Author Archive

Yes, tea is hot, too: Zeynep Inanli v. Starbucks

By popular demand, we note the existence of the case of Zeynep Inanli v. Starbucks Corp et al, New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 105767-2010, where Ms. Inanli has alleged second-degree burns from tea that was “unreasonably hot, in containers which were not safe.”

You will recall that part of the trial lawyer defense of the McDonald’s hot coffee case are the factually false claims that (1) only McDonald’s sold beverages hot enough to cause burns and (2) after Stella Liebeck won her suit, hot-beverage vendors everywhere reduced their temperatures to a “safe” level. Of course, the Reuters account fails to indicate sufficient facts to determine whether Ms. Inanli’s scenario reflects injuries from a spill that was her own fault or the fault of Starbucks.

“Legal secretary claims firm fired her for failure to meet unrealistic workload”

Legal secretary Nancy Topolski acknowledges that she couldn’t handle the workload assigned to her by law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, and that she suffered panic attacks as a result that prevented her from doing the work. But, she says, this just means that the law firm violated discrimination laws when it fired her. (Karen Sloan, National Law Journal, Mar. 24).

“Goodwin Liu’s America”

I have an op-ed about the pending Ninth Circuit nomination, which the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider tomorrow. If some of the language sounds vaguely familiar, it stems from an earlier Ted, and it especially amused me how much more appropriate Senator Kennedy’s words were for Professor Liu than for Judge Bork.

See also The Heritage Foundation’s discussion.

Update: and Ed Whelan’s NRO piece. And Ilya Shapiro and Evan Turgeon in the Daily Caller.

$9M alienation of affection award in NC

The defendant wasn’t at trial and didn’t have a lawyer, and plans to appeal; the judgment might as well be for $73 gazillion, as the ex-husband is already in contempt of court for failure to pay spousal support. (Greensboro News-Record March 18 and March 17 via Volokh). We’ve been covering the issue for years, as a click on the tags will reveal.

The Milberg Weiss Four after prison

All four have completed their sentences and don’t seem to have it so bad, judging by a March 19 Bloomberg story. William Lerach is going to teach at a law school and work for a “progressive think-tank.” And for the Milberg law firm itself? “Over the past couple of years, while everybody has been laying off lawyers and cutting pay, we’ve been giving lawyers raises and extra bonuses.”

CCAF amicus brief in fen-phen fees case

Overlawyered readers are well aware of the sorry history of the fen-phen litigation; those that aren’t are advised to check out Professor Lester Brickman’s summary.

In April 2008, the Diet Drugs MDL district court awarded $567 million the class counsel in that case, basing the award in part on representations by class counsel about future class recovery. A year later, a plaintiff’s attorney requested the court reopen the question of the fee award because the class counsel had exaggerated those estimates. The district court refused, holding that the one-year delay in bringing the Rule 60(b) motion was not a “reasonable time.” There has been an appeal to the Third Circuit, and, today, the Center for Class Action Fairness filed an amicus brief in support of the appeal that itself provides a short overview of the history of the fen-phen MDL. Many thanks to Chris Arfaa for his generous help in filing the brief.

1995 Washington Square sudden acceleration revisited

In 1992, Diana Maychick drove her mother’s Oldsmobile back to Washington Place in Greenwich Village, and got out. Her mother, the 74-year-old Stella Maychick, slid over from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat, readying herself to return to Yonkers. Maycheck, a shorter-than-average woman, suddenly took off in the car, which sped up, ran two stop signs, and tore through Washington Square Park, killing five and maiming several others.

Diana Maychick is now Diana Foote, a restaurant reviewer for a Palm Beach newspaper, and recently recounted the accident, claiming the recent Toyota troubles exonerated her mother.

Which I found fascinating, because I worked on that litigation—and the evidence that Maychick hit the gas instead of the brake was so strong that the plaintiffs’ lawyers abandoned the standard specious “mysterious gremlins caused the car to accelerate” theory and replaced it with a “General Motors knew that drivers were hitting the wrong pedal but didn’t do enough to warn them” theory. I took issue with Foote’s column in a letter to the newspaper.

As for the lawsuit itself, the judge excused everyone in the voir dire who expressed the remotest skepticism about plaintiffs’ theory, and GM settled shortly after the start of trial. One certainly marvels at the chutzpah of the theory of the case, given trial lawyers’ role in trying to persuade the public that driver error couldn’t possibly be to blame.