Well, at least some doctors are hoping to discern such a trend on the strength of two data points: the case Ted has covered in which the Ohio Supreme Court struck down a $30 million verdict because of the shenanigans of attorney Geoffrey Fieger, and a Michigan case from March in which an appeals court overturned a $500,000 verdict against a Flint doctor and ordered a new trial. In the latter case the appeals court “noted the trial judge ‘valiantly and repeatedly attempted’ to restrain Konheim [Southfield, Mich., plaintiff attorney Joseph Konheim]. ‘There is a point, however, when an attorney’s deliberate misbehavior becomes so repetitive and egregious that it necessarily impacts the jury, notwithstanding the judge’s efforts. That point was reached here,’ the unanimous opinion states. It also says that Konheim belittled witnesses on the stand and made ‘irrelevant’ and ‘disparaging’ statements that diverted the jury’s attention from the case’s merits. Konheim is asking the court to reconsider.” (Amy Lynn Sorrel, “Lawyers’ misconduct triggers new liability trials”, AMedNews (AMA), May 5).
- Polar bears on parade: “Lawsuits are not the best way to force the public into solving planet-size problems such as climate change.” [Christian Science Monitor editorial]
- Jury convicts private investigator Anthony Pellicano, trial of entertainment lawyer Terry Christiansen set for July [Variety; earlier]
- Knockoff sneakers differed from Adidas original in having two or four stripes instead of three, didn’t save Payless Shoes from getting hit with $304 million verdict [American Lawyer]
- Following up on our discussion of municipal tree liability: Michigan high court OKs homeowner class action over sewer line damage from city trees [AP/MLive]
- Attorney Franklin Azar, of Colorado TV-ad fame, says jury’s verdict ordering him to pay a former client $145,000 was really a “big victory” for him [ABA Journal]
- Annals of tolling-for-infancy: “Dog bite 10 years ago subject of civil suit” [MC Record]
- Feds indict Missouri woman for cruel MySpace hoax that drove victim to suicide: Orin Kerr finds legal grounds weak [@ Volokh]
- “I blame R. Kelly for Sept. 11”: some ways potential jurors managed to get off singer’s high-profile Chicago trial [Tribune; h/t reader A.K.]
- Update: “click fraud” class actions filed in Texarkana against online ad providers have all now settled [SE Texas Record; earlier]
- Judge orders dad to stay on top of his daughter’s education, then jails him for 180 days when she fails to get her general equivalency diploma [WCPO, Cincinnati; update, father released]
- Lawyers still soliciting for AOL volunteer class actions [Colossus of Rhodey; earlier]
47-year-old archaeology professor Chris Ratte is perhaps not the most careful of parents; he says he didn’t realize when he bought a $7 “Mike’s Hard Lemonade” at a Tigers game, it was an alcoholic beverage (all of 10 proof), and let his 7-year-old son Leo drink the 12-ounce bottle. A vendor noticed the boy with the drink; the boy had no symptoms of inebriation but said he was nauseated; and stadium officials, in a prime example of defensive overreaction, summoned an ambulance, which found Leo fine with no trace of alcohol in his system.
Silly enough so far, no harm, no foul, but Michigan Child Protective Services intervened, held Leo in foster care for two days (refusing to release him to the custody of his aunts, who drove from New England on short notice for just such a possibility), and forced Ratte to move out of the house until a second hearing okayed his return. If Ratte and his wife weren’t upper-middle-class academics with access to the University of Michigan Law School clinic professors, it could have been much worse. “Don Duquette, a U-M law professor who directs the university’s Child Advocacy Law Clinic, represented Ratte and his wife. He notes sardonically that the most remarkable thing about the couple’s case may be the relative speed with which they were reunited with Leo.” (Brian Dickerson, Detroit Free Press, Apr. 28 (h/t B.C.)).
Some policy proposals are for taxpayers to fund attorneys to defend parents victimized by Child Protective Services; some go so far as to call it a constitutional right, albeit one having nothing to do with the underlying text of the Constitution. But that would only treat the symptom and ossify the underlying problem of abusive government intervention into the home.
We’ve reported before (Dec. 24-27, 2001; May 7, 2005; parallel case in New York, Jul. 10, 2004) on the lawsuit charging Michigan high school sports directors with sex discrimination for scheduling girls’ sports in different seasons than boys’. Such cases are subject to “one-way” attorney fee shifting (plaintiffs collect if they win, but need not fear paying if they lose) and the rules for fee calculations are generous. Now the judge has approved a plaintiff’s fee that the athletic directors’ association say threatens to push their group into bankruptcy; opponents say it’s their own fault for resisting so long. Nearly $3 million in fees plus interest are set to go to Kristen Galles, a solo practitioner in Alexandria, Va., whose large number of billed hours at $390/hour may relate to her having worked without a paralegal or secretary. (Julie Mack, “Michigan High School Athletic Association owes $7.4 million in legal fees, interest to lawyers who won case to change the girls sports season”, Kalamazoo Gazette, Apr. 21)(via ABA Journal); “Athletic Group Ordered To Pay $7M”, AP/LexisOne, Apr. 2).
My latest Liability Outlook examines the problems of retroactive lawmaking and litigation, especially reviver statutes, and even Obama fans will find something to like:
The controversy over whether and how to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations at the Democratic National Convention shows the danger of changing rules midstream and upsetting settled expectations. Reviver statutes not only obviate statutes of limitations, which are a critical aid to justice, by “reviving” claims that have expired or never existed, but they can also pose the danger of undoing the benefits of future prospective legislation. In evaluating laws, the issue is not merely one of retroactivity, but of the importance of promoting legal certainty. For example, the FISA Amendments Act, S. 2248, while ostensibly acting retroactively to grant immunity to telecommunications companies that cooperated with the Bush administration’s antiterror surveillance program, works to protect settled expectations.
Among matters discussed: litigation against the Catholic church over child abuse by priests and the Michigan legislature’s proposed retroactive repeal of pharmaceutical tort reform in H.R. 4045. Walter has previously discussed the subject.
The ten big donors who bootlessly pledged up to $12 million include some familiar names, such as John Eddie Williams and Peter Angelos, as well as a new one, Calvin C. Fayard, Jr., of the firm Fayard & Honeycutt, A.P.C., who boasts connections with former Louisiana AG Charles Foti (Folo, Mar. 20; “Michigan Missives”, The Caucus (NY Times), Mar. 19).
- Bogus Michael Boyle v. Ford verdict tossed by appellate court. [Law.com]
- More on the Patent Troll Tracker lawsuit. [Law.com]
- Federal district court rejects challenge to Michigan Proposition 2 ban on racial set-asides after far too much litigation over the voter initiative. [Open Market Blog]
- Criminal charges reinstated against Empire State Building parachutist. [Turkewitz]
- In the other Mississippi judicial bribery scandal (Oct. 12, Sep. 8, etc.), two judges report to federal prison. [Law.com/AP]
- Hawaii tort reform bill dead after all. [Torts Prof]
Let us imagine a writer for a left-wing magazine, we’ll call her Mephanie Stencimer, who wants to buy a car. But she has particular tastes: she doesn’t just want any old car. She wants a three-wheeled vehicle, perhaps because the feng shui is better, perhaps because she wants to spend less money on tires forced upon her by Big Rubber. She goes from car-dealer to car-dealer around town, but every single one of the dastardly businessmen insist that her only choice is a four-wheeled vehicle. She patiently explains the aesthetics of the triangular approach, but they shrug their shoulders and tell her it’s out of their hands and she has to have a four-wheeled car or nothing. Finally, she surrenders her preference for the three-wheeled vehicle, and takes a model with the extra wheel.
If you were to take seriously the arguments of Stephanie Mencimer at Mother Jones and the commenters there, and perhaps the occasional judge, this is an outrageous “contract of adhesion” that should be outlawed: Stencimer didn’t have a choice, didn’t have the bargaining power to make the auto-dealer sell her a three-wheeled car, and was forced to buy an extra wheel. But is this really a problematic failure of the market that requires government intervention?
Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch (M-LAW) is out with its latest annual Wacky Warning Label awards. “Danger: Avoid Death” appeared on a small tractor, while second place went to one in a longtime favorite genre of ours, the do-not-iron-garments-while-wearing warning. Third place? A “label on a baby stroller featuring a small storage pouch that warns: ‘Do not put child in bag.'” Also important to know: “The Vanishing Fabric Marker should not be used as a writing instrument for signing checks or any legal documents.” (Ron Vample, “‘Avoid Death’ is wacky warning winner”, AP/USA Today, Dec. 12). Coverage of earlier years: 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, earlier.