Posts Tagged ‘Mark Lanier’

Think different—think litigious

Apple—usually the victim of plaintiffs’ attorneys (e.g., May 23; Feb. 2; Oct. 27; Aug. 9, 2005, etc.)—has decided to glorify one, Mark Lanier, with a three-page puff piece co-advertising Lanier and Mac computers. The story falsely portrays the multi-millionaire as a “David” going up against a Goliath, falsely claims he won two Vioxx cases (one of his “wins” was for fifteen dollars), and falsely claims he received a $250 million “judgment” in a Vioxx case (not so). For more on how Lanier really operates, see today’s Point of Law post and Point of Law’s Vioxx litigation coverage. (h/t W.F.)

Party like you’re a tobacco lawyer

To celebrate Beaumont tobacco/asbestos lawyer Walter Umphrey’s seventieth birthday, fellow Texas Tobacco Five member John Eddie Williams took over a private aircraft hangar — Umphrey’s own, in fact — “moved out the two private jets and the helicopter, added on a two-story party tent and threw a no-holds-barred tribute to Umphrey.” Music was provided by Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Rotel and the Hot Tomatoes, performing on two different stages, and there was some pretty decent food too. Among the 400 attendees: gubernatorial candidate Carole Keeton Strayhorn. (Shelby Hodge, “Wild soiree in hangar was Western to the hilt”, Houston Chronicle, May 14). Of course it was a mere kaffeeklatsch compared with a Willie Gary or Mark Lanier party.

Now back to your previously scheduled news story about excessive CEO compensation.

Vioxx lawsuit advertising

Someone had been buying just about all of the advertising space on Google for most of the search terms relating to the recent Ernst v. Merck case with the headline “$250,000,000 Vioxx award,” (or, even more inaccurately, “$250,000,000 Vioxx settlement”) so I decided to see what new schemes the Internet had cooked up for chasing clients. The result is this page, which offers to “refer your Vioxx case” to “Mark Lanier law firm” to review.

The most entertaining part of the site is that there are eight check-boxes to describe the plaintiff’s symptoms, presumably so that lawyers can easily evaluate the submitted case:

Patient had Heart Attack
Patient had a Stroke
Patient had other Heart Problems
Patient Passed Away/Deceased
Patient had Unstable Angina
Patient had a Pulmonary Embolism
Patient had Arterial Thrombosis
Patient had Transient Ischemic Attack

Note the utter absence of an “arrhythmia” checkbox that would describe Robert Ernst’s symptoms, though hundreds of thousands of people suffer fatal arrthymias every year. On the other hand, given the fourth check-box, perhaps Vioxx plaintiffs’ attorneys plan to sue on behalf of everyone who took Vioxx, and then died. If they wait long enough, that will eventually be all of them. Earlier Vioxx ads/spam: Jan. 5; Dec. 22.

Another Republican trial lawyer senatorial candidate?

Social conservative trial attorney Mark Lanier, late of the Ernst v. Merck Vioxx verdict, is contemplating a 2008 Texas Senate run, sez the New York Times. (Alex Berenson, “Vioxx Verdict Raises Profile of Texas Lawyer”, Aug. 22).

The Democrats’ complete sell-out to the litigation lobby in 2004 quite likely cost them the presidential election because of the unprecedented counter-reaction by the business lobby, and the Dems have shown no signs of ceasing their self-destructive path of obstructing tort reform in the 109th Congress. It doesn’t even look like the Party is even going to get a mess of pottage out of it, because the litigation lobby isn’t going to keep funding the Democrats almost exclusively if they can protect their billion-dollar special interests through trial-lawyer RINO Republican politicians. See also Aug. 21 and Aug. 18.

Ernst v. Merck opening statements

Fortune has the best coverage of the Thursday opening statements, and notes the contrast between the opening statements of plaintiff’s attorney Mark Lanier, which was illustrated by pictures of a steamroller and a shell game, and Merck attorney David C. Kiernan, which the magazine seems to think made a mistake in respecting the intelligence of the jury by relying on the science behind the case instead of folksy name-calling. “If the company hoped to win points with the public for erring on the side of safety—its stated public rationale for having pulled the drug—the wager may have been naïve.” And if plaintiffs’ attorneys succeed in punishing Merck for taking safety measures, it’s bound to reduce safety in the future. Meanwhile, the New York Times publishes a puff piece on the plaintiff widow fed to the newspaper by the attorneys, barely acknowledging that her husband died of an arhythmia rather than a blood clot, and then failing to note that Roger Ernst was just one of 200,000 victims a year of fatal atherosclerosis (except in the small print of a photo of the coroner’s certificate), and thus was not “healthy and fit” regardless of whether he was a triathlete. The Times reveals a rogues’ gallery of plaintiffs’ lawyers helping out Lanier, without giving any indication of their unseemly background: Benedict Morelli (Nov. 23, 2003) and Fred Baron’s wife, Lisa Blue of Baron & Budd (Jul. 15, 2004; Jun. 17, 2004 and links therein). (Roger Parloff, “Stark Choices at the First Vioxx Trial”, Fortune, Jul. 15; Alex Berenson, “Contrary Tales of Vioxx Role in Texan’s Death”, New York Times, Jul. 15; Alex Berenson, “Jury Is Selected for Case Involving the Drug Vioxx”, New York Times, Jul. 14; Alex Berenson, “In First of Many Vioxx Cases, a Texas Widow Prepares to Take the Stand”, New York Times, Jul. 13; previous Overlawyered coverage: Jul. 1, Jul. 11 (includes my disclaimer), POL Jul. 15). Plaintiffs’ attorney Daniel Keller is liveblogging the trial, albeit not in the most objective fashion. Further coverage: Jul. 29, Aug. 19 ($253 million jury verdict).

Ernst v. Merck Vioxx trial to begin in Texas

Merck withdrew the painkiller Vioxx from the market when a study showed that it increased the risk of heart attack and stroke after eighteen months of use. 59-year-old Robert Ernst died suddenly of arrhythmia after taking Vioxx for seven months. No studies connect Vioxx to arrhythmia, but press coverage of the Brazoria County case, the first Vioxx products liability case to go to trial, has focused on the widow’s love for her husband rather than the lack of scientific controversy or asking why this case is going to trial at all. (Most press accounts repeat Carole Ernst’s claim that her husband was perfectly healthy; only the AP and USA Today mention in passing that Ernst’s autopsy showed atherosclerosis: two arteries partially blocked with plaque.)

Attorney Mark Lanier’s jaw-dropping theory, noted without rebuttal by the AP: “Mr. Lanier’s team says sudden death doesn’t leave enough time for the heart muscle to show whether Vioxx caused any damage.” The lack of evidence of damage is just proof of how insidious the drug is! As we noted on July 1, Lanier (Dec. 23, 2003) doesn’t seem interested in proving causation beyond innuendo. If you look through the press accounts, note especially the AP’s dramatically staged photo of Lanier in the New York Times: the case must be scientific because of all the pathology textbooks in the foreground of the shot! (Alex Berenson, “First Vioxx Suit: Entryway Into a Legal Labyrinth?”, NY Times, Jul. 11; Kristen Hays, “Jury selection to begin in Vioxx case”, AP, Jul. 10; Dana Calvo, “Vioxx Trial Could Set Precedent for Merck”, LA Times, Jul. 11; Richard Stewart, “Motion challenges plaintiff’s experts”, Houston Chronicle, Jul. 11; Kevin McCoy, “Merck to face first Vioxx trial before Texas jury next month”, USA Today, Jun. 30; Kristen Hays, “Lawyers gear up for first Vioxx suit against Merck”, AP/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jun. 28).

Read On…

“Merck on trial”

Writes Larry Ribstein (Jun. 24): “It’s bad enough the corporate fraud trials are about resentment, but now guilt by resentment seems to be spreading to products liability cases.” In a Vioxx trial expected to begin next month in South Texas, according to a WSJ report, folksy plaintiff’s lawyer Mark Lanier is planning to lay on the exec-bashing with a trowel while going light on such matters as the explication of statistical significance in side-effect data. See Barbara Martinez, Lawyer Outlines Attack on Merck For Vioxx Trial”, W$J, Jun. 24. More: Point of Law, Feb. 8. Further coverage: Jul. 11, Jul. 15, Jul. 29, Aug. 19 ($253 million jury verdict).

How do your holiday parties compare?

Attorney Willie Gary, frequently mentioned in this space (see Apr. 1-2, 2002 and links from there) sent out 275,000 invitations this year to his annual holiday party in Stuart, Fla., a fabulous bash that has been called South Florida’s premiere party; tens of thousands attended (Tyler Treadway, “Liberally distributed, invitations to Gary festival more elaborate each” (sic), (Scripps newspapers), Dec. 11; “Thousands take part in Gary’s holiday fete”, Dec. 13). Gary had an extra reason to celebrate this year, because a jury on Dec. 12 awarded $18 million to one of his clients, a road builder who said he was defamed by an investigative-journalism piece in the Gannett chain’s Pensacola News-Journal (see Mar. 30, 2001). (“Florida jury awards $18 million to road builder”, AP/First Amendment Center, Dec. 16). (More on case: Jan. 7; appeals court reverses, Oct. 25, 2006)

In Houston, meanwhile, trial lawyer W. Mark Lanier expects 5,000 holiday attendees at his 25-acre estate for what he bills as the “best party in the world”, now in its twelfth year. Lanier, who is noted for buying asbestos items on eBay and in 1998 won a $115 million verdict for 21 plaintiffs in an asbestos case, hired Bill Cosby to entertain the crowd this year; previous years’ talent have included Barry Manilow, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Diana Ross, and the Dixie Chicks. (Jonathan D. Glater, “Houston Holiday: Barbecue, Al Green and 5,000 Guests”, New York Times, Dec. 15)(fee archive) Incidentally, the Times also reports the following: “‘I support tort reform that gets rid of the garbage cases,’ said Mr. Lanier, who is a Republican. ‘I do not support the medical malpractice reform because I think it hurts the good cases and doesn’t do anything to restrict the garbage cases.'”