- “The NYT revisits the Tawana Brawley rape hoax scandal — and Al Sharpton’s role.” [Ann Althouse]
- Is there any hope of reforming or repealing FATCA, the crazy overseas banking regulation? [Frederic Alain Behrens, SSRN via TaxProf, earlier here, etc.]
- Urbanophile is no fan of Toronto mayor Rob Ford, but also no fan of the campaign to drive him from office [Aaron Renn]
- Landlords face legal risk taking on ex-offenders — so where are they supposed to live? [Volokh]
- When does a strong central state advance individual liberty? Arnold Kling reviews Mark Weiner’s The Rule of the Clan [EconLib]
- Unenforceability of contract holds back Indian tribes’ prosperity [Terry Anderson]
- “Oklahoma High Court Nullifies State Tort Reform Law” [WLF, TortsProf, Tulsa World, Reuters, NewsOK, Beck (“the Oklahoma Supreme Court was plainly out of control in Ysbrand, and unfortunately it remains out of control to this day”), Douglas v. Cox]
- Very silly Common Cause suit against Senate filibuster [Adler, Doug Mataconis, Jack Shafer (Filibuster unconstitutional? “Yes, but only when the GOP has the majority.”)]
- More on football concussion lawsuits [Will Oremus, Slate; Gerard Magliocca, Concurring Opinions; earlier] More: Dan Fisher/Forbes.
- Phrase I’ve heard before: Niall Ferguson says U.S. beset by the “rule of lawyers” [Business Insider]
- “I have filed over a hundred lawsuits and another one will be no sweat for me. On the other hand, it will cost you a lot of time and money[.]” One blogger’s prolonged legal ordeal [“Aaron Worthing,” Allergic2Bull and summary version] Plus: Ken/Popehat;
- Louisiana land-taint suits: “maybe I’m just going to contend the oil companies did it, not the salt domes” [Lachlan Markay, Heritage, earlier]
- Kansas differs from SCOTUS on legality of resale price maintenance. Will it make policy for the other 49 states? [Ted Frank] New Federalist Society project on state courts and how they’re picked;
- A lot of lobbying went into that government-prescribed “flame-resistant” furniture [Chicago Tribune]
- And she’s a psychology professor too: “Pro se litigant of the day” [ATL]
- “Access to justice” makes handy slogan, but has its limits re: appeal bonds [Ted at PoL]
- New Federalist Society white papers on Michigan, Illinois, California and Alabama supreme courts;
- Per her opponent this year, CPSIA proponent and perennial Overlawyered bete noire Jan Schakowsky ranks as most left-wing member of Congress [ExtremeJan.com]
- Naming opportunity at Faulkner U.’s Jones School of Law falls to Greg Jones of Beasley Allen [BA press release]
- Lockyer pushes divestment of firms for taking wrong stance on ballot controversy [Coyote]
- “Patent marking” suits continue to proliferate as Reps. Latta, Issa propose measures to curb opportunistic filings [Gray on Claims]
- “South Carolina tobacco fees: how to farm money” [ten years ago on Overlawyered]
In 2001, Louis Stockell, driving his pickup at 70 mph, twice the speed limit, rear-ended a Chrysler minivan. Physics being what they are, the front passenger seat in the van collapsed backwards and the passenger’s head struck and fatally injured 8-month old Joshua Flax. The rest of the family walked away from the horrific accident. Plaintiffs’ attorney Jim Butler argued that Chrysler, which already designed its seats above federal standards, should be punished for not making the seats stronger — never mind that a stronger and stiffer seat would result in more injuries from other kinds of crashes because it wouldn’t absorb any energy from the crash. (Rear-end collisions are responsible for only 3% of auto fatalities.) Apparently car companies are expected to anticipate which type of crash a particular vehicle will encounter, and design accordingly. The $105M verdict includes $98M in punitives.
We had more details of trial shenanigans in December 2004 and noted the reduction of the punitives by the trial court to a still unreasonable $20 million in June 2005. In December 2006, the intermediate appellate court threw out the punitive damages and the negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, leaving a $5 million compensatory damages verdict to be split between Chrysler and the driver responsible for the accident. An injustice, but at least a smaller injustice.
However, today, a 3-2 vote of the Tennessee Supreme Court made it a larger injustice again, reinstating $13,367,345 of punitive damages over a good-faith dispute over appropriate seatback design, giving no credit to evidence that the design in the Caravan was safer than the plaintiffs’ proposed design, and effectively disregarding Tennessee statutory law that compliance with federal standards creates a presumption against punitive damages. The Court did not mention Exxon Shipping‘s suggestion that punitive damages greater than a 1:1 ratio were possibly constitutionally inappropriate where compensatory damages were substantial and the defendant’s actions were not intentional or done for profit. The Court unanimously affirmed the elimination of the NIED claim; one justice would have thrown out the compensatory damages, as well, because of the volume of inadmissible and improperly prejudicial evidence admitted. (Flax v. Daimler Chrysler (Tenn. Jul. 24, 2008); id. (Wade, J., concurring); id. (Clark, J., partially dissenting); id. (Koch, J., partially dissenting); E. Thomas Wood, “High court upholds $18.4M damage award in DaimlerChrysler case”, Nashville Post, Jul. 24; Kristin M. Hall, AP/Chicago Tribune, Jul. 24). The majority decision relied heavily on the expert testimony of Paul Sheridan, an MBA non-engineer and professional anti-Chrysler witness whom a federal court called “wholly unqualified” to testify on seat back design.
- Beck and Herrmann fisk a NEJM anti-preemption editorial. [Beck/Herrmann; NEJM]
- Lessons of the Grasso case. [Hodak]
- You think BigLaw has it bad? Plaintiffs’ attorney who invented the benefit-of-the-bargain theory for pharmaceutical class actions where no one has suffered any cognizable injury, has made his firm tens of millions, but still hasn’t made partner. “Zigler said he never meets most of the people he represents in these high-profile cases.” [St.L. Post-Dispatch; related analysis from Beck/Herrmann]
- Speaking of harmless lawsuits, “an atrocity in Arkansas,” as Arkansas Supreme Court ignores basic principles of due process and civil procedure to certify an extortionate pre-CAFA class action from MIller County. [Hmm, that’s Beck/Herrmann again; General Motors v. Bryant; related from Greve]
- Speedo competitor: unfair competition to say your innovative swimsuit has an advantage just because 38 out of the last 42 world records (as of June 30) were broken in the suit. [Am Law Daily]
- Background on bogus shower curtain scare story (earlier). [NYT; related AEI event]
- EMTALA-orama: don’t discuss payment in the emergency room if you don’t want to get sued. [ER Stories]
As long as I am allowed to redistribute wealth from out-of-state companies to in-state plaintiffs, I shall continue to do so. Not only is my sleep enhanced when I give someone else’s money away, but so is my job security, because the in-state plaintiffs, their families and their friends will re-elect me.
On November 14, 1999, high-school dropout Rolando Domingo Montez, celebrating his 19th birthday, was arrested for public intoxication and trespass after the owner of the boat on which he and his friends were sitting complained. Police placed him in Cell No. 1 of the Port Isabel City Jail. The next morning, Montez was permitted to make some collect calls from his jail cell to seek bail money from his mother, Pearl Iris Garza. Mom, complaining that Montez was in jail again, refused. But she generously came to pick up Montez on the 16th when he was released on his own recognizance. Unfortunately, while Garza was waiting in the lobby, and while police were responding to a call for assistance regarding a suspicious vehicle, Montez hung himself with the 19-inch phone cord from the phone he had used to make the calls.
So AP reports. More details as they become available.
9:43: AP/Boston Globe reports a dramatic rejection of public-nuisance theory, holding the case should’ve been dismissed years ago. Good news that. The Rhode Island Supreme Court decision was unanimous.
5:00: Here is the opinion itself. James Beck has the most comprehensive analysis of the opinion so far; Walter gives thorough background at Point of Law as well as a roundup of other links. The defendants and NAM have released statements; Motley Rice claims they were doing it for the children, which doesn’t explain their self-serving settlement with DuPont or why they asked for a highly inefficient remediation remedy that would have maximized their attorneys’ fees.
Also: Jonathan Turley (who I just learned has a year-old blog with over a thousand posts), who, to his credit, has opposed such lawsuits; OpenMarket; Jane Genova; Publius. Attorney General Patrick Lynch is unhappy about the legal setback to his
campaign contributors constituents.
Existing abatement efforts already required of landlords under Rhode Island law mean that lead paint exposure is at an all-time low in the state–evidence that was excluded at trial.
- Sure enough, former Milberg lawyers sue the convicted ex-Milberg lawyers for breach of fiduciary duty. I was wondering when that was going to happen. [WSJ Law Blog; NYLJ/law.com; earlier]
- Why file grievance against a fellow attorney who’s only stolen $200,000 from clients? Colleagues wonder [Las Vegas Review-Journal via ABA]
- Judge: No evidence of wrongdoing by Kenneth Pasternak. Too bad he can’t get his three years back. Meanwhile SEC keeps bringing enforcement cases on same repeatedly rejected theory of liability. [WSJ; Law Blog]
- “What the AP and The New York Times’ Hansell don’t seem to realize is how hostile an act it is to send lawyer letters to individuals.” [Jarvis via Patterico]
- “When judges act like politicians, the judicial selection process – elected or appointed – becomes increasingly political. Action and reaction. The politicization of the court led to the politicization of the elections for justices. … When justices arrogate political policymaking to themselves, they should not be surprised when they are held to the same standards as politicians.” [Wisconsin Policy Research Institute via American Courthouse; I said that, too]
- Even Susan Estrich finds the Alex Kozinski web site mini-to-do as evidence of media bias. [Estrich; Patterico link roundup]
- Senator McCaskill shows her ignorance on the Anheuser-Busch merger and corporate officer duties. [Hodak]
- A clever attorney will already have a fill-in-the-blanks product liability complaint drafted against Lego. [Childs]
- Hugo Chavez expropriates wealth to consolidate dictatorship. American lawyer helps. Somehow I don’t think we’ll see an Alien Tort Claims Act suit against his law firm. [AmLaw Daily]