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West Virginia

Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on October 21, 2014

  • 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]

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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.

According to Derek Lowe (crediting ChemJobber), one law firm’s suit drops the ball on identifying the exact chemical nature of the contaminant 4-MCHM, or (4-methylcyclohexane)methanol:

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.

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February 3 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 3, 2014

  • “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]

December 18 roundup

by Walter Olson on December 18, 2013

  • 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]

Environmental roundup

by Walter Olson on November 5, 2013

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“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.

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Torts roundup

by Walter Olson on July 3, 2013

  • State attorneys general and contingent-fee lawyers: West Virginia high court says OK [WV Record] Similar Nevada challenge [Daniel Fisher]
  • Driver of bus that fatally crushed pedestrian fails to convince court on can’t-bear-to-look-at-evidence theory [David Applegate, Heartland Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly]
  • UK uncovers biggest car crash scam ring, detectives say County Durham motorists were paying up to £100 extra on insurance [BBC, Guardian, Telegraph]
  • “A Litigator Reviews John Grisham’s The Litigators” [Max Kennerly]
  • Quin Hillyer, who’s written extensively on litigation abuse, is putting journalism on hold and running for Congress from Mobile, Ala. [American Spectator]
  • Not clear how man and 5-year-old son drowned in pool — he’d been hired for landscaping — but homeowner being sued [Florence, Ala.; WAFF]
  • “U.S. Legal System Ranked as Most Costly” [Shannon Green, Corp Counsel] “International comparisons of litigation costs: Europe, U.S. and Canada” [US Chamber]

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Environment roundup

by Walter Olson on January 17, 2013

January 9 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 9, 2013

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Torts roundup

by Walter Olson on December 14, 2012

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Torts roundup

by Walter Olson on November 27, 2012

  • Adventures in causation: Per $19 million Mississippi verdict, fumes from leftover gasoline caused birth defects, asthma [Insurance Journal]
  • Legal academia watch: lawprof proposes massive expansion of liability for parents [TortsProf]
  • University of Virginia’s torts giant: “A Tribute To Jeffrey O’Connell” [U.Va. Dean Paul Mahoney, Virginia Law Review (PDF) via TortsProf]
  • “Proposed civil justice reform in Canada” [Ted Frank]
  • “Town Owes $10M To Pupil Paralyzed In School Beating” [New Jersey Law Journal; Irvington, N.J.]
  • Businesses steer clear of Philadelphia litigation climate [Jim Copland, Inquirer; Trial Lawyers Inc. update]
  • Longtime West Virginia attorney general Darrell McGraw, disliked by business, toppled in re-election bid [Charleston Gazette-Mail]

Don’t

by Walter Olson on November 9, 2012

Errant West Virginia attorney: “Mr. Robinson committed a criminal offense by beating Mr. Gump, his client, with a baseball bat” [Charleston Gazette]

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Politics roundup

by Walter Olson on August 2, 2012

  • Vice President Biden raises at least hundreds of thousands of dollars at AAJ annual convention in Chicago [PoL] Romney’s law and legal policy team [Brian Baxter, AmLaw Daily]
  • Law star Ted Cruz advances toward Senate [David Lat, AtL]
  • Can Republicans make hay out of Democrats’ platform endorsement of same-sex marriage? New Pew poll, as well as May polling round, offers reasons to doubt that [my new post at Maryland for All Families]
  • “Why Citizens United Has Nothing to Do with What Ails American Politics” [Ilya Shapiro, The American, more]
  • Bridgeport mayor Joseph Ganim, of gun-suit fame, a step closer to getting law license back after serving 7-year prison term for corruption [Courant] Eight more indictments as the Connecticut corruption scandals roll on [Conn Post]
  • Rob McKenna’s star on rise in Washington; he’s pursued public-liability reform as the state’s attorney general [Daily Caller, earlier]
  • Bypassing public financing, West Virginia judicial candidates pour their own injury-law fortunes into races [Richie Heath, Charleston Daily Mail]
  • “How hot is it in DC today? Congressman Paul is using a paper money substitute because his actual money melted.” [Tim Carney]

The case is from West Virginia, and Lowering the Bar and Rob Beschizza/BoingBoing have the details.

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“Ye Gave Children Joy, And Exercise Too/It’s Too Bad Those Parents Decided To Sue.” An epitaph on a West Virginia county’s swing sets [KaBOOM.org]

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In Cabell County, West Virginia, “in part because of lawsuits over injuries.” [AP] More: Investor’s Business Daily (editorial). Another view: Eric Turkewitz.

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“Ludicrous claims shouldn’t have caused U.S. District Joseph Goodwin to reject a class action over economic damages from heart medicine Digitek, according to Fred Thompson of Motley Rice.” [Chamber-backed WV Record] The background of the court action is interesting too:

Litigation began in 2008, after Actavis Totowa discovered 20 pills of double thickness in a batch at its plant in Little Falls, New Jersey.

Actavis Totowa recalled the batch, and no plaintiff has produced a double thick pill.

Some plaintiffs nevertheless claimed personal injuries and wrongful death. Others claimed only economic damages.

Thompson sought certification of a national economic damages class or single state classes in West Virginia, New Jersey, Kansas and Kentucky.

Judge Goodwin found that the claimants were too disparate in their posture to be joined appropriately as members of a single class; some had put in for the cost of such things as eyeglasses and enemas.