Most major retailing chains have been sued under one or another of two California laws providing that workers who otherwise would spend most of the day on their feet must be given suitable seating when “the nature of the work” permits it. The scope of the law’s application had been ambiguous, but now the California high court has ruled and trial lawyers are apparently pleased with its answers. [Lisa Nagele-Piazza, BNA Daily Labor Report] More: Coyote.
AP: “Nearly every national [retail] chain is under legal attack in California for failing to provide ‘suitable seating’ for cashiers and other employees who are expected to spend most of their work day on their feet.” For more on recent plaintiff victories under California’s distinctive bounty-hunting labor law, see this April link.
- Just another day on the one-way-attorney’s-fee beat: after $87K cop-discrimination verdict, lawyer wants $2.2M award [NJ.com]
- U.S. Chamber white paper on needed fixes in labor law [Jon Hyman and report, “Restoring Common Sense to Labor Law: 10 Policies to Fix at the National Labor Relations Board”]
- California employee-seating class actions begin paying off, $700,000 against Abercrombie & Fitch [Ford Harrison, earlier]
- And good riddance: Trump signs CRA bill repealing labor blacklisting rule for federal contractors [Kathy Hoekstra/Watchdog, Trey Kovacs/CEI, Ford Harrison, earlier, background via PLF]
- Trend worth resisting, if true: transnational norms emanating from International Labour Organization etc. said to be increasingly shaping U.S. labor law [James Brudney via Employment Law Prof]
- To protect free speech and jobs, cut the EEOC’s budget [Hans Bader]
- Following KMart settlement, new California suitable-seating class action filed against Costco [Recorder, Law360, Canela v. Costco, PDF; earlier here, etc.]
- Judge enjoins Teamsters: “members had disrupted funeral of a child, harassed mourners” [Bill McMorris, Free Beacon] “How would you feel if someone you never met from a ‘worker center’ went to your boss and said he represents you?” [Diana Furchtgott-Roth, earlier here and here] More: Eric Boehm, Watchdog.org;
- “Business Fears Of The New National Labor Relations Board Are Justified” [Fred Wszolek]
- Layoff package much nicer if you’re at Boeing, courtesy taxpayers [Seattle Times via Amy Alkon]
- “European Court of Human Rights: Religious Autonomy Trumps Right to Unionize” [Becket Fund]
- “Drink and Drive. Get Fired. Collect Unemployment Benefits? Yep, Says [Connecticut Supreme] Court.” [Daniel Schwartz]
- Judge strikes down NYC prevailing wage law [Bloomberg]
- Judge rules in first California “suitable seating at work” trial [The Recorder; earlier here, here]
- On business travel: “Injury During Sex is Work-Related and Compensable, Aussie Court Holds” [Workplace Prof]
- On the other hand: “Running in High Heels Was Probably Enough to Defeat This Workers’ Comp Claim” [Lowering the Bar]
- Illinois federal court rules that unpaid volunteers may be covered by Title VII discrimination law [Eric Sigda, GTLE Blog]
- Seattle to pay drama teacher $750K for not accommodating wishes re: renovation of building [Seattle Times, meanwhile]
- Recalling AP v. NLRB, 1937, in which SCOTUS rejected First Amendment defense to Wagner Act, over Sutherland dissent [Gerard Magliocca, ConcurOp]
- House Oversight Committee blasts NLRB for pro-union bias [press release and staff report PDF, Goldberg Segalla]
- Wiley v. Kirtsaeng: Supreme Court will consider whether law entitles those in this country to resell copyrighted goods made abroad [ArsTechnica, EFF, Christopher Balogh (used bookstore), Megan McArdle (textbooks)]
- “Suitable seating” class action goes to trial in California [The Recorder, earlier here, etc.]
- Must-read John Tierney on mandatory minimum sentences [New York Times]
- “Occupy Pennsylvania Avenue: How the Government’s Unconstitutional Actions Hurt the 99%” [Ilya Shapiro and Carl DiNigris, Drake Law Review via Cato]
- “‘The word reasonable is perhaps the most litigated word in American history.’ –FCC commissioner Robert McDowell” [@theprez98]
- “Whistleblowing” law firm sued by famous client Birkenfeld [BLT, earlier]
- “Can, should, did. RT @walterolson: Don’t forget that you can vote for Overlawyered in this year’s ABA Blawg 100 contest” [@baylenlinnekin]
- Civil libertarian Wendy Kaminer on feminism and the Yale speech complaint [Atlantic, earlier]
- Baylen Linnekin’s Keep Food Legal organization is having a membership drive;
- Bounty-hunting West Coast lawyers can now sue employers for large sums over temperature and worker-seating violations of the California Labor Code [Cal Labor Law]
- Current set of urban, suburban parking policies amount to “another great planning disaster.” [Donald Shoup, Cato Unbound]
- $7500? Tennessee lawyer charged with rape of client released on $7500 bond [WMC via White Coat]
- Stella Liebeck hot coffee case: Abnormal Use suspects that Cracked never read its FAQ on the subject (or for that matter many of our own postings);
- Baltimore public housing refuses to pay lead poisoning awards; “too strapped” [Baltimore Sun]
- “Mr. Potato Head” contest cited in discrimination lawsuit charging anti-Irish bias [Lowering the Bar]
“A California Court of Appeals panel rejected a lawsuit against several airlines, including American and Southwest, by the Tall Club of Silicon Valley which sought preferential seating in roomier exit rows for men at least 6 foot, 2 inches and women at least 5 foot, 10 inches.” (Reuters/Houston Chronicle, Mar. 3)(via Legal Humour)(& letter to the editor, Apr. 2).
Multiple complaints and filing mills, 2003: “Disabled-access suit could stop Super Bowl“, Jan. 7-8. 2002: “‘Disability rights attorney accused of having inaccessible office’” (the one who sued Eastwood), Apr. 25; “Florida’s ADA filing mills grind away“, Mar. 29-31. 2001: “ADA’s busiest complaint-filer“, July 20-22. 2000: “Eastwood trial begins“, Sept. 21 (& Oct. 2: jury declines to award damages); “On the Hill: Clint Eastwood vs. ADA filing mills“, May 18-21; “Mass ADA complaints“, Mar. 7; “Bill introduced to curb opportunistic ADA filings“, Feb. 15 (& Sept. 5, 2001: Sen. Inouye co-sponsors); “Florida ADA complaint binge“, Jan. 26-27.
“Maybe crime pays dept.” (hemorrhoids not a protected disability), Apr. 1, 2003.
Sports, 2003: “Disabled-access suit could stop Super Bowl“, Jan. 7-8. 2001: “By reader acclaim: football’s substance-abuse policy challenged“, Nov. 19-20; “‘A disabling verdict for organized sports’“, June 1-3 (Casey Martin case; & see June 22-24, May 30, 2001; Sept. 29-Oct. 1, April 10, 2000). 2000: “‘NCAA Can Be Sued Under ADA, Federal District Judge Rules’“, Nov. 28; “Wheelchair marathon suit“, Oct. 23. 1999: “Update: ADA youth soccer case“, Nov. 13-14; “After Casey Martin, the deluge“, Nov. 5-7; “ADA protection for boozing student athletes“, Sept. 29.
“‘Court waives deadline as ‘reasonable accommodation’ for disabled litigator’“, Dec. 24-26, 2002.
Website accessibility: “‘Judge: Disabilities act doesn’t cover Web“, Oct. 22, 2002; “Website accessibility law hits the U.K.” (Scotland), May 7, 2001; “Olympics website’s accessibility complaint“, Aug. 16-17, 2000; “Disabled accessibility for campaign websites: the gotcha game“, July 19-20; “Welcome readers” (Intellectual Capital), June 19; “ADA & the web: sounding the alarm“, May 24; “Access excess“, May 2; “ADA & freedom of expression on the Web“, Feb. 10-11; editor’s testimony before House Judiciary Committee, Feb. 9, 2000; “Accessible websites no snap“, Dec. 21, 1999; “AOL sued for failure to accommodate blind users“, Nov. 5, 1999.
“A belt too far“, Oct. 29, 2001; “‘Sorry, Slimbo, you’re in my seats’“, June 7, 2001 (& updates Dec. 15-16, 2001, Oct. 25-27, 2002); “Obese fliers“, Dec. 20, 2000.
Safety, 2002: “Australia: ‘Blind, disabled should be able to fly’“, Sept. 30; “‘St- st – st- st- stop’“, Apr. 22; “Right to yell ‘fire’“, Apr. 5-7; “Entitled to jobs that kill?” (Echabazal v. Chevron), March 1-3 (& Jun. 19-20, 2002, Apr. 22, 2002, Nov. 5, 2001). 2001: “EEOC approves evacuation questions for disabled“, Nov. 16-18; “A belt too far“, Oct. 29; “‘Colorblind Traffic-Light Installer Gets Fired, Sues County’“, June 28. 2000: “Coffee-spill suits meet ADA“, Aug. 10; “Prospect of injury no reason not to hire“, Jul. 5; “Disabled vs. disabled” (strobe alarms pit deaf against epileptic), May 17; “Ability to remain conscious not obligatory for train dispatcher, EEOC says“, March 21; “Warn and be sued“, Jan. 12. 1999: “Indications of turbulence” (pilot’s mental state), Dec. 1; “Death by mainstreaming” (retarded boy’s fatal fall from amusement park ride), Aug. 31 (& Oct. 29, 2001); & see “Kingdom of the One-Eyed,” Reason, Jul. 1998.
“Right to break workplace rules and then return“, Sept. 16-17, 2002; “Soap star: ABC wrote my character out of the show” (“medical leave” for drug rehab), Apr. 10; “Parole board’s consideration of drug history could violate ADA“, Mar. 11, 2002; “ADA requires renting to addiction facility“, Dec. 21, 2000.
Structures: “‘ADA Goes to the Movies’“, Jan. 30, 2003; “‘Disabled entitled to same sight lines in theaters’“, Sept. 5, 2002; “There’ll always be a California” (Santa Monica accessibility law for private homes), Dec. 4, 2001 (& similar ordinances in Ill. and Ariz.: Feb. 6-7, Mar. 6, 2002)(& letter to the editor, Apr. 11); “Crowded drugstores illegal?“, Jun. 29-Jul. 1, 2001 (& letter to the editor, July 6); “Do as we say, cont’d” (Mass.), Mar. 20, 2000; “‘Dune’ as we say” (ADA on Nantucket), Jul. 17-18, 1999.
Testing under siege, 2002: “Hence, loath?asterisk“, Jul. 22-23. 2001: “Update“, Aug. 20-21 (bar exam) (& letters, Oct. 22); “Litigators vs. standardized tests, I: the right to conceal“, Feb. 9-11. 2000: “Court okays suit against ‘flagging’ of test conditions“, May 10; “Disabled test-accommodation roundup“, Feb. 16; “Disabled accommodation in testing“, Jan. 12; “Lawsuits over failing grades” (“exam phobia” claim), Jan. 4. 1999:“Disabled accommodation vs. testing fairness“, Sept. 21, 1999; and see special education.
“Disabled lap dancing just the start“, Jul. 19-21, 2002; “By reader acclaim: quadriplegic sues strip club over wheelchair access“, Jul. 16-17, 2002; “Blind customers want to touch club lapdancers“, Sept. 27-28, 2000.
“Paper currency should accommodate blind, suit argues“, Jul. 15, 2002.
“Supreme Court clarifies ADA“, Jun. 19-20, 2002.
Media, performance accessibility, 2002: “11th Circuit reinstates ‘Millionaire’ lawsuit” (suit against “Millionaire” TV show over telephone-based screening), Jun. 21-23 (& Mar. 24-26, June 12, June 19, Nov. 7, 2000; Nov. 5, 2001). 2001: “‘Panel backs deaf patron’s claim against club’” (interpreter demand at comedy club), Mar. 9-11. 2000: “Seats in all parts” (theaters), Dec. 29, 2000-Jan. 2, 2001; “Movie caption trial begins” (assistive devices aid concert bootleggers), Aug. 1; “Complaint: recreated slave ship not handicap accessible“, Jul. 21-23; “Preferred seating” (theaters), Apr. 25-26; “Newest disabled right: audio TV captioning“, Mar. 22; “‘Deaf group files suit against movie theaters’” (closed captioning demand), Feb. 19-21; “The fine print” (sue Boston Globe for reducing type size?), Feb. 17; and see website accessibility.
“Flowers, perfume in airline cabins not OK?” (Canada), May 17-19, 2002.
“Right to yell ‘fire’“, Apr. 5-7, 2002; “Compulsive grooming as protected disability“, March 16-18, 2001; “More Tourette’s discrimination suits“, March 12, 2001; “A thin-wall problem” (condo owner with Tourette’s vs. association), Aug. 21-22, 2000; “Update: Tourette’s bagger case“, Jul. 26-27, 2000; “Customer offense” (supermarket bagger with Tourette’s), Jun. 9-11, 2000.
“‘O’Connor Criticizes Disabilities Law As Too Vague’“, Mar. 22-24, 2002.
“Inability to get along with co-workers“, Mar. 8-10, 2002.
“Minimum GPA for study abroad said unfair to disabled“, Jan. 9-10, 2002.
“Mass., Ill., NYC tobacco fees” (law firm sued by attorney with cancer), Jan. 2-3, 2002.
“Segway, the super-wheelchair and the FDA“, Dec. 12, 2001.
Special ed: see schools page.
U.K.: “European workplace notes” (harassment of dyslexic), Feb. 25-26, 2002; “Website accessibility law hits the U.K.” (Scotland), May 7, 2001; “Britain’s delicate soldiery” (UK military pressed to put disabled recruits on front lines), Dec. 22-25, 2000 (& Sept. 29-Oct. 1); “European roundup” (British hiring of disabled police), Oct. 16-17; “Blind customers want to touch club lapdancers“, Sept. 27-28; From the U.K.: watch your language” (job bureau restricts use of words like “hardworking”, “enthusiastic”), June 13, 2000.
“‘Businesses bracing for flood of lawsuits after state court ruling’” (Calif. law may apply retroactively), Aug. 1, 2001.
“N.J. court declares transsexuals protected class“, July 30, 2001.
“Six-hour police standoff no grounds for loss of job, says employee“, May 21, 2001; “‘Killer’s suit alleges job discrimination’“, Jan. 15, 2001; “‘Belligerent’ Worker Is Covered by ADA, Says Federal Court“, Dec. 18-19, 2000; “Accommodating theft” (N.J. lawyer discipline), Nov. 11, 1999; “‘Judge who slept on job faces new allegations’“, Oct. 4, 1999.
“‘2000’s Ten Wackiest Employment Lawsuits’” (reverse-bias claim by worker with no mental disability), April 13-15, 2001.
“Put out that match” (ADA invoked against agricultural burning), Feb. 28-March 1, 2001.
“Anorexia as disability“, Jan. 26-28, 2001.
“Sidewalk toilets nixed again” (Boston), Oct. 5, 2000.
“Disabled rights roundup” (sign interpreters at doctor’s offices), Sept. 29-Oct. 1;
“Welcome Toronto Star readers” (Ontario considers ADA-like law), Sept. 27-28, 2000.
“Movie caption trial begins” (Steve Chapman on ADA anniversary), Aug. 1, 2000; “‘How the ADA handicaps me’” (backfire effect in job interviews; ten year anniversary of ADA), Jul. 28-30; “ADA’s unintended consequences” (workplace losses for disabled), July 11, 2000.
“Penalty for co.’s schedule inflexibility: 30 years’ front pay” (ADA case), June 16-18, 2000; “What ADA was written for“, March 15, 2000.
“‘ADA’s good intentions have unintended consequences’” (John Elvin, Insight), March 3-5, 2000.
“Latest excuse syndromes“, Jan. 13-14, 2000; “Down repressed-memory lane II: distracted when she signed“, Dec. 29-30, 1999; “Mow’ better ADA claims” (disability exemption from cutting one’s lawn?), July 26, 1999.
“Blind newsdealer charged with selling cigarettes to underage buyer“, Sept. 16, 1999.
“Weekend reading” (“disability studies” in academia), Aug. 21-22, 1999.
“Be sensitive to Fluffy, or else” (obligation to accept emotional-support dog into store), July 9, 1999.
Articles by Overlawyered.com editor Walter Olson:
“Supreme Court Rescues ADA From Its Zealots,” Wall Street Journal, Jun. 18 (online subscribers only).
“Access Excess“, Reason, May 2000.
?Under the ADA, We May All Be Disabled?, ?Rule of Law?, Wall Street Journal, May 17, 1999.
“Standard Accommodations” (rise of universal disability), Reason, Feb. 1999.
“Kingdom of the One-Eyed,” Reason, July 1998.
“Still Crazy” (Casey Martin case; ADA in the courts), Reason, May 1998.
“Disabilities Law Protects Bad Doctors,” New York Times, November 28, 1997.
“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of a good beer,” excerpt from The Excuse Factory, Washington Monthly, September, 1997.
“Time to Get Off the Tenure Track”, New York Times, July 8, 1997.
“Disabling America“, National Review, May 5, 1997.
U.S. Department of Justice ADA home page
U.S. Access Board home page
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations (1630: ADA implementation; 1640: coordination of ADA with Section 504; 1641 government contractors).
Text of ADA (Cornell LII)
Online ADA Handbook
NBER: ADA employment effects study (Daron Acemoglu, Joshua Angrist)
Boston Univ.: Pike Institute on Law & Disability
ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law
“Disability Debate” (Reason Online, “Breaking Issues”)
“A good law gone bad” (Trevor Armbrister, Reader’s Digest)
“Handicapping Freedom” (Ed Hudgins, Regulation mag/Cato Institute)
“ADA: Time for Amendments” (Robert O’Quinn, Cato Institute, Aug. 9, 1991)
January 31-February 2 — “Cities Pay Big in Faulty Lawsuits”. Fox News picks up on the theme explored by columnist Deroy Murdock a few days ago of how persons hurt while committing crimes or trying to commit suicide now often show up in court demanding compensation for others’ negligence in letting them be injured. This site’s editor went on camera to take a less-than-enthusiastic view of such suits. (Jan. 30) (DURABLE LINK)
January 31-February 2 — FBI probes Philadelphia’s hiring of class-action firm. “An FBI investigation is focusing on why current and former city officials gave potentially lucrative legal work to a top Democratic donor and resisted a judge’s efforts to seek competitive bids for the work.” The administration of Ed Rendell, since elected Pennsylvania governor, hired prominent class-action firm Barrack, Rodos & Bacine to represent the city as lead plaintiff in a large class action in California representing investors in Network Associates, a software firm. Through its senior partner, the law firm says it plans to cooperate with the investigation. (Cynthia Burton, Mark Fazlollah and Joseph Tanfani, “FBI investigates Philadelphia’s Pension Board”, Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 30). Update and more coverage: Mar. 21-23. (DURABLE LINK)
January 31-February 2 — “Valentine’s Card Burglar Sues Police”. From the U.K.: “A convicted burglar has been given legal aid to sue the police for sending him a Valentine’s card last year. Gary Williams, who has a 12-year criminal record, was one of 10 known burglars and car criminals who received cards from Brighton police. But when he opened the card, his girlfriend thought it must be from another woman. She was so cross that, before he could explain, she hurled an ashtray at him, and it went whistling past his head.” (David Sapsted, Daily Telegraph, Jan. 29) (DURABLE LINK)
January 31-February 2 — Fair housing law vs. free speech. On more than one occasion, when local residents have spoken out against the siting of low-income housing projects or group homes in their neighborhoods, they’ve faced (unsuccessful) lawsuits and attempted fines on the grounds that their speech constituted a civil rights violation. Now the Sixth Circuit has approved a more subtle way of discouraging residents from speaking their minds: impute their prejudiced views to the government that has allowed them to speak at a public hearing. It’s a good way of getting government bodies to stop holding public hearings for fear of liability, according to columnist Robyn Blumner (“Fair Housing Act cannot be used to gag residents’ displeasure”, St. Petersburg Times, Jan. 19). (DURABLE LINK)
January 31-February 2 — Manhattan Institute turns 25. The New York-based policy institute, with which our editor is associated, celebrates its quarter-century anniversary. Read more about it (Tom Wolfe, “Revolutionaries”, New York Post, Jan. 30; “Ideas Matter” (editorial), Jan. 30). Then visit the Institute’s website and sign up for its invaluable mailing list. (DURABLE LINK)
January 30 — “ADA Goes to the Movies”. The AMC chain pioneered stadium-style seating in movie theaters, which much improves sight lines for audiences and quickly became the industry standard. Then civil-rights activists swooped down, saying the new layouts (the earlier versions, at least) were unlawful because they provided too narrow a set of seating choices for patrons in wheelchairs. Jonathan Last of the Weekly Standard takes up the story (Jan. 24). (DURABLE LINK)
January 30 — Targeting Wall Street. More than 200 mass tort lawyers recently met at Las Vegas’s Bellagio Hotel to discuss suing investment firms, at an event put on by the Mass Torts Made Perfect organization. Veterans of the breast-implant and fen-phen campaigns “are hoping to profit from the fallout of the $1.4 billion global regulatory settlement over stock-research conflicts, seeking to file claims on behalf of investors.” Law partners James Hooper and Robert Weiss “concede they don’t really know their way around Wall Street” but have already spent more than $1 million in television advertising in search of retired Florida clients who lost money in the market. “The pair is teaming up with Levin Papantonio Thomas Mitchell Echsner & Proctor PA, a large mass-tort firm based in Pensacola, Fla., known for its filings against the tobacco industry, among others.” Messrs. Hooper and Weiss “recently filed 71 cases against Citigroup Inc.’s Salomon Smith Barney on behalf of investors who lost less than $25,000 apiece.” The newcomers have not met with a friendly reception from the existing plaintiff’s securities bar, however, who tend to sniff at their lack of a track record in the area. (Susanne Craig, “Lawyers Target Wall Street Following Regulatory Payoff”, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 29) (online subscribers only). (DURABLE LINK)
January 29 — State of the Union. “To improve our health care system, we must address one of the prime causes of higher costs — the constant threat that physicians and hospitals will be unfairly sued. Because of excessive litigation, everybody pays more for health care and many parts of America are losing fine doctors. No one has ever been healed by a frivolous lawsuit. I urge the Congress to pass medical liability reform.” (President Bush, State of the Union speech Jan. 28, reprinted, Quad City Times). Charles Krauthammer’s take: “Sick, Tired and Not Taking It Anymore”, Time, Jan. 13 (MedRants comments). And see James M. Taylor, “States Take Lead on Medical Malpractice Reform”, Heartland Institute Health Care News, Jan.(DURABLE LINK)
January 27-28 — Latest Rule of Lawyers publicity. Following appearances in New York and Washington, our editor is speaking on the book to a lunchtime audience Tuesday in Chicago; details here. Trips to Texas, California and elsewhere are in the works, as well as many radio programs. Famed InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds gave us a nice lift Friday in his MSNBC column (Jan. 24). Fox News Channel has now put online a partial transcript of our editor’s appearance last Thursday on “The Big Story” (posted Jan. 24). A CNN appearance is still pending. Eric Schippers of the Center for Individual Freedom gave the book a favorable review in the Federalist Society publication Engage, reprinted here. And Reason’s recent cover story/excerpt included a mini-author profile which we neglected to link earlier. (Jan.)
There’s more: Barnes & Noble Online gave the book one of its rotating “We Recommend” designations (Law category); both the Conservative Book Club/National Review Book Service and Laissez-Faire Books have picked the book as a selection and given it good write-ups; and e-versions are available for download from Franklin.com (requires proprietary software) and Palm Digital Media. (DURABLE LINK)
January 27-28 — “No suits by lawbreakers, please”. Syndicated columnist Deroy Murdock says a good place to start with tort reform would be to cut off lawsuits where the complainant’s own crime or suicide attempt was the preponderant cause of his injury. Among eyebrow-raising cases: “Disturbed, Angelo Delgrande shot and wounded his parents and himself in a June 1995 dispute. He then received surgery at a Westchester County, N.Y. hospital. That night, he yanked the tubes and monitoring devices from his body, then leapt off the second story of an adjacent parking garage in a suicide bid. He is now paraplegic. Delgrande sued the hospital for failing to treat his depression and keep him indoors. Last October, he won $9 million.” Also quotes our editor (Scripps Howard News Service/Sacramento Bee, Jan. 23) (& see Jan. 31) (DURABLE LINK)
January 27-28 — “Woman Attacked By Goose Sues County”. “A woman who says she was attacked by a 3-foot-tall goose is suing Palm Beach County, claiming the county should not have allowed the bird to roam in a public park.” Darlene Griffin, 30, says she was attacked on Feb. 5 in Okeeheelee Park. The county contends that it has no duty to protect parkgoers from “obvious” dangers. (Local6/WKMG, Jan. 24; CNN, Jan. 24). (DURABLE LINK)
January 27-28 — Don’t break out the shakes yet. Judge Sweet’s ruling last week in favor of McDonald’s has been widely hailed as a blow for common sense and individual responsibility, but the judge “generously gave the plaintiffs a chance to try their luck again” and “take a second bite from the burger”. Lawyers are likely to refile both the case at issue and new ones, after due study of Sweet’s opinion which may even provide a “jurisprudential roadmap” to liability. “Make no mistake: This case is not about fat kids. It’s about fat paydays. For lawyers.” (“Mickey D’s Hollow Victory” (editorial), New York Post, Jan. 23; see also “Lawyers Run Marathons, Not Sprints”, Center for Consumer Freedom, Jan. 23). More: some well-known plaintiff’s lawyers pooh-pooh the fat suits (James V. Grimaldi, “Legal Kibitzers See Little Merit in Lawsuit Over Fatty Food at McDonald’s”, Washington Post, Jan. 27). On the other hand, a Fortune cover story argues for taking them seriously (Roger Parloff, “Is Fat the Next Tobacco?”, Jan. 21). (DURABLE LINK)
January 24-26 — Malpractice-cost trends. Many mainstream journalists, accepting arguments pressed on them by defenders of the litigation business, have uncritically repeated the notion that the crisis in medical malpractice insurance owes more to insurers’ unwise Wall Street investments than to galloping litigation costs. But in fact, according to an expert on insurer portfolio management, “asset allocation and investment returns have had little, if any, correlation to the development of the current malpractice problem. The crisis is rather the result of a generally unconstrained increase in losses and, over several years, inadequate premium income to cover those losses.” (Raghu Ramachandran, “Did Investments Affect Medical Malpractice Premiums?”, Brown Brothers Harriman Insurance Asset Management Group, Jan. 21; see also post and comments at Megan McArdle’s site and earlier Jan. 1 post and comments). Doctors’ increasing willingness to walk off the job to protest the law’s expropriation — and politicians’ heavy-handed hints that they will face punishment if they do so — recall the producers’ strike in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, according to Edward Hudgins of the Objectivist Center (“Doctors Shrug”, Washington Times, Jan. 12). Ramesh Ponnuru argues that the Bush administration has not come up with an adequate grounding in federalism for a Congressional override of state malpractice law, given that it is a state’s own citizens who are the main losers from irrational verdicts (“Federal Malpractice”, National Review Online, Jan. 24). See also President Bush’s speech in Scranton, Jan. 16; White House “Policy in Focus: Medical Liability“; Michael Arnold Glueck and Robert J. Cihak, “It’s Not Just ‘Sue the Docs’ Anymore”, MedJournal.com blog, Jan. 14; RangelMD, Jan. 18; MedRants, Jan. 20; MedPundit, Jan. 19; Sydney Smith (MedPundit), “Dangerous Lies”, TechCentralStation, Jan. 21. (DURABLE LINK)
January 24-26 — Race-bias cases gone wrong. “The Florida Supreme Court has disbarred a Fort Lauderdale attorney accused of filing a string of racial discrimination lawsuits against employers such as Ocean Spray and BellSouth, which a federal judge labeled as extortion. Norman Ganz was disbarred for allowing his paralegal, a convicted felon, to engage in the unlicensed practice of law, charge an excessive fee and represent clients with adverse interests. … They were accused of filing a string of lawsuits against employers such as Ocean Spray, BellSouth, Broward County, Fla., and the Broward County School Board, then threatening to bring in the NAACP as a plaintiff. In return, the lawyers gave NAACP chapters some of the settlement money. … The cases also led to the ouster of Roosevelt Walters, former head of the Fort Lauderdale NAACP.” (Julie Kay, “Florida Lawyer Who Filed Controversial Racial Bias Suits Disbarred”, Miami Daily Business Review, Dec. 6). (DURABLE LINK)
January 23 — Judge tosses McDonald’s obesity case. “A federal judge in Manhattan today threw out a lawsuit brought against the McDonald’s Corporation by two obese teenagers, declaring as he did so that people are responsible for what they eat and that the teenagers’ complaints could spawn thousands of ‘McLawsuits’ if they were upheld. … Samuel Hirsch, the Manhattan lawyer who represents the plaintiffs … noted that Judge Sweet said the two teenagers were not barred from filing an amended complaint, and Mr. Hirsch promised to do just that, asserting that he still had a ‘credible and viable lawsuit.'” New York Times (reg); opinion in PDF format; GoogNews compilation; Reuters/FoxNews; AP/Court TV; Yahoo Full Coverage). And — rather undercutting the much-bruited notion that the increase in portion sizes at restaurants constitutes some sort of sneaky maneuver by restauranteurs having nothing to do with consumer preferences — “In a new study, researchers looked at such foods as hamburgers, burritos, tacos, french fries, sodas, ice cream, pie, cookies and salty snacks and found that the portions got bigger between the 1970s and the 1990s, regardless of whether people ate in or out.” (Deanna Bellandi, “Study Finds Meal Portion Sizes Growing”, AP/Washington Post, Jan. 21). (DURABLE LINK)
January 23 — Justices nix vicarious personal housing-bias liability. More good news: vacating a Ninth Circuit ruling, the Supreme Court has unanimously decided that under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 the owner of a real estate agency cannot in most cases be made to pay personally for the discriminatory acts of an underling without some further direct showing of fault. The agency’s liability was not in question; the question was instead whether the owner’s personal assets should be at risk if the agency lacked money to pay a judgment. A sobering aspect of the case: the Bush Administration entered it against the agency owner, arguing that he should be held personally liable but on a different legal theory (that the agency was legally an alter ego of his). The high court did not resolve that possible theory of liability. (Linda Greenhouse, “Justices Limit Housing Bias Lawsuits”, New York Times, Jan. 22)(reg) (DURABLE LINK)
January 23 — Our editor on TV. On Tuesday, kicking off a media swing to promote The Rule of Lawyers, our editor was a guest of Court TV’s Catherine Crier, who said some extremely kind things about the book (which rose to #265 on Amazon, helped by the WSJ‘s great review the same day). Today (Thursday) afternoon, watch for him to be interviewed by Judge Andrew Napolitano on Fox News Channel’s The Big Story with John Gibson. And although bookings are always subject to last-minute change, don’t be surprised if he turns up Friday evening on CNN. (DURABLE LINK)
January 21-22 — Not my partner’s keeper. No joint and several liability for us, please: “In a sign of increased caution in the post-Enron world, two of New York’s most prominent law firms have elected to become limited liability partnerships. Sullivan & Cromwell and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison both acquired Limited Liability Partnership status effective Jan. 1, thus ending a combined 250 years of operation as general partnerships.” The effect is to insulate partners from having to pay for each others’ negligence or other wrong, even if greater vigilance by the firm as a whole might have reduced the likelihood of wrongdoing. (Anthony Lin, “Prominent Law Firms Move to Limit Liability”, New York Law Journal, Jan. 10). (DURABLE LINK)
January 21-22 — ATLA’s hidden influence. From the Capital Research Center, which keeps tabs on activist groups: “The movement for tort reform has been stalled by an unholy alliance of trial lawyers and consumer advocates eager to preserve the power to sue. But few Americans understand the ties linking Ralph Nader-inspired groups to the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.” Includes considerable information about ATLA’s generosity to various private groups which lobby against limits on medical malpractice litigation. Also quotes this site (Neil Hrab, “Association of Trial Lawyers of America: How It Works with Ralph Nader Against Tort Reform”, January (summary; “Foundation Watch” report in PDF format)). (DURABLE LINK)
January 21-22 — “Tort turns toxic”. Overview of how litigation is wreaking havoc in diverse sectors of the society, from medicine to terrorism insurance, includes particular attention to the problems it’s creating for affordable housing. Construction of condominiums and apartments in California and other Western states has become much more expensive to insure because of burgeoning litigation over allegedly defective construction, some of the allegations well grounded but others drummed up by eager solicitation of condo associations by lawyers. By the year 2000, insurers in California were paying out nearly $3 for every premium dollar collected from builders, and imposing big premium hikes. Multi-unit housing construction has now plunged, and major builders have shifted efforts from affordable condos to pricier freestanding homes, perceived as a lower litigation risk. (Steven Malanga, “Tort Turns Toxic,” City Journal, Autumn 2002). (DURABLE LINK)
January 21-22 — Welcome Wall Street Journal readers. Highly favorable review of our editor’s new book The Rule of Lawyers: “an entertaining, but disturbing, chronicle of class-action abuses … Mr. Olson’s engaging prose, for all its charm, is propelled by a sense of outrage at the abuses he describes: He slams his opponents onto the mat, lets them rise slightly in a daze and then slams them down again, round after round.” Also mentions this website (David A. Price, “In a Class By Themselves”, Wall Street Journal, Jan. 21 (online subscribers only)). (DURABLE LINK)