- Monday’s polar bear panel at AEI is a panel about the law of polar bears and the effect of the FWS decision to list them as threatened, rather than a panel featuring polar bears. So no fish will be served. Volokh’s Jonathan Adler will be there, though. [Volokh; AEI]
- Limiting lawsuit abuses lowers costs from litigation, creates jobs in long run. [Engler & McQuillan @ Detroit News]
- HBO to small businesses: prepositions are okay, but conjunctions will lead to injunctions. [Baltimore Sun]
- A one-sided love letter to Cozen O’Connor in the Philadelphia Inquirer over its September 11 litigation is a bit too revealing about its deep-pocket searches: “Cozen lawyers also had to be sure that such a defendant made financial sense, for the firm and its clients.” Culpability, of course, isn’t in the equation; and the newspaper story fails to account for the public-policy implications of having trial lawyers stepping on foreign policy. [Philadelphia Inquirer]
- Life imitates “The Office”: law firm offers “love contracts” for dating workers. [ABA Journal]
- More evidence of FDA overwarning, even when the science and law does not justify it. [Kyle Sampson @ Product Liability Law 360]
- Business tries to bully small website with litigation; small website successfully fights back. [CL&P Blog]
- “[Ron] Paul accomplished the one thing he’s always been good at: using political appeals to get people to send money. I don’t feel freer.” [Henley via Kirkendall]
- “It’s infuriating how all three presidential candidates prattle on about the need to fight global warming while also complaining about the high price of gasoline.” [Postrel]
- Story on Vioxx settlement and Merck winning reversals heavily quotes me. [Product Liability Law 360 ($)]
In the wake of the September 11 bombings, Congress established a Victims Compensation Fund and limited liability for a number of deep-pockets who were also victimized by the attacks. A number of academics questioned that it was even conceivable that innocent third parties could be held liable for a terrorist attack. Anthony J. Sebok, What’s Law Got to Do With It? Designing Compensation Schemes in the Shadow of the Tort System, 53 DEPAUL L. REV. 901, 917 (2003); RICHARD A. NAGAREDA, MASS TORTS IN A WORLD OF SETTLEMENT 104 (2007); Peter Schuck, Special Dispensation, AM. LAWYER (June 2004); see also LLOYD DIXON AND RACHEL KAGANOFF STERN, COMPENSATION FOR LOSSES FROM THE 9/11 ATTACKS (RAND Institute for Civil Justice 2004).
Overlawyered readers knew better, because they had seen the Port Authority get socked with a $1.8 billion verdict (Oct. 27, 2005; Oct. 29, 2005; Nov. 2, 2005) after being held 68% responsible for the deliberate bombing of the World Trade Center by terrorists in 1993. The Port Authority appealed the absurd ruling, but the Appellate Division has affirmed unanimously (via) since, after all, such absurdities are central to the modern tort regime and thus not “legal error” to abandon the centuries-old concept of intervening causation. As I noted in a related Wall Street Journal editorial, contingent-fee attorneys’ incentives are not to seek out the truth behind wrongdoing, but to construct a narrative that will hold the deepest pocket the most responsible, regardless of the effect on justice. This distortion has worked its way into popular culture; a survey of family members of September 11 decedents found that the median respondent held the terrorists only 30% responsible for losses. Gillian Hadfield, Framing the Choice between Cash and the Courthouse: Experiences with the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, 42 L. & SOC. R. __ (forthcoming 2008). See also my House testimony on the expansion of the 9/11 Fund.
Longtime Overlawyered readers may remember my tut-tutting the original proprietor of the Bizarro-Overlawyered site for misrepresenting a Southern District of New York opinion by claiming that its disposition of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion was an affirmative finding of fact that Christine Todd Whitman had acted improperly in the wake of the September 11 attacks. (In fact, all the court did was rule that the case could go forward on the allegations of the plaintiffs’ complaint.) The Second Circuit has now spanked the district court for going even that far, and tossed the entire case, ruling that this was not an appropriate inquiry for the judicial branch, given the risk that officials will be deterred from making public statements if they could be held liable for allegedly making a mistake. Good analysis of Benzman v. Whitman by Stephen Bergstein via Bashman.
Things I should’ve said: that a dictator did a good job in the past hardly means that a dictatorship is a good idea, even if you can reappoint the same dictator. But one can be dumbfounded by the stupidity of some questions.
The families of 9/11 victims who refused the Feinberg fund results and demanded more through lawsuits piously reported repeatedly that it wasn’t about the money, that they just wanted to publicize the truth in their lawsuits against fellow victims such as the airlines and airports and multiple other deep pockets. Now that several cases have settled—and the plaintiffs have agreed to confidentiality clauses—Shaun Mullen and Ed Morrissey suggest that it was about the money after all.
“Laura Balemian, whose husband Edward J. Mardovich died in the World Trade Center, received one of the largest awards paid out by the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund: $6.7 million. But she in turn paid out what is almost certainly the highest legal fee. While the vast majority of victims were represented before the fund pro bono or for a nominal fee, Balemian paid her lawyer, Thomas J. Troiano, a one-third contingent fee, or over $2 million.” In an affidavit, 9/11 fund special master Kenneth Feinberg calls Troiano’s fee “shocking and unconscionable”, and says that fund guidelines recommend that attorney fees be kept under 5 percent of family recoveries; Troiano, however, says Mrs. Balemian knew what she was getting into and that his efforts produced outstanding results. (Anthony Lin, “Attorney’s $2 Million 9/11 Fee Called ‘Shocking, Unconscionable'”, New York Law Journal, Aug. 29; Alfonso A. Castillo, “9/11 widow battles over attorney’s fee”, Newsday, Sept. 1; MyShingle, Aug. 28).
Update: Story also covered in this American Justice Partnership publication (PDF).
September 11 litigation as an industry, courtesy of the asbestos/tobacco zillionaires from South Carolina:
While other lawyers have resolved most or all of their cases — at least 32 of the roughly 90 total lawsuits have settled — Motley Rice has settled only three. …According to several lawyers and plaintiffs in the case, Motley Rice has made unusually high settlement demands, often 5 to 10 times higher than similar plane crash cases. The higher demands stem from Motley’s calculations for what it calls “terror damages” — compensation for the amount of time frightened victims knew they were fated to die — of between $750,000 and $1 million a minute, according to those lawyers and clients, who requested that their names not be used because the settlement process is confidential.
The story deserves a place in the “Not About The Money” files because client after client informs the Boston Globe that their litigation stance is entirely unrelated to that disdained cash nexus; presumably it’s just happenstance that they have wound up represented by lawyers who are making monetary recovery a very high priority indeed. Somehow one is reminded of the character in Flannery O’Connor: “Mrs. Hopewell had no bad qualities of her own but she was able to use other people’s in such a constructive way that she never felt the lack.” (via Lattman)(cross-posted from Point of Law).