Lawyer in Apple’s law firm turns out to have been secretly advising and investing in patent-holding entity (repped by Hagens Berman) preparing a legal onslaught against Apple. “Why didn’t Morgan Lewis … see an ethical problem in letting one of its partners invest in a patent troll, especially one specially designed to target one of the firm’s big clients? And how many other big-firm lawyers are entwined with ‘start-ups’ that are actually holding companies, created to attack the very corporations they are supposed to be defending?” [Joe Mullin, Ars Technica via @tedfrank]
- Seattle’s best? Class action lawyer suing Apple, e-publishers has represented Microsoft [Seattle Times, earlier]
- “Disabled” NYC firefighter/martial arts enthusiast can go on getting checks for life [NYPost; compare]
- After the FDA enforcement action on drug manufacturing lapses come the tagalong liability claims by uninjured plaintiffs [Beck]
- “What If Lower Court Judges Weren’t Bound by Supreme Court Precedent?” [Orin Kerr]
- Fark.com settles a patent suit for $0 (rough language);
- Canadian law society to pay $100K for asking prospective lawyers about mental illness [ABA Journal]
- Self-help eviction? “Chinese Developers Accused Of Putting Scorpions In Apartments To Force Out Residents” [Business Insider]
Class action lawyers and Apple have reached a deal to settle claims that early versions of the pocket-sized device have an exterior that scratches too easily. Apple will offer $25 each to some users and the lawyers will cart away more than $9 million. (Ars Technica; settlement site; earlier here and here).
- Judges overheard chatting in coffee shop about sweetheart class settlement [WageLaw via Paul Karlsgodt’s weekly class action blog roundup]
- More attempts to sue/uncover anonymous blog commenters: “I was subpoenaed for a discovery deposition about one of my posts on this blog.” [Medblogger Dr. Wes]
- Thoughts prompted by the latest (NYC) round of litigation over “ladies’ nights” at drinking establishments [David Giacalone, f/k/a]
- Head of state (Bolivia’s Morales) to his lawyer: “If it’s illegal, go ahead and make it legal. That’s what you went to school for.'” [Cato at Liberty]
- Everybody run! Perennial Overlawyered mentionee Steve Berman has a blog [Class Action Law Today via his P.R. guy in Kevin O’Keefe comments]
- When infamous NYC lawyer Burt Pugach calls, hang up [Greenfield]
- Colleague described as “a soap opera doctor” elects to spend more time in the courtroom than in the operating room [Throckmorton]
- Dear Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee: “Please resist the efforts of vaccine-injury plaintiffs’ advocates to define themselves as representatives of ‘the autism community.'” [Kathleen Seidel, Neurodiversity]
Don’t expect the much-hyped Kivalina suit to bring down Big Energy, the columnist says, but it might just keep the lawyers at Hagens Berman in BMWs:
The Inupiat Eskimos are perfect, jury-worthy plaintiffs. They have occupied their tiny barrier reef, just a few feet above sea level, “since time immemorial,” according to the lawsuit. They are poor. They live in harmony with nature, according to the documentary. (Pay no attention to those all-terrain vehicles zipping around town, and the kid flashing the gang sign.) …
Some judges may be liberal, but they’re not idiots. They know that utilities sold electricity to Americans because their customers wanted to jack up the AC. In fact, there isn’t a utility in America that hasn’t spent the past 20 years begging its customers to use less oil and gas. There is an inconvenient truth if I ever saw one.
Not to be missed (“Eskimos, whales, and luaus…Oh my!”, Boston Globe, May 24).
Looks like we’ll be hearing a lot more about the “Kivalina” (Alaskan Inupiat village) climate-change suit:
Over time, the two trial lawyers [Stephen Susman of Texas and Steve Berman of Seattle, both familiar to longterm readers of this site] have become convinced that they have the playbook necessary to win big cases against the country’s largest emitters. It’s the same game plan that brought down Big Tobacco. And in Kivalina — where the link between global warming and material damage is strong—they believe they’ve found the perfect challenger.
In February, Berman and Susman—along with two attorneys who have previously worked on behalf of the village and an environmental lawyer specializing in global warming—filed suit in federal court against 24 oil, coal, and electric companies, claiming that their emissions are partially responsible for the coastal destruction in Kivalina. More important, the suit also accuses eight of the firms (American Electric Power, BP America, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Duke Energy, ExxonMobil, Peabody Energy, and Southern Company) of conspiring to cover up the threat of man-made climate change, in much the same way the tobacco industry tried to conceal the risks of smoking—by using a series of think tanks and other organizations to falsely sow public doubt in an emerging scientific consensus.
(Stephan Faris, “Conspiracy Theory”, The Atlantic, June). For the theory of legally wrongful participation in public debate (as one might call it), as it surfaced in the tobacco litigation, see, for example, this 2006 post.
More background on the suit at the Native American Rights Fund’s blog, here and here, and at attorney Matthew Pawa’s site. Carter Wood at NAM “Shop Floor” links to a report by the American Justice Partnership and Southeastern Legal Foundation (PDF) entitled, “The Most Dangerous Litigation in America: Kivalina“.
The federal courts using the common law method of case-by-case adjudication may have institutional advantages over the more political branches, such as perhaps more freedom from interest group capture and more flexibility to tailor decisions to local conditions. Any such advantages, however, are more than offset by the disadvantages of relying on the courts in common resource management in general and in the management of the global atmospheric commons in particular. The courts are best able to serve a useful function resolving climate-related disputes once the political branches have acted by establishing a policy framework and working through the daunting task of allocating property or quasi-property rights in greenhouse gas emissions. In the meantime, states do have a state legislative alternative that is preferable to common law suits, and that federal courts can facilitate without any dramatic innovations in federal preemption or dormant commerce clause doctrine.
Was the litigation a factor? The UK’s Daily Mail is reporting that Apple is developing a way for future iPods and iPhones to turn down volumes automatically after a certain period of use to protect users from endangering their hearing. One columnist predicts that the feature if implemented “will be hacked in a matter of minutes” by users who don’t want the protection. (Christopher Breen, “Auto-volume may be a turn-off for some”, MacWorld, Dec. 26).
There’s nothing intrinsically droll about this report of increased jollity, mirth and conviviality at the 2006 Clif Bar/Hagens Berman Starcrossed Cyclocross race, co-sponsored by the prominent Seattle class-action firm: “The men’s main event was fast, painful, and exciting and it certainly did not disappoint the rowdy pumped up crowds who had been feasting on Pabst Blue Ribbon in the beer garden all day long.” (Cycling News, October). The only potentially humorous note is to those of us who remember Hagens Berman as having thrust itself forward a mere three years ago in the national media as the national scourge of alcohol marketing — beer marketing in particular (Mar. 29, 2004). The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel article we cited at the time, with chapter and verse on the firm’s grandstanding against the sudsy brew, is still online.