Posts Tagged ‘expert witnesses’

Liability roundup

  • 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]

December 4 roundup

Liability roundup

A shaken baby syndrome researcher reconsiders

British neuropathologist Waney Squier spent many years as an expert witness in court assisting in the prosecution of defendants accused of causing Shaken Baby Syndrome. Then a closer engagement with the evidence caused her to change her mind — and the story that follows, which she tells in this TEDx Wandsworth talk, must be heard to be believed. Sue Luttner has more for the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. More on the story: Jon Robins, The Justice Gap; Theodore Dalrymple, Spectator.

More: “Judge orders release of woman who served 11 years behind bars in grandson’s death” [Marisa Gerber, L.A. Times; earlier on shaken baby syndrome] More about Deborah Tuerkheimer’s 2014 book Flawed Convictions, which I haven’t seen, is here.

Fifth Circuit overturns $151 million Mark Lanier verdict

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.”

L.A. jury blames ovarian cancer on baby powder, awards $417 million

Does the naturally occurring mineral talc, found in Johnson & Johnson’s baby powder, cause ovarian cancer? According to the National Cancer Institute last month:

The weight of evidence does not support an association between perineal talc exposure and an increased risk of ovarian cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society:

It has been suggested that talcum powder might cause cancer in the ovaries if the powder particles (applied to the genital area or on sanitary napkins, diaphragms, or condoms) were to travel through the vagina, uterus, and fallopian tubes to the ovary.

Many studies in women have looked at the possible link between talcum powder and cancer of the ovary. Findings have been mixed, with some studies reporting a slightly increased risk and some reporting no increase. Many case-control studies have found a small increase in risk. But these types of studies can be biased because they often rely on a person’s memory of talc use many years earlier. Two prospective cohort studies, which would not have the same type of potential bias, have not found an increased risk.

For any individual woman, if there is an increased risk, the overall increase is likely to very be small. Still, talc is widely used in many products, so it is important to determine if the increased risk is real. Research in this area continues.

On the other hand, some experts believe the risks are higher. Our contemporary American legal way of handling this disagreement is to submit the question in a series of high-stakes trials in venues selected by plaintiff’s lawyers, in which juries will listen to a battle of hired experts. On Aug. 21 a Los Angeles jury told Johnson and Johnson to pay $417,000,000 to Eva Echeverria, a 63-year-old California woman who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. [ Margaret Cronin Fisk and Edvard Pettersson/Bloomberg, ABA Journal, Amanda Bronstad/NLJ, Alison Kodjak/NPR, Eric Lieberman/Daily Caller]

Whiplash and incentives, abroad

“In my first 20 years as a consultant I wrote many reports which were economical with the truth – the truth being that there was very little wrong with the vast majority of compensation claimants that I saw. I was moving with the herd.” While lawyers, insurers, and others are all complicit, writes Dr. Charlie Marks, the onus is on the medical profession to speak up against medico-legal misdiagnosis [Irish Times via Patrick Collinson, The Guardian (“Whiplash: the myth that funds a £20bn gravy train”)]

Blue-ribbon excuses: “Lawyers for quadruple murder suspect blame low sodium levels”

“Medical experts testifying in Erbie Bowser’s capital murder trial Tuesday blamed his deadly rampage on a ‘perfect storm’ in his brain, ultimately triggered by low sodium levels in his body. Bowser, 48, is on trial in the killings of four women — including his girlfriend and his estranged wife — and the injuring of four children in two attacks at homes in Dallas and DeSoto on Aug. 7, 2013.” [Tasha Tsiaperas, Dallas News via Jackie Salo, New York Post]

Litigation roundup