You know, the money that was said to be so vital to fund “tobacco control” programs. What percentage of the state of Massachusetts’s haul (more than $250 million a year from legal settlement proceeds, aside from outright taxes) do you think actually gets spent on such things? Guess, then click through to my new Cato post.
The New York Times reports on some experienced plaintiffs’ lawyers who are hoping to rip big sums out of food companies alleging mislabeling; one is particularly outraged at a yogurt maker’s use of the “evaporated cane juice” euphemism for sugar. “The lawyers are looking to base damages on products’ sales…. [They] are being selective about where these suits are filed. Most have been filed in California, where consumer protection laws tend to favor plaintiffs.” The Times article, which reads somewhat like a press release for the lawyers involved, flatteringly describes them as “the lawyers who took on Big Tobacco,” though in fact a much larger group of lawyers played prominent roles in the Great Tobacco Robbery of 1998, and no evidence is presented that most of that larger group are taking any interest in the food-labeling campaign. What’s more, the many efforts by the plaintiff’s bar to identify a suitable Next Tobacco in the intervening years have been full of false starts and fizzles, including such mostly-abortive causes as mass litigation over alcohol, slavery reparations, HMOs, and dotcom failures.
The Times does draw the link to Proposition 37, the lawyer-sponsored measure I wrote about last week, which could open up a basis for rich new suits based on failure to correctly affix labeling tracking the sometimes-fine distinctions between genetically modified foodstuffs and all others. The text of Proposition 37 proposes to base minimum damages on the total sales volume of a product sold out of compliance, not on any measure of actual harm to consumers (& Thom Forbes, Marketing Daily; Ted Frank, Point of Law). Earlier on Don Barrett here and on Walter Umphrey and Provost Umphrey here and here.
A jury rejects a strained health-outlay recoupment claim. [Mass Tort Lit]
- New Yorker suing boss for $2M because working in New Jersey caused him “anguish” [Biz Insider]
- British lawyer’s libel threats impede UK publication of Paul Offit vaccine book [Respectful Insolence]
- Lawsuit settlement leads to Florida push to curb tobacco discounter [WSJ; background, Jeremy Bulow]
- Allegation: attorneys made personal use of cy pres fund in Armenian genocide settlement [PoL]
- “Telecommuting employees raise special wage and hour issues” [Hyman]
- UK bias cops wonder whether to ban gay-preferred along with gay-not-preferred guesthouses [Ed West, U.K. Telegraph]
- Copyright mills: “Local law firm wants to defend people sued by local law firm” [TBD] Related: [Citizen Media Law, Coleman]
- “Top 10 Reasons to Not Open a Bar or Restaurant in NYC” [NY Enterprise Report]
The Supreme Court should strike down the multistate compact by which state attorneys general carried out the Great Tobacco Heist of a decade ago, argues Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute [Washington Times and CEI; earlier here, here]. I’ve discussed the MSA at chapter length in my book The Rule of Lawyers as well as in shorter form here and elsewhere.
P.S. AEI’s Michael Greve analyzes the legal background at Balkinization.
- Notables including Alan Morrison, Richard Epstein, Kathleen Sullivan sign amicus brief urging court review of multistate tobacco settlement [Daniel Fisher/Forbes, Christine Hall/CEI, Todd Zywicki]
- “Congress rediscovers the Constitution” [Roger Pilon, WSJ]
- Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. profiled [Roger Parloff, Fortune]
- When outside investors stake divorce litigants: yes, there are legal ethics angles [Christine Hurt]
- Mexico, long noted for strict gun control laws, has only one legal gun store [WaPo]
- Judge throws out “parasitic” lawsuit piggybacking on Wisconsin drug-pricing settlement [Madison.com]
- Erin Brockovich sequel: Talking back to the Environmental Working Group on dangers of chromium-6 in drinking water [Oliver, Logomasini/CEI]
- “Little white lies” to protect the bar’s image [five years ago on Overlawyered]
Alas, court challenges have generally failed in the past despite the many seeming constitutional and legal infirmities of 1998’s Great Tobacco Robbery — its taxation-escaping-normal-constraints-on-taxation, its bald imposition of retroactive liability, its state-sponsored cartelization of the cigarette trade, its odoriferous self-dealing and counsel-contract coziness, and so forth. Doubly unfortunately, the courts have adopted an exceedingly narrow interpretation of the Compacts Clause, which on its face you might think would bar states from entering deals with each other of this sort without Congressional approval. Christine Hall of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which filed the new certiorari petition, wonders what the Founders would have thought: “It’s hard to believe they would’ve written the Compact Clause for no reason.” [Open Market]
“There has been a growing effort over the past decade from groups such as Smoke Free Movies and SceneSmoking.org, which hosts the annual Hackademy Awards, to pressure Hollywood into cutting back the amount of smoking in films. Now those groups are getting government support for their cause from US Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA) and from a group of health organizations, including Legacy, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization.” [Washington Post] Legacy, incidentally, is a group created as a result of the $246-billion state-Medicaid tobacco settlement whose purposes include pushing for further “tobacco control” — one of many examples in this area in which government-driven funding is employed to further advocacy on one side of controversial issues.
- Lawyer sued for sexual harassment countersues, wins $1.55 million in damages [The Recorder]
- Court rejects another challenge to tobacco multistate settlement agreement [Sullum, Reason]
- European human rights claim: “Fury as German doctor seeks injunction against victim’s sons” [Daily Mail]
- New CPSC rulemakings on CPSIA testing frequency and component testing could sink many small businesses [Woldenberg]
- Connecticut AG Blumenthal picks fight with life insurers [Hartford Courant, with comments]
- Undies moral: “Excess litigiousness is part of the whole shebang of dangerizing everything.” [Skenazy, Free-Range Kids]
- “False-Marking Suits Head for a Showdown” [Robbins, Texas Lawyer]
- “I think my years in the [adult film] industry will make me a great lawyer.” [Above the Law]