- Metro-North train crash spurs calls for mandatory crash-prevention devices. Think twice [Steve Chapman]
- BP sues attorney Mikal Watts [Insurance Journal] Exaggerated Gulf-spill claims as a business ethics issue [Legal NewsLine]
- Pot-war fan: “Freedom also means the right not to be subjected to a product I consider immoral” [one of several Baltimore Sun letters to the editor in reaction to my piece on marijuana legalization, and Gregory Kline’s response]
- Aaron Powell, The Humble Case for Liberty [Libertarianism.org]
- Allegation: lawprof borrowed a lot of his expert witness report from Wikipedia [Above the Law]
- Frivolous “sovereign citizen” lawsuits on rise in southern Jersey [New Jersey Law Journal, earlier]
- Star of Hitchcock avian thriller had filed legal malpractice action: “Tippi Hedren wins $1.5 million in bird-related law suit” [Telegraph]
- Feds investigating prominent Texas attorney and many-time Overlawyered mentionee Mikal Watts [MySanAntonio via PoL]
- Florida high court: lawyers not privileged to defame parties during informal witness questioning [Delmonico v. Traynor]
- Client’s story: not only did attorney try to kill me, he also gave me bad advice [Lowering the Bar]
- Some lawyers for city of Cleveland seek union representation, following municipal attorneys in S.F., D.C. and Houston [Cleveland Plain Dealer]
- Watch what you say about lawyers, part CLXXVI [NYLJ, “shakedown”]
- Former ATLA president Barry Nace fights disciplinary proceeding in W.V. [Chamber-backed WV Record]
- Minnesota lawyer who billed client for time he spent having sex with her won’t be allowed to practice for more than a year [TheLawNet, earlier on this candidate for “ultimate Overlawyered story”]
- Should she take the job offer from an apparently unethical attorney? If she has to ask… [Elie Mystal, Above the Law]
Campbell Robertson and John Schwartz of the New York Times find that many Vietnamese-Americans who are listed as law firm clients in the BP Transocean spill proceedings would rather not be law firm clients. “Like [Tim] Nguyen, some maintain that they never signed up with lawyers, but found that claims had been filed on their behalf (about 50 people have made formal complaints to the claims facility along these lines).” Nguyen found himself a client of lawyer Mikal Watts, “and to his further surprise, as a Louisiana shrimper rather than a Mississippi shipyard worker.” Watts, a big-league Texas tort lawyer, has reported having 43,000 spill clients, many mass-recruited from minority and poorer communities; he says he has a “signed contingency-fee contract with every client,” and that he has released clients who changed their mind about representation. “People familiar with the claims process [of one 26,000-claimant subgroup] said nearly every submission was listed as a deckhand with identical earnings.” Watts says the claims fund, administered by Kenneth Feinberg, has kept changing the documentation it asks for.
- Nastygrams fly at Christmas time over display and festival use of “Jingle Bells”, Grinch, etc. [Elefant]
- Claims that smoking ban led to instantaneous plunge in cardiac deaths in Scotland turns out to be as fishy as similar claims elsewhere [Siegel on tobacco via Sullum, Reason “Hit and Run”]
- Myths about the costs and consequences of an automaker Chapter 11 filing [Andrew Grossman, Heritage; Boudreaux, WSJ] Drowning in mandates and Congress throws them an anchor [Jenkins, WSJ]
- Mikal Watts may be the most generous of the trial lawyers bankrolling the Texas Democratic Party’s recent comeback [Texas Watchdog via Pero]
- Disney settles ADA suit demanding Segway access at Florida theme parks “by agreeing to provide disabled guests with at least 15 newly-designed four-wheeled vehicles.” [OnPoint News, earlier]
- Update on Scientology efforts to prevent resale of its “e-meter” devices on eBay [Coleman]
- Scary: business-bashing lawprof Frank Pasquale wants the federal government to regulate Google’s search algorithm [Concurring Opinions, SSRN]
- Kind of an endowment all by itself: “Princeton is providing $40 million to pay the legal fees of the Robertson family” (after charges of endowment misuse) [MindingTheCampus]
- John Ritter’s family has already received $14 million in settlements, seeking $67 million more in medical malpractice litigation for ER failure to diagnose rare heart condition. Dr. R.W. Donnell thinks they’re wrong. [LA Times; USA Today; Kevin MD; Turkewitz; Overlawyered Sep. 2004]
- Speaking of the celebrity bonus in litigation: as M.E. e-mailed me, “Cheek rides again”; Wesley Snipes acquitted of tax felonies, though convicted of misdemeanors, and still on the hook for $17 million in taxes plus penalties. [NY Times; earlier]
- California AG Jerry Brown continuing bogus carbon dioxide “public nuisance” lawsuit against automakers [Stirling & Sandefur @ Investor’s Business Daily; earlier]
- Words-only criminal obscenity prosecution. [WSJ Law Blog (and farewell to Peter Lattman)]
- In the category of gambits we’re sympathetic to, but are unlikely to succeed: East Texas burger restaurant tries mandatory-arbitration-by-posted-window-notice [TortsProf]
- Mikal Watts puff piece [Corpus Christi Caller-Times]
- More critics pile onto new Medicare “we won’t pay for errors” policy [Orac, Chris Rangel, Universal Health, MedPundit; earlier; plus KevinMD]
- Wisconsin lawmaker wants to address perceived lawyer oversupply by cutting funding to the state’s law school [NLJ]
- What would great authors of Britain’s past have thought of pub smoking ban? [AN Wilson, Telegraph; one response; more]
- As Texas trial lawyer Mikal Watts gears up Senate run, his GOP critics turn for ammunition to a certain website [ChronBlog via Half Empty]
- Holder in due course? Pa. man has left fragrant ethical trail buying up bounced checks and demanding their payment in court [NJLJ]
- One reason for slow adoption of electronic medical records: docs’ fear of wider malpractice exposure [Medical Economics via KevinMD]
- “He knows there is irony in a criminal defense attorney being driven out of the city because of crime” [Baltimore Sun]
- More evidence that Endangered Species Act perversely encourages landowners to make their habitat inhospitable [Adler @ Volokh]
- If you recognize one of your hospital patients as a wanted fugitive, don’t let HIPAA keep you from calling cops [MedRants first, second post]
- Teenager may face year in jail for recording 20-second movie clip [Wired “Gadget Lab” via Harsanyi and Reynolds]
- Behind a judge’s order that GM pay $1.2 billion over a drunk driver’s crash [eight years ago at Overlawyered; case’s eventual settlement]
Bill Childs notes a Baylor Law Review study polling Texas judges on whether they think there are problems requiring tort reform based on what they see in their own courtroom.
I can’t imagine why anyone thinks such a study will produce useful results. The study has typical issues, such as the typical anti-reform eliding of what “frivolous” means, ignoring that the state-law definition of “frivolous” differs from the common-sense meaning of the word used by many politicians. Another question asks whether judges have recently presided over cases where compensatory damages awarded were too high, but excludes cases where compensatory damages were required to be reduced by statutory limits, and the authors draw opinions from this intentionally biased question.
But there’s a larger problem with the very nature of the study. Judges who correctly run their courtroom and follow the law are generally not going to have runaway juries, so they are likely to say (and even say correctly) that their juries generally don’t produce outlandish results. The problem requiring reform are judges who are in the pocket of the plaintiffs’ bar, and create judicial hellholes, and let Mikal Watts and Mark Lanier run wild. If such judges thought there was a problem requiring tort reform, they wouldn’t let plaintiffs’ attorneys get away with what they get away with. Most reasonable judges would find it problematic if a plaintiff loaned money to a juror and had phone conversations with them during trial when a jury came back with an implausible multi-million dollar verdict for an overweight 71-year-old man’s second heart attack when he wasn’t even taking Vioxx, but the Starr County judge in Garza v. Merck signed off on the judgment: of course he doesn’t think anything’s wrong with that if he’s polled by professors, but that doesn’t make him correct.
Polling judges in judicial hellholes to find out whether there is a need for legal reform is like polling O.J. Simpson to find out if there’s a problem with domestic violence.
Nevertheless, expect to see the poll widely used by the litigation lobby and their academic water-carriers in upcoming months and years.
Post updated 10:30 PM to clarify nature of questioning.
- Can’t possibly be true: Tampa man sentenced to 25 years for possession of pills for which he had a legal prescription [Balko, Hit and Run]
- Plaintiff’s lawyers “viewed [Sen. Fred Thompson] as someone we could work with” and gave to his campaigns, but they can’t be pleased by his kind words for Texas malpractice-suit curbs [Washington Post, Lattman; disclaimer]
- Pace U. student arrested on hate crime charges after desecrating Koran stolen from college [Newsday; Volokh, more; Hitchens]
- Little-used Rhode Island law allows married person to act as spouse’s attorney, which certainly has brought complications to the divorce of Daniel and Denise Chaput from Pawtucket [Providence Journal]
- Lott v. Levitt defamation suit kinda-sorta settles, it looks like [Adler @ Volokh]
- Trial lawyer Mikal Watts not bowling ’em over yet in expected challenge to Texas Sen. Cornyn [Rothenberg, Roll Call, sub-only via Lopez @ NRO]
- Frankly collusive: after Minnesota car crash, parents arrange to have their injured son sue them for negligence [OnPoint News]
- Canadian bar hot and bothered over Maclean’s cover story slamming profession’s ethics [Macleans blog]
- Five Democratic candidates (Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Biden, Richardson) auditioned at the trial lawyers’ convention earlier this month in Chicago [NYSun]
- Donald Boudreaux’s theory as to why Prohibition ended when it did [Pittsburgh Trib-Rev via Murray @ NRO]
- Speaker of Alaska house discusses recent strengthening of that state’s longstanding loser-pays law [new at Point of Law]
We frequently hear from plaintiffs’ attorneys that we don’t have the courage to print their side of the story; somehow, we always do. The latest challenge to our “moral fortitude” comes from Roger S. Braugh, who objects to our post on the Rose Marie Munoz case, where a woman who didn’t wear a seatbelt received a $29 million verdict in a failure-to-warn case where a recall notice had been issued. We’ve posted the full comment and my full response at the original post; a lengthy partial point-by-point rebuttal is after the jump here. In addition, Brough has offered to answer questions about the case; I’ve posted a preliminary list.
Brough’s complaint about those “spending millions of dollars” on tort reform is ironic; he is allegedly a member of what a community paper calls Mikal Watts’s “Millionaire Lawyers Club” that allegedly handpicks judges and influences elections on the 148th District Court in Corpus Christi. But given that a runaway plaintiffs’ bar is costing the American economy hundreds of billions of dollars a year, it’s unsurprising that some of the victims of that problem seek to fix it. But the plaintiffs’ bar outspends reformers by a 3-1 ratio.
Belatedly following up on the Mar. 7 report about the $31 million verdict against Ford Motor in Zavala County, Tex., on attorney Mikal Watts’s theory (as we put it then) “that the [ejection] injuries were Ford’s fault because it should have used laminated instead of conventional glass in the side windows as a sort of substitute restraint system,” law student Shane Murphy (George Mason U.) had the following comment:
Laminated glass, which is two layers of plate glass with plastic laminate in between, is used on automotive windshields. It has been used for decades to keep objects from easily getting through the windshield and entering the vehicle, not the other way around. In fact, I have seen more than one hapless unbelted occupant of a vehicle propelled fully through a laminated windshield.
Safety glass, which is designed to shatter into very small pieces, is used on side windows in cars. This type of glass is easy to shatter should you need to make a hasty exit from the vehicle, and that’s a key reason it’s put there. It also shatters into small pieces with very little “sharding,” reducing the opportunity for serious injury from broken glass.
Laminated glass requires a special saw to get through. With 12 years of experience, it still takes me five minutes to saw through a car windshield. If your car is on fire you’d prefer safety glass for this reason alone. Laminated glass also causes serious head and facial injuries to those who do full face-plants against the windshield despite seat belt warnings. It will have the same effect in a side window if an occupant is unbelted.
Some automakers are putting laminated glass in the side windows of high-end cars, but this trend should be viewed with great caution. This type of glass does prevent people from “popping a window” to escape from a vehicle in an emergency situation. Two examples of emergencies of this type are vehicle crashes with resulting fires and accidents where a vehicle ends up partially submerged in a body of water. In both cases, the electrical system will likely short out and will prevent easy exit since nearly all cars now have power windows.
I really cannot believe this theory about auto glass even got past the laugh test, never mind into the jury room. Automotive glass should not be used to keep people in the vehicle. Using automotive glass as a backup safety feature would do more harm than good. Seat belts are to keep you in the vehicle, not windows. In fact, I much prefer glass that breaks easily.
More: reader Brian Poldrack of Houston, Texas writes in to say: