- Recent easing of lawsuit crisis in U.S. owes much to rise of arbitration. Now organized litigation lobby is intent on taking that down, and Obama administration has helped with steps in labor law, consumer finance, and nursing-home care [James Copland, Manhattan Institute, related op-ed]
- SCOTUS should grant certiorari to clarify lawyers’ obligation to clients in class settlement, argues Lester Brickman [amicus brief courtesy SCOTUSBlog; earlier on Blackman v. Gascho]
- St. Louis, California, NYC asbestos litigation, south Florida and the Florida Supreme Court, and New Jersey are top five “winners” in latest annual “Judicial Hellholes” report, which also includes a focus on qui tam/whistleblower suits [American Tort Reform Association, report and executive summary]
- Deep pocket lawsuits remain systemic problem in America for political branches to address [David Freddoso, Washington Examiner investigation]
- Florida insurers struggle with secondhand suits under assignment of benefits doctrine [Insurance Journal]
- Storm lawsuits in Texas: “All Hail Breaks Loose” [Mark Pulliam, City Journal]
On Sunday Anderson Cooper at CBS “60 Minutes” covered one of our favorite issues: the way lawyers and clients sue retail businesses by the dozens or hundreds over defects in ADA accessibility compliance and then cash in the complaints for quick settlements. Actually entering the business is not always necessary: it can be enough to drive around the parking lot spotting technical violations.
South Florida store owner Mike Zayed says “no disabled customer had ever complained about the ramp, the sign, or the parking space,” which failed to comply with ADA specs. Zayed “doesn’t think the person who sued him was a real customer because the man claimed he encountered barriers inside the store that didn’t exist.” And now we’re beginning to see “Google lawsuits” in which the complainant consults online aerial maps to discover, for example, which motel owners haven’t yet installed the pool lifts that federal law recently made obligatory. The same attorney using the same client sued more than 60 defendants in 60 days over lack of pool lifts. “At last count, that attorney has sued nearly 600 businesses in just the last two years, many for not having pool lifts.” [Dec. 4 segment and script; full show here (segment begins 32:47).
“Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Title III lawsuits are up 63 percent over 2015, according to law firm Seyfarth Shaw. ADA Title III prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating on the basis of disability. The act applies to a variety of businesses and restaurants, including warehouses, movie theaters, schools, office buildings, day care facilities, doctors’ offices and any new construction of same must comply with the ADA construction standards.”…’More lawyers are finding out that this is a very…lucrative practice,’ said [Seyfarth partner Minh] Vu. The number of suits filed in federal court may top more than 7,000; more lawsuits were filed in the first half of this year than in all of 2013, according to the law firm’s research.” [Insurance Journal]
Related: “Sunshine state attorney seeks website changes, and costs and fees, from snow shoe seller” [John Breslin/Florida Record, and thanks for quote]
Florida primary voters have ousted state’s attorney Angela Corey, whose unprofessional conduct as prosecutor in the Martin/Zimmerman case and elsewhere has been a regular target of ours at Overlawyered. “The election caps a dizzying rise for [unknown challenger Melissa] Nelson and an equally shocking fall for Corey, one of the most polarizing political figures in Jacksonville history who generated national attention and enormous criticism for her prosecutions of George Zimmerman, Marissa Alexander, 12-year-old Cristian Fernandez and many others. Corey will depart office in the first week of January as the first incumbent state attorney in modern history to lose a contested election.” [Jacksonville Times-Union, Scott Shackford]
- Virginia “one of a minority of states that suspend driving privileges — in most cases, automatically — for failing to pay court costs and fines arising from offenses completely unrelated to driving.” [Washington Post editorial]
- D.C. Circuit “Rules DOJ Discovery Blue Book Off-Limits … For Now” [Jonathan Blanks, Cato]
- “The New York Times Knows Florida’s Self-Defense Law Is Bad but Can’t Figure Out Why” [Jacob Sullum]
- “We often hear that almost no one goes to prison simply for using marijuana.” But add “near a school”… [David Henderson]
- A forensics roundup from Radley Balko;
- “When Everything Is a Crime: The Overregulation of Ordinary Life” [Harvey Silverglate conversation with Reason’s Nick Gillespie]
- “Eliminating the biases of all police officers would do little to materially reduce the total number of African-American killings”; that goal will require other reforms to police practice [Sendhil Mullainathan, New York Times; Peter Moskos and Nick Selby; Washington Post analysis of 2015 police shooting deaths; Heather Mac Donald, WSJ]
- “End Needless Interactions With Police Officers During Traffic Stops” [Conor Friedersdorf] “Thin Blue Lies: How Pretextual Stops Undermine Police Legitimacy” [Jonathan Blanks, Case Western Reserve Law Review]
- Dallas police department has lately enjoyed some of the best community relations in the country. Will murder of officers change that? [Radley Balko, his previous] Bonus: extraordinary story of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s leadership through personal crisis after the massacre [Austin American-Statesman]
- A failure of body cameras? Matthew Feeney on Baton Rouge shooting of Alton Sterling [Cato Daily Podcast] People who aren’t cops don’t get a day off before a shooting investigation [Jonathan Blanks, PoliceMisconduct.net] LEOBRs aside, “Police union contracts in 72 of 81 cities reviewed make it harder to hold police accountable” [Anthony Fisher, Reason]
- Missouri judge strikes down post-Ferguson state law limiting how much municipalities can keep from fines and fees [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
- Elected Florida public defender, endorsed by police union, vowed not to oppose cuts to own office funds [Radley Balko]
- “Proposed Minneapolis ballot item would require police to carry insurance” [Minneapolis Star Tribune]
A good bit of creativity has gone into the faking of accidents and injuries, from NYC injury king Morris Eisen’s special ruler for photographing the size of potholes (calibrated fictitiously so as to exaggerate their size) to the Philadelphia auto guys who “went as far as to have employees gather and store deer blood, hair and carcasses in the shop’s garage to be used as props in photos that were later submitted with insurance claims.” And some are more audacious than creative, as when a California woman got in trouble after allegedly sending “faked treatment documents and burn photos from a hospital website” to bolster a hot coffee spill claim against McDonald’s.
An entertaining and informative treatment of this subject is Ken Dornstein’s 1996 Accidentally on Purpose: The Making of a Personal Injury Underworld in America, about which I wrote this review at the time. Excerpt from my review:
In Illinois, runners took over the Community Hospital of Evanston, dispensing with doctors’ supervision and discouraging “real” nurses from applying. (“You’re going to be so bored here. There is nothing to do.”) The driver of the courtesy van whisking clients from law offices told why he liked the job: “No one is really hurt” so “no one gets sick on me”.
True-crime books usually aim to show how the dirty deed is done, and this one does not disappoint:
How do I get started? For a “paper” accident, try inflicting “controlled damage” on a couple of cars with a sledgehammer in a dark parking lot. Insert passengers. Summon a witness. Gather broken glass in bags for re-use.
That was easy, what next? “Staged” accidents: Buy rustbuckets, insure one and run it into another one full of recruited claimants-to-be (“cows”). If you’re nice, give them pillows.
I need symptoms! “OK, you can take tingles, and you can take hips or your shoulder,” said one coach to his aspiring victims. “But don’t go saying the exact same things.” And be glad you aren’t being sent to one of the House of Pain operations that massage would-be claimants with sandpaper and jagged can lids or flog them with apple-filled sacks. Let alone “Nub City”, the Florida town that, in the 1970s, could boast that something like 10% of its population had practiced self-amputation for insurance, typically popping a left hand with a hunting rifle.
Vernon, Florida, subject of a famous documentary by Errol Morris, is the subject of coverage here (“By the end of the ’50s, the Florida Panhandle was responsible for two-thirds of all loss-of-limb accident claims in the United States.”) and here.
- The proportion of jobs requiring a license has risen from roughly 5 percent in the 1950s to 25 percent now, and why that matters [Edward Rodrigue and Richard V. Reeves, Brookings] Signs of bipartisan agreement that occupational licensing has gone too far [J.D. Tuccille, Reason] And surprisingly or not, it’s emerged as an Obama administration cause [Matt Yglesias, Vox]
- “25 quick takes (no kidding!) on the EEOC’s proposed national origin guidance” [Robin Shea]
- “Trial lawyers’ pecuniary interests have shifted our focus toward termination decisions, instead of hiring and promotion practices” [Merrily Archer]
- Is it lawful to move full-time employees to part-time work to avoid ObamaCare mandates? [Jon Hyman, related]
- Florida Supreme Court decision spells Christmas for workers’ comp lawyers, and insurers proceed to file 17 percent rate increase, so everyone’s happy [Insurance Journal]
- “Uber and the gig economy’s existential litigation threat” [Alison Frankel] Labor union grip on state legislature imperils benefits of sharing economy [Steven Greenhut]
Following the most lethal terror attack on U.S. soil since 9/11, I will set law and policy aside for this post.
Omar Mateen of Fort Pierce, Fla., known to the FBI as an Islamic State sympathizer and twice the subject of previous investigations, entered Orlando gay nightclub Pulse around 2 a.m. Sunday morning heavily armed and killed 50 persons after taking hostages. Authorities called his attack “well organized and well prepared”; Mateen had firearms training and according to reports had been scoping out gay clubs in the area before the attack.
As in two earlier attacks on American soil — those against a cartoon exhibition in Garland, Texas, and in San Bernardino, California — Mateen used contemporaneous public media (in this case, a 911 call) to pledge his allegiance to the leadership of Islamic State. As Rukmini Callimachi notes in today’s New York Times, this follows a protocol announced by Islamic State for independent fighters acting in sympathy with IS. A few hours later an Islamic State news agency hailed Mateen as an IS fighter, effectively accepting his pledge of allegiance.
The group’s head has urged followers in the West to act without prompting or coordination, selecting targets and employing attack methods in line with instructions published by IS. For example, IS has recommended capturing hostages and holding them in a sealed off space, which makes it likely that a prolonged siege situation will develop for maximum media interest, and that the attacker will die in an eventual police operation, reducing the likelihood of intelligence debriefing following a capture. As at the Bataclan in Paris, the passage of a long period before police rescue arrives tends to augur poorly for victims’ chances of survival.
The instructions-for-lone-wolves model is intended precisely to obviate the need for IS to know of or direct its supporters’ actions in advance. “The fact that there is no link back to the core is *by design* and is intended to protect the organization in an age of surveillance,” writes Callimachi on Twitter.
If you weren’t thinking of Gay Pride Month in a major American tourism city as a likely target for murderous jihadist attack, you should be. As Karol Markowicz writes on Twitter, “Just like it wasn’t a random ‘bunch of folks in a deli in Paris’, let’s not pretend it was a random bunch of folks in a club in Orlando.” If you’re gay, Islamic State’s ideology wants to kill you, even more than it wants to kill unbelieving Westerners in general. For us in America after today, that’s no longer the stuff of distant headlines.
After a Florida lawyer’s TV ads cultivate his “reputation for aggressively going after drunken drivers,” guess what happens next [New York Daily News]