Court Declines to Enforce $97M Judgment” [WSJ Law Blog, Bloomberg]
  • Miller-Jenkins lesbian custody case, much meddled in by conservative religious groups, recalls the ways divorced dads get cut out of their kids’ lives [Glenn Sacks/Ned Holstein via Amy Alkon, background]
  • Daniel Kalder speculates on why the New York Times editorially “purred with approval” of the new FTC blogger regulations in such an “impressively superficial” way [Guardian Books Blog]. More on FTC’s semi-backtracking on the controversy: Media Bistro “Galleycat”, Publisher’s Weekly, Galleysmith. And having been hoping for ages to get a link some day from blogging legend Jason Kottke, this one will go in the souvenir file [Kottke.org]

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“A woman hit by a Danish tourist driving a rental SUV outside the Olema Deli has filed a lawsuit against the Dane, the delicatessen and Dollar Rent a Car.” [Gary Klien, "Woman files lawsuit in Olema bench mishap", Marin Independent Journal, Calif.]

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Medford, Mass.: 14-year-old Ashley Burns was performing an airborne role in a cheerleading routine when she fell and fatally ruptured her spleen. Now her mother is suing the gym where it happened, two accrediting organizations (the U.S. All Star Federation for Cheer and Dance Teams, and the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators) and other defendants. (Donna Goodison, “Mom files lawsuit in cheerleader’s ’05 death”, Boston Herald, Oct. 21).

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Bogus Olympic ticket scam

by Walter Olson on October 15, 2008

The (genuine) International Olympic Committee and other defendants should be made to pay, according to Texas-based class-action lawyer, Jim Moriarty, who wants “millions of dollars” for 400 victims worldwide. “The lawyer alleges the IOC was aware beijingticketing.com was operating with trademarked Olympic symbols emblazoned on the site,” but failed to act speedily enough or effectively in getting the impostor site shut down. (“Olympic ticket scam: class action”, Sydney Morning Herald, Sept. 23).

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July 16 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 16, 2008

  • Another compilation of the hundred best law blogs, with a familiar name among the nine “general” picks, so thanks for that ["Criminal Justice Degrees Guide" via ABA Journal]
  • Europe has a transnational association of personal injury lawyers, funded by the EU, but with no wheeler-dealer, masters-of-the-universe vibe in evidence [PoL]
  • Delta wasn’t liable in Kentucky Comair crash, but some plaintiffs sued it anyway in what their lawyer describes as an “abundance of caution” — that’s a diplomatic way to put it [Aero-News Net; link fixed now]
  • U.K.: Mom told she’d need to pass criminal record check before being allowed to take her own son to school [Telegraph]
  • Regular coverage of the litigious exploits of delusional inmate Jonathan Lee Riches, if you’ve got the stomach for them [Dreadnaught blog]
  • Federal Circuit reverses $85 million infringement verdict won by Raymond Niro, blasted by critics as original “patent troll” [AmLaw Daily]
  • “Determined to defeat lawsuits over addiction, the casino industry is funding research at a Harvard-affiliated lab.” [Salon]
  • Hired through nepotism by in-laws, then fired after divorce, sues on grounds of “marital status discrimination” [eight years ago on Overlawyered]

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Sealed Air makes polyethylene foam for packaging material. The Great White plaintiffs allege that polyethylene foam in the soundproofing was part of the reason the Rhode Island Station nightclub fire spread so fast, killing 100–though they have no evidence that Sealed Air manufactured the foam in the club, not to mention the fact that the packing foam was never intended to be used as building material. Not to worry: with joint and several liability in Rhode Island, Sealed Air faced billions of dollars of potential liability because all of the other deep pockets (dozens of defendants ranging from a radio station to four other foam manufacturers to Anheuser-Busch to the bus that transported the band to the concert to a television station that covered the fire) have settled, Sealed Air couldn’t risk being held even 1% liable, especially given that at a trial plaintiffs would have no incentive to blame empty-chair or empty-pocket or settling defendants. Sealed Air will pay $25 million in protection money. (AP; Providence Journal; TortsProf). The miscarriage of justice continues, but the remaining defendants are apparently judgment-proof.

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Filling in a detail readers wondered about before, on why Little League was named as a defendant: “The game in which Steven Domalewski sustained the injury was a Police Athletic League contest rather than a Little League event. Attorney Ernest Fronzuto countered that Little League Baseball officially approved the bat and by its actions led players, coaches and parents to believe the bat was safe for play among 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds.” (Bob Condor, “Living Well: Youth baseball injury stats: Ouch!”, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Jun. 1).

We wrote about this lawsuit when it was first filed in 2006, and were curious what was up with it. Bentey flunked St. Thomas U Law School; he then retained an attorney, Michael Lombardi, to sue numerous defendants alleging that it was consumer fraud for St. Thomas to admit him in the first place and seeking an injunction over Bentey’s contracts grade, suggesting a second person who should’ve flunked law school. The case was transferred from New Jersey to the Southern District of Florida in December 2006, and the multiple defendants filed a joint motion to dismiss in March 2007. The parties then apparently agreed that Bentey would voluntarily dismiss his case in April 2007; the terms of the settlement were not publicly discussed, but I’d be surprised if they weren’t simply a walk-away.

A Thomas Bentey who lives in New Jersey has a public Facebook page, though we make no representation that it’s the same Thomas Bentey.

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One of the 16 other physicians hit in the “shotgun” pleading reports that the process was neither easy nor painless nor without its lingering costs to the present day. (Mitchell S. Cappell, “A baseless malpractice suit still cost me”, Medical Economics, Feb. 1)(via KevinMD).

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