Posted Oct. 23:
According to a National Law Journal report you quote in your
3 item, a prominent Chicago personal injury lawyer concerned about
the unpopularity of the legal profession "personally financed a $250,000
national telephone survey for the ABA of 750 households."
Well, that is typical of law firms: $250,000 to ask questions of 750
persons by telephone. That is $333.33 per surveyed person. Most telephone
surveys require less than 5 minutes. If it took 25 phone calls (at 1 minute
each) to contact one household, then the hourly rate was $666.66.
I would happily perform and statistically analyze a 750 household survey
for only $100,000, saving them $150,000 while earning me $267 per hour
(far more than I make as a pathologist!).-- Gregory Tetrault,
About the way other countries handle litigation: In 1988 cut-rate Irish
airline Ryanair promised its millionth customer unlimited free flights
for life. (Ryanair is now up to a million customers a month.) Later they
reneged on this promise, and the customer in question sued. She was just
awarded £43,098 by an Irish court, according to this
The remarkable thing about this is that the damages are in proportion
to the harm. An American litigant would have asked for, and possibly received,
millions of dollars. But with £43,000 you can buy as many tickets
as you can reasonably expect to use in a lifetime. --
James Fulford (columnist,
Julie Hilden's defense of law firm Vinson & Elkins in the Enron
affair (July 19-21) rests
on two points. Both fail.
First, she claims that, unlike Andersen, "It was to Enron, its shareholders,
and the boundary constraints of the law, not the welfare of the public
or abstract concepts of justice, that V & E owed its loyalties."
Was that duty to ALL shareholders or just the insiders? Watkins' memo warned
that the stock prices would implode under a wave of accounting scandals.
V & E's anemic investigation gave insiders time to sell their stock
while the non-insider stockholders were left holding the bag.
Second, she claims that "It's the job of the lawyers, inevitably, to
torture those hair-thin distinctions to death." Let me get this straight:
A client who acts in reliance on a lawyer's advice will still face civil
and criminal penalties even though the lawyer said the action in question
was legal. An accounting firm will face civil and criminal penalties
even though the lawyer said its action was legal. But the lawyers,
whose job is to know the law better then the clients or accountants, get
off scot free! Why? So they can give dubious legal advice to
other clients? Why should legal malpractice be held to a different
standard than medical malpractice? -- Garnet Harris
Regarding suits blaming food purveyors for obesity (Jul.
26-28), my question is: what's the legal threshold for a food to be
responsible for causing obesity? 20 percent fat? 30 percent fat? High levels
of sodium? Avocados have lots of fat in them. Anchovies have lots of salt.
Should their consumption be legally regulated? If beef and fried foods
are legally liable, soon everything else will be on (or off) the table.
Won't it? -- Josh Greenman
According to your Sept.
12 item, director Tom Grey of the National Coalition Against Legalized
Gambling, "who has been beating the drums for years in hopes of making
the wagering business the next tobacco, hopes governors and attorneys general
will pile on in support of the latest lawsuit by a compulsive bettor claiming
his losses were the casino's fault for luring him in". Given how
dependant many state governments have become on gambling revenues (it's
Connecticut's largest source of revenue -- which might get Mr. Blumenthal
to shut up), and the fact that most states now run their own numbers rackets
-- oops, I mean lotteries -- I wonder how enthusiastically this crusade
will be taken up on assorted Capitol Hills. -- John
Steele Gordon, North Salem, N.Y.
Well, we are nearing the end of George W. Bush's first congressional
session, with essentially nothing done on one of his campaign pledges.....tort
reform. Do you honestly believe he is going to get to this in 2003-2004?
David Borghi, Rockford, Ill.
Might depend on whether the midterm elections bring in a Congress,
and specifically a Senate, more sympathetic to that goal -- ed.
Your Aug. 23-25 article
on the Houellebecq case in France recalls a case that has been in the news
in Australia over the last couple of months, in which a man has been ordered
by the Federal Court to remove material from his website (and all future
websites) because it "incites racial hatred". Granted, the man is a loony
-- he denies that the holocaust happened -- but freedom of speech means
freedom to say loony things too. Here's
an online newspaper article about the case. -- Mark Ellevsen,
Regarding the Western wildfires (Jul.
1-2, Jul. 12-14): Mature,
never-logged forests rarely, if ever, burn in raging wildfires like those
out west this summer. There simply isn't much easily combustible fuel buildup
in old growth forests. The cause of the raging wildfires is not anti-logging
lawsuits but man's interference in the natural cycle of things. The clearing
of large tracts of forest, our continual efforts to suppress even the smallest
of naturally occuring fires (mostly in an effort to save stands of timber
for logging) and logging efforts, especially clearcutting, all contribute
to the rapid growth and buildup of the type of fuel that ignites and burns
quickly. It's ironic that the Republican method of "saving" a forest is
to cut it down. -- Joseph Haussman, Daytona Beach, Fla.
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