Posts Tagged ‘Tennessee’

June 14 roundup

April 10 roundup

  • Civil libertarian Wendy Kaminer on feminism and the Yale speech complaint [Atlantic, earlier]
  • Baylen Linnekin’s Keep Food Legal organization is having a membership drive;
  • Bounty-hunting West Coast lawyers can now sue employers for large sums over temperature and worker-seating violations of the California Labor Code [Cal Labor Law]
  • Current set of urban, suburban parking policies amount to “another great planning disaster.” [Donald Shoup, Cato Unbound]
  • $7500? Tennessee lawyer charged with rape of client released on $7500 bond [WMC via White Coat]
  • Stella Liebeck hot coffee case: Abnormal Use suspects that Cracked never read its FAQ on the subject (or for that matter many of our own postings);
  • Baltimore public housing refuses to pay lead poisoning awards; “too strapped” [Baltimore Sun]
  • “Mr. Potato Head” contest cited in discrimination lawsuit charging anti-Irish bias [Lowering the Bar]

International human rights law roundup

Recent clips on a subject treated in much more detail in Schools for Misrule:

  • Claim: Wisconsin Gov. Walker’s reforms to public sector labor law violate international human rights [HRW, Mirer/Cohn, FoxBusiness (views of Marquette lawprof Paul Secunda)] Related: UAW threatens charges against automakers [ShopFloor]
  • Per some advocates, “right to health” has emerged as an “established international legal precept” even if it is “still to be fully embraced in the United States” [Friedman/Adashi, JAMA]
  • GWB at risk of arrest if he visits Europe? Or are some of his enemies just posturing? “Bush trip to Switzerland called off amid threats of protests, legal action” [Atlantic Wire, WaPo, Daily Dish and more, Frum Forum, more and yet more]
  • Oh, good grief: Tennessee solon “proposes law to make following Shariah law a felony” [Tennesseean] More states prepare to join unsound “ban all recogition of international law” movement [Ku, OJ] Background: Volokh.
  • For those interested in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recently given a favorable nod by the Obama administration, a copy of the text is available here [CWB]
  • “Conceptualizing Accountability in International Law and Institutions” [Anderson, OJ]
  • Human rights initiative in UK: “Rapists and killers demand right to benefits” [Telegraph] European Court of Human Rights, Human Rights Acts “merely pretexts for judicial activism, argues Alasdair Palmer” [Telegraph]
  • Claim: U.S. is odd-country-out in international law. Reality check please [Bradford, Posner et al, OJ]
  • Opponents charge trying Pennsylvania 13 year old for murder as adult could violate international law [AI]

October 30 roundup

“Coyote Ugly patron sues after falling off bar”

Add another to our list of tavern patrons who discovered that dancing on the bar was not as safe a pastime as they initially assumed. This time the scene of the accident, and target of the resulting lawsuit, is Nashville’s Coyote Ugly Saloon. Her attorney says Ms. Barnes “‘had had a few drinks’ but was not drunk.” [Tennessean via Day]

Update to Tennessee medmal verdict

Update to the Hamilton County medical malpractice case we discussed in May. Four jurors have signed affidavits claiming that they were “coerced” by the judges’ instructions demanding a verdict into finding for the plaintiff rather than deadlocking the jury; one or two others deny that this happened. (Chattanooga Free Press, Jun. 14, Jun. 24, and Jun. 28; h/t J.T.)

While the “Allen charge” the judge gave appears to violate Tennessee law (which, unlike federal law, disapproves of such instructions), reading between the lines of the news stories, it seems that the defendants sandbagged any objection. As one can see, the journalist did not know enough law to ask the follow-up question “Did you object at the time to the jury instruction?”, which would be the critical inquiry. (Though it is possible that she did know, but had that part of her story cut by editors.) If this is the best grounds of appeal for the defendants, and plaintiff’s lawyers are correct that there was no objection at the time, the defendant is facing a steep uphill battle. Generally, courts don’t like to go wading elbows deep to scrutinize the jury deliberations; otherwise, every trial would be followed by a collateral trial into the claims of jurors, and losing parties would have the incentive to lobby jurors to testify against their verdict. (I learned this the hard way in my first appellate briefing as a junior associate.)

SCOTUS refuses to review Flax punitive damages

I expressed skepticism this summer that the Exxon Shipping v. Baker decision was a positive sign for the Court’s punitive damages jurisprudence. After the replay of Philip Morris v. Williams and, now, the Court’s denial of certiorari in DaimlerChrysler v. Flax this week, I can say I was right.

As readers of Overlawyered know, the Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated $13.3 million of punitive damages over a good-faith dispute over a van’s seat back design (in an accident caused by a drunk driver), giving no credit to the fact that the design in question was safer than federal safety standards, or to 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. As I described the case back then:

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.

(h/t Cutting)

Tennessee jury demands defensive medicine

One out of ten colonoscopies result in nausea and vomiting; about one in 1000 colonoscopies will accidentally perforate the intestine, with potentially life-threatening side effects if not treated in a timely fashion. Kristen Freeman was one of the unfortunate one in 1000. While she complained of nausea and vomiting, she disregarded the instructions given to her about reporting her other symptoms, and so medical staff treated it like a more common case of nausea. By the time she admitted that her situation and pain was more dire, complications set in, and she suffered cardiopulmonary arrest, which in turn led to severe brain damage.

I won’t quibble with the jury’s assessment of damages of $12 million: Freeman was 33 and is now disabled for life, and in the randomness of noneconomic damages, $12 million isn’t the craziest award out there. But that the Hamilton County, Tennessee jury found gastroenterologist Michael Goodman 51% liable seems arbitrary. If doctors are required to assume that every patient reporting nausea but denying their situation is an emergency might be hiding more serious symptoms, and require them to go to the emergency room for testing (as the plaintiffs’ attorney argued Goodman should have done here), then that’s 100 wasteful emergency room cases for each real case—and not even a prevented case, since most patients follow instructions and report to the ER on their own when symptoms specific to perforation appear.

The article is on the Chattanooga Free Press web site, but the interesting discussion is in the comments, with friends of Freeman and seemingly knowledgeable doctors kibitzing. Freeman’s supporters argue that she did not actually experience any emergency symptoms and thus was not at fault at all. Even if true, that implies that they feel Goodman should be held responsible because he did not anticipate that Freeman was actually having an emergency when she presented asymptomatically: again, a demand for defensive medicine.