Posts Tagged ‘best of’

Guestblogger archive week: V

Daniel Schwartz, of the law firm of Shipman and Goodwin, writes the Connecticut Employment Law Blog, long on my reading list. Some highlights of his visit: “After setting fires, firefighter wants job back” (Erie, Pa.); man jumps from train, then sues (“If you guessed that alcohol would somehow be involved, you are correct”); and recurring arguments of the durably demagogic “pay equity” debate. [archive / Twitter]

Jason Barney, a claims investigator and insurance professional in the Northwest, has guestblogged for us several times, some high points being a case of drunken equestrianism; aide to politician fails to secure Pennsylvania workers’ comp benefits after panel rules that “media criticism of him did not constitute ‘abnormal working conditions'”; man sues 1-800-FLOWERS after it sends him a thank you note for buying flowers for his mistress, which note wound up in the hands of his wife [archive]

Peter Morin, Boston-area land use lawyer, joined us over two stints to discuss an ethics complaint by a Rhode Island woman against two lawyers she said sidled up to her and pitched her services as she was standing at her dead son’s casket; whether an offer to send text messages to the NBC game show “Deal or No Deal” in hopes of winning a prize was an unlawful lottery for which participants should be permitted to seek damages; and a classic Massachusetts judicial opinion about liability for “a fish bone lurking in fish chowder.” [archive]

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I’ve worked my way less than halfway through the list and have missed many superb talents as well as many of my best friends, so there’s room for me to come back another time should I repeat this idea. Those I missed include guestbloggers Hans Bader, James Copland, Steven Erickson, Andrew Grossman, Keymonk, Kip Esquire, Steven Hantler, Dave Kopel, Jim Leitzel, Jeff Lewis, Leah Lorber, Warren Meyer, Skip Oliva, Victoria Pynchon, Gerald Russello, Greg Skidmore, SSFC, and Kevin Underhill. Participant-blogger Ted Frank, a lawyer of many interests best known these days for his efforts on class action reform, contributed between 2003 and 2010; his posts are archived here. I’m not sure why anyone would want to check out my own archives, but if you do, they’re here.

Guestblogger archive week: IV

I highly recommend subscribing to Dan Lewis’s daily Now I Know email, a labor of love, compendium of neat stories, and marvel of the Internet. Dan guestblogged for us in the early days as a first-year law student on stories, often sports-related, that included a National League umpire who sued after quitting his job and not being taken back, Deion Sanders’s face-off with the car repair guy, and shop owners criminally charged in Canada for fighting off a burglar. [archive / NowIKnow and personal Twitter]

Guestbloggers have sometimes brought a scholarly and research perspective, as with Michael DeBow, a law professor at Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. He wrote (presciently!) about a Massachusetts attorney general’s ventures into outsourced enforcement and how it wound up sluicing money to some ideologically engaged private outfits; the importance in comparative international development of secure property rights; and Alabama’s fitful progress toward being less of a “judicial hellhole” for defendant corporations than it once was. [archive]

James Maxeiner teaches at the University of Baltimore School of Law and has practiced and written extensively in legal matters in both American and German courts. The German system of civil litigation, which includes the loser-pays principle, is often compared favorably with our own. His insight into the comparative performance of the two systems of law helped inform posts on what foreign clients say about American law, how Germany does civil legal aid, and some mild puffery from the German justice ministry about the advantage of its version of continental law. [archive]

Guestblogger archive week: III

Caleb Brown is now the director of multimedia at the Cato Institute, where he hosts the extremely popular Cato Daily Podcast and Cato Audio. When he first joined us as a guestblogger, however, he was doing radio in Louisville, Kentucky. He’s blogged on a short-lived suit by a man who suffered emotional distress after seeing participants consume pureed rat on NBC’s “Fear Factor,” a mini-wave of suits against law schools (back before the more recent, bigger wave), and a criminal complaint in France against a man who spotted a hole in computer security and published about it. [archive first, second / Twitter]

When blogs rose to popularity in the early 2000s there was a flowering of medical blogs written by practicing physicians. Among its highlights was an Ohio family physician’s MedPundit. Although she quit blogging around 2006 that was not before she had dropped by Overlawyered to talk about shotgun defendant selection and the plaintiff attorney’s “standard of care”; a long-shot failure-to-diagnose case; and what it means that malpractice insurance rates vary so sharply within individual states, as between Cleveland and Columbus in Ohio. [archive]

Donald Boudreaux, founder of Cafe Hayek and professor of economics at George Mason U., has few contemporary peers as an exponent of sound economics for the intelligent reader. He joined us to write about (timely!) Hillary Clinton’s proposal for a restored national maximum speed limit of 55 miles per hour, popular misunderstanding of the concept of the “trade deficit” (timely again!), and where if anywhere the federal government might draw the constitutional authority to regulate the treatment of pets. [archive]

Don’t forget: we’re inviting volunteers (and of course repeat volunteers) to propose yourself for a weeklong guestblog stint in this space some time this summer or fall. Email editor – (at) – overlawyered – (dot) – com.

Guestblogger archive week: II

When New York area attorney David Nieporent did a guestblogging gig for us in February 2007 it turned into a nine-month engagement with David providing sharp analysis of dozens of legal cases, ranging from whether it’s discriminatory to test cops for proficiency in English, to the search for deep pockets in a Baltimore car-crash lawsuit, to a lawyer’s request for $150,000 in fees on a case worth $11,000. His archive is here (Twitter).

Wisconsin political writer Christian Schneider is now a regular contributor to USA Today as well as the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and has been having fun writing up this year’s campaign. He wrote for us on an Ontario court’s order that a 24 year old man not have a girlfriend for three years, whether tattoo-edness should place you in a protected category in employment law, and the legal barriers to frozen beer on a stick. [archive/Twitter]

Baylen Linnekin, expert on food law and policy, has a new book coming out in September called Biting the Hands That Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable. His topics for us included CSPI’s war on caffeinated alcohol beverages, odd doings in England after a Jack Russell terrier “allegedly bit off the tip of the leafleteer’s finger as he pushed election paraphernalia through a front-door letterbox,” and an Illinois couple’s nonmarital “agreement for an exclusive relationship.” (archive/Twitter).

Guestblogger archive week: I

Over the years about thirty friends and acquaintances have contributed their talents as guestbloggers at Overlawyered, typically posting over the span of a week while I’m away from my duties. I’d like to use this week to tell what some of them are doing now, highlight a few of their contributions, and I hope at least mention the names and link the author archives of all of them.

Ron Coleman, an IP and media law attorney attorney in greater New York, writes the excellent and longstanding Likelihood of Confusion blog on trademarks, copyrights, Internet law and free speech, from which I’ve learned a lot over the years. He’s guestblogged for us twice, covering such issues as a New York male attorney’s discrimination suit against ladies’ night discounts at bars; a suit in Romania by a prison inmate purportedly against God Himself (“He has some issues, only not justiciable ones, it seems”); and a lawsuit by NBA players over depictions of their lady interests on a VH1 show called “Basketball Wives.” His full archive is here (law-oriented and personal Twitter).

When he guestblogged for us, Will Baude was a student at the University of Chicago Law School. He’s now on its faculty, teaching federal courts and constitutional law, after doing things like clerking for appellate judge Michael McConnell and Chief Justice John Roberts. Last week he was a guestblogger at Volokh Conspiracy about his work on the law of interpretation, statutory and otherwise; sample posts here and here. During his guest week at Overlawyered he covered a dispute over whether a California city should sue over a reference to its citizens as “white trash” on a popular TV show, “The O.C.”, and wrote on popular schemes (popular in philosophical circles, at least) “to extend the right to vote to children of any age.” Full archive here (Twitter).

Pasadena attorney George M. Wallace wrote the excellent insurance law blog Declarations and Exclusions through 2013, and continues to blog on non-legal subjects at A Fool in the Forest. In his time with us he covered an advisory in the L.A. city attorney’s office on “how they should recognize a newsworthy legal case. Public safety? Important public issue at stake? Nah, this is L.A. Number one is any case involving a celebrity — ‘no matter how minor’ — followed closely by a politician. Death, mutilation, child molestation or animal cruelty are also sure bets.” And he wrote — this nearly ten years ago — about the legal showdown between TV personality Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump. Full archive here (Twitter).

Because I’m expecting some down time in my own blogging in coming months, I invite volunteers (and of course repeat volunteers) who might like to guestblog in this space this summer and fall. Email editor – (at) – overlawyered – (dot) – com.

Fraud week V: lucrative gore

A good bit of creativity has gone into the faking of accidents and injuries, from NYC injury king Morris Eisen’s special ruler for photographing the size of potholes (calibrated fictitiously so as to exaggerate their size) to the Philadelphia auto guys who “went as far as to have employees gather and store deer blood, hair and carcasses in the shop’s garage to be used as props in photos that were later submitted with insurance claims.” And some are more audacious than creative, as when a California woman got in trouble after allegedly sending “faked treatment documents and burn photos from a hospital website” to bolster a hot coffee spill claim against McDonald’s.

An entertaining and informative treatment of this subject is Ken Dornstein’s 1996 Accidentally on Purpose: The Making of a Personal Injury Underworld in America, about which I wrote this review at the time. Excerpt from my review:

In Illinois, runners took over the Community Hospital of Evanston, dispensing with doctors’ supervision and discouraging “real” nurses from applying. (“You’re going to be so bored here. There is nothing to do.”) The driver of the courtesy van whisking clients from law offices told why he liked the job: “No one is really hurt” so “no one gets sick on me”.

True-crime books usually aim to show how the dirty deed is done, and this one does not disappoint:

How do I get started? For a “paper” accident, try inflicting “controlled damage” on a couple of cars with a sledgehammer in a dark parking lot. Insert passengers. Summon a witness. Gather broken glass in bags for re-use.

That was easy, what next? “Staged” accidents: Buy rustbuckets, insure one and run it into another one full of recruited claimants-to-be (“cows”). If you’re nice, give them pillows.

I need symptoms! “OK, you can take tingles, and you can take hips or your shoulder,” said one coach to his aspiring victims. “But don’t go saying the exact same things.” And be glad you aren’t being sent to one of the House of Pain operations that massage would-be claimants with sandpaper and jagged can lids or flog them with apple-filled sacks. Let alone “Nub City”, the Florida town that, in the 1970s, could boast that something like 10% of its population had practiced self-amputation for insurance, typically popping a left hand with a hunting rifle.

Vernon, Florida, subject of a famous documentary by Errol Morris, is the subject of coverage here (“By the end of the ’50s, the Florida Panhandle was responsible for two-thirds of all loss-of-limb accident claims in the United States.”) and here.

Fraud week IV: lawyers who should know better

Where there is highly organized claims fraud, there are often found clusters of lawyers, doctors and their associates.

In Las Vegas’s Medical Mafia case, “physicians who played ball are said to have been assured protection from malpractice suits from many feared attorneys, while those not in on the scheme appear in some cases to have been at extra peril.”

Disloyal insurance company employees or counsel are sometimes in on the game too. California’s 1980s “Alliance” scandal, “a covert joint venture between plaintiffs’ and defense lawyers to manufacture and prolong legal claims for which the insurers would be obliged to employ legal counsel, bilked large insurance companies out of hundreds of millions of dollars in the 1980s.”

We could multiply examples many times over from mass tort fields like asbestos (with its creative witness-coaching and memory-massaging approaches to the issue of product identification) but for a good single episode, check out the banana pesticide litigation against Central American producers. Like many litigation campaigns, it generated a not-so-indie “documentary” (financed by plaintiff’s lawyers) billed around the film festival circuit as exposing multinational corporations’ guilt. That was before a federal judge described the litigation before her as a “pervasive conspiracy to defraud” its target, Dole.

Fraud week III: jump-ons

Jumping onto the hood of an oncoming car is one way of getting into claims fraud with minimal commitment, but there are many other ways, some of them quite complex and diabolical. After air crashes in Latin America in which U.S. residents lost their lives, it was noticed that a number of youthful claimants appeared on the scene whose mothers described them as the unacknowledged out-of-wedlock children of American men reported as lost on the ill-fated plane. These children, living in countries like Mexico and Guatemala, would then file claims in U.S. court against the airline, aircraft maker, and other potentially liable parties for cash settlements over the loss of what was said to be their father. These claims would come as bewildering, even horrifying news to the wives, children, and other family members of the deceased, who had to consider the possibility that the men they thought they knew so well had been living an undisclosed second life. At least one survivor — who probably had better reason that most to doubt the veracity of the claim — decided to fight:

In one case, a 53-year-old San Francisco man who perished on the doomed flight is alleged to have recently fathered two Latin American children who deserved to collect for his decease, a story that ran into trouble when his outraged gay partner of twenty years, Dale Rettinger, 63, stepped forward to challenge it.

For a defense by a Florida lawyer who had been involved in the filing of multiple surprise-heir claims, follow the above link. And more conventional jump-on fraud occurs when, say, a city bus with 15 passengers on board gets in an accident and by the time the police arrive the number of passengers is up to 30. (From 2014: Jackson, Miss. driver leaves scene of accident and returns accompanied by more victims.) And it even happens with cruise ships.

Fraud week II: caught on camera

Yesterday we posted about the North Carolina man who prosecutors say had the poor judgment to post YouTube videos of his staged crashes. It is continually surprising that people keep right on posting YouTube videos of themselves doing things inconsistent with their disability or injury claims. Don’t they expect anyone to watch? As for persons intending to commit claims fraud in stores, many appear entirely unaware that there are security cameras there to catch them doing things like “carefully positioning the spills on which they intended to slip.”

Dashcam videos are a genre to themselves, and popular compilations abound (Russia is a leader in the field) of footage of spectacular accidents, poor driving and road hazards as seen from the front of a speeding car. One reason dashcams are popular in many countries (often more so than here) is that they serve to document accident fault, including deliberately caused or simulated accidents. This American video (by a company promoting sale of its dashcams) gives a flavor.

Fraud week at Overlawyered

I’m on the road (Bay Area) and don’t expect to do new postings this week, but to pass the time while I’m away I’ve set the site up to re-run a number of oldie posts on a perennial topic in any legal system, the problem of fraud. It pokes its head in frequently on this site, from the $46,000 damage claim in the Gulf Coast oil spill aftermath that prosecutors say was filed on behalf of a dog, to the occasional stories about persons imprudent enough to enter marathons, bodybuilding contests, and other tests of athletic prowess while drawing full workplace disability or while their soft tissue injury claim from a low-speed auto crash is pending.

Before we turn to the old cases, however, here’s a good one that’s new: “A North Carolina man will spend at least a year in prison after prosecutors said he intentionally caused 12 wrecks, filming many of them on a dashboard camera and uploading the footage to the internet.”

I’ll be returning on or about Friday, July 1, which also represents the anniversary of Overlawyered’s founding on July 1, 1999.