Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore’

Dump this law

“Do you like shrimp but wish it cost more? Need some bedroom furniture but hate getting a good deal on it? If so, you’re very different from most Americans. You are, however, one of the few people who can rejoice in our national trade policies. … The laws against dumping are supposed to correct the problem by banning any imports that are sold below ‘fair value,’ a baffling concept understood by bureaucrats but not economists.” (Steve Chapman, syndicated/Baltimore Sun, Jul. 9).

Ups and downs of a $2.5 million verdict

Roller coaster, indeed: Maryland’s highest court has thrown out a jury’s $2.5 million verdict against the operator of the Six Flags amusement park at Largo over a 1999 incident in which park employees told a family that their 4-year-old daughter did not meet the height requirement for the Typhoon Sea Coaster ride. The family refused to get off the ride and there ensued an altercation with park employees which resulted in several family members being handcuffed and led away to security — none were apparently seriously hurt — before being let go an hour later. How did a dispute of this magnitude snowball into a $2.5 million jury verdict? Well, it seems that although the original charges against the park operators did not make an issue of race, lawyers for the plaintiffs (who are African-American) had repeatedly played up racial angles before the Prince Georges County jury. Finding “a significant probability that the verdict was influenced by improper and irrelevant insinuations by their attorneys and certain of their witnesses of racial discrimination by alleged employees of the corporate defendant,” the court ordered retrial (“Court of Appeals overturns $2.5 million award in Six Flags suit”, AP/InsideBaltimore, May 17; CoasterBuzz, May 18; Tierco v. Williams, opinion in PDF format)(via Insurance Defense Blog, Jun. 1). Just to guarantee the burning up of even more resources, the case spawned insurance coverage litigation (PDF) in Delaware.

A 1-in-a-googol claim

In the late 1930s, Edward Kasner was asked to come up with the name for a large number; as legend has it, he asked his nine-year old nephew, who said “googol,” and Kasner’s 1940 book “Mathematics and the Imagination” popularized the term for the number 1 followed by a hundred zeroes. Over a half century later, a variation of that word was used to name a popular search engine, which you may have heard is going public in an e billion dollar offering.

Now Kasner’s great-niece, Peri Fleisher, is going public herself, complaining that her family hasn’t been compensated for Google’s choice of a name, and “exploring” the possibility of legal action. Fleisher has said that she would settle for being allowed to participate as an “insider” in the IPO; the interviewer, either out of ignorance or charity, doesn’t point out that because the Google IPO is a “Dutch auction,” Fleisher already has the right to participate as an “insider” (presuming she means a “friends and family offering”), which is merely the right to buy shares in an IPO at the issuing price. (Gerald P. Merrell, “Have your Google people talk to my ‘googol’ people”, Baltimore Sun, May 16).

Male cheerleaders bounced

“The male cheerleaders who carried the 80-pound Tennessee Titans flag at every game and tossed the female cheerleaders in the air won’t be doing it this fall. The Titans and the Baltimore Ravens were the last two teams in the National Football League that still featured male cheerleaders, and now the Titans have decided to drop them because of liability concerns over the stunts.” (Jim Wyatt, “Titans male cheerleaders out of a job; who’ll hoist the flag?”, The Tennessean, Apr. 17).

Doctors on trial

In last week’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association ($ access), Baltimore physician David Merenstein writes about a malpractice case which resulted in a $1 million verdict against the residency program in which he was working (though he himself was let off the hook for liability) over his failure to insist on a PSA test in a middle-aged male later diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. Central to the plaintiff’s attorney’s strategy was to put on trial the mode of medical practice known as “evidence-based medicine”. Medical blogger Ross Silverman at “The Bloviator” (Jan. 8), who is often critical of attempts to limit malpractice litigation, nonetheless finds the result in this case “horrible” and “ridiculous”. MedRants (Jan. 8 and Jan. 9) comments, as does Medpundit Sydney Smith (Jan. 9). More: The LitiGator, from Michigan, also comments (Jan. 18)

In the same Jan. 9 post, Medpundit links to an illuminating Cleveland Plain Dealer piece (Harlan Spector, “Fleeing the malpractice crisis”, Jan. 4) about a neurologist who lost his malpractice insurance and moved out of Ohio after he was hit with six claims. Six claims sounds like a lot, and we keep hearing that “problem doctors” account for a large share of the malpractice problem; but how weak were the six claims? Well, four of the six were dismissed before he had to meet with a lawyer; in a fifth, which is pending, the plaintiff has no lawyer of record. And the sixth? That resulted in a defense verdict, and was called “frivolous” by the presiding judge, who however also said: “They paid these experts who sign affidavits, and I can’t throw the case out.” “I feel like I’m being shot at all the time,” said the defendant, Dr. Bruce Morgenstern, who moved to less litigious Colorado.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

You may have heard of the $100 million lawsuit filed by postal workers against US Postal Service officials for failing to evacuate the anthrax-contaminated Brentwood facility and to treat workers quickly enough. (Allan Lengel, “Postal Workers File Suit Over Handling of Anthrax Crisis”, Washington Post, Oct. 15). The press coverage universally fails to note that while two workers, Joseph P. Curseen, and Thomas J. Morris, Jr., died from anthrax, the lawsuit was filed on behalf of all 2200 workers in the facility, and none of the five named plaintiffs represent the families of the deceased or, though all the Brentwood postal workers were tested for the disease, allege that they contracted anthrax. Instead, they allege, vaguely, “anthrax-like symptoms” for which they wish to receive damages. (At the press conference, the lead lawyer apparently claimed that there are several other anthrax-linked deaths, a fact we’re sure the CDC would be curious to know even as it was being reported uncritically by the Washington Post.) At least some postal workers who actually contracted anthrax have already brought individual suits that won’t be affected by the class action. (Linell Smith, “More anthrax suits likely against Postal Service”, Baltimore Sun, Jan. 10; “Lawsuit Over Anthrax Death Settled”, Washington Post, Aug. 9, 2002). Again, this went unnoted by the press coverage, which focused on the postal workers who were harmed, rather than the claims of the named plaintiffs. Also less publicized is the fact that New Jersey postal workers are suing Bayer, claiming that they were injured because they took Cipro as a precaution against anthrax exposure, and requesting class action status. (“Postal Workers Sue Maker of Cipro”, AP, Oct. 19).

UPDATE, Oct. 24: Reader William Jones writes to point us to a recent study of Brentwood postal employees in a CDC publication that shows no additional mortality from the anthrax exposure beyond the deaths of Curseen and Morris. (K. Berry et al., “Follow-Up of Deaths Among U.S. Postal Service Workers Potentially Exposed to Bacillus anthracis — District of Columbia, 2001–2002”, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Oct. 3 ).

Archived lead paint items, pre-June 2003

Archived entries before July 2003 can also be found here.

2003:Stuart Taylor, Jr. on lead paint litigation“, Mar. 5-7.

2002:R.I. lead paint case goes to jury“, Oct. 28-29 (& Oct. 30-31: mistrial).

2001:From the paint wars: a business’s demise, a school district’s hypocrisy“, Nov. 13; “Forbes on lead paint suits, cont’d“, Jun. 8-10; “Ness monster sighted in Narragansett Bay” (Rhode Island, Ness Motley), Jun. 7 (& see Dec. 27-28, 1999 re R.I.); “Reparations: take a number“, Apr. 17 (& see Olson, Reason, Nov. 2000); “‘Painting the town — with lawsuits’“, Mar. 7-8; “‘Bogus’ assault on Norton“, Jan. 18.

2000:The right to be poisoned“, Nov. 30; “A job offer for the judge“, Sept. 25-26 (see also April 12, 2001); “Maryland: knowledge, notice not needed to sue landlords over lead“, Apr. 24; “Game over four decades ago: let’s change the rules” (retroactive Md. legislation), Mar. 15; see also Baltimore Sun special coverage); “New York court nixes market-share liability for paint“, Jan. 17.

1999:‘The Dutch Boy isn’t Joe Camel’“, Nov. 10; “Covers the earth with litigation“, Oct. 14.