Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

Deep pocket files: Jonathan Samuels v. Bellino Equities Boca

Jonathan Samuels employed a 52-year-old widow named Marta Pinto, who was having domestic abuse problems with her boyfriend, 79-year-old Marc Benayer. Samuels helped Pinto disengage from that relationship, which apparently upset Benayer. On a Rosh Hashana in Boca Raton, Benayer greeted Samuels at his synagogue’s services, wished him a happy new year, and asked him outside to chat; Samuels agreed, and Benayer shot Samuels twice in the back. Samuels was in intensive care for two weeks and has yet to return to work; Benayer has been charged with attempted murder. Samuels has sued Benayer (of course), but also… the owner of the shopping center that leases space to the synagogue, alleging failure to provide adequate security. (Howard Goodman, “Blaming shopping center for assault makes no sense”, Sun-Sentinel, Feb. 16).

Other Deep Pocket File entries.

More updates

The St. Petersburg Times has a feature on $15-million Dillard’s escalator settlement for Kerriana Johnson and her family (Feb. 2); just in time for Valentine’s Day, it’s a love letter to the plaintiffs’ attorney team of Justin Johnson and Michael Keane. It’s a little much, especially when the reporter marvels that Johnson and Keane were clever enough to videotape depositions, something that’s been all but standard practice for big cases for at least five years. Another all-too-typical strategy decision, credulously praised by the reporter who covered the trial: interrogate Dillard’s employees who had nothing to do with the accident, and then claim their ignorance about the facts shows the callousness of the corporation. (Jamie Thompson, “Legal ‘Odd Couple’ formidable in court”, Feb. 7; Jamie Thompson, “Witnesses recount store horrors”, St. Pete Times, Jan. 19). Interesting aspect we hadn’t previously commented on: the girl’s mother, Lori Medvitz, had been awarded only $20,000 by jurors; the settlement gives her (as opposed to her daughter) $3.8 million. None of the press coverage dares to suggest that there may have been a bit of a conflict of interest there. (Jamie Thompson, “Escalator suit ends in $15-million deal” St. Pete Times, Feb. 2).

The Los Angeles Times has more detail about the fraud case that led to a mistaken $1.8 billion verdict (Feb. 8); the defendant’s story is quite fishy. (Bob Pool, “Essay Flap’s Plot Takes Strange Turn”, Feb. 10).

Dillard’s pays $15M to settle escalator suit

Dillard’s has agreed to pay $15 million to the family of a young girl who lost three fingers when they became trapped in an escalator in one of its Florida stores. At the time of the settlement, the jury had already awarded the family $9.4 million in compensatory damages and was about to hear evidence in the punitive damage phase. The department store chain admitted some liability for the accident, because the escalator had a history of catching shoppers’ shoes. (“Dillard’s must pay $9 million to girl maimed by escalator, South Florida Sun Sentinel,” Feb. 1)

The jury, however, assigned only fifteen percent of the blame to the little girl’s mother, who left her five year-old unsupervised in the store. At the time of the incident, the girl was playing on the down escalator, running and jumping up it in the wrong direction. She slipped while doing so and her fingers became trapped. (Jamie Thompson, “Dillard’s blames escalator accident on girl’s misuse,” St. Pete Times, Jan. 28)

Apparently, some members of the jury have not seen the movie Mallrats, which clearly warns of this danger. At least two jurors wanted to give the little girl all $35 million asked by her lawyers. (Jamie Thompson, “Settlement Surprises Jurors,” St. Pete Times, Feb. 2)

Judicial Hellholes III Report

The American Tort Reform Association today released its third annual Judicial Hellholes report — ATRA’s report on the worst court systems in the United States where “‘Equal Justice Under Law’ does not exist.”

Here is the press release from ATRA. The highlights, including the top nine worst areas (seven counties and two regions — all of West Virginia and all of South Florida) and a salute to Mississippi for its tremendous and far-reaching tort reforms are on this page. The full report is in PDF format here.

But there may yet be hope:

Read On…

In the Kerry skyboxes

Unlike his running mate John Edwards, John Kerry has willingly disclosed the identities of his “bundlers”, the financiers responsible for raising large amounts of money in grouped donations. (He has 266 who’ve come in at the $100,000+ level, compared with more than 525 for George W. Bush.) Names familiar to readers of this site are well represented: “Trial lawyers who represent injured people in suits against business are prominent Kerry fans. Among his $100,000 Vice Chairmen are Florida plaintiff’s lawyer Kirk Wager, who hosted Mr. Kerry’s first presidential fund-raiser at his Coconut Grove home in December 2002, and attorneys Richard Scruggs of Mississippi and John Coale of Washington, both part of the tobacco companies’ $206 billion settlement with 46 states.” However, Mr. Kerry (like Mr. Bush, but unlike Mr. Edwards) also raises large amounts from other types of law firms, including firms known for lobbying and for general business work, including Mintz Levin and Piper Rudnick. (Wayne Slater, “Vested interests in Kerry”, Dallas Morning News, Jul. 25).

“Lawyers, especially trial lawyers, are the engine of the Kerry fundraising operation,” reports the Washington Post. “Lawyers and law firms have given more money to Kerry, $12 million, than any other sector. One out of four of Kerry’s big-dollar fundraisers is a lawyer, and one out of 10 is an attorney for plaintiffs in personal injury, medical malpractice or other lawsuits seeking damages. …

“Among the trial lawyers who raised money for Kerry early in the campaign were Michael V. Ciresi of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP, who represented Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota in its successful $6.5 billion suit against the tobacco industry, and Michael T. Thorsnes, who recently retired from his San Diego law firm after winning $250 million in settlements and verdicts.” After Kerry locked up the race, “One trend was a sharp increase in the number of trial lawyers joining the Kerry fundraising campaign. Among those soon joining as major fundraisers were John P. Coale, one of the nation’s most prominent trial lawyers, whose better-known cases include the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India, and at least 16 plane crashes; Robert L. Lieff, founding partner of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP, a San Francisco-based firm that lists four class-action settlements in 2004 alone totaling $176.5 million; and San Francisco lawyer Arnold Laub, whose firm Web site lists its participation in the $3.7 billion fen-phen settlement, a $185 million toxic chemical award and $4.5 million for a pedestrian accident case. … John Morgan, an Orlando lawyer whose firm specializes in medical malpractice, said he has helped raise more than $500,000 for Kerry.” (Thomas B. Edsall, James V. Grimaldi and Alice R. Crites, “Redefining Democratic Fundraising”, Washington Post, Jul. 24)(our politics archive).

They came to stay

Careful about letting a friend or relative crash at your house: various Floridians found themselves in for legal complications when temporary guests decided they didn’t want to leave. Calling the sheriff doesn’t necessarily work, and it’s legally hazardous to have locks changed, cut off utilities or put the interloper’s possessions out on the street. (Marcus Franklin, “Law slanted in favor of unwelcome guests”, St. Petersburg Times, Feb. 17).

Celebration educational malpractice lawsuit

A Florida appeals court has ruled that a family may sue a school district and a Disney subsidiary that developed the community of Celebration for allegedly false representation in marketing materials that the public school in the area was “cutting-edge.” The family decided that the schools weren’t up to their particular standards, and has chosen a private school. (Kelly Cramer, Miami Daily Business Review, “Parents Can Sue Disney [sic] Over School Sales Pitch”, Dec. 12; Simon v. The Celebration Co. opinion) (via Jacobs).

Read On…

Scarborough unfair

Did you know that MSNBC talk host and former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough is an attorney with Pensacola, Fla.’s Levin Papantonio, one of the nation’s premier mass tort firms, which has its fingers in everything from asbestos, breast implants and prescription drugs to aviation accidents to tobacco to Wall Street to environmentalist assaults on factory farming? Or that Scarborough continues on the firm’s payroll despite his on-air fame? We didn’t. Now Scarborough has gotten in a bit of trouble by inviting name partner Mike Papantonio to come on the show and attack “a wood-preserving company called Osmose, saying it makes a dangerous product used in playground equipment and has ‘figured out how to poison our children and make a profit in the meantime.'” — all without mentioning that Papantonio is his law partner and that his/their firm happens to be suing Osmose. (Howard Kurtz, “MSNBC Host Gets Bitten by His ‘Rat of the Week'”, Washington Post, Sept. 13; Doug Haller, “Joe-TV”, Pensacola News Journal, Sept. 14). Radley Balko and Arthur Silber comment. (Update Jan. 3: Scarborough ceases taking stipends from law firm).

How dangerous is “pressure-treated” (chemically preserved) wood, anyway? Once you get past the scare-headlines about arsenic on the playground, the National Law Journal noted in March that trial lawyers suing makers of the wood have enjoyed very limited success, one reason being that there is no particular illness that predictably results from routine exposure to chromated copper arsenate (CCA). Take care not to inhale gusts of sawdust or fumes from burning wood, and it seems you’re unlikely to have anything to worry about (David Hechler, “The Poisoned Wood Mystery”, National Law Journal, Mar. 20)