Posts Tagged ‘Illinois’

Damned If You Do Department: Campus Suicides

We’ve previously noted that colleges, out of fear from liability over student suicides, have been taking extreme steps to preempt the problem by requiring medical leaves of absence. George Washington University discovered that avoiding suits from Scylla doesn’t mean that Charybdis won’t sue: Jordan Nott has sued the school after being barred from campus after seeking hospitalization for suicidal thoughts. Liability reform is clearly needed: either schools aren’t responsible for student suicides, or they aren’t responsible for the steps they take to prevent such suicides. (In the famous Elizabeth Shin/MIT case, the parties recently settled after a court ruling expanding schools’ liability in suicide cases, including the possible liability of administrators without mental health credentials.)

Amanda Schaffer, writing in Slate, argues for a middle ground—a program based on one at the University of Illinois intervening in the lives of suicidal students without kicking them off campus. But Schaffer doesn’t recognize that the middle ground doesn’t resolve liability issues, including hindsight-based lawsuits for the cases where the middle ground isn’t successful; even the Illinois program has reduced suicides by only half. Educational reform can’t happen without legal reform.

Blawg Review #56 at Point of Law

Ted and I join with Jim Copland, Larry Ribstein, Tom Kirkendall, and Sam Munson this morning as co-hosts of the week’s traveling carnival of law-related blogs, Blawg Review, over at Point of Law. A very few highlights:

* Ted comments on the self-unmasking of pseudonymous blogger “Juan Non-Volokh”, on various matters connected with Joe DiMaggio. and on Howard Bashman’s Stakhanovite work pace.

* Jim discusses the tax consequences for plaintiffs of confidentiality agreements in settlements, via Evan Schaeffer’s other weblog; a new way for the plaintiff’s securities bar to get around PSLRA; and a Court TV reality show set in New York City’s real-life night court.

* Larry, Tom and Sam round up posts on corporate law, on the Enron trial and other prosecutorial matters, and on a variety of subjects including law review style.

* And I discuss an on-the-job love triangle that eventuated in a Title VII lawsuit alleging sex discrimination; liability headaches for online enterprises and software manufacturers; the case in which the Cleveland bar association is trying to get a dad penalized for unauthorized practice of law after he successfully represented his own son in special-ed proceedings; Long Island legislator Jeffrey Toback’s demagogic suit against Google for allegedly interfering with children, as dissected by Eric Goldman; and the fast-rising number of cases filed under ERISA, the federal pension and employee-benefits statute.

It’s all here. Next week’s Blawg Review will be hosted by Lawyerlike.

Update: “Million Little Pieces” class actions

Following the revelation that author James Frey presented fantasies as if they were autobiographical fact, enough outraged readers have stepped forward to demand cash damages — or at least enough class action lawyers have simulated the stepping forward of such outraged readers — that defendants Random House and Doubleday are now seeking the consolidation of no fewer than twelve lawsuits filed around the country. The federal Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will soon consider (PDF, scroll to p. 11) the publishers’ motion to aggregate into one proceeding suits filed in the Southern District of New York, Northern District of Illinois, Western District of Washington, Eastern District of Michigan, Central District of California, and Southern District of Ohio (via Childs). For Ted’s extensive coverage of the Frey scandal and suits, see Jan. 31 and links from there.

Police sued over jail suicide

Illinois: “The mother of a Granville man who shot himself last year at the Spring Valley Jail has filed a wrongful death suit against the city, the police chief and a former police officer.” Robert “Steve” McFadin, placed in a holding cell after being charged with violating an order of protection against his estranged wife, wrested away the gun of former Spring Valley police officer Thomas Quartucci and beat him. When Quartucci fled the cell, McFadin used the gun to shoot himself. Quartucci, who was admitted to intensive care after the beating and remained on workers’ comp until retirement, is among the defendants in the suit, which “was filed on [Lori] Hafley’s behalf by Miskell Law Center of Ottawa and the Berkland Law Office of Marseilles. The suit alleges Quartucci violated procedure when he did not secure his loaded weapon before entering the cell. The suit also alleges actions taken by the officers at Spring Valley led to McFadin’s death.” (Erinn Deshinsky, “Mother of suicide victim sues police”, Peoria Journal-Star, Apr. 7). The suit seeks $15 million (John Thompson, “Mother sues Spring Valley, police”, La Salle News Tribune, Apr. 5; Dan Churney, “Police officers named in suicide suit”, Ottawa Times, Apr. 13).

“Please don’t feed the trial lawyers” II

Once again, attorneys upset that their profession is held up to ridicule would have much less of a problem if attorneys were more concerned about the behavior that led to the ridicule than about the ridicule itself. Evan Schaeffer reraises the issue of the ILR billboard, and posts the first photo of the campaign. Here’s the full text:

Please Don’t Feed
The Trial Lawyers

Lawsuit Abuse Hurts Illinois. Support Legal Reform.

Entertainingly enough, the billboard (previously described as insulting) doesn’t call lawyers names—it is simply based on the premise that the reader will already have a negative opinion of trial lawyers, which is hardly the fault of the ILR. The text of the billboard shows that Evan is mistaken when he accuses it of being aimed at juries: it is, rather, aimed at voters, as legal reform is an important election topic in 2006 judicial and legislative and gubernatorial elections, and the trial lawyers have their own campaign designed to get supporters of the litigation lobby in office and on the bench. (Evan may be correct that the billboard is “ugly and obnoxious,” though I can’t recall ever seeing a billboard that wasn’t.) Evan also has some snide remarks about the quality and intelligence of comments supposedly left by Overlawyered readers, so if you do visit Evan’s site, please be polite, even though the plaintiffs’ lawyers who comment there may be rude to you personally.

Licensed Handgun Carry Wins in Kansas

Over-riding the Governor’s veto, the Kansas legislature has enacted a “Shall Issue” law for issuing licenses to carry a concealed handgun for lawful protection. Before, Kansas was one of only four states without any provision for issuing concealed handgun licenses. One of the remaining three states, Nebraska, appears poised to enact a similar law, which the Governor has said he will sign.
Kansas is now among the 39 states which have a fair procedure to allow citizens to carry handguns for protection. Along with the three states (Nebraska, Wisconsin, IIllinois) that currently do not issue permits, eight other states issue permits according to the whim of a local official (Hawaii, California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Delaware). A Shall Issue bill is moving through the legislature in Delaware. Rhode Island already has a Shall Issue law, although the law is nullified by administrative practice.
In Wisconsin, a Shall Iissue bill has been vetoed twice, with the vetos sustained by only one or two votes. In every state where Shall Issue proponents have gotten as close as they have in Wisconsin, the state has always eventually enacted a Shall Issue law–although sometimes the process can take a while.
So of the eleven remaining states that are not Shall Issue, two of them (Nebraska and Wisconsin) are nearly certain to change at some point in the future, and there is reasonable possiblity of change in Delaware. All that Rhode Island needs to change is the election of Attorney General who will not interfere with the state law that local goverments must issue carry permits to qualified applicants.
So the number of Shall Issue states could be 43 in the not too distant future. In the seven hold-out states, Shall Issue has passed one body of the legislature at least once in the three largest states: California, New York, and Illinois.
Every year, more and more Shall Issue states create “reciprocity” with each other, so that a person with a permit from her home state can carry her firearm lawfully in a other state while visiting. Currently, a carry permit issued by one state is valid in over half of all states. (See for details.)
As the combined total of “no issue” or “whimsical issue” states declines into the single digits, and reciprocity continues to spread, it seems hard to deny that America is concluding that Shall Issue is sensible gun control — one that regulates firearms carrying but does not infringe the right to self-defense.
For more on the Kansas law, see this excellent article in the Wichita Eagle.

Madison County asbestos: one for the books (O’Connell v. Georgia-Pacific)

Even Madison County juries have their limits it seems.

Anita O’Connell claimed that her mesothelioma came from asbestos from washing her husband’s and children’s laundry. Perhaps. But none of her three sons who worked for her father whose clothing she washed would testify in support of that. Instead, a fourth son, Michael O’Connell, who didn’t work for her husband’s plastering business, sought to blame Bondex International and Georgia-Pacific.

The plaintiff claimed the joint compound caused Anita O’Connell’s asbestos exposure because she shook her son’s clothes before laundering them.

The supplier for the O’Connell plastering business testified that only plaster was sold to the O’Connell business, not joint compound. The supplier also testified that he never carried the Bondex brand.

Michael O’Connell testified he remembered seeing silver Georgia-Pacific cans of joint compound, but that company’s cans were not silver during the period O’Connell claimed to have worked with drywall.

Adding chutzpah upon chutzpah, plaintiffs’ attorney Charla Aldous of Baron & Budd asked for $10 million in damages for the 84-year-old plaintiff. The jury awarded nothing. (Brian Brueggemann, “Madison County jury rejects woman’s plea”, Belleville News-Democrat, Mar. 2; Steve Gonzalez, “Jury reaches defense verdict in Madison County trial”, Madison County Record, Mar. 2; Friable Thoughts blog, Mar. 2).

Long-time readers may nod knowingly and think of the infamous Baron & Budd witness-coaching memo, which I have posted in full on the Liability Project’s “Documents in the News” page.

Many many more links after the jump.

Read On…

Update: garden-center bird attack

Alton, Ill.: U.S. District Judge William Stiehl has thrown out Rhonda Nichols’ lawsuit (Apr. 14, 2005) claiming that she was attacked by a bird at a Lowe’s home improvement center, and that Lowe’s should have warned her about the hazard. Judge Stiehl ruled “that a ‘reasonable plaintiff’ either would have noticed the birds or understood that contact with them was possible in any outdoor area with plants.” (Jim Suhr, “Woman’s suit against Lowe’s for bird attack won’t fly”, AP/Chicago Sun-Times, Jan. 5). Courthouse News has the opinion (PDF).

Update: “Maag’s defamation suit is dismissed again”

Watch what you say about judges, yet again: For the second time, Illinois circuit court judge Patrick Kelley has dismissed a $110 million defamation lawsuit filed by former Madison County appellate judge Gordon Maag against groups that criticized him during his unsuccessful 2004 double run for a seat on the Illinois Supreme Court and for retention in his existing seat. Maag’s attorney, Rex Carr, vowed to appeal. (Paul Hampel, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 9; Steve Gonzalez, “Maag’s defamation suit dismissed, again”, St. Clair Record, Jan. 9; “That’s two strikes, now spare us” (editorial), Madison Record, Jan. 15). Since losing the races, Maag has aimed defamation suits at a wide range of local and national groups that include the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the American Tort Reform Association and even the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, with which I’m affiliated (no, I don’t know what his theory for including it was, and I haven’t asked). For more on the controversy, see Dec. 23, 2004, as well as PoL Jun. 10, 2005 and assorted links there.

As usual, the funniest piece on the controversy came from the wonderful (and brave) columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bill McClellan, who explains that he is not among Judge Maag’s critics (after all, who likes getting sued?) but notices that “there seems to be some question as to whether he is a resident of Illinois, as he stated in one of his suits, or a resident of Alabama, as he stated in another.” (“With confusion over residency, lawyer’s critics feel vindicated”, Nov. 25).