The big Volkswagen settlement dishes out a large pot of money for owners of VW diesels, whether they feel injured or not. “A roster of the country’s biggest class-action firms will get an unspecified but huge amount of fees, likely measured in the billions. And buried in the 42-page proposed settlement are tidbits for other folks, including the professional association for state attorneys general and manufacturers of electric cars. … Some AGs justify such payments as reimbursement for their investigative expenses, but as tax-supported officers it is not clear why their professional association should get the money.” [Daniel Fisher, Forbes]
- Fee-vergnügen: John Edwards, who knows a thing or two about tactical concealment, seeks to rep Volkswagen owners in mass litigation [Grist, Politico]
- Speaking of auto litigation: first General Motors ignition case goes to trial, automaker charges fraud, plaintiffs hire criminal counsel [Bloomberg, more]
- The Maryland redistricting project I was involved in this past fall has now resulted in a bill filed with the legislature by Gov. Larry Hogan [Danielle Gaines/Frederick News-Post, WBAL, Anjali Shastry/Washington Times, Baltimore Sun, earlier]
- Discovery and other procedural reforms in the federal courts: “Chief Justice Roberts on speedier civil litigation … and dueling?” [Howard Wasserman, PrawfsBlawg]
- Shackled Philly priest died in prison, accused by “Billy Doe.” But how well does Doe’s story hold up? Questions about another big sex assault story from Rolling Stone/Sabrina Rubin Erdely that preceded their U.Va./”Jackie” tale [Ralph Cipriano/Newsweek, Robby Soave/Reason].
- “Oversimplification is at the heart of a Coates-style approach to the reparations issue.” [John McWhorter on an unexpected bid to get me to side with Bernie Sanders; more on reparations, Glenn Loury and (missed this earlier) Jonathan Blanks, Rare, 2014]
- Federal Trade Commission went after LabMD on data security complaint. Unlike so many targets, LabMD chose to fight the FTC. And then… [Steven Boranian, Drug and Device Law, earlier]
- India monk: I’ll need eight months to respond to court summons because my religion requires me to get there on foot [BBC]
- NYC’s inhospitable treatment of cat cafes leaves you wondering if dogs get a better shake [Nicole Gelinas, New York Post]
- As VW litigation heats up, keep your eye on lawyers’ angling re: multi-district litigation, advises Ted Frank [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine; Rob Green, Abnormal Use; yet more on multi-district litigation, John Beisner, Chamber ILR]
- A public health study “builds upon Critical Race Theory” to criticize results of Stand Your Ground doctrine in Florida, but most of the cases it uses weren’t decided on basis of that doctrine [Andrew Branco, Legal Insurrection]
- “Subway ‘Footlong’ Settlement: Lawyers Feed, Consumers Fast” [Judicial Hellholes, earlier, note also this on Subway’s affection for the term]
- Not only did the free market not cause that $750 generic pill, it might be on the way to generating a $1 alternative [Bonnie Kristian/Rare, my earlier take] Still, it’s a little more complicated than that, as Alex Tabarrok explains;
- Kathleen Kane saga: “Pennsylvania Attorney General Suspended from the Bar, Still Refuses to Quit” [Hans Bader, CEI]
- “Vision Media Suit Over Criticism on 800Notes Dismissed” [Paul Alan Levy, Consumer Law & Policy, more; earlier here and here]
- “In Search Of a Definition for the term ‘Patent Troll'” [Gene Quinn, IP Watchdog]
- U.K.: “The end of ‘have-a-go’ litigation?” [Guardian, Telegraph]
- “Lessons in Blogging”: it won’t kill you to link to opposing views [Turkewitz]
- Briefing and fairness hearing in Volkswagen sunroof leak settlement [CCAF]
- Troublesome treaty signed by US on ADA anniversary: “Ratification of the Disabilities Convention Would Erode American Sovereignty” [Steven Groves, Heritage]
- Abolish summary judgment? Now hold on a minute [Ronald Miller]
- A strong liability-reform advocate on a Democratic national ticket? It happened when Gore slated Sen. Lieberman as VP pick [ten years ago on Overlawyered]
For many class members (such as myself), the only benefit they will receive is a piece of paper to put into the owner’s manual that says “check your sunroof drains every 40,000 miles.” That’s it, no reimbursement, no inspection, no free drain cleaning, nothing.
Lawyers say that and other benefits to class members, including an $8 million repair fund, are worth $125 million and justify a fee of $30 million plus $1.5 million in expenses. A fairness hearing in federal court in New Jersey is scheduled for June 26.
Two readers have written to alert us to this settlement (PDF), including frequent commenter Todd Rogers:
I received notice in the mail [this month] that I’m party to a class action suit against VW USA. I drive a Passat with a “Smart Key.” According to the suit, VW has been naughty because they did not make the key duplication apparatus available enough to locksmiths, third party key duplicators, and the like, in the event that I (we) want to make another key. What would my settlement be? I’m the benefactor of “greater communication” from VW USA.
What do you know…owners of Mercedes Benz suffered the same injury and it was the same firm, Lurie & Weiss, who helped make them whole, as well. Who’s next?
Objections and requests for exclusion must by filed by the end of August, and a fairness hearing is scheduled for Sept. 22 in the courtroom of the Hon. Audrey B. Collins in federal court in Los Angeles.
There was an auto accident in Dallas; plaintiffs sued Volkswagen in Marshall, Texas, in the notoriously plaintiff-friendly Eastern District of Texas, which has a hugely abnormal number of product liability cases—17% of all federal automobile product liability lawsuits in the United States. Let us quote from In re Volkswagen of America, Inc., 506 F.3d 376 (5th Cir.2007), earlier discussed on POL Nov. 27 and Feb. 23:
Volkswagen moved to transfer venue to the Dallas Division of the Northern District of Texas (“Dallas Division”). Volkswagen asserted that a transfer was warranted as (1) the Volkswagen Golf was purchased in Dallas County, Texas; (2) the accident occurred on a freeway in Dallas, Texas; (3) Dallas residents witnessed the accident; (4) Dallas police and paramedics responded and took action; (5) a Dallas doctor performed the autopsy; (6) the third-party defendant lives in Dallas County, Texas; (7) none of the plaintiffs live in the Marshall Division; (8) no known party or significant non-party witness lives in the Marshall Division; and (9) none of the facts giving rise to this suit occurred in the Marshall Division.
The district court refused to transfer to the Northern District, VW sought mandamus, and got it on the second try, with the Fifth Circuit ordering transfer. (See also John Council, “5th Circuit Restricts Trial Courts’ Discretion in Venue Motions”, Texas Lawyer, Nov. 5; John Council, “5th Circuit Case Could Reduce Product Liability Caseload in Texas’ Eastern District”, Texas Lawyer, Aug. 7).
In February, however, the Fifth Circuit vacated the decision, and granted en banc rehearing. Argument is Thursday in New Orleans, and the decision will determine whether the Fifth Circuit will tolerate forum shopping in the federal courts. (Michelle Massey, “Appeals court scheduled to hear arguments over forum shopping”, SE Texas Record, May 20). The case is of special importance to the patent bar, given the fact that Marshall, Texas, has become the unlikely capital of United States patent litigation. Blog coverage: PatentlyO, Prior Art.
En banc briefs in 07-40058, In re Volkswagen AG:
- Petitioners (Volkswagen)
- Respondents (plaintiffs)
- Product Liability Advisory Council, amicus on behalf of petitioners
- American Intellectual Property Law Association, amicus on behalf of petitioners
- Railroads, amicus on behalf of petitioners
- Law professors, amicus on behalf of respondents
- Trial lawyers, amicus on behalf of respondents
Department of Strangely Shifting Academic Positions: In December 2007, law professor Georgene Vairo wrote a LexisNexis Expert Commentary on the Volkswagen case explaining its consistency with Supreme Court precedents, and writing
The Fifth Circuit is not alone in permitting the use of mandamus in limited circumstances. For example, in Lemon v. Druffel, 253 F.2d 680 (6th Cir. 1958), a case decided shortly after Congress codified § 1404(a), the Sixth Circuit ruled that mandamus was an appropriate remedy to test a district court’s discretion on a motion to transfer.
In April 2008, she signed on to a brief taking precisely the opposite position, which does not cite Lemon. Curious.