Posts Tagged ‘Alien Tort Claims Act’

November 15 roundup

  • Simon Singh on need to reform UK libel law [BoingBoing]
  • Complaint: Scalia’s too darned principled on religious liberty [rebutted by Ponnuru at NRO]
  • Air Force sued after teenage rave in abandoned bunker turns bad [PoL]
  • Scathing Kleinfeld dissent in Ninth Circuit Alien Tort case [Volokh, Fisher, Recorder]
  • “Law Firm Accused of Requiring Heels, Then Discriminating When Injury Occurred” [ABA Journal]
  • Parent’s angry letter to Kansas City school board complaining that teacher laid hands on son; best part are the demands [Something Awful forums]
  • Australia: “Iconic Merry-Go-Round Is Deemed an Insurance Liability” [Free-Range Kids]
  • “Meatpacker to pay $3m for using strength test” [five years ago on Overlawyered]

July 13 roundup

  • Wal-Mart spending millions to fight $7,000 OSHA fine? Not so paradoxical when you think about it [Coyote]
  • Proliferation of product recalls, as with warnings, can result in consumer fatigue and inattention [WaPo via PoL]
  • Settlement said to be near between casino and gambler who lost $127 million [WSJ, UPI, earlier]
  • “Think Globally, Sue Locally: Out-of-Court Tactics Employed by Plaintiffs, Their Lawyers, and Their Advocates in Transnational Tort Cases” [study, PDF and press release; Jonathan Drimmer for US Chamber, related WSJ]
  • “End of an Era? Another Crunch Berries Case Dismissed” [Lowering the Bar, California Civil Justice, earlier on “froot” cases here, here, etc.]
  • New Jersey: “School legal costs are a killer” [Rayner, Daily Record]
  • ABA Journal profiles Ted Frank;
  • We’re the ones who write the laws around here, not you legislators: Washington Supreme Court strikes down med-mal notice law []

“The U.S. Can’t Be the World’s Court”

So argued former State Department legal adviser John Bellinger III in the WSJ last week, with special reference to the overreaching, extraterritorial Alien Tort Statute. But it’s not as if the efforts to turn the U.S. into the courtroom for the world are slackening at all:

  • As Curtis Bradley and Jack Goldsmith note in the Washington Post, a federal court recently allowed to proceed a lawsuit seeking to blame the evils of South African apartheid on Western multinationals, even despite strong opposition to the suit from both the U.S. government’s executive branch and today’s duly elected multiracial South African government. Unfortunately, the State Department’s up-to-now-staunch opposition to this and similar lawsuits is imperiled by the installment of Harold Koh as legal adviser at Foggy Bottom: “Koh is an intellectual architect and champion of the post-1980 human rights litigation explosion. He joined a brief in the South Africa litigation arguing for broad aiding-and-abetting liability.”
  • If asked what should happen to frozen Cuban-government assets under U.S. control, reasonable possibility #1 might be “hold them against the eventual day when a non-tyrannical regime emerges there, it will need help.” Reasonable possibility #2 might be “divide the assets among Castro’s many victims in some deliberate and step-by-step way, knowing that their injuries are so numerous and severe that even very deserving victims will get only small payments”. The answer you’d think makes no sense at all is “encourage first-come-first-served tort lawsuits, so that the first couple of cases to maneuver their way through the legal process get handsome compensation, while no money is left for either #1 or #2”. So naturally, the latter is what our legal system is doing, previously in $188 million and $253 million verdicts involving single incidents or families, and now in a new case in which the family of Gustavo Villoldo has been awarded $1.179 billion. One of the plaintiff’s lawyers in the case actually boasts that the new award may obstruct a warming of relations between the U.S. and a post-Castro successor regime: “with the opening of relations between the U.S. and Cuba to come, there are debts to society to be paid before that happens” (more on Che Guevara, via).
  • On the brighter side, the Obama administration has joined its Bush predecessors in correctly drawing a line against litigation by some September 11 victims and insurance companies: under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, the courts are no place to pursue theories trying to link the rulers of Saudi Arabia to the terrorist attacks.

(cross-posted from Point of Law)

“Lawsuits that benefit only lawyers”

Hard-hitting column by Stuart Taylor, Jr. on the destructiveness of the current legal actions

seeking more than $400 billion from companies that did business in South Africa during apartheid, [which] score high on what I call Taylor’s Index of Completely Worthless Lawsuit Indicators:

• The lawsuits will do victims of wrongdoing little or no good.

• They will penalize no human being who has done anything wrong.

• They will deter more conduct that is beneficial than harmful.

• The legal costs and any damages will come at the expense of the general public.

• The lawsuits therefore serve no purpose at all but to enrich lawyers and provide ideological power trips for some judges as well as lawyers.

American Isuzu Motors v. Ntsebeza, recently allowed to go forward, is being led by (among others) class-actioneer and frequent Overlawyered mentionee Michael Hausfeld.

The apartheid lawsuit is one of dozens seeking to pervert the Alien Tort Statute to mulct companies for ordinary commercial conduct in countries accused of human-rights violations. Caterpillar, for example, was sued for selling bulldozers that Israel used to destroy suspected Palestinian terrorists’ homes. (The case was dismissed.) “The American bar is actively soliciting alien plaintiffs” to try out novel theories, State Department legal adviser John Bellinger noted in a recent speech. Because so many federal judges have smiled on such suits, Bellinger added, foreign governments increasingly regard the U.S. judiciary “as something of a rogue actor.”

With added commentary on the Kivalina climate-change class action, Rhode Island lead paint, shareholder litigation, and Lerach, Weiss, and Scruggs. (National Journal, May 17, will rotate off page so catch it now).

May 19 roundup

Bogus claims in Chevron-Ecuador suit

I’ve got a post at Point of Law detailing a judge’s ruling chastising, and imposing sanctions on, three lawyers (including one who’s fairly famous) who sued the oil company on behalf of supposed cancer victims in Ecuador; it turned out some of the victims 1) didn’t have cancer and 2) weren’t aware a suit was being filed in the U.S. in their name. (Oct. 25; and see Roger Parloff’s excellent post on the episode at Fortune “Legal Pad”).

Roundup – June 4

Is it, or isn’t it?

  • It is: “Hopefully this means a better life,” says the energy company employee who won a $40 million judgment (almost half of it punitives) against Qwest Communications after the telephone pole he was working on collapsed and injured him. He was lucky; had he worked for the phone company, he likely would have been barred from suing by worker’s comp laws.

    “I could hear my heart pounding, pulsing faster and faster, and I tried keeping calm, but when they started reading the verdict I was in a state of shock,” he said. “It’s justice.”

  • It isn’t: “The lawsuit wasn’t about money, he said.” That’s New Hampshire resident Joseph Hewett, the rejected applicant for The Apprentice who settled his age discrimination lawsuit against Donald Trump and the producers of the show.

    “This was never about a disgruntled applicant trying to get back at (Trump’s) organization, it just gave me an opportunity to advocate on behalf of a protected class,” he said. “This was about the fact that I believe an entire class was aggrieved.”

    His evidence that age was what kept him off the show was a slam dunk; after all, he “claimed he was qualified for the show because he graduated magna cum laude from college and because of his ‘many years of experience maintaining large commercial properties.'”

  • Well, maybe it is: Human rights advocacy groups have been (mis)using the Alien Tort Claims Act for years to litigate foreign events in American courts, but those advocacy groups were motivated primarily by ideology. Now class action law firms, sensing an opportunity, are getting in on the action. Overlawyered repeat offender Motley Rice (many links) is suing officials of the United Arab Emirates on behalf of boys from South Asia and Africa who claim to have been kidnapped and enslaved as camel jockeys in the UAE; the case has no connection whatsoever to the U.S.

    The human rights movement isn’t thrilled because they figure that these lawyers are really in it for the money and not the cause; conservative tort reformers aren’t thrilled because they see it as just another example of entrepreneurial lawyering by trial lawyers.

    John M. Eubanks, a lawyer with Motley Rice who represents the former jockeys, disputed both points.

    “We’re trying to right wrongs that have been committed,” Mr. Eubanks said. “It’s not about money. It’s about exacting some form of justice.”

    Uh, yeah:

    Pressed, Mr. Eubanks conceded that the case was at least partly about money. “There is a contingency fee,” he said. “These cases do cost a lot of money. We don’t get paid unless we collect.”

Hussein executed

Saddam Hussein has been executed, according to numerous media reports. A few hours ago, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of Washington denied a last-minute application for a stay of execution filed by Hussein’s lawyers.

The application was filed at 1 p.m. this afternoon by the law firm of Gilman & Associates, who argued that a stay was justified because Hussein was a named defendant in a civil lawsuit before the D.C. district court, “but his incarceration has prevented him from receiving proper due process notice of his rights to defend himself and his estate.” Military officials said Hussein could not meet with his lawyers to discuss the civil suit until January 4, which obviously is a moot point now.

Read On…