ARCHIVE -- APRIL 2002
April 10 -- Soap
star: ABC wrote my character out of the show. "A former
star of ABC's daytime drama 'All My Children' has filed a lawsuit for nearly
$32 million, claiming that the network lied to him and damaged him professionally
"Michael Nader, who played the dark, dashing and rich Hungarian Count
Dimitri Marick on 'All My Children' for nearly 10 years, says in court
papers that he 'became ill' in February 2001 and went on medical leave.
"Nader, 57, was in fact in drug treatment after a narcotics arrest in
Manhattan's East Village. The district attorney's office said he
pleaded guilty and was sentenced May 22, 2001, to three years of probation.
"Nader's Dimitri character ...was written out of the show in 1999.
The character was resurrected in 2000 but was written out again in 2001
after Nader's arrest and rehab. ... Nader says [in court papers] he told
ABC in March 2001 that he was ready to work but officials there told him
to continue on medical leave. ...
[Later they] refused to release him from his [$1.7 million five-year] contract
[signed in April 2000] so he could work elsewhere." ("Former 'All My Children'
Star Files Suit", AP/Newsday, Apr.
3). (DURABLE LINK)
April 10 -- "Peter's
Pence". Baltimore plaintiff's lawyer and political czar
Angelos, who had been demanding $1 billion in fees for representing
the state of Maryland in its tobacco
suit, has ended the dispute by agreeing to take a mere $150 million
instead. The people over at the National Association of Manufacturers'
Human Resources Policy Department feel awfully sorry for the Orioles owner
for having to settle for such a measly amount and have launched a "Peter's
Pence" campaign by which readers can collect the spare change off their
dresser tops and send it to him to help make up some of the extra $850
million ("Workplace Watch", NAM, April;
Daniel LeDuc, "Md., Angelos Reach Tobacco Fee Deal", Washington Post,
22). (DURABLE LINK)
April 10 -- "Can
Pain Treatment Survive Our Addiction to Law?". After suffering
the effects of a partially collapsed lung, writer Jonathan Rauch learns
firsthand how much pain sufferers have to lose if our runaway litigation
system takes away their access to the revolutionary pain relief medication
OxyContin (National Journal/Reason Online, Apr.
6). See also Damien Cave, "No relief", Salon, Apr.
4; Duane Freese, "In Rx, Who's To Blame For Abuse?", TechCentralStation.com,
14; and earlier reports on this site: Jan.
23-24, 2002, Aug. 7-8 and July
25, 2001. Updates: see May 30,
27. (DURABLE LINK)
April 8-9 -- An
eggshell psyche at U.Va. Law. Worst harassment
suit of the year? At the University of Virginia, first-year law student
Marta Sanchez on Feb. 26 filed "a claim of assault and battery in Albemarle
Circuit Court, seeking $25,000 in compensatory damages and $10,000 in punitive
damages" against Prof. Kenneth Abraham, a nationally prominent scholar
in tort law. To quote Wendy McElroy's summary of the case: "During
an introductory program last August, Abraham demonstrated a legal principle
known as the 'egg-shell skull rule' from Vosburg v. Putney,
a case commonly taught in torts classes [in which one child's minor battery
on another unexpectedly causes major harm to the victim]. Abraham
announced his intention to show the class of about twenty students how
a slight contact could be actionable. Then Abraham briefly touched
Sanchez on her fully clothed shoulder. ...Former students confirm that
the shoulder tapping is a standard part of Abraham's lesson on Vosburg.
Sanchez says the tap flooded her with memories of being terrorized, raped
and molested when she was 11 years old and living in her native land of
Panama." "What some would characterize as mere touching to this victim
was an extreme event," said Sanchez's lawyer, Steven Rosenfield.
"What makes it different is that she was the victim at the hands of men
in the past." (DURABLE LINK)
SOURCES: Nick Denton, "University student sues law professor",
27; AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, Mar.
26; Wendy McElroy, FoxNews.com, Apr.
2; Justin Park, "Student sues professor", Virginia Law Weekly,
22 (PDF); blogs InstaPundit, Mar.
25 and Mar.
26 and DaveTepper.net, Mar.
April 8-9 -- Zero
tolerance leaves 'em gasping. School
districts across the country are decreeing that "students with asthma
must keep their emergency inhalers in the school office, rather than on
hand." Better time your attacks for after school, guys (Catherine
Seipp, Reason, Apr.).
April 8-9 -- "Former
clients sue attorney O'Quinn". "Twenty former clients
of lawyer John O'Quinn are suing him for alleged mishandling of the Kennedy
Heights and Chevron contamination settlement, in which they received $12
million instead of the $500 million that he asserted their claims were
worth." Billed at the time as a major "environmental racism" case,
the Kennedy Heights litigation asserted that toxic
residues had caused cancers and other ailments among the largely African-American
residents of the Houston neighborhood, a charge disputed by defendant Chevron.
But were the clients really unaware that it's standard practice for lawyers
in this country to talk up a far higher valuation for injury claims than
those claims are actually likely to settle for? The former
clients also say O'Quinn used his involvement in the Kennedy Heights case
for image-buffing purposes to help beat a 1998 disciplinary rap.
"A similar [pending] lawsuit was filed in 1999 by about 80 former plaintiffs
who were Kennedy Heights residents claiming O'Quinn allegedly shortchanged
them on a settlement." (Jo Ann Zuniga, Houston Chronicle,
3). In 1999, when former breast implant clients filed a complaint
against O'Quinn, the combative litigator struck back with a libel suit
against the women's lawyer which resulted in a quick gag order shutting
down the story (see Aug. 4, 1999).
April 8-9 -- Traffic-cams:
Volokh v. Labash. UCLA law prof Eugene Volokh, in a contrarian
vein, ventures to defend the red-light cameras that some cities use to
generate speeding tickets, arguing that if they are operated in a non-abusive
way they hold out promise of being more objective than traffic cops ("The
Cameras Are Watching -- And It's a Good Thing", Wall Street Journal,
26, reprinted at author's site). However, Matt Labash's new investigation
for the Weekly Standard shows that the use of cameras in practice
has been anything but free from error and abuse (example: cities' propensity
to shorten the duration of yellow lights to bolster revenues). There
will be little reason to trust the system's integrity so long as cities
go on letting a contractor run the program in exchange for a share of ticket
revenues: as we're always emphasizing on this site, contingency fees and
trustworthy law enforcement just don't mix (see Sept.
6, 2001) (Matt Labash, "Inside's the District's Red Lights", Weekly
1; "The Yellow Menace", Apr.
2; "The Safety Myth", Apr.
3; "Getting Rear-Ended by the Law", Apr.
4; "Fighting the Good Fight", Apr.
5). (Update/correction: the original post named Lockheed
Martin as the contractor in charge of the program, but a reader advises
us (see letter, Apr. 19)
that Lockheed sold its photo traffic-enforcement division to Affiliated
Computer Services Inc. of Dallas, Texas on August 24, 2001; we have corrected
the text accordingly). (DURABLE LINK)
April 5-7 -- Right
to yell "fire". In Denver, Claudia Huntey is suing her
landlord, which she says violated disability-rights
law when it evicted her. "She was cruelly thrown out of her apartment
solely because she makes involuntary vocalizations due to her Tourette's
syndrome," said her attorney, John Holland, who said the apartment managers
should have made greater efforts to accommodate Huntey's condition after
repeated complaints from other residents of the complex. "What happened
to Claudia Huntey is a societal wake-up call reminding us that this continuing
struggle is far from over," said Holland. For neighbors, the wake-up
calls were of a different nature: Huntey suffers from more than usually
intense symptoms of Tourette's, as a result of which "[t]he intensity of
the constant, involuntary sounds cause her ribs and chest muscles to ache,
and she is chronically hoarse from yelling. ... For reasons she does not
understand, Huntey most often says or yells, 'Fire!'". (Sue Lindsay,
"Tourette's sufferer sues, charging unfair eviction", Rocky Mountain
4). (DURABLE LINK)
April 5-7 -- From
the grave, instructions to sue. Brooksville, Fla.: "A
woman who hanged herself in jail while waiting to face charges in her husband's
death asked in a suicide note that her lawyer sue the jail for allowing
her to die. ... [Laren] Sims, 36, was awaiting extradition to California
to face charges of killing her attorney husband, Larry McNabney, and burying
him in a vineyard. 'My impression is she's got a scam going even
in death,' said San Joaquin County prosecutor Lester Fleming, who was trying
to extradite Sims to California. 'It's just an amazingly cold-blooded
note.'" ("California woman accused in husband's murder urged suit based
on suicide", AP/Boston Globe, Apr. 4). (DURABLE
April 5-7 -- Avoid
having a medical emergency in Mississippi. The malpractice-suit
crisis in the Magnolia State just keeps getting worse: "The Mississippi
Trauma Advisory Committee has suspended re-inspection of its hospitals
for a year to give health officials time to address the growing problem
of surgeons leaving the system." The state legislature, in which
trial lawyer-legislators occupy strategic positions (see June
15, 2001), adjourned without heeding the doctors' plea for legal relief.
("Mississippi in trauma crisis as surgeons leave", AP/Memphis Commercial
19)(& see Jun. 3-4, 2002). (DURABLE
April 5-7 -- Advice
the whole country could use. P. J. O'Rourke, reviewing
two etiquette books: "[M]uch of their advice [the "Etiquette Grrls"] is
needed by the entire nation: ''It is much, much more polite simply to tell
someone 'See you in hell' than 'See you in court.''' (New York Times
Book Review, Mar.
24). Also: Michael Kinsley on suing as "our national sport"
(scroll to near end) ("Social Hypochondria", Washington Post, Mar.
1). And: author Philip Howard (The Death of Common
Sense) is launching a new organization called the Coalition for the
Common Good that will gather participants from across the political spectrum
in an effort to curb legal excess (Michael Barone, "The Common Good", U.S.
25; Stuart Taylor, Jr., "How More Rights Have Made Us Less Free",
Journal/The Atlantic, Feb.
12). (DURABLE LINK)
April 3-4 -- High
court nixes back pay for illegal aliens. Last week, in
Plastic Compounds v. NLRB, the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote ruled
that illegal aliens can't collect damages for being fired from jobs
it was never lawful for them to hold (Gina Holland, "Supreme Court Restricts
Illegal Workers' Rights in Employment Cases", AP/Law.com, Mar. 28; see
Oct. 28, 1999). Our editor has
a new piece out in National Review Online today (Wed.) expressing
relief that for the moment at least the country will be free of this absurdity.
(Walter Olson, "A Wink Too Far", Apr.
3). For a contrasting view, here are the editorialists at the
San Francisco Chronicle ("Green light for abuse", Apr.
April 3-4 -- "Addictive"
computer game blamed for suicide. 21-year-old Shawn Woolley
of Hudson, Wisc. played the popular online game EverQuest
a whole lot. Then he committed suicide. Now his mother Elizabeth
says she plans to sue Sony Online Entertainment, saying the game should
have come with a warning label concerning its "addictive" nature, and she's
lined up attorney Jack Thompson, veteran of earlier litigation
attacks on videogame companies (see, for example, July
22, 1999). A psychiatrist had diagnosed Shawn with depression
and schizoid personality disorder which "fed right into the EverQuest playing,"
claims Mrs. Woolley. "It was the perfect escape." A specialist
in "computer addiction" appears
on cue in the article, as if summoned by the lawyer, to say that "The manufacturer
of EverQuest purposely made it in such a way that it is more intriguing
to the addict" and that it "could be created in a less addictive way, but
(that) would be the difference between powdered cocaine and crack cocaine."
Moreover, "[h]aving low self-esteem or poor body image are also important
factors, he said." (Stanley A. Miller II, "Death of a game addict",
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mar.
30) (and see letter to the editor from attorney Jack Thompson, Apr.
11). (DURABLE LINK)
April 3-4 -- Microsoft
case and AG contributions. Columnist Robert Novak rather
rudely totes up the very considerable contributions that Microsoft's
rivals have been making to the campaigns of state attorneys general like
Lockyer in California and Carla Stovall
in Kansas, both of whom are running for governor (Robert Novak, "Money
driving Microsoft case?", Chicago Sun-Times, Apr.
1) (& see Apr. 15). Blogger
Ed Driscoll reminds us that AGs also have another constituency that wants
them to keep the pressure on Redmond, namely trial lawyers who stand to
gain a fortune from the private suits against the company (Mar.
31; see Jeff Taylor, "Symposium: Microsoft Endgame?", National Review
April 3-4 -- Ninth
Circuit orders Agent Orange payments. The federal appeals
court that does so much to provide this site with material has ordered
that Vietnam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange and later contracted
prostate cancer and diabetes be given disability payments, "setting a precedent
that could cover many illnesses linked to the defoliant." ("Some Agent
Orange Veterans Win Payments", Reuters/New York Times, Apr.
2). The problem remains that health authorities are by no means
agreed that the compound had anything to do with those ailments or most
of the others complained of. (Howard Feinberg, "Vetting Agent Orange",
11; Reason links, Feb.
28) (see Jan. 7-8).
April 1-2 -- Intel
Corp. versus yoga foundation. For more than a year
lawyers for giant chipmaker Intel Corp. have been menacing the Yoga Inside
Foundation of Venice, Calif., claiming that the nonprofit group's name
on its own "Intel Inside" trademark. "Yoga Inside has nothing to
do with computers. It provides free yoga classes in schools, treatment
facilities, shelters, prisons and underprivileged communities."
Founder Mark Stephens says the similarity of the slogans "never even crossed
my mind" until the company complained. Because of the large sums
it has spent to promote its trademark, "Intel argues, the linguistic construction
'(Blank) Inside,' whether concerning state-of-the-art technology or a centuries-old
spiritual practice, should uniquely belong to the chipmaker." As
for the bad karma to be had in picking on a little group like this, "We're
certainly sensitive about that," said Intel spokesman Chuck Mulloy. "But
our hands are tied because of the way the law is structured". (David Lazarus,
"Intel forces yoga group to fight for its name", San Francisco Chronicle,
thread) (DURABLE LINK)
April 1-2 -- No
more ANZAC Day marches? Australia has rapidly Americanized
its liability system and is now paying the price in the form of a drying
up of insurance for local events such as ANZAC Day, which honors veterans.
"Federal Assistant Treasurer Helen Coonan called [a Mar. 27] forum to share
ideas after a series of community events had to be cancelled because of
the insurance crisis. ... Earlier, Senator Coonan said it was common sense
to restrict the ability of those injured while drunk,
drug-affected or committing
a crime to sue for compensation." ("States thrash out insurance crisis",
27; "Quick insurance savings ruled out", AAP, Mar.
27). With medical claims spiraling, New South Wales health minister
Craig Knowles has warned that the nation's "main medical
malpractice insurer could collapse within weeks", which could leave
60 percent of Australia's doctors "uninsured for private practice work,
and throw the health system into chaos". (Mark Robinson, "Doctors'
insurer on brink of collapse", Sydney Morning Herald, Mar.
22). (DURABLE LINK)
April 1-2 -- Roger
Parloff on 9/11 fund. "If the victims may have no viable
claim in the tort system after all, because no one was really at fault
for their deaths other than the terrorists, then why must a compassion-driven,
taxpayer-financed fund pay what the tort system might theoretically have
extracted from a totally hypothetical, deep-pocketed, unambiguously guilty
defendant? ... [Critiques of the Feinberg proposals as insufficiently generous]
demonstrate the otherworldly sense of entitlement that the tort system
"In setting up an alternative to the tort system, Congress made an admission
that cannot be retracted. ... What they said, in essence, was this: In
all probability, skilled plaintiffs' lawyers representing sympathetic victims
would convince juries that the airlines
were responsible for what happened. That's because plaintiffs' lawyers
have become expert at redirecting blame from judgment-proof targets toward
minimally blameworthy, solvent targets. We all know that such 'fault' is,
to some degree, a fiction. It's just a compassionate way to ensure
that grievously injured, inadequately insured people get taken care of.
The trouble is, when catastrophes get big enough, not even corporate entities
are sufficiently deep-pocketed to pay without other innocent human beings
suffering as a result. In blaming and bankrupting the airlines -- or the
private security firms, or the airports, or the municipalities that operate
them, or Boeing Corporation, or any of the other usual suspects -- we will
obviously be scapegoating minimally blameworthy corporations for the nation's
universal unpreparedness. In so doing, we will be creating new waves
of innocent victims: airline employee-shareholders who, like Enron's, see
their retirement funds vaporize; public and private employees who are thrown
out of work; local residents whose public services deteriorate and whose
taxes rise when their local municipal authorities in New York, New Jersey,
or Boston go broke." So now how about applying those lessons in other
areas of mass tort litigation? (Roger Parloff, "Tortageddon", The American
18). (DURABLE LINK)
April 1-2 -- Gary
& Co. shenanigans at Maris trial. Last August, after
a three-month trial, a Gainesville, Fla. state court jury awarded the family
of late baseball star Roger Maris $50 million against Anheuser-Busch Inc.
in a dispute over the termination of a beer distributorship. The
family had earlier lost an antitrust case against the beer company in federal
court. They were represented at the August trial by noted Stuart,
Fla. attorney Willie Gary (slavery reparations 1,
Gannett, Microsoft, etc.) who joined
the family's legal team two months before trial on a contingency fee basis.
Court records depict the trial, presided over by senior judge R.A. Green
Jr., as a veritable carnival of lawyer
misconduct. "At the beginning of this trial," wrote Judge Green,
"it became apparent to the court that counsel, primarily plaintiff's counsel,
would 'press the limits' of proper conduct and compliance with directives
of the court." Judge Green found two attorneys on Gary's team, including
his co-counsel and partner Madison McClellan, to be in contempt, whicle
Gary himself "was ejected from the courtroom at one point and silenced
by the judge on another occasion for uttering a profanity". Moreover,
"the Maris legal team sent a private investigator to conduct surveillance
on the defense lawyers' offices", to which the defense lawyers responded
with counter-surveillance. Judge Green then took the highly unusual
step of appointing special master Stephen N. Bernstein to conduct a confidential
investigation of lawyer misconduct at the trial. In a 35-page report,
the special master concluded that the behavior of Gary and the other lawyers
was "an insult to the integrity of the legal system," and "resulted in
an atmosphere that elevated tactics in pursuit of opposing counsel over
the duty to pursue truth." (Larry Keller, "Maris Trial Had Its Share
of Misbehaving Lawyers", Miami Daily Business Review, Jan. 28).
5 and Jan.
7, 2004: (ethics charges against Gary thrown out by judge); Sept.
5, 2005 (case and related litigation settle for sum in excess of $120
million). (DURABLE LINK)
April 1-2 -- New
traffic records on Overlawyered.com. Our best month
ever for number of pages served (March), best week ever (last week) and
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