A ban on the charging of different prices for men’s and women’s services, a bad idea already enacted in California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Miami and New York City, may soon be the law in Ontario if pending legislation is approved. One supporter thinks it’s unfair for hairdressers to charge more for women’s cuts than men’s, and it’s apparently beside the point that most women’s cuts are more complicated and take longer to perform. Ditto with women’s clothes at dry cleaners, which are less standardized and more likely to require individualized handling. Of course many discounts run in favor of women purchasers, most notably auto insurance for younger drivers; no word on whether Ontario legislators are hoping to defy actuarial realities on that front. (Christl Dabu, “For Canadian women, that haircut may soon get cheaper”, Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 10 — note the headline, whose counter-version about haircuts for men getting more expensive probably never stood a chance of running). For reports on legal action aimed at bar’s “Ladies’ Night” promotions, see Aug. 4, 2003 and Jun. 10, 2004.
The Appleton Post-Crescent has now completed publishing its investigation of the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant, including the pageant’s apparent role in client recruitment strategies for the Florida-based law firm of Schwartz Zweben & Associates (see “Behind a pageant, busy lawyers”, Jul. 21). The overall series roundup can be found here; among the more topical stories in the series are “Law firm’s ties to pageant”, Jul. 16 (firm filed 54 lawsuits on behalf of Jaclyn Kratzer, Ms. Wheelchair Pennsylvania 2003, and 37 lawsuits on behalf of Jeri Wasco, coordinator of the Ms. Wheelchair Washington D.C. pageant); J.E. Espino, “Businesses settle suits out of court”, Jul. 17, and Ed Lowe, “Local lawsuits trigger debate over ADA compliance”, Jul. 24 (quotes me on the question of whether serial complainants were just really unlucky or went out in search of reasons to sue).
The Internet Archive, home of the celebrated Wayback Machine which allows researchers to examine the state of the World Wide Web as it stood in the past, is being sued by a Pennsylvania company for archiving its pages without consent. After all, capturing someone’s web presence for posterity is kind of like taking a photograph of them and thereby stealing their soul, or something like that. (Tom Zeller Jr., “Keeper of Expired Web Pages Is Sued Because Archive Was Used in Another Suit”, New York Times, Jul. 13)(via Bashman).
More wince-making fact patterns in (for all we know perfectly meritorious) litigation: the exploding porta-potty that badly injured a hapless worker at a West Virginia coal mine, allegedly ignited by leaking methane gas (Natalie Neysa Alund, “Porta-John blast victim sues for $10 million”, Morgantown Dominion Post, Jun. 2); the instance of alleged police brutality inflicted on a Western Pennsylvania woman nabbed on suspicion of prostitution and thrown into a cop car with such force that one of her breast implants burst (according to her lawyer, Harry J. Smail Jr., who has figured in these columns before)(Matthew Junker, “Arnold police slapped with federal civil rights lawsuit”, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, May 26). More in the genre: see, for example, Jan. 7-8, 2002.
Doctors admit ordering unnecessary diagnostic tests or avoiding troublesome patients for fear of malpractice lawsuits, perhaps harming care in the process, a survey released on Tuesday said.
The survey of 824 Pennsylvania physicians [in six specialties considered susceptible to litigation] found 93 percent confessed to ordering unnecessary tests, while 42 percent said they referred patients elsewhere if they had complex problems or were perceived as litigious. Both practices are referred to as so-called defensive medicine.
“The most frequent form of defensive medicine, ordering costly imaging studies, seems merely wasteful, but other defensive behaviors may reduce access to care and even pose risks of physical harm,” wrote lead author David Studdert of the Harvard School of Public Health.
(Andrew Stern, “Doctors’ Fear of Lawsuits May Hurt Care”, Reuters/ABCNews.com, May 31). For more on defensive medicine, see, among others, Feb. 1, 2004, Jun. 5, 2002, Point of Law, Apr. 10, and this Peter Huber column on an earlier Daniel Kessler study. Plus: KevinMD has more links here and here on the new study.
Via Common Good “Society Watch“, and we can’t do better than to just repeat their description of the case:
The mission of the Earth Conservancy, a non-profit organization in Northeastern Pennsylvania, is to revitalize “16,300 acres of former coal company-owned land. … More than 10,000 acres of Earth Conservancy land has been dedicated to open space and recreational activities.” But the Conservancy now faces a lawsuit from the mother of 30-year-old James Bertrand, who died “when the Jeep in which he was a passenger ran off a dirt roadway, down an embankment and into a 15- to 20-foot-deep waterhole on conservancy property.” The property in question is open to the public, but motorized vehicles are strictly prohibited. Had Bertrand obeyed the rules, says conservancy executive director Mike Dziak, the accident would have been avoided.
(Kasia Kopec, “Woman sues Earth Conservancy over son’s drowning in 2004 four-wheeling accident”, Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader, Mar. 29)
Loads of coverage of health matters in recent weeks over at our sister website, including: liability fears and emergency room admissions; New Jersey bans “retaliating” against expert witnesses over testimony they give, no matter how untrue it may be; Ted on one lawprof’s grossly misleading use of med-mal statistics, and a second round of the same; pain medication in nursing homes (and more on nursing homes); two doctors pick up stakes; Australian med-mal rates fall after reform; same thing in Texas; HHS introduces a distinctive “early offers” program for medical malpractice claims involving its clients; please don’t let him grow up to be an M.D.; Pennsylvania hospitals’ bill; MICRA and Prop 103; the March of Dimes wants Bendectin back; federal judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan throws out a major Dickie Scruggs case against the non-profit health sector; and a must-read article on defensive medicine. To explore all this and much more, follow the links provided or visit the site’s topical page on medicine and law.
It’s time to round up and thank some of those who’ve said or done kind things on our behalf recently. That would include Denise Howell, one of the earliest and best-known lawyer-bloggers (Bag and Baggage), who’s recently helped launch a new group blog at Corante on technology, culture and the law called Between Lawyers, featuring Ernest Svenson and others; in the comments section she calls Overlawyered “an excellent blog I recommend highly” (Mar. 28, comment section). Kevin O’Brien at Aero-News.net calls us “always-interesting” (Apr. 21) and while glad to return that nice compliment we note that it lacks intensity compared with what Donna Baver Rovito, dynamo of Pennsylvania physician activism, wrote recently (Mar. 17):
…just for the record, I would walk on broken glass for Walter Olson and Ted Frank in gratitude for the unbelievable research offered up on their websites Overlawyered.com and PointofLaw.com.
Wow. Evan Schaeffer probably wouldn’t go along completely with that sentiment but has lately extended congratulations to one of us and coffee mugs to both. We’ve also been recommended recently by Frazzle.com (Apr. 23), by Australia’s WogBlog (Apr. 27, calling us “terrific”), and, in Portuguese, Lado Negro da Web (Apr. 24). And the new legal blog aggregator Juris Novus, which fills the same general niche left by the late and lamented DailyWhirl, gives prominent placement to this site among its offerings. More: Precision Blogging (Apr. 29) calls us the “perfect antidote for a beautiful Spring day,” but seems to mean that in a complimentary way.
Getting more of a workout in Pennsylvania these days, what with neurosurgeons and trauma centers becoming scarcer outside the biggest cities (Reid Kanaley and Dawn Fallik, “Medevacs becoming more frequent fliers”, Philadelphia Inquirer, Apr. 18).
Federal prosecutors say they’ve caught two men masterminding unrelated complex schemes to siphon off large sums from class action settlements by falsely posing as members of the class. Richard Lagerveld was charged with mail and wire fraud after settlement administrators in two class actions mailed $9.2 million to his stated address in San Diego, which was in fact a homeless shelter. Authorities said he had a long criminal record including aliases and stolen identities; in one of the class actions, he submitted forged brokerage records to document his claim that he’d owned $145 million worth of stock in Oxford Health Plans, the target of securities litigation. In a second case, he collected a check for $2.3 million after claiming to be an owner of a fictitious company that had purchased glass from companies settling a class action. In the other case, inmate Alan N. Scott, who resides in the Schuylkill federal correctional institution in Pennsylvania, is charged with orchestrating an $8 million assortment of false settlement claims of which about $200,000 had been received as of the time of his arrest. According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, Scott used co-conspirators to correspond with claims administrators in about 90 securities class actions, “and routinely sent directions and correspondence to his co-conspirators by falsely labeling the correspondence ‘legal mail.'” (Onell R. Soto, “Ploy paid man millions, authorities say”, San Diego Union-Tribune, Jan. 18; Department of Justice press release, Feb. 9; Robert E. Kessler, “Two are charged in separate scams”, Newsday, Feb. 10; Securities Litigation Watch, Jan. 18).