“Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have charged a physician and the owner of a medical consulting firm over a scheme to persuade women to have their pelvic mesh implants surgically removed to bolster the value of lawsuits against the devices’ manufacturers.” The prosecutors charge that the two lied to women about the health risks of mesh and of its surgical removal, and participated in a system of improper bribes and kickbacks. “The procedures were paid with money from high-interest cash advances arranged by a group of so-called litigation finance firms.” [Matthew Goldstein, New York Times, earlier on pelvic mesh here, here, here, etc.] More: Goldstein on suits by clients against lawyers.
In more than 300 cases, a defense attorney in the Australian state of Victoria acted as a police informant to undermine her clients’ interests [Chris Vedelago, Cameron Houston & Tammy Mills/Sydney Morning Herald, Houston, Mills & Vedelago/Melbourne Age followup, Rohan Smith/news.com.au on Informer 3838 affair]
- Big win for scientific rigor in the courts as New Jersey joins 40 other states in adopting Daubert standards for expert testimony, in In re Accutane Litigation [Washington Legal Foundation: Evan Tager and Surya Kundu, Joe Hollingsworth and Robert Johnston] With the long domination of the Florida Supreme Court by its liberal bloc soon to end, is it too much to hope that Florida joins the national trend too? [Evan Tager and Matthew Waring, WLF]
- California lawyers sue electric scooter companies and manufacturers after users run into pedestrians on street, park improperly in handicapped spaces, and leave them in places where they can be tripped over [Cyrus Farivar, ArsTechnica]
- Defendants obtain fees and costs in suit against siren maker over firefighter hearing loss [Stephen McConnell, Drug and Device Law]
- Some safety advocates’ flip-flops on autonomous vehicle legislation in Congress might relate to trial lawyers’ agenda of the moment [Marc Scribner, CEI, more]
- “Labaton Sucharow agrees to return $4.8M in attorney fees after attorney finder fee is revealed” [ABA Journal, earlier on State Street/Arkansas Teacher Retirement System case here, etc.]
- MGM, Fox settle class action claiming that box set of “all” James Bond films lacked two made outside the franchise [Eriq Gardner/Hollywood Reporter, earlier]
A Southern California class action firm “is accused of bribing cash-strapped 20-somethings to serve as lead plaintiffs and submit false testimony.” The firm, Newport Trial Group, is active in many categories of litigation readers of this site may find familiar, including suits over alleged food and cosmetic mislabeling, slack fill, and failure to advise customers that their phone calls were being recorded, and its founder has also been listed as counsel in multiple suits against large corporations over web accessibility and claims of patent infringement by non-practicing entities. [Jenna Greene, American Lawyer Litigation Daily courtesy Texans for Lawsuit Reform]
Ironically, the complicated and protracted litigation that led to the new setback arose not from the numerous suits the law firm or its founder filed against household-name national companies, but from one against a purveyor of nutritional items and supplements such as colloidal silver. Excerpt:
The district court judge, James Selna, explained his reasoning in a June 12 decision that does not bode well for the firm.
Natural Immunogenics, he wrote, “has put forth sufficient evidence to support its contention that defendants operated a fraudulent scheme to manufacture litigation.”
“Specifically, NIC has established that in camera review may reveal evidence that defendants have a pattern of manufacturing litigation, which involves the [Newport Trial Group] defendants identifying companies vulnerable to false advertising or wiretap litigation, recruiting individuals to serve as lead plaintiffs, instructing the individuals on exactly what steps to take to give them the appearance of having suffered actionable injuries, and concealing and misrepresenting the contrived nature of the lawsuits from the courts.”
A noteworthy podcast: I join Dr. Saurabh Jha [@RogueRad on Twitter] for an lengthy discussion of how American tort and medical malpractice law has changed over the past century, similarities and differences with Britain, how ethics in the legal field stacks up against ethical trends in medicine and the pharmaceutical business, contingency fees, the successes and shortcomings of legislated tort reform, trends in the courts, incentives for medical testing, and much more. It’s all part of Dr. Jha’s podcast series, associated with the Journal of the American College of Radiology. You can listen here.
A “web of concealment and highly questionable ethical practices by experienced attorneys who should have known better”: a court has unsealed a scathing report on the conduct in the State Street case of a leading class action firm, Labaton Sucharow, and Garrett Bradley of the Thornton Law Firm in Boston. The court took particular notice of Labaton’s connections through a Houston middleman (to whom it had agreed to pay an undisclosed $4.1 million fee) to the Arkansas Teacher Retirement System, which served as institutional plaintiff [Daniel Fisher/Forbes, Amanda Bronstad/NLJ] Earlier here and here.
- “Egregious” conduct: Fourth Circuit upholds $150,000 sanctions against attorneys who “challenged the authenticity of a loan agreement for two years before revealing that they possessed an identical copy, obtained from their client, before filing the complaint.” [Six v. Generations Federal Credit Union]
- Food bill: Congress seems intent on not letting the public find out how well grocers do from the SNAP program [Jonathan Ellis, USA Today]
- “Why Trump’s Higher Tariffs Now are Unlikely to Result in Lower Tariffs Later” [Coyote]
- After 10 years, Nathan Myhrvold’s patent assertion fund idea hasn’t done so well [Nathan Vardi, Forbes]
- Potential of “cottage food” laws remains unrealized [Baylen Linnekin]
- Why noted regulation critic David Schoenbrod is also critical of the regulatory reform proposal known as REINS [Philip Wallach, Real Clear Policy]
- “A Lawyer Who Helped an Exoneree Blow Through $750,000 Is Under Investigation” [Joseph Neff, Marshall Project]
- Department of State agency accreditation delays help worsen decline in international adoption [Kim Phagan-Hansel, Chronicle of Social Change]
- Fifth Circuit affirms sanctions award against ADA attorney Omar Rosales over “reprehensible misconduct” including “fabricating evidence” and “fraud on the court.” [Deutsch v. Phil’s Icehouse]
- Baltimore’s school mismanagement, GOP delegates cool on beer reform, non-citizen voting, Metro subway decay and more in my new Maryland roundup [Free State Notes]
- Eccentric English judge of olden days: “The Incoherence of Serjeant Arabin” [Bryan A. Garner]
- “L.A. Lawmakers Looking To Take Legal Action Against Google For Not Solving Long-Running City Traffic Problems” [Tim Cushing, TechDirt on controversy over Waze routing of traffic onto steep-graded street]
Citing “falsehoods,” “deceptions,” and “inflammatory evidence” on the plaintiff side, Judge Jerry Smith, writing for a Fifth Circuit panel, has overturned a $151 million hip implant verdict won by prominent attorney Mark Lanier against Johnson & Johnson. Reports the ABA Journal:
The court said Lanier had presented father-and-son orthopedic surgeons as unpaid experts, emphasizing their compelling pro bono testimony while contrasting the “bought testimony” of the defendants’ experts. Yet Lanier made a $10,000 charitable donation to the father’s favorite charity before trial, and sent checks totaling $65,000 to the surgeons after the trial along with thank-you notes.
The pretrial donation check and the post-trial payments “are individually troubling, collectively devastating,” Smith wrote. “Lanier’s failure to disclose the donation, and his repeated insistence that [one of the surgeons] had absolutely no pecuniary interest in testifying, were unequivocally deceptive.”
New York Times deep dive into the ethical morass of pelvic-mesh-suit recruitment, in which lawsuit shops recruit women into often unnecessary and sometimes dangerous surgery to remove implanted material, a step needed for claims to be lucrative. [Matthew Goldstein and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, New York Times] Opening paragraphs:
Jerri Plummer was at home in Arkansas, watching television with her three children, when a stranger called to warn that her life was in danger.
The caller identified herself only as Yolanda. She told Ms. Plummer that the vaginal mesh implant supporting her bladder was defective and needed to be removed. If Ms. Plummer didn’t act quickly, the caller urged, she might die.
And how, in the age of HIPAA, did the recruiter on the phone come to know so very much about the medical history of the woman being pitched? What follows is a story of conduct that is shocking, appalling, unethical — but neither surprising nor unusual to those of us who have been writing about the abuses of the litigation business for many years. Plaintiffs suing over back pain after accidents, for example, are regularly steered into unnecessary back surgery, and plaintiffs in the breast-implant litigation were steered into removal surgeries for which the only indications were legal, not medical. These alas are the incentives of injury litigation: run up the medicals (the higher the bill for testing and therapy, the higher the claim value) and if you’re suing over a drug or therapy itself, maybe disengage from it to show your fears are genuine.
All that said, congratulations to the Times and reporters Goldstein and Silver-Greenberg for an investigation that shines a bright light on the need for reform. More: Beck.