Posts Tagged ‘expert witnesses’

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

Prosecution roundup

  • Fourth Circuit will review forfeiture case of “pre-conviction, pre-trial restraint of untainted property” [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
  • “Voodoo Science in the Courtroom: The U.S. has relied on flawed forensic-evidence techniques for decades, falsely convicting many” [Alex Kozinski, WSJ; ABA Journal] “Highest court in Massachusetts throws out another shaken-baby syndrome conviction” [Radley Balko on Boston Globe]
  • Federal judge Andrew Hanen gets results! “Justice Department orders more ethics training for lawyers” [Politico, earlier]
  • Like settlement slush funds, contingency-fee prosecutions divert money from the public fisc to influential private players [Margaret (“Peggy”) Little, CEI]
  • California appeals court: Orange County district attorney’s office’s war on a judge was legal but represented “extraordinary abuse” [C.J. Ciaramella]
  • “New Jersey Bill Would Punish Eating, Drinking While Driving” [Reason]

November 4 roundup

  • “How to write an overlawyered email, in 4 easy steps!” [Inspired Law Blog]
  • Fifth Circuit upholds conviction of Texas lawyer Marc Rosenthal over pattern of fraud including but not limited to suborning of false witness testimony;
  • Emoticons/emojis begin arriving in court as evidence, a federal judge in Michigan having already been “asked to rule on the meaning of ‘:-P.'” [Amanda Hess, Slate]
  • Disabled access regulations as hobble-thy-competitor method: “AT&T says T-Mobile and Sprint Wi-Fi calling violates disability rules” [ArsTechnica]
  • From back in 2012, but missed: a law professor’s book assails fine print in contracts, and Scott Greenfield responds;
  • So strange how many expert witnesses say they have no idea how much they make [Brendan Kenny, Lawyerist]
  • Get those troops out of my house: “A symposium on the oft-neglected Third Amendment” [Ilya Somin]

Police unions roundup

  • Police union files grievance to regain job for University of Cincinnati cop charged in Sam DuBose death [WXIX] Also Ohio: “Forget Criminal Charges. Disciplining Officers In Cleveland Is Hard Enough” [Carimah Townes, ThinkProgress] “How Police Unions Contribute to the Police Violence Problem” [Ed Krayewski]
  • Profile of Fraternal Order of Police head [Politico via Radley Balko, who comments] When taking on public employee unions, GOP governors often sidestep police, firefighters [New York Times in March]
  • FOP president says Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR/LEOBOR) laws don’t “afford police any greater rights than those possessed by other citizens” Reality check please [Scott Greenfield on NY Times “Room for Debate“, Marshall Project “Blue Shield” in-depth look, earlier on these laws]
  • El Paso union contract “gives cops two days to get their stories straight after a shooting” [see “Responsive Documents,” p. 55, in public records request via @TimCushing] Frequent-flyer testifier in police shootings: “His conclusions are consistent: The officer acted appropriately.” [New York Times]
  • Private sector unionism, public, what’s the difference? Now we’re finding out [Greenfield]
  • Trying to picture a US politician talking back to organized constabulary the way the UK’s Theresa May did a few weeks back [BBC]
  • “‘It seems like the citizens would appreciate a lack of police presence, and that’s exactly what they’re getting,’ he said.” [Washington Post (“vacate the streets and see how the community likes it”)] “Baltimore killings soar to a level unseen in 43 years” [Juliet Linderman/AP “Big Story”; WBAL; earlier on NYPD’s “strike while still getting paid” tactics]

Detroit: “Scared to death” theory brings $300K after 85-year-old’s crash

An 85-year-old driver crashed into the back of a tractor-trailer, both vehicles traveling at relatively low speed, and was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. A Michigan appeals court agreed that a jury could hear an expert witness’s theory, dismissed by a cardiologist as “silly,” that Abdulla Kassem had suffered a heart attack that “could have been caused by a ‘fear of impending doom,’ just before the 2008 crash in Dearborn. There was no autopsy.” An insurance company has now paid $300,000 to settle the case. [AP/WDIV]