- U.S. Chamber’s annual lawsuit climate survey ranks Illinois as nation’s worst this year [Institute for Legal Reform]
- Withholding material helpful to the defense: “Time for a Brady-type disclosure requirement for federal government in False Claims Act litigation” [Stephen A. Wood, Washington Legal Foundation]
- “Both sides need to learn that frequently the best response to immature behavior is to ignore it. Don’t react, don’t sink to the other side’s level, don’t try to fight fire with fire.” Advice from a federal judge to the lawyers in a Florida case [Eugene Volokh; Doscher v. Apologetics Afield, Inc.]
- Expert witness follies: litigation funders are filling the old tort lawyer role of bankrolling dodgy research on which future litigation campaigns can be based [Jim Beck]
- Back in July I linked a grim assessment of Pennsylvania’s Oberdorf v. Amazon decision expanding product liability for retail platforms. Here’s a less grim one that came out around the same time [Gus Hurwitz, Truth on the Market]
- By South Florida standards, those $1 million lawsuit fraud charges against an ADA lawyer the other day aren’t especially big; last year feds shut down an auto-claims ring they said cleared $23 million and involved “chiropractors, attorneys, clinic owners and tow-truck drivers.” [Paula McMahon, South Florida Sun-Sentinel; Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame]
“Prosecutors estimate that as many as 60,000 car accident victims may have had their confidential information improperly disclosed” in a scheme in which New York Police Department employees accepted money to pass information about 911 callers to an outfit that would then urge them to visit prearranged medical clinics and lawyers. “He told his fraudulent call center not to target victims in Manhattan, court documents said, because ‘those people got attorneys.’… ‘We want all the bad neighborhoods.’” With bonus HIPAA content: the ringleader of the scheme, besides paying off police personnel, allegedly “bribed employees at hospitals and medical centers to violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, and disclose confidential patient information for car accident victims, the documents say.” [Ali Watkins, New York Times]
- Court of appeals throws out class action against provincial lottery Loto-Quebec: “[The lead plaintiff] said she wouldn’t have bought the tickets had she known the odds were so slim.” [Canadian Press/CBC]
- And there was much rejoicing: Florida high court finally adopts Daubert, meant to curb use of faulty and unproven science in litigation [Karen Kidd, Florida Record, Beck]
- Fake car-crash claims alleged: “5 SoCal Chiropractors Busted In $6M Insurance Fraud Scheme” [CBS Los Angeles] “Three Men Found Guilty Of $31 Million Slip-And-Fall Scheme Involving Homeless People” [Jen Chung, Gothamist] Cambridgeshire, England: “Footage shows moment car ‘runs over foot’ of binman accused of crash-for-cash scam” [Alex Matthews, The Sun (U.K.)]
- If appellate review somehow leaves intact the scientifically baseless $2 billion Oakland verdict over glyphosate/Roundup, new changes in federal tax law might cut into plaintiffs’ winnings [Robert Wood, Forbes]
- Tamper proof? Old bottles of baby powder bought on eBay are central to plaintiffs’ claims that Johnson & Johnson baby powder may have contained asbestos fibers, a theory that has underlain several large verdicts [Daniel Fisher, Legal NewsLine; John O’Brien, same; Jef Feeley and Margaret Cronin Fisk, Bloomberg]
- “Michigan’s lawmakers have passed legislation to reform the state’s worst-in-the-nation auto insurance market.” [Ray Lehmann, R Street/Insurance Journal, earlier]
Attorneys for Mississippi-based Whitestone Transportation “allege in court documents that their investigations have uncovered evidence of more than 30” incidents around New Orleans following a distinct pattern of “multiple people in a claimant vehicle, sideswipe allegations with commercial vehicle trailers, minimal damage to claimant vehicle, little to no damage to the insured trailer and a commercial vehicle driver who is either unaware of or denies impact, according to trucking attorneys.” “In Louisiana we estimate our insurance costs are three to five times more than the national average,” said Chance McNeely, executive director of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association, and with the legal system not well suited to defeating claims for staged or pretended accidents, companies are increasingly turning to truck-mounted cameras.
“It’s always the same thing: Four people in a sedan, and there’s always a random witness who gives a loose statement to the cops and has a random appointment and has to get away, “ McNeely said. And all too often they use the same attorneys and the same doctors, he said….
“We have a lot of billboards for attorneys, and many of them demonize our industry,” he said.
“The defense said the case, which involved substantial medical damages and a plaintiff who miscarried after the collision, would have been a great plaintiff’s case — if she had actually been in the car she claimed was wrecked.” Instead, after “defense testimony showed that she swapped out the scarcely damaged car before police arrived with another that had been wrecked years earlier” she “walked out of a DeKalb County courtroom with nothing.” [Atlanta; Greg Land, Daily Report Online]
A small town in the Florida Panhandle has long tried to live down its special place in the history of insurance fraud. “By the time the early 1960s rolled around, according to the Tampa Bay Times, Vernon, Florida was responsible for roughly two-thirds of all loss-of-limb-related insurance claims in the United States.” I’ve written on the story a number of times, and Dan Lewis of the oft-recommended-here Now I Know website penned this account in 2012 which I seem to have overlooked at the time, an omission I remedy herewith.
“U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar asked federal prosecutors to investigate nearly 6,000 potentially bogus claims submitted in a $5.3 million settlement with app makers, including Twitter, Instagram and Yelp…. None of the [5,924] identified claims used unique claim numbers provided in email notices that were sent out to potential class members. In addition, numerous claims had different physical addresses but came from identical IP addresses.” [Ross Todd, The Recorder] Some used repetitive street addresses and unlikely or repetitive names of individuals, including at least one individual who was a legitimate member of the class but whose name was used by others to file claims. [Alison Frankel, Reuters (“The class action claim bots are coming! (Actually, they’re already here)”); ABA Journal]
“Tens of thousands of UK tourists have put in for compensation [for food poisoning] in the past year, even though sickness levels in resorts have remained stable,” reports the BBC, in what Mark Tanzer, chief executive of trade travel association Abta, says is “one of the biggest issues that has hit the travel industry for many years”. Travel firm Tui “said it had experienced a 15-fold rise in holiday sickness claims in the past year, costing between £3,000 and £5,000 a time.”
Joel Brandon-Bravo, managing director of Travelzoo UK, told BBC Radio 5 live’s Wake Up To Money that the upward trend was being driven by claims management companies.
“People are being called when they get back from holiday and encouraged to make claims and we’ve also seen evidence of them employing touts outside resorts encouraging people to make a claim and walking them through the process to make it easy for them,” he said….
Abta says the cases usually involve holidaymakers who have been abroad on all-inclusive deals, who argue that because they only ate in their hotel, that must have been the source of their alleged food poisoning.
Sometimes it is possible to cast doubt on the claims, per a report by Tanveer Mann at Metro:
Two British tourists who claim they were left ‘bed-ridden’ as a result of food poisoning actually had more than 100 drinks while on an all-inclusive holiday in Gran Canaria, according to their hotel bill….
The CEO of [defendant] Jet2holidays, Steve Heapy, said: ‘The sharp rise in the number of sickness claims is costing hoteliers and travel companies dearly, and it’s frustrating when so many are made a year or more after the holiday has ended.
There is also fear that some overseas resorts will begin barring access to British holidaymakers entirely as unprofitable.
In the BBC report, Abta “says laws designed to stop fraudulent claims for whiplash have instead pushed the problem of false insurance submissions on to overseas holidays instead. This is because of a cap on the legal fees that can be charged by law firms pursuing personal injury cases at home.”
From Reddit via @SheldonGilbert: “Obvious attempt at insurance fraud caught on camera”
“This lawyer helped steal $600 million from the government, got caught — then disappeared” (Eric Christopher Conn, Kentucky) [Avi Seik, Washington Post; Bill Estep and Linda Blackford, Lexington Herald-Leader; FBI Louisville; earlier here and here]