…will be taking on class action lawyers tonight, with guests that include Ted Frank, Texas lawyer Mark Lanier, and Marie Gryphon of the Manhattan Institute. (9 p.m. EST)
Dionne Searcey of the Wall Street Journal quotes me in a piece this morning on Texas lawyer Mark Lanier’s high hopes for the BP/Transocean Gulf spill litigation.
- “Jury Says No to Libel Claim Over Truthful E-Mail” [NLJ, Ardia/Citizen Media Law; high-profile First Circuit Noonan v. Staples case, earlier here and here]
- Transmission of folk music is getting tangled in copyright claims [BoingBoing]
- Scientific shortcut? Veterans Department will presume Parkinson’s, common heart ailment are caused by Agent Orange for GIs who set foot in Vietnam [NY Times]
- Federal hate crimes bill: yes, courts will consider speech and beliefs in assessing penalties [Sullum and more, Bader]
- Texas trial lawyer Mark Lanier’s famed Christmas bash will feature Bon Jovi this year [ABA Journal, background here and here]
- Let’s explain our Constitution to her: U.K. cabinet minister thinks Arnie can close private website because it’s based in California and he’s governor [Lund, Prawfsblawg]
- Ten best Supreme Court decisions, from a libertarian point of view? [Somin, Volokh]
- Cert petition on dismissal of suit against Beretta shows Brady Center still haven’t given up on undemocratic campaign to achieve gun control through liability litigation [Public Nuisance Wire interview with Jeff Dissell, NSSF]
- Some backers of big national service plan say better roll it out now before the crisis atmosphere passes [Welch, Reason “Hit and Run”]
- Sorry ma’am, if hubby’s policy excludes coverage for injury to family members, you can’t blame him as “uninsured motorist” [The Briefcase, Ohio]
- Much-cited “$70/hr” figure for GM labor costs misleading: covers army of retirees, not just current workers [Salmon; but see McArdle]
- Thoughts on alleged inability of GM to get debtor-in-possession financing for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy [Oman, ConcurOp]
- Texas p.i. atty Mark Lanier famous for Xmas parties headlined by top stars, this year it’s Miley Cyrus a/k/a Hannah Montana [ABA Journal]
- “I Want Angry Jurors With Low Self-Esteem” [Bennett, Defending People]
- “We just really wanted to shatter the cupcake-pizza dichotomy. It’s just existed for too long.” [Seth Gitter via Tyler Cowen]
- Harvard’s Charles Nesson argues that Digital Theft Deterrence and Copyright Damages Improvement Act of 1999 violates Constitution by letting civil lawyers for RIAA enforce a criminal law [AP/MSNBC, Elefant]
- In some circles, bitter disappointment at reports that Obama camp probably won’t pursue Bush predecessors as war criminals [Paul Campos, Horton/Harper’s; earlier]
- Latest on wrangle over “exorbitant” fee: Alice Lawrence’s deposition-skipping before her death could endanger her estate’s claim against Graubard Miller law firm [NYLJ, earlier]
- One benefit of role as law school mega-donor, as Mark Lanier is with Texas Tech, is that you get to rub (hunting-jacket) elbows with visiting Supreme Court justices [WSJ law blog]
- Lou Dobbs and Phyllis Schlafly were among those who pushed bizarre theory of secret conspiracy to merge U.S. into “North American Union” with Canada and Mexico [John Hawkins]
- Senate Dems plan to abolish secret ballot for installing unions in everyone else’s workplace, so how come they insist on one for themselves in deciding how to handle Joe Lieberman? [Dan Riehl via McArdle]
- Congrats to historian Rick Brookhiser and City Journal editor Myron Magnet, among recipients of 2008 National Humanities Medal [White House release, Brian Anderson, NRO]
- Jarek Molski, California entrepreneur of disabled-access complaints, loses bid for Supreme Court review of his designation as vexatious litigant [AP, Bashman]
Mark Lanier and other plaintiffs lawyers are giving a series of interviews where they complain that the Ernst v. Merck decision (discussed yesterday) is “judicial activism that reinterprets the evidence.” (E.g., in Texas Lawyer.) This is nonsense. Ernst follows well-stated precedent. Indeed, I predicted precisely this result and precisely the case the appellate court would use to strike down the decision the week of the jury’s verdict.
AP reports a Texas court has thrown out the infamous Ernst $26 million judgment; a New Jersey court has tossed $9 million of the judgment in McDarby. More details on Point of Law as available.
Ernst was the first Vioxx suit to go to trial. A jury awarded $253 million. Mark Lanier waited months before asking for a final judgment; at the time, I suggested that this was because he knew the case would be reversed on appeal, and did not want the bad publicity. Indeed, the appellate decision perhaps comes too late for Merck: the number of lawsuits increased from 6000 to 60000 in the months following publicity over the jury verdict, costing Merck billions of dollars in the later extortionate settlement.
With these two decisions, only three plaintiffs’ verdicts in favor of Merck remain.
Update: I still haven’t seen the McDarby decision, but an updated AP story indicates that it upheld the compensatory damages of $4.5 million, overturned the $9 million punitive damages verdict, and overturned the consumer-fraud judgment (which also saves Merck millions of dollars in plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees).
- Judge expresses surprise at how many law firms want in on fees in Visa/MasterCard issuer settlement [NYSun]
- Mississippi bill would require a lawyer’s presence at real estate escrow closings; so rude to cite the profession’s self-interest as a factor [Clarion-Ledger]
- Following Coughlin Stoia’s lead, Mark Lanier announces he’s expanding into intellectual property litigation [The Recorder]
- Maryland legislation would require state-aided colleges and universities to report on what they’re doing to advance “cultural diversity” [Examiner via Bader/Open Market]
- New era at UK pubs? Under new directive, “employers will risk being sued if a bar worker or waitress complains of being called ‘love’ or ‘darling’, or if staff overhear customers telling sexist jokes.” [Daily Mail]
- ACLU just sued city of San Diego and snagged $900K in legal fees, but that’s no impediment to the city’s council’s enacting a special day of tribute to the group [House of Eratosthenes]
- George Wallace, who’s guestblogged here, hosts twin editions of Blawg Review #153 at his blogs Declarations & Exclusions and A Fool in the Forest, on piratical and Punchinello themes;
- Obama won’t support lowering drinking age [Newsweek]
- Such a shame for entrepreneurial plaintiffs, post-Proposition 64 if you want to sue a California business you might actually need to have been injured [CalBizLit]
- Time mag appeals $100 million Suharto libel ruling [IHT]
- Hey, no fair enforcing that fine print disclaiming liability for sweepstakes misprints [three years ago on Overlawyered]
Libertarian medical school blogger “Frommedskool” has been critical of the Vioxx litigation (regularly citing to our coverage at Point of Law). An April 2006 post about the Cona/McDarby case, however, appears to have generated a December 2007 comment from someone calling himself Mark Lanier, the plaintiffs’ attorney in the case:
Third, there was a huge amount of info Merck had that it never gave the FDA, there were smoking gun memos and emails, and there was huge harassment of the medical community done by Merck. For example, Merck did a full meta-analysis of placebo trial that showed a statistically significant increase in heart attacks, but Merck excised that from the report given the FDA. Even Merck’s head admtted they should have given the analysis to the FDA.
(Point of Law discussed the so-called withholding of the meta-analysis back in 2006. It wasn’t all that.) Fascinatingly, this comment immediately provokes comments from another lurker (just two hours later?!) claiming to be a plaintiff, reasonably asking why, if the evidence was so good, Lanier was agreeing to settle 47,000 plaintiffs’ cases for under $5 billion, essentially a nuisance settlement given that victorious plaintiffs were being awarded in the millions and tens of millions.
Actually, attorney Mark Lanier’s massive bash, for thousands of attendees “including, seemingly, every judge and politician in Texas”, would have gone forward whether or not Merck had plunked down billions, and with Lanier saying he expects only $30 million in fees plus $10 million in expenses in the affair, which was once expected to yield a much bigger payday, the atmosphere might even be subdued. (Lattman, Nov. 13). Earlier coverage of Lanier Christmas parties here and here; the only parties we’ve heard of to compare are Willie Gary’s.