Posts Tagged ‘Justinian Lane’

Rollover Economics II

Justinian Lane responds to my recent Liability Outlook about the Buell-Wilson case (Jan. 4 and links therein). The PDF version has pretty typesetting and graphics in lieu of substance, though I question the choice of Futura (a sans serif typeface designed for display) as the font for the main text, as well as the use of oversized bullets.

I was especially impressed that Lane responded to my criticism of the inaccuracy of the court’s description of the case by quoting the court’s description of the case, and my criticism of California evidentiary rules by citing California evidentiary rules. Lane doesn’t explore the implications of his explicit contention that juries get it right only seven percent of the time, an even better argument for reform if it were true than the one I made. Ironically for a piece that purports to “set the record straight,” Lane has more misrepresentations of my argument and factual errors than I have time to spend counting.

To take a non-obvious one, Lane’s description of the Grimshaw case is incorrect (or at least poorly worded, depending on what he means by “backfired”): comparative evidence in that case showing that the Pinto was safer than other subcompacts and no more likely to explode was excluded over Ford’s objection. (In the famous case against Ford brought by state prosecutors over the Pinto, Ford was allowed to introduce that evidence, and an Indiana jury acquitted Ford.) I leave it to the error- and non-sequitur-seeking reader to peruse Lane’s other arguments, including the claim that the amount of the award against Ford is justified because Lee Raymond contracted with Exxon to receive stock options that, after the share price went up, turned out after the fact to be worth a lot of money.

But let’s give credit to Bizarro-Overlawyered for their new tack of acknowledging the existence of other arguments, even if they still can’t bring themselves to address them head-on or link to what they purport to be commenting on. Judge for yourself.

The Founders and civil justice reform

Justinian Lane, unable to refute on the merits the idea that it might be worth experimenting with health courts to see if they improve medical care and medical justice, resorts to ad hominem:

I believe our founding fathers were some of the greatest men who ever lived. Through sweat and sacrifice, they founded the greatest country in the world. And they believed that the right for a plaintiff to seek a jury trial was so important as to be enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

I have nothing but respect and admiration for the noble men and women who have died and are dying to protect our Bill of Rights and our Constitution. I have nothing but derision for the ignominious men and women who are dying to butcher those documents for corporate gain.

Very stirring, if completely meaningless. I not only believe, but know for a fact, that our founding fathers created Article V of the Constitution, which permits amendments to correct problems created by the Constitution itself—such as, say, its abhorrent endorsement of involuntary servitude, or the poorly-thought-out presidential election process that resulted in the 1800 election snafu and the Twelfth Amendment.

But one need not go even this far. The real flaw of Lane’s thoughtless argument is that in 1791, the common-law right to a jury trial contemplated the idea of special juries. Special juries were used for complex commercial cases, for example; juries of women were used to determine the truth of claims of pregnancy. No constitutional amendment is needed for medical courts; they are well within the Seventh Amendment definition and the Founders’ conception of trial by jury. See generally Professor James Oldham’s book, Trial by Jury: The Seventh Amendment and Anglo-American Special Juries.

Read On…

December 2 roundup

  • Tennie Pierce update: only 6 out of 15 members vote to override mayor’s veto of $2.7M dog-food settlement (Nov. 11). [LA Times]
  • Reforming consumer class actions. [Point of Law]
  • Judicial activism in Katrina insurance litigation in Louisiana. [Point of Law; Rossmiller; AEI]
  • What will and won’t the Seventh Circuit find sanctionable? Judge Posner’s opinion gets a lot of attention for snapping at the lawyers, but I’m more fascinated about the parts where the dog didn’t bark, which isn’t getting any commentary. [Point of Law; Smoot v. Mazda; Volokh; Above the Law]
  • Montgomery County doesn’t get to create a trio-banking system. [Zywicki @ Volokh and followup]
  • “The Hidden Danger of Seat Belts”: an article on the Peltzman Effect that doesn’t mention Peltzman. [Time; see also Cafe Hayek]
  • Pending Michigan “domestic violence” bill (opposed by domestic violence groups) criminalizes ending a relationship with a pregnant woman for improper purposes. [Detroit News via Bashman; House Bill 5882]
  • Did Griggs causes distortion in higher education? I’m not sure I’m persuaded, though Griggs is certainly problematic for other reasons (e.g., POL Aug. 12, 2004). [Pope Center via Newmark]
  • The Kramer cash settlement. [Evanier]
  • Jonathan Wilson gives Justinian Lane a solid fisking on loser pays. [Wilson]
  • Speaking of Justinian Lane, for someone who says he was “silenced” because I didn’t post a troll of a comment on Overlawyered, he’s sure making a lot of whiny noise. Hasn’t corrected his honesty problem, though. [Lane]
  • The stuff Gore found too inconvenient to tell you in “An Inconvenient Truth.” [CEI]
  • Islam: the religion of peace and mercy, for sufficiently broad definitions of peace and mercy. [Volokh]
  • One year ago in Overlawyered: photographing exhibitionist students at Penn. Jordan Koko doesn’t seem to have gone through with the threatened lawsuit. [Overlawyered]

False accusations of “hypocrisy” II

For those who care about these things, Justinian Lane demonstrates a fundamental lack of reading comprehension in a response to my earlier post. Lane writes: “If I do the very thing I oppose, that does indeed make me a hypocrite.” This is technically inaccurate in a prescriptivist sense (look it up), but even under the descriptivist definition, Lane continues to confuse the idea of “I believe that X is bad public policy” with “I believe those who take advantage of X are immoral.” This is precisely the error I pointed out in the original post, but Lane says nothing to rationalize the conflation other than to repeat the assertion. He then proceeds to insult me for taking a legal tax deduction. Let’s be clear: I don’t oppose individuals taking Schedule A deductions for state taxes; that’s just common sense, and one’s tax rate is already higher to reflect the fact that deductions are available. I oppose the government’s policy of offering deductions for state taxes. There’s no hypocrisy, any more than there is hypocrisy because Lane pays his federal taxes even though his taxes are used to support the war in Iraq or some other government spending that he might object to, or because Lane votes for an elected official who doesn’t agree with Lane on every single jot and tittle.

Lane opposes making people better off through lower prices and higher wages, as Wal-Mart does; that is his right, and (unlike John Edwards) he can feel good about his abnegation that he goes without a toolbox because Wal-Mart is the only store that provides a reasonably priced model (though I don’t see Lane demanding to pay his supermarket and other stores more money to reflect the fact that they lowered prices to match Wal-Mart’s competition, so he’s not completely innocent of taking advantage of the benefits Wal-Mart brings to the economy). But it’s not remotely analogous to the scenario I describe.

Read On…


Some quick links:

  • Michael Krauss reviews a Mississippi Court of Appeals decision on a bogus fender-bender claim. [Point of Law; Gilbert v. Ireland]
  • Yet another example of overbroad laws on sex offenders (see also Jul. 3, 2005). [Above the Law]
  • “As far as the law is concerned, those individuals whose pacemakers fail are the lucky ones.” [TortsProf Blog]
  • Emerson Electric sues NBC in St. Louis over a scene in an hourly drama where a cheerleader mangles her hand in a branded garbage disposal. [Hollywood Reporter, Esq.; Lattman; Defamer and Defamer update; St. Louis Post Dispatch]
  • A case that’s really not about the money: Man stiffs restaurant over $46 check, defends himself against misdemeanor charge with $500/lawyer. [St. Petersburg Times; Obscure Store]
  • Bill Childs catches yet another Justinian Lane misrepresentation. See also Sep. 26 and Sep. 17 (cf. related posts on Lane’s co-blogger Oct. 3 and Sep. 25), and we might just have to retire the category, since we can only hope to scratch the surface. Point of Law has the Gary Schwartz law review article discussed by Childs. [TortsProf Blog and ] Lane’s post also deliberately confuses non-economic damages caps with total damages caps: nothing stops someone with more than $250,000 in economic damages from recovering more than $250,000, even in a world with non-economic damages caps.
  • Update: Bill Childs in the comments-section to Lane:

    “Of course, all of this gets pretty far afield from what I originally wrote and that you’ve conceded, which is that you (unintentionally but sloppily) misrepresented the facts of the Pinto memo, failed to research its background beyond what was apparently represented to you, and still haven’t (last time I checked, at 9:10 p.m.) updated your site to reflect your error. Nor have you approved the trackback I sent to the site. You’ve posted comments to that very entry and another entry has gone up on the site, but readers still see the plainly inaccurate statement that the memo excerpt you show was Ford evaluating tort liability for rearendings, when in fact it was Ford evaluating a regulatory proposal for rollovers using numbers from NHTSA.

Medical tourism

Bumrungrad International Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand, treated 58,000 American patients in 2005, and looks to treat 20 percent more this year. Why?

At Bumrungrad Hospital, [spokesman Ruben] Toral said, the lower cost of living is a major factor in the savings, but so are differences in how the medical system operates.

Doctors in Thailand pay about $5,000 a year for malpractice insurance, compared with more than $100,000 for some specialties in the United States.

Thai courts will adjudicate malpractice claims, but the largest award ever issued was about $100,000 and the law there doesn’t permit damages for pain and suffering.

(Mark Roth, “Surgery abroad an option for those with minimal health coverage,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sep. 10). Apparently the Thais haven’t heard the propaganda from the American trial bar that caps on non-economic damages don’t lower malpractice insurance premiums or medical expenses. And apparently, thousands of Americans prefer cheaper healthcare to the opportunity to recover pain-and-suffering damages: unfortunately, plaintiffs’ organizations fight very hard to ensure that American consumers don’t actually get that choice. (Via, of all places, Bizarro-Overlawyered, where one can almost see the smoke coming out of the ears of the posting blogger because of the “Does-Not-Compute” cognitive dissonance.)

Read On…

Justinian Lane: reform supporter?

Until now, we’ve ignored a small left-wing think-tank’s admitted attempt to create a Bizarro-world version of Overlawyered. The writers are a recent college graduate and a recent law-school graduate who don’t appear to have actually read anything reformers write in support of reform. (For example, one post links to Overlawyered when defending the infamous McDonald’s coffee lawsuit, but fails to address any of Overlawyered’s arguments for why the McDonald’s coffee case is meritless, and simply repeats ATLA propaganda that Overlawyered refuted.) The blog has consisted mostly of thoughtless regurgitation of trial-lawyer talking points; when original analysis is attempted, it rises to the level of self-parody, such as an analysis of Leonard v. Nationwide (see POL Sep. 7 and links therein) that ignores the language of the insurance policy, the relevant Mississippi precedent, the existing discussion in the blogosphere, and any semblance of public policy rationalization in lieu of a Wikipedia definition to argue that the decision (and the defendant) are racist because some African-American plaintiffs might lose as a result.

Another such post is Justinian Lane’s “The Myth of the Frivolous Lawsuit.” The standard trial-lawyer talking point on such issues is to redefine “frivolous lawsuit” to consist of an exceedingly narrow subset of what it is laypeople are talking about when using the term “frivolous lawsuits,” note that the legal system has some mechanisms to address this narrow subset of cases, and then conclude that there’s no problem and thus no need for reform. (Or, as per John Edwards, announce Potemkin legislation to tackle this artificially constrained set of “frivolous lawsuits” that does nothing to actually address the problems of the tort system.) But Lane, perhaps because of his unfamiliarity with the legal system, bites off more than he can chew and inadvertently proves the reformers’ point.

Read On…

ATLA’s attack on reform supporters

Evan Schaeffer was very excited by the fact that ATLA made its Trial magazine attack on reform freely available on line, so I clicked over to see what the fuss was. The first story I looked at was Justinian Lane’s “Corporate wolves in victims’ clothing,” which featured, among various baseless assertions and screeds about high executive salaries, the following strawman:

And the next time someone brings up Stella Liebeck and the McDonald’s coffee case, ask why a $2 million lawsuit over third-degree burns to a woman’s genitals is frivolous, but a $5 billion lawsuit over Donald Trump’s ego isn’t.

Fascinating. What fictional reformer supports Donald Trump’s lawsuit? Certainly not the main author of this site, who has repeatedly scoffed at it. Where’s the hypocrisy? (More on Stella Liebeck and the McDonald’s coffee case, which was frivolous, but is hardly the only reason for supporting reform.) Needless to say, I’m not impressed. Lane’s claim that proposed reforms wouldn’t affect Trump’s case is absolutely false; reforms such as anti-SLAPP laws, loser-pays, procedural streamlining, and limiting forum-shopping would all cabin the ability of a Trump to attempt to use litigation to intimidate critics.

Lane asks why reformers argue that “the king’s-ransom salaries ‘earned’ by corporate executives aren’t passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices, but that the costs of the tort system are.” There’s a difference, of course: a consumer can object to high CEO salaries by refusing to invest in a corporation’s stock or to purchase its products or services. But a consumer who buys a car can’t opt out of the huge expenses trial attorneys have added to every motor vehicle in America—$500 for every vehicle sold in America. Tom LaSorda, the CEO of Chrysler, doesn’t make $500 for every vehicle, even if one finds his salary objectionable for some reason. But as long as Lane is criticizing the “hypocrisy” of reformers, one wonders if he’ll turn the same searching eye complaining about high salaries to the multi-millionaire trial attorneys he lauds who, unlike the executives, make their money by destroying wealth and jobs rather than creating wealth and jobs.