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Willie Gary

“If we don’t get a dime, that’s OK, if we can make a difference and save some lives,” said longtime Overlawyered favorite Willie Gary, one of the lawyers representing a woman awarded $23 billion-with-a-b in punitive damages by a Florida jury for the lung cancer death of her husband, a longtime smoker. [USA Today] I’ve covered earlier stages in the long-running Florida Engle tobacco litigation, which included a $145 billion punitive damage verdict later thrown out, in articles here, here, and here, as well as Overlawyered coverage; more on Willie Gary.

More: Jacob Sullum on the illogical basis of the jury’s decision.

October 26 roundup

by Walter Olson on October 26, 2012

  • Remembering George McGovern: “The endless exposure to frivolous claims and high legal fees is frightening” [Bob Dorigo Jones]
  • “One student was told she couldn’t cast a vote for homecoming queen unless she submitted to the tracking regime.” [CNet via Doctorow, BoingBoing]
  • Couple says law firm sued them following crash of RV they’d sold months earlier [Chamber-backed Southeast Texas Record]
  • L.A. city council moves to ban pet stores [L.A. Times via Amy Alkon]
  • “Willie Gary’s law firm ordered to pay $12.5 m to lender” [Nate Raymond, Reuters] Touring the tasteful promotional materials of longtime Overlawyered favorite Gary [Above the Law]
  • Further debunkings of Lilly Ledbetter narrative [Victoria Toensing, Adler, more, earlier] And fact-checking PolitiFact could turn into a full-time job; Hans Bader is still on the case [CEI]
  • Fifth Circuit panel backs Louisiana monks’ right to produce handcrafted caskets [NOLA.com, Ilya Shapiro/Cato, earlier]

December 1 roundup

by Walter Olson on December 1, 2009

  • Hertz drops libel lawsuit against investor research outfit that claimed its solvency was at risk [Crain's New York, earlier]
  • Report: New Jersey blogger jailed for threats against federal judges was on FBI informant payroll [AP]
  • “Bentley Photos Are Props in Willie Gary’s High School Motivational Speech” [ABA Journal]
  • Australian personal injury lawyers evade ad ban [Sydney Morning Herald]
  • Scott Rothstein’s alleged Ponzi scheme “targeted people who invested in law suits” [Steele/Legal Ethics Forum] “Two Inside Looks at Rothstein’s Firm, Lifestyle” [Ambrogi/Legal Blog Watch]
  • O’Quinn driving nearly twice speed limit on rainy pavement at time of crash [Chron]
  • “Support for UN religious defamation rule drops” [Media Watch Watch] On the other hand? “Envoy’s Speech Signals Softening of U.S. Hostility to International Court” [AP]
  • Rudely titled new book on how to avoid getting sued [Instapundit]

Yes, the online ads are already up. Washington’s City Paper tracks down one California-based law firm marketer: “This is the only marketing I do — it’s the highest cost per click online. What else can you do, a young guy like me? I don’t want to do porn [sites].” According to one report via Twitter, “the Google ads are running on the WMATA Web site.” More: Maryland Daily Record (first suit filed); Eric Turkewitz. And Ron Miller, on the dilemma of the young man quoted above: “Dare I suggest this is a false choice? There has to be a third option after porn and train wreck chasing, right?”

Also: Overlawyered favorite Willie Gary is in the case.

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Willie Gary and the IRS

by Walter Olson on February 12, 2009

The big-shot Stuart, Fla. injury lawyer, who’s provided this site with a steady source of material over the years, apparently isn’t going to be prime Cabinet nominee material any time soon given his run-ins with tax authorities.

The Florida high court has rejected the invasion-of-privacy tort theory under which a defendant can be held liable for a publication setting forth individually true facts which collectively create a misleading impression. We’ve extensively covered one of the two lawsuits on which the court ruled, in which famed attorney Willie Gary obtained an $18 million jury verdict against Gannett for investigative journalism it perpetrated against one of his clients. An appeals court later threw out the verdict. (WSJ law blog, Pensacola News-Journal, St. Petersburg Times editorial).

However, Marc Randazza at Citizen Media Law Blog (Oct. 24), analyzing the second of the two Florida cases, Rapp v. Jews for Jesus, warns that the decisions fell far short of being the free speech victories some have taken them as, because the Florida court endorsed and strengthened theories of “defamation by implication” which will usually be available in suing over the same fact patterns, the difference being that suits alleging “defamation by implication” must overcome more robust First Amendment defenses. Similarly: Elizabeth Spainhour, Newsroom Law Blog, Oct. 24.

August 7 roundup

by Walter Olson on August 7, 2008

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Per AmLaw Daily, his trade secrets case against Motorola, on behalf of a now-defunct client named SPS Technologies, has settled for a sum far short of the $10 billion he sought. The case made headlines when a judge granted the Florida-based plaintiff’s potentate $23 million in sanctions against his opposite number, the law firm of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, though Gary had asked for $200 million in all. Reports AmLaw Daily:

The rising cost of fuel also has forced Gary to lease out his private jet — an aircraft appropriately named the “Wings of Justice II,” which includes an 18-karat gold sink and $1.2 million sound system — for $150,000 a month.

In late July, Gary told Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers that fuel for the 32-passenger Boeing 737 costs $250,000 a month. A routine roundtrip flight to a city like Atlanta can run $35,000.

Roundup, March 15

by Ted Frank on March 15, 2008

  • Speaking of prostitutes and politicians, Deborah Jeane Palfrey has come to recognize that Montgomery Blair Sibley (Oct. 29; May 4; etc.) may not be the best lawyer for her. [WTOP via BLT]
  • Update: Nearly two years later, trial court gets around to upholding $2 million verdict in lawn-mower death we covered Jun. 16 and Aug. 18, 2006. [Roanoke Times (quoting me); opinion at On Point]
  • In other lawn mower news, check out Jim Beck’s perceptive comment on a Third Circuit lawn-mower liability decision.
  • Update: Willie Gary wins his child-support dispute. [Gary v. Gowins (Ga.); Atl. Journal-Const.; via ABA Journal; earlier: Nov. 2]
  • Tobacco-lawyer Mike Ciresi drops out of Minnesota senate race. [WCCO]
  • Belfast court quashes libel ruling against restaurant critic. [AFP/Breitbart]
  • Trial-lawyer-blogger happy: jury returned $1.25 million med-mal verdict for death of totally disabled person suffering from end-stage renal disease, pulmonary hypertension, oxygen dependent lung disease, and obesity, after rejecting businessperson from jury “for cause” because he was head of local Chamber of Commerce. [Day]
  • Car-keying anti-military attorney Jay Grodner faced the law in January; here’s the transcript. [Blackfive]
  • Anonymous blog post not reliable evidence of factual allegations. [In re Pfizer, Inc. Sec. Litig., 2008 WL 540120 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 28, 2008) via Roberts, who also reports on fee reduction in same post]
  • Clinton’s nutty mortgage plan. [B&MI (quoting me)]
  • A supposed DC cabbie’s take on DC v. Heller. [DC Cabbie blog]

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Actually, attorney Mark Lanier’s massive bash, for thousands of attendees “including, seemingly, every judge and politician in Texas”, would have gone forward whether or not Merck had plunked down billions, and with Lanier saying he expects only $30 million in fees plus $10 million in expenses in the affair, which was once expected to yield a much bigger payday, the atmosphere might even be subdued. (Lattman, Nov. 13). Earlier coverage of Lanier Christmas parties here and here; the only parties we’ve heard of to compare are Willie Gary’s.

November 2 roundup

by Ted Frank on November 2, 2007

  • Curlin gets 400 new owners, as the Kentucky fen-phen plaintiffs ripped off by their attorneys get the right to seize Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion’s 20% share of the Preakness Stakes winner. [AP/NYT; earlier]
  • As Lerach pleads guilty, LA Times editorial defends class action abuses, incorrectly says that the PSLRA fixed everything and that Lerach didn’t act illegally after it was passed. [LA Times]
  • That $10.9 million verdict against the Westboro Baptist Church was “not about the money.” [Reuters] Really, now, this case imposing bankrupting damages for a protest on a public sidewalk is appalling. Granted: Phelps is bigoted scum, and rude bigoted scum at that. But Albert Snyder’s claimed physical injury is that the protest exacerbated his diabetes: what sort of junk science is that? NB that Snyder was not even aware of the protest at the funeral until he watched it on television. Why not liability for the news program? Even those happy to see the anti-gay bigotry of the WBC punished should take pause: Snyder testified at length that the protest upset him particularly because his son was not gay.
  • Overlawyered favorite Willie Gary (Apr. 29, Oct. 2004), on the hook for $28,000/month in child support for love child. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
  • Deep-pocket search in Great White fire case. [Childs]
  • Lawsuit over which school 9-year-old can play football for. [Tulsa World (via TMQ G. Easterbrook)] Worse, the judge rewarded the plaintiff by second-guessing the league decision. [Tulsa World]
  • It only takes ten months of legal proceedings for Cal-Berkeley to evict trespassers squatting on university property. [SF Gate]
  • Don’t hold your breath: who’s watching the trial lawyers? [Examiner]

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As David noted the other day, Florida attorney Willie Gary, whose doings are often mentioned on this site, had asked that a court award fees of $11,000 an hour for his work in a trade secrets suit against Motorola. Readers may be interested in the sequel: Circuit Judge Leroy Moe awarded Gary and other lawyers only around a quarter of their request, amounting to $23 million of the asked-for $96 million in fees and costs. The judge also passed over a request that Motorola be hit with $100 millions in sanctions and restitution, though Gary might be able to obtain further consideration of that request. (Adrian Sainz, “Motorola ordered to pay $22.9 million”, AP/Miami Herald, Apr. 20)(via Ashby Jones, WSJ Law Blog).

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It made news a few weeks ago when attorney Willie Gary (many entries) requested that a court award fees of $11,000 per hour for his work on a lawsuit against Motorola; the $24 million total demand may have been outrageous, but at least it was part of a $10 billion lawsuit.

But what about a lawyer who requests $150,000 in fees on a case that was only worth $11,000? A magistrate judge actually granted the award, but fortunately the federal judge overturned that insanity, awarding just $4,900 in fees:

Zloch said the case, which lasted nearly three years and produced thousands of pages of court files, should have been resolved with 19 hours of legal work. Legal experts not involved in the case say a six-figure attorney fee request in a simple overtime case is extraordinary.

In 2004, Trina Carlson, formerly of Weston, Fla., sued her former employer, Dr. Marc Bosem, a Weston ophthalmologist, for $11,000 in unpaid overtime wages. Bosem, who acknowledged he owed Carlson overtime pay, was represented by Plantation, Fla., lawyer Jeffrey Norkin. The case was settled in January 2006 for $11,000.

On the attorney fee request, Zloch this month overturned U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana Snow’s award of $142,000 in fees for 455 hours of work at $300 an hour, plus paralegal fees and costs.

The actual saga would be humorous if it weren’t so wasteful; it involves allegations of name calling, bad faith, assaults on court reporters (!), claims of destruction of evidence, and ethics charges.

Readers of Overlawyered will not be surprised to find out that this practice is not unusual.

For several years, defense attorneys have complained that plaintiffs attorneys are filing overtime claims under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act for small dollar amounts that require little litigation, then claiming attorney fees in the tens of thousands of dollars. They complain these cases are clogging the federal courts and angering judges.

In 2003, Judge Federico A. Moreno rejected attorney Donald Jaret’s request for $16,000 in fees on a $315 claim that was settled weeks after the claim was filed. In his order, Moreno wrote that the claim “shocks the conscience of the court. … This strategy of ‘shaking down’ defendants with nightmarishly expensive litigation in pursuit of attorney fees must not be rewarded.”

If only more judges felt that way.

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November 12 roundup

by Ted Frank on November 12, 2006

  • “[W]e can’t develop good drugs … if after the fact somebody comes in and makes a false claim of credit.” Genentech beats Niro firm (Jul. 21) in billion-dollar patent case. [Legal Intelligencer]
  • Excellent new blog on science evidence issues. [Science Evidence; Point of Law]
  • Easterbrook: mandating software be free is not “price fixing” injurious to consumers. Duh. [Seventh Circuit via Bashman; see also Heidi Bond via Baude]
  • Missouri high court upholds reform law barring some types of dramshop liability against equal protection challenge. [Snodgras v. Huck's; AP/Columbia Daily Tribune]
  • Insurance company profits: the complete story. [Grace]
  • I address Hyman & Silver’s latest paper on medical malpractice. [Point of Law]
  • Seattle cop spends $10,000 of taxpayer money on lap dances in unsuccessful officially-authorized quest for prostitution violations. [Seattle Times]
  • Peter Lattman discovers Willie Gary’s website. Overlawyered readers were there two years ago. Gary himself is being hoisted by a litigation and advertising petard. [WSJ Law Blog; Fulton County Daily Report]
  • Andy Griffith sues Andy Griffith for use of Andy Griffith name. [AP/CNN]
  • The $2.1 million deposition. [Above the Law; Kirkendall; New York Times]
  • Scalia and Man at Yale. [Above the Law; Yale Daily News; Krishnamurthy via Bashman]
  • Wallison: Deregulation works. [AEI]
  • Must-read: An agenda for the Bush White House in the Democratic 110th Congress. [Frum @ WSJ @ AEI]
  • Clegg: Learn from the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. [NRO]
  • Krauthammer points out that both parties have moved right this election. [WaPo]
  • Will: “About $2.6 billion was spent on the 468 House and Senate races. (Scandalized? Don’t be. Americans spend that much on chocolate every two months.)” [WaPo]
  • At least we’re not Iran: sex video has criminal consequences there. [Daily Mail]

Following urgings by prominent attorney and frequent Overlawyered mentionee Willie Gary, a jury in Pensacola, Fla. had awarded the sum to a road builder who said he was defamed by an investigative-journalism piece in the newspaper chain’s Pensacola News-Journal (Mar. 30-31, 2001; Dec. 23, 2003; Jan. 7, 2004). The Florida appeals court “ruled that Joe Anderson’s case should have been dismissed because he mischaracterized his lawsuit as a ‘false-light claim’ to get around a two-year statute of limitations that applies in libel cases. The court said that since its decision was based on the statute-of-limitations issue, it did not rule on several other arguments for reversal raised by the newspaper.” (Ginny Graybiel, “News Journal suit reversed”, Oct. 21).

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To celebrate Beaumont tobacco/asbestos lawyer Walter Umphrey’s seventieth birthday, fellow Texas Tobacco Five member John Eddie Williams took over a private aircraft hangar — Umphrey’s own, in fact — “moved out the two private jets and the helicopter, added on a two-story party tent and threw a no-holds-barred tribute to Umphrey.” Music was provided by Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Rotel and the Hot Tomatoes, performing on two different stages, and there was some pretty decent food too. Among the 400 attendees: gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn. (Shelby Hodge, “Wild soiree in hangar was Western to the hilt”, Houston Chronicle, May 14). Of course it was a mere kaffeeklatsch compared with a Willie Gary or Mark Lanier party.

Now back to your previously scheduled news story about excessive CEO compensation.

Thomas Sowell nominates the controversy’s low point:

According to Newsweek, the young man at NCCU [North Carolina Central University] said that he wanted to see the Duke students prosecuted, “whether it happened or not. It would be justice for things that happened in the past.”

(“The Biggest Scandal in the Duke University Rape Case”, syndicated/Capitalism Magazine, May 17). The comment was hardly representative of anyone’s views but the one student’s, though, contends John Schwade in the Durham News (“Article opts to sensationalize with its color commentary”, Apr. 29). More: Dr. Helen, Apr. 22. Stuart Taylor Jr. has a powerful column on the subject which however is online only to National Journal/The Atlantic subscribers (“An Outrageous Rush to Judgment”, May 2). And guess who’s involved himself in the case, as an advisor to the complainant’s family? None other than ace money-extractor Willie Gary, long familiar to readers of this site (Wendy McElroy, “Is ‘Duke’ Case Headed to Civil Court?”, FoxNews.com, May 16).

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The beer giant agreed to pay at least $120 million in a confidential settlement to settle a defamation suit and other litigation arising from its termination of a beer distributorship held by the family of baseball great Roger Maris. (AP/Orlando Sentinel, Aug. 24; Tiffany Pakkala, “Maris deal taps Busch for $120m”, Gainesville Sun, Aug. 25). The dispute took the form of several distinct legal actions; in 2001 a Gainesville, Fla. jury awarded the Maris family $50 million following a three-month trial at which celebrated attorney Willie Gary, representing the family, was charged with repeated misconduct (see Apr. 1-2, 2002). However, a judge later threw out ethics charges against Gary (Jan. 5 and Jan. 7, 2004). In the latest round, Gary was again representing the family, this time in a defamation suit against the brewing company; a jury was preparing to return its verdict when the parties settled. (Gregory Cancelada, “Maris family, Anheuser-Busch square off in defamation suit”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch/San Jose Mercury News, Aug. 22).