Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland’

Inmate to be freed after 25 years

“The Ohio Parole Board has decided a Cleveland-area man has spent the last 25 years behind bars for a crime he may not have committed and voted unanimously for his release.” Gary Reece was convicted of rape in 1980 on the accusation of a neighbor despite his denials and a lack of any evidence that he had ever been in the accuser’s apartment. In the years since then much evidence has accumulated casting doubt on the credibility of his accuser, Kimberly Croft. In fact, “on one television news program, [Croft] claimed that Gary Reece actually killed her during the attack in question, but that ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ brought her back to life,'” according to a brief filed with the parole board by law students working with the Ohio Innocence Project. (Roy Wood, “UC law students convince board: Man is innocent”, Cincinnati Post, Dec. 18; “Imprisoned on a shaky story”, (editorial), Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dec. 5).

Land of junk-fax lawsuits

Illinois lawyers have established their state as the new hotbed of junk-fax litigation, according to Chicago Business. “In 2002 in Downstate St. Clair County, a Circuit Court judge ordered Seventeen Motors Inc. to pay $7 million for sending about 33,000 unsolicited faxes.” Cleveland-based Charter One Bank recently “agreed to pay $1.8 million for sending unsolicited faxes to about 70,000 phone numbers.” And “Cook County Circuit Court Judge Patrick McGann alone has since 2002 presided over more than 100 lawsuits, all seeking class action status, filed against senders of junk faxes.” Particularly active in the business: Daniel Edelman and his firm of Edelman Combs Latturner & Goodwin LLC. (Shruti Dat? Singh, “An IL industry: junk-fax law suits”, Chicago Business, Dec. 12). For more on junk-fax litigation, see Mar. 19, 2004, Jul. 19, 2003, etc.

Update: “Judge reinstates $30 million verdict”

Geoffrey Fieger’s $30 million verdict in the cerebral-palsy case Hollins v. Jordan (Oct. 11), thrown out by one judge, has been reinstated by a second judge. The press coverage isn’t clear why Judge Lawther “voluntarily removed himself” from the case; Fieger had earlier threatened to file a motion to remove the judge (Aug. 31). Fieger isn’t satisfied with $30 million; he’s going to ask the court for an additional $50 million in “pre-judgment interest.” The defendants have not had an opportunity to comment, but they’ll presumably appeal to a higher court on the grounds that led the first judge to throw out the verdict. (James F. McCarty, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Nov. 20).

Update: Hollins v. Jordan

American Medical News has additional details on the Ohio cerebral palsy medical malpractice case of Hollins v. Jordan, which we covered Aug. 31. Interesting new and previously unreported details include: Hollins was an intrauterine growth-retarded baby, yet the plaintiff sought to blame his medical problems on a decision to hold a C-section in two hours instead of one; plaintiffs asked for triple the damages they had disclosed in an expert report; Geoffrey Fieger would regularly interrupt lawyers for the other side as if “to emulate TV trials in which lawyers can do and say whatever comes to mind.” Though Fieger wouldn’t talk to the American Medical News, the two lawyers gave an interview to an Illinois newspaper that seems to be unaware that the judge overturned the May verdict. (Tanya Albert, “Judge: Mega-verdict spawned by passion”, Oct. 11; Mark Samuels, “Difficult Questions: Who Should Pay And How Much?”, The Southern Illinoisan, Sep. 2; James F. McCarty, “Disabled boy gets $30 million”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, May 25). You may or may not be disturbed to learn that there is a Geoffrey Fieger fan club that was unhappy with the Ohio court’s decision, though don’t expect to find much in the way of reasoned analysis there. (Update, Nov. 20: verdict reinstated.)

In other cerebral palsy litigation news, the Wall Street Journal tells the tale of Brenda Stoltz. The lawyers she retained were excited about the prospect of a multi-million-dollar case involving future lifetime medical care of a brain-damaged baby, but when the child died shortly after, the attorneys dropped the case. (Rachel Zimmerman and Joseph T. Hallinan, “As Malpractice Caps Spread, Lawyers Turn Away Some Cases”, Oct. 8 ($), reprint; Grunt Doc blog, Oct. 8; Brad Parker, Galen’s Log blog, Oct. 8). The Journal article notes one side effect with non-economic damages caps; people without income–the elderly, the young, homemakers–who suffer wrongful death can be left without real recourse, though this is true for many types of untimely death.

Fieger does it again

We’ve previously covered the exploits of Geoffrey Fieger (Jul. 24; May 31, 2001). Fieger is nationally known for defending Dr. Kevorkian, but he’s also had over $100 million in jury verdicts thrown out because of his outrageous behavior in court. Fieger’s strategy is to inflame the jury, get a huge verdict, and then hope it stands up in response to the inevitable defense motion for new trial and appeal. Most recently, in a cerebral palsy case Fieger sought to blame on a Dr. Ronald Jordan, he delivered the following in a closing argument:

“Please, please, nurses,” Fieger said in his closing arguments, “I’m a little baby, I want to play baseball, I want to hug my mother, I want to tell her that I love her. Help me. Please help me to be born.”

Judge Lawther “called it a ‘performance far beyond the bounds of theatrical license,’ designed to appeal to the jury’s natural sympathy through passion and prejudice–two factors the law says should not enter into verdicts.” (Compare: John Edwards’s closing argument in a similar case discussed in a New York Times article we linked on Jan. 31.) A Cuyahoga County jury voted 6-2 to award $30 million to Walter Hollins in May, and the judge tossed the verdict last week. Fieger defends his closing as “his specialty.” Just so. (James F. McCarthy, “Judge rejects $30 million for malpractice”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Aug. 27). (Updates: more on case, Oct. 11; verdict reinstated, Nov. 20).

Location, Location, Location

Opponents of medical malpractice tort reform often argue that malpractice premiums are on the rise because insurance companies made bad investments, not because of out-of-control jury awards. But, if that’s so, then why do premiums vary so widely by geography? Consider the rates in Cleveland, Ohio, a city that can lay claim to some of the most aggressive trial lawyers in the state, as well as some of the most generous juries:

A comparison of standard, non-discounted rates the American Physicians Assurance Corporation charges in Ohio, Illinois and Michigan shows doctors in Cuyahoga County paying the highest rates in almost every category, and nearly double the Columbus tariff.

For instance, neurosurgeons in Cuyahoga County paid $212,000 annually, while their colleagues in Columbus paid $118,000 in malpractice premiums. Doctors in the high-risk specialties also paid about $20,000 less in Chicago and Detroit than their counterparts in Cuyahoga County.

‘The fact is, a day doesn’t go by when a Northeast Ohio doctor doesn’t get sued for multimillions of dollars,’ says Myers.

They Mind Very Much If You Smoke

Retired history professor, and former smoker, Robert Zangrando is suing his next door neighbor for smoking. The neighbor, who isn’t allowed to smoke inside her rented condominium, smokes outside on her patio, where the fumes evidently waft into the professor’s condo. The lawsuit, filed in January, was slated to begin this month, but has been delayed until September. In those intervening months, his neighbor has agreed to smoke in her backyard during only the first fifteen minutes of every hour. She’s also decided to move her family to a new neighborhood. Conflict resolved, right? Wrong. Zangrando is still pursuing his case. He’s charging her with battery and trespass and wants $50,000 in damages. The former smoker blames his neighbor’s smoking, not his own, for his declining lung capacity.

The report in the The Cleveland Plain Dealer notes that there has been an increase in these second-hand smoke lawsuits:

Secondhand smoke often leads to conflicts, and more than 420 lawsuits involving secondhand smoke have been filed in the last 25 years, according to research by Edward Sweda Jr., senior attorney for the Tobacco Control Resource Center at the Northeastern University School of Law in Boston.

“There have been an increasing number of lawsuits in recent years that corresponds to people’s increased awareness of secondhand smoke and the physical harm it can cause,” he said, “and the gradually increasing societal disfavor of tolerating such exposure.”

Well, it’s not just due to an increased awareness, it’s also due to the work of legal activist groups like this one.

NTSB says no defect, jury says $44 million

“Parker Hannifin Corp. of Cleveland, the world’s largest maker of hydraulic equipment, was told by a Los Angeles jury to pay $43.6 million to the families of three people killed in a 1997 SilkAir crash in Indonesia.

“The Los Angeles Superior Court jury yesterday determined that defects in a rudder control system caused the Boeing 737 to plunge from 35,000 feet, killing all 104 people aboard. The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that there were no mechanical defects and the pilot intentionally caused the crash.” Boeing and SilkAir had already settled out, and the jury refused to apportion any fault to them. “‘We are incredulous,’ said Lorrie Paul Crum, a spokeswoman for Cleveland-based Parker Hannifin, who said the company will appeal. ‘This is the best case for tort reform I’ve seen yet.'” (“Parker Hannifin will appeal jury award”, Akron Beacon Journal, Jul. 8). “The trial established Parker Hannifin’s liability and relatives of about 30 other people will now go to trial in the same Los Angeles court to determine how much Parker Hannifin owes them in damages, [said Walter Lack of Engstrom, Lipscomb & Lack, attorney for the families]”. Parker Hannifin says it plans to appeal. (“SilkAir crash: US firm told to pay US$44m”, Business Times of Singapore, Jul. 9).

Cleveland law firm breakup

Lurid allegations flew in a Cleveland courtroom after the breakup of medical-malpractice and personal-injury firm Kampinski & Mellino. A jury eventually ordered Charles Kampinski to pay almost $621,000 to Christopher Mellino, who had resigned from the firm. He can probably afford it: “Trial evidence indicated Kampinski earned about $36 million between 1997 and 2001 — $15.8 million in 2000 alone. Mellino, his longtime sidekick, raked in some $5.5 million over that span — peaking at $2.53 million in 2000 — under a pay scale that gave him 1 percent of the firm’s net fees for every year he worked there.” (Jim Nichols, “Ruling ends bad breakup of lawyers”, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jun. 18) MedPundit (Jun. 18) comments. Despite the Cleveland paper’s description of the law firm as “one of Ohio’s most successful personal-injury and medical-malpractice firms”, it does not boast a particularly high Google profile, currently scoring only a dozen or so hits under its former name.

Cuyahoga River fire revisited

On NRO today, Jonathan Adler debunks one of the key events in the history of environmental regulation — the 1969 fire on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. Says Adler: “Oil and debris on the river’s surface did burn in 1969, and federal environmental statutes were the result, but so much else of what we ‘know’ about the 1969 fire simply is not so. It was not evidence of rapidly declining environmental quality, nor was it clear evidence of the need for federal action.”

Update: This post at the Volokh Conspiracy includes a link to Adler’s article-length treatment of the subject.