“West Virginia courts have a well-deserved reputation for favoring plaintiffs, but the state’s Supreme Court may have gone too far this year when it said drug addicts who broke the law to obtain narcotics could sue the doctors and pharmacies who supposedly fed their addiction.” Rulings like that, writes Daniel Fisher, are one reason West Virginia perennially ranks at the bottom in the U.S. Chamber’s ranking of state legal climates, and did again this year. Louisiana, Illinois, and California are other cellar-dwellers, while Alabama and Texas, despite extensive reforms and the success of business-oriented candidates in many judicial races, also languish in the lower ranks with continuing problems such as the litigation atmosphere of east Texas [Lou Ann Anderson/Watchdog Arena] More: Bob Dorigo Jones. Related, from ALEC: State Lawsuit Reform.
West Virginia: “A state Supreme Court ruling says juries can decide if residents who have broken the law by obtaining and using prescription painkillers can sue physicians and pharmacies for their addictions.” [Chamber-backed W.V. Record]
- “Judge dismisses ‘American Idol’ racial bias lawsuit” [Reuters]
- “Don’t sue your art dealer, because you won’t win” [Shane Ferro, Business Insurance on fate of Ronald Perelman suit against Larry Gagosian]
- Lawyer with big case pending before West Virginia high court bought plane from chief justice’s spouse [ABC, Charleston Daily Mail, WV Record]
- Remembering Bruno Leoni, classical liberal known for theory of superiority of decisional law process over legislation [Cato panel this summer, Todd Zywicki/Liberty and Law]
- “If I ever shoot your wedding, I’ll be sure to add a clause of ‘You cannot sue me for $300,000.'” [@GilPhotography on PetaPixel coverage]
- “Court Unconvinced by Lawyer Dressed as Thomas Jefferson” [Lowering the Bar]
- Arizona attorney general to GM: gimme $10K for every vehicle you’ve sold in my state [Bloomberg]
- Texas trial lawyer lobby has attacked Greg Abbott on theme of his accident for years without success, Wendy Davis would have been smarter to tell ’em no [Politico]
- Wondering about ObamaCare rate hikes? You’ll get to find out right after the election [Washington Times]
- “Four more years of ‘pay-to-play’ if DeWine returns as Ohio AG, says Dem challenger” [LNL]
- Blades concealed? Environmental group’s Iowa, Colorado attack ads play bad cop to wind lobbyists’ good cop [Tim Carney]
- “W.Va. trial lawyers’ campaign donations near $600K” [W.V. Record]
- With all the serious issues in the Maryland governor’s race, what’s this guy doing writing a parody song about Anthony Brown’s “Frederickstown” gaffe? [Free State Notes]
- “Dear Trial Lawyer Colleague, One of our own, Bruce Braley, is in the fight of his life” [Joel Gehrke, earlier]
Last month Charleston, W.V. suffered one of the worst American environmental calamities in years when coal-scrubbing chemicals burst from a tank farm and into its water supply, which had to be shut down for several days. So, you ask, given a great big injury for which it’s extremely likely that someone bears legal responsibility, how’s the litigation system helping out? Well, the operator of the tank farm having almost immediately declared bankruptcy in anticipation of massive legal claims, the net is naturally being cast wide for other defendants to sue, with some suits, for example, naming the water company as sole defendant.
The court filing, by the law firm of Thompson and Barney, says explicitly:
30. The combination chemical 4-MCHM is artificially created by combining methylclyclohexane (sic) with methanol.
31. Two component parts of 4-MCHM are methylcyclohexane and methanol which are both known dangerous and toxic chemicals that can cause latent dread disease such as cancer.
Sure thing, guys, just like the two component parts of dogwood trees are dogs and wood.
Lowe also accuses an expert hired by the same law firm of “irresponsible fear-mongering” for encouraging alarm about a finding of just over 30 nanograms per milliliter of formaldehyde in the Charleston water, not a high level by many standards.
- “Class counsel in Facebook ‘Sponsored Stories’ case seeks to impose $32,000 appeal bond on class-action objectors” [Public Citizen, Center for Class Action Fairness]
- The best piece on bar fight litigation I’ve ever read [Burt Likko, Ordinary Gentlemen]
- Casino mogul Adelson campaigns to suppress online gaming; is your state attorney general among those who’ve signed on? [PPA, The Hill]
- Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA): “Anyone who values the rule of law should be alarmed by the ADM enforcement action.” [Mike Koehler]
- New FMCSA rules on length of workweek make life difficult for long-haul truckers [Betsy Morris, WSJ via Lee Habeeb and Mike Leven, National Review and more]
- “It takes a remarkable amount of nerve to cobble together publicly available facts, claim you’ve uncovered a fraud on the government, and file a lawsuit from which you could earn substantial financial benefits.” [Richard Samp, WLF] Whistleblower-law lobby tries to get its business model established in West Virginia [W.V. Record]
- Pittsburgh readers, hope to see you tomorrow at Duquesne [law school Federalist Society]
- California judge tells three large companies to pay $1 billion to counties under highly novel nuisance theory of lead paint mostly sold long ago [Business Week, The Recorder, Legal NewsLine, IB Times]
- Coincidence? California given number one “Judicial Hellhole” ranking in U.S. Chamber report, followed by Louisiana, NYC, West Virginia, Illinois’ Metro-East and South Florida [report in PDF; Daniel Fisher/Forbes (& thanks for mention of Overlawyered), Legal NewsLine]
- Frivolous ethics charge filed by Rep. Louise Slaughter, Common Cause and Alliance for Justice against Judge Diane Sykes over Federalist Society appearance is quickly dismissed [Jonathan Adler]
- On heels of San Antonio Four: “Texas pair released after serving 21 years for ‘satanic abuse'” [Guardian, Scott Greenfield]
- White House delayed onerous regulations till after election; Washington Post indignant about the delay, not the regs [WaPo, Thomas Firey/Cato]
- “GM vs Bankruptcy – How Autoworkers Became More Equal Than Others” [James Sherk, Bloomberg]
- According to one study, North America’s economically freest state isn’t a state, but a Canadian province [Dan Mitchell]
- “If you thought it wasn’t possible to lower the bar for lawyer advertising, of all things, you were wrong.” [Lowering the Bar, first and second round]
- Voters in state of Washington today consider I-522, latest attempt to mandate GMO food labeling [Jacob Grier, Umlaut; Baylen Linnekin, Reason; earlier including my take on failed California initiative Prop 37] Which Michael Pollan should we listen to? [Jon Entine]
- Ilya Somin in Cato Supreme Court Review on two big takings cases Koontz and Arkansas Game & Fish, both won by property owners in last year’s Supreme Court term [article on SSRN, video and podcast of panel]
- “The Conservative Record on Environmental Policy” [Jonathan Adler, The New Atlantis]
- Regulatory power grab foiled: “West Virginia chicken farmer wins EPA lawsuit over runoff” [AP]
- Defendants fight back in Louisiana coastal marshes suit [John Maginnis, Shreveport Times; earlier here, here, and here]
- Lawsuits under way: “‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’ Blamed for Mysterious Symptoms in Cape Cod Town” [ABC]
- Want affordable housing and plenty of it? Unleash the cranes [Ed Glaeser, NYT “Room For Debate”]
“A federal judge has tripled the damages awarded against two former members of a Pittsburgh law firm and the radiologist they were found to have conspired with to fabricate asbestos claims in West Virginia.” [Chamber-backed WV Record] Many claims based on medical evidence supplied by the radiologist, Dr. Ray Herron, were among those dismissed in 2005 by federal judge Janis Graham Jack in an opinion in which she wrote, “These diagnoses were driven by neither health nor justice – they were manufactured for money.” In June 2013 the editorialists of the New York Times hilariously wrote that “there is no persuasive evidence of any significant fraud or abuse” in asbestos claiming.
Mark Hansen in the ABA Journal with an overview of how crime labs have finally come under scrutiny following a “string of shoddy, suspect and fraudulent results” in Boston, New York, North Carolina, Nassau County, N.Y. and elsewhere.
In St. Paul, Minn., assistant public defender Lori Traub stumbled into her local lab’s problems and
says she was horrified by what she found: The lab, an old-fashioned “cop shop,” was run by a police sergeant with no scientific background, had no written operating procedures, didn’t clean instruments between testing, allowed technicians unlimited access to the drug vault, and didn’t have anyone checking anyone else’s work. Analysts didn’t know what a validity study was, used Wikipedia as a technical reference, and in their lab reports referred to “white junk” clogging an instrument.
It gets much worse. A West Virginia state serologist, following the DNA clearance of a man he had previously identified as a rapist, “was eventually found to have falsified test results in as many as 134 cases during a 10-year period.” Oklahoma City Police Department crime lab chemist Joyce Gilchrist
who testified as a prosecution expert in 23 death penalty cases, including those of 12 inmates who were later executed, was fired in 2001 for doing sloppy work and giving false or misleading testimony. Nicknamed “Black Magic” by detectives for her seeming ability to get lab results no other chemist could, Gilchrist was never prosecuted for her alleged misdeeds, though she reportedly was named a defendant in at least one lawsuit against the city by a convicted rapist who was later exonerated.
More: And according to a new paper, it turns out that many state police labs are actually paid per conviction, a practice that tends to incentive false-positive error.