Posts Tagged ‘Manhattan Institute’

NYC lead paint bill

A bill now poised for passage in New York’s city council would make it easier to file lawsuits against landlords claiming tort damages for lead exposure in children. The Bloomberg administration has declined to endorse the bill, saying it could generate “huge” liability costs. However, the bill (which has been avidly sought by the litigation lobby) is likely to be passed by the Council today anyway and has more sponsors than are necessary to override a mayoral veto (“Mike brushes off paint bill”, New York Daily News, Dec. 6; Winnie Hu, “City Council Moves Forward With Lead-Paint Legislation”, New York Times, Dec. 13). “The Council’s liability standards will make it very hard for even the most responsible owners to defend themselves,” says Michael Lappin, president of the Community Preservation Corp., which finances housing rehabilitation in older neighborhoods, “and high liability will choke off insurance.” (Julia Vitullo-Martin (Manhattan Institute), “Council is lead-painting city into a corner”, Dec. 10; “Doing the Giffie Shuffle” (critical editorial), New York Post, Nov. 21; “A Lead-Paint Law We Can Live With” (supportive editorial), New York Times, Nov. 29 (fee-based archive)).

Of city children diagnosed with high levels of lead in their blood, a substantial share have ingested the element through other routes (in fact, a substantial share do not live in apartments with lead paint at all). The bill, however, contains a “presumption” clause aimed at making it hard for property owners to dispute hazard findings. Among other clues to the bill’s redistributive objectives: it “makes owners liable even if they are unaware that a child is living in an apartment. Why not require (as did the prior law) parents to inform property owners that they have young children living with them?” (Joseph Strasburg (Rent Stabilization Association, property owners), “Lead Paint Legal Scam”, New York Post, Nov. 24). See Oct. 13; Apr. 24 and Nov. 30, 2000. Update: Council passes bill by 44-5 margin (N.Y. Times, Dec. 16). Further update Feb. 13: Mayor’s veto overridden; Jun. 2: housing market thrown into turmoil.

Welcome National Review Online and Weekly Standard readers

At National Review Online, our Manhattan Institute colleague Jim Copland contrasts Hollywood’s oddly heroic image of the trial lawyer with the often socially destructive reality, citing the blame-shifting for profit exemplified in the Ninth Circuit’s recent Ileto v. Glock case (gun manufacturer, as opposed to criminal, gets sued over racist’s murder spree). (“Fiction to Fact”, Nov. 26) And the Weekly Standard, discussing the same case in its “Scrapbook” feature (Dec. 1, last item, “Shooting Blanks” — currently subscribers only) cites this commentary by Ted Frank on “the excellent website”. The Standard’s editorialists also point out that despite the plaintiffs’ elaborately spun theories of negligent distribution, the Glock in the case “was originally sold to a police department. … [In future,] manufacturers like Glock will presumably want to be wary about the kind of police departments they sell their firearms to.”

Job opening

The Manhattan Institute Center for Legal Policy (with which I’m associated) tells me that it has an opening for a staff position to work on compiling articles, reports and other material related to the Trial Lawyers Inc. project. Candidates need not be located in New York City but should have a strong interest in litigation reform issues combined with writing ability and familiarity with Web-based publishing (you might be a blogger, for example). If you fit the bill, email me at editor -at – thisdomainname and I’ll forward your response to the Institute.

New York Landlord-Tenant Court

One side effect of Manhattan rent control is that it creates a source of litigation that wouldn’t exist under a market-based system. When a tenant has a right to rent a 2800-sq. ft. SoHo loft for a few hundred dollars a month, it means that it’s worth holding a seventeen-day trial to determine whether the tenant is using the loft as her primary residence. If the tenant, who owns multiple pieces of real estate in New Hampshire, was paying market rents, then whether she was using the loft as a primary residence would be legally and economically irrelevant, and the trial would never have happened. Imagine how much is lost because New York City tenants and landlords litigate thousands of “holdover” cases every year. (Dennis Hevesi, “The Knottiest Cases of Landlord v. Tenant”, New York Times, Nov. 9; Henry Pollakowski, “Who Really Benefits from New York City?s Rent Regulation System?”, Manhattan Institute Civic Report, March 2003).

Chicago lead paint case dismissed

“A judge has dismissed the City of Chicago’s lawsuit seeking hundreds of millions of dollars from lead-based paint manufacturers, saying the city had not proven that the companies created a public nuisance.” (“Chicago’s lawsuit over lead paint dismissed”, AP/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Oct. 8). The New York Times recently noticed one complication affecting the diagnosis of an “epidemic” of lead poisoning among inner-city children, namely that a large share of urban kids found to have high lead-blood levels are immigrants from countries where lead exposures are very high (Kirk Johnson, “For a Changing City, New Pieces in a Lead-Poisoning Puzzle”, New York Times, Sept. 30 (fee archives); Steven Malanga, “The Lead Paint Scam”, New York Post, Jun. 24, 2002, reprinted at Manhattan Institute site (same point); our entry for Oct. 28-29, 2002).

More on Trial Lawyers Inc.

Publicity continues for the recent report Trial Lawyers Inc., published by the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Legal Policy (with which I’m associated): The Economist (“Gone are the days when law students were expected to absorb lofty sentiments such as the one uttered by Roscoe Pound, a former dean of Harvard’s law school: ‘The professional man does not measure out his service in proportion to reward.’ Now, many law-school professors are highly-paid consultants for litigating lawyers. Even The Roscoe Pound Centre is, the report notes, funded by trial lawyers.” (Sept. 27). In the New York Sun, Ryan Sager (“The guys in white”, Sept. 29) attempts to reconcile the report’s findings with the opinions of Leon Silverman, former chairman of New York law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson. Silverman regards increased litigation as a “triumph of democracy,” though for all we know he may be a sensible person in other ways. Also see Jennifer G. Hickey, “Washington Diary: Congress Shifts Into High Gear”, Insight, Sept. 29.

FTC Commissioner on class actions

Federal Trade Commissioner Thomas Leary’s June 26 speech on the FTC’s interest in class action litigation is on-line. Leary criticizes excessive attorney fees, cites the Manhattan Institute’s work on forum-shopping (see Mar. 24) and also notes the problem that the process can drive the result:

Once a class is certified to address a single common factor, it acquires a life of its own. If the case does not settle promptly, conservation of judicial resources may motivate courts to find ways to shortcut a burdensome inquiry into other substantive elements of the plaintiff’s case, like actual “impact” on, or “reliance” by, a large number of individuals who are differently situated. Substance is tailored to serve the needs of process rather than the other way around.

“Trial Lawyers Inc.”

In an editorial yesterday, the Wall Street Journal hailed the new study by the Manhattan Institute (with which I’m affiliated) dissecting the finances and operating methods of what might be “America’s only recession-proof industry: the plaintiffs’ bar. … [The] estimated $40 billion in revenues our tort warriors took in for 2001 was 50% more than Microsoft or Intel and double that of Coca-Cola.” (Sept. 23, online subscribers only). More coverage: Marguerite Higgins, “Lawsuit industry generates billions”, Washington Times, Sept. 24; UPI/Washington Times, Sept. 24. The study itself, along with updates and lots of other related information, can be found at the eponymous site

Our editor on the road

Postings (from me, at least) will be sparser than usual this week as I will be spending a lot of time on the road. On Mon. the 22nd, I’ll be addressing the annual Legal Reform Summit at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. The next day, Tues. the 23rd, I’ll also be in Washington to attend the unveiling of an important new study from the Manhattan Institute entitled Trial Lawyers Inc., which tries to get a handle on the scope, operations and future direction of the industry of suing people, considered as an industry; former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh will give the main presentation. And on Thurs. Sept. 25th, I’ll be a panelist at a daytime discussion of Litigation and the Economy held at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

Why doesn’t Arnold…?

…tell us what he thinks about California’s bounty-hunting s. 17200 law? Timothy Sandefur wonders (Aug. 27)(see Jul. 28, Aug. 4, Jul. 22). And the Manhattan Institute (with which our editor is affiliated) has just published the proceedings of an Oct. 24, 2002 conference on state unfair competition statutes, of which California’s s. 17200 is perhaps the most extreme. Among the conferees: prominent attorneys Sheila Birnbaum and Elizabeth Cabraser, Duke law prof Francis McGovern, and Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel president Robert V. Dewey, Jr. Our editor moderated a panel (“Unfair Competition and Consumer Fraud Statutes: Recipe for Consumer Fraud Prevention or Fraud on the Consumer?“)(PDF)