In Sunday’s Times reporter Anthony DePalma takes a much-needed look at attorney Paul Napoli and his Napoli Bern law firm, which is now representing thousands of plaintiffs claiming injury from 9/11 dust inhalation and before that made its name in the fen-phen litigation. Among the controversies that have trailed it to the present day from that affair: charges that it divvied up settlements in a way favorable to its own fee interests, and that it used unreliable “echo mill” expert reports from echocardiologists attesting injury to fen-phen claimants. Prof. Lester Brickman, friend of this site, is quoted extensively. See our extensive earlier coverage at Overlawyered: Dec. 16, 2002, Sept. 21, 2003, etc. (echo mills); Dec. 28, 2001, Feb. 14, 2005, and Mar. 29, 2007 (settlement practices); Feb. 25, 2008 (broad net cast in 9/11 suits)(cross-posted from Point of Law).
Ramon Gilsanz, a structural engineer with a small office in Manhattan, showed up at the World Trade Center site to pitch in after the disaster; like many others, he started as a volunteer and found his role evolving into a subcontractor at the city’s request. Now, like about 130 other structural engineers, he is named in many of 8,000 lawsuits filed by the Paul Napoli firm and others over dust exposure to various bystanders. He and another structural engineer said they worked alongside the other rescue and cleanup workers and were never assigned responsibility for air quality. (Jim Dwyer, “For Engineer, a Cloud of Litigation After 9/11”, New York Times, Feb. 23).
- “I’ve always thought that promoting yourself as a ‘Super Lawyer’ or ‘Best Lawyer’ was pathetic, self-aggrandizing and meaningless.” [Larry Bodine; Karen Donovan, Portfolio (“cheesiest”); ABA Journal]
- That big campaign by bossy public health groups and tobacco-suit veterans for legal restrictions on fat in the American diet is still with us, even as its scientific credibility falters [Tierney, NYT]
- “1,700 Connecticut Attorneys Suspended Over $110 Bill” — now that sounds like a bargain [ABA Journal]
- Blackwater meets Elmer Gantry? John O’Sullivan shouldn’t plan on being invited to the Edwards inaugural [NRO Corner]
- Nor would it be prudent to invite Felix Salmon and Ben Stein to the same dinner party [Portfolio; more]
- Truly dreadful idea from feminist Northwestern lawprof Kimberly Yuracko: constitution obliges states to ban sexist homeschooling [SSRN via Prawfsblawg; Serious Learning, Ragamuffin Studies, TalkToAction, Marcy Muser]
- New at Point of Law: some results of Tuesday’s election; employers whipsawed on risk of fetal injury; signs of exhaustion at long jury trials; wanna become a law professor?; 9/11 dust injury, or ground-up pills in his bloodstream?; more on Chevron/Texaco and the Ecuador Indians; dept. of New York Times self-parody; and more;
- Lawyer who sued McDonald’s over cheese-allergic client served cheeseburger (Aug. 10, Sept. 1) asks to be released from case, says he’s quitting law practice [LegalNewsLine]
- Of seven leading White House aspirants, all but McCain have law degrees, and all the other six but Romney practiced as lawyers [Liptak, NYT]
- UK: “A lorry driver sentenced to 150 hours’ community service for a drunken racist assault has been let off after probation chiefs claimed the punishment could breach EU working hours limits.” [Daily Mail]
- Notation on Scruggs’s court file: to be “kept away from the press” [five years ago on Overlawyered]
New York City police officer Cesar Borja died tragically young of lung disease last month. Advocacy groups (including a website that regularly accuses tort reformers of using oversimplified “pop” anecdotes) and Senator Clinton pushed his story to the media to promote a multi-billion-dollar taxpayer giveaway program (that, not incidentally, would provide contingent fees for attorneys) by claiming that Borja was sickened as a hero working “fourteen-hour days in the smoldering pit”, and was killed by alleged government lies about the safety of the air (though the government did call for respirators that they admitted Borja didn’t wear) and the media bought it in front-page tabloid stories. (That same website has been promising since it started to link “Ground Zero workers’ challenges to a larger critique of the tort reform movement”, but has yet to formally justify that non sequitur.)
Except more facts are coming to light about Borja, and as the New York Times reports, “very few of the most dramatic aspects of Officer Borja’s powerful story appear to be fully accurate”:
- On September 11, Borja reported for duty… at the tow pound in Queens where he spent most of his career.
- Borja did not work near the site until December 24, 2001, “after substantial parts of the site had been cleared and the fire in the remaining pile had been declared out.”
- Borja thus never worked in the smoldering pit.
- Borja never worked a 14-hour shift; rather, he worked a few shifts for a total of 17 days directing traffic to add to his overtime pay, most of which were in March and April 2002, and all blocks away from Ground Zero.
- Borja smoked a pack a day until the mid-1990s.
Of course, evidence may yet arise linking Borja’s death to his work near the site. The New York Police Department and doctors, however, have yet to do so. (Sewell Chan and Al Baker, “Weeks After a Death, Twists in Some 9/11 Details”, New York Times, Feb. 13). About 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis each year; the fatal disease has no cure.
Update: David Nieporent has an amusing comment about Bizarro-Overlawyered’s shameless reaction to the revelation.
The post David responds to makes the mistake of making clear its political motivations for exaggerating health hazards from Ground Zero cleanup: a partisan smear of possible Republican presidential nominee Rudy Giuliani.
- Bill Moyers calls his lawyers. [Adler @ Volokh]
- Jim Copland: 9/11 suits against New York City over emergency recovery work “simply wrong.” [New York Post]
- Did the PSLRA help shareholders? [Point of Law]
- 32-year-old Oregon grocery store employee sues, claiming that Green Day stole his never-recorded high-school writings. [Above the Law]
- Does one assume the risk of a broken nose if one agrees to a sparring match at a karate school? [TortsProf]
- “At KFC (né Kentucky Fried Chicken), the chicken is still fried. At Altria (né Philip Morris), the cigarettes still cause cancer. And at the American Association for Justice, some will say that the trial lawyers are still chasing ambulances.” [New York Times via Point of Law]
- More on global warming lawsuits. [Point of Law]
- Dahlia Lithwick, wrong again when bashing conservatives? Quelle surprise! [Ponnuru @ Bench Memos; see also Kaus] Earlier: POL Oct. 6 and links therein. Best commentary on New Jersey gay marriage decision is at Volokh.
- Michael Dimino asks for examples of frivolous lawsuits. What’s the over-under until it turns into a debate over the McDonald’s coffee case? [Prawfsblawg]
- Unintended consequences of campaign finance reform. [Zywicki @ Volokh; Washington Times]
- Who’s your least favorite Supreme Court justice? [Above the Law]
- More on Borat and the law. [Slate] Earlier on OL: Dec. 9 and links therein.
- “Thrilled Juror Feels Like Murder Trial Being Put On Just For Her.” [Onion]
- A revealing post by the Milberg Weiss Fellow at DMI: companies make “too much” profit. I respond: “Again, if you really think the problem is that insurance companies charge ‘too much’ and make ‘too much’ money, then the profitable solution is to take advantage of this opportunity and open a competing insurance company that charges less instead of whining about it. (Or, you could use a fraction of the profits to hire a dozen bloggers and thus solve the problem at the same time keeping the whining constant.)” [Dugger]