- “Torts of the Future: Addressing the Liability and Regulatory Implications of Emerging Technologies” [U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform]
- “After paying out millions, Detroit pushes new law protecting cities from claims over bad sidewalks” [WXYZ]
- Fire doors at U.N. cut and repurposed to make cabinets, court rules original manufacturers not liable for failure to warn of asbestos dust risk should doors be cut up [Lynn Lehnert, Asbestos Case Tracker]
- Woman sues bar that served her over her later drunk driving accident and injuries allegedly suffered in police custody [Penn Record]
- Can members of a class action be identified? Supreme Court should resolve circuit split on the important class-action-certification issue of “ascertainability” [David E. Sellinger and Aaron Van Nostrand, WLF]
- Federal court in the Eastern District of New York gets lots of food marketing lawsuits [Emily Saul and Danika Fears, New York Post, Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
With both Congress and White House now in Republican hands, the U.S. House of Representatives is moving with dispatch to consider a series of litigation reform measures, some stalled for years by Democratic opposition and others of relatively recent vintage. Bruce Kaufman at BNA Bloomberg has a three-part series (first, second, third) followed by an update today on the looming battle over the six main bills:
- The Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act (H.R. 720) “requires judges to impose mandatory sanctions on attorneys who file ‘meritless’ civil cases in federal courts.”
- The Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act (H.R. 985) which “affects nearly all facets of class action practice” and in particular “class certification requirements, capping or delaying distribution of fees to class counsel, requiring the disclosure of litigation financing, and tying the reporting of settlement data to plaintiffs’ lawyers’ fees.” [More: various academic opponents weigh in here, Andrew Trask defends provisions of the bill here and here, and see earlier]
- The Innocent Party Protection Act (H.R. 725) “targets what is known as fraudulent joinder—the improper addition of [local] defendants to suits in a bid to keep cases in more plaintiff-friendly state courts.”
- The Furthering Asbestos Claims Transparency Act (H.R. 906) “mandates increased reporting of payments to plaintiffs by trusts that pay out asbestos exposure claims against bankrupt companies,” in hopes of preventing undisclosed duplicative collection of damages over the same injury.
- The Stop Settlement Slush Funds Act (H.R. 732) which “seeks to bar the Department of Justice from entering into settlements that steer funds to favored third-party groups.”
- The Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act (H.R. 469) Goes after what have been called “sue-and-settle” processes at EPA in which the agency reaches concessionary terms with ostensibly adverse litigants who seek to expand its authority.
Trial lawyers and allies in the Litigation Lobby aren’t standing idly by: “opponents hope to gum up the works.” Even if many bills clear House passage, getting to 60 votes in the Senate in the face of filibuster threats could prove difficult, despite the departure of perennial trial lawyer ally Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and the views of President Trump are not entirely clear. More: Washington Examiner editorial on class action measures.
“How tort reform helped ignite the Texas boom”:
Over the last two decades, Texas engaged in a conversation as to the purpose and role of its civil courts. When that conversation began, the state’s courts had become virtual fiefdoms of trial lawyers. Texas recognized few limits on damages claims and imposed minimal accountability on plaintiffs. The state’s litigation environment was, unsurprisingly, toxic for business. The pushback came in the early 1980s. Lawmakers started to ask whether the Texas constitution’s commitment, spelled out in Article 1, Section 13, that “all courts shall be open, and every person for an injury done him . . . shall have remedy by due course of law” precludes putting reasonable limits on liability. The state legislature’s decision to strike a balance and roll back tort excesses marked a turning point in the state’s economic rise. Together with competitive tax and regulatory policies, tort reform sowed the field so that Texas’s pro-growth policies could take root.
Comprehensive backgrounder covers such topics as the putting up of justice for sale at the pre-reform version of the elected Texas Supreme Court (the anecdote from businessman Henry J.N. Taub is especially alarming), the Texaco-Pennzoil case and the generosity to judges of the late Joe Jamail, America’s richest lawyer; early statutory enactments, struck down by the state’s high court; the turning point that came when “the general electorate finally began taking an interest in judicial elections”; the Rio Grande Valley doctor’s revolt; comprehensive reforms beginning under then-Governor George W. Bush and continuing under his successors including Rick Perry; elements of loser-pays; and the general success of tort reform, both in economic climate generally and specifically in the encouraging climate for the state’s medical sector, which includes many nationally prominent institutions. [Kathleen Hunker, City Journal]
Yes, he’s litigious. But that doesn’t mean his administration is going to be be pro-litigation. My new Cato piece ventures predictions on where Donald Trump might depart from previous Republican thinking on lawsuit reform, and where he’s likely to maintain continuity.
“Angry about Peter Thiel’s pursuit of Gawker? Tort reform is the best solution.” Sonny Bunch of the Free Beacon is kind enough to quote me at length (and quote my debut book, The Litigation Explosion, at length too) in this Washington Post opinion piece.
…members of the media are finally starting to realize something that conservatives have been arguing for quite some time with regard to our litigious culture, namely that the process itself is the punishment….
One of the causes that Olson argued most strenuously for in his book [The Litigation Explosion] was a more aggressive regime of fee shifting — that is, crafting and enforcing “loser-pays” laws common in other countries. Given that he literally wrote the book on the topic, I emailed him and asked how news outlets could work to avoid ruin at the hands of the vengeful wealthy….
If you wonder how loser-pays might have helped Gawker even though Hulk Hogan’s case was a winner, you need to read the link. More: Andrew Kloster and Jessica Higa, Daily Signal.
- Justice Scalia’s death will make big difference in class action cases [Samantha Thompson, McGuireWoods via Andrew Trask]
- Manhattan Institute publishes new report in its Trial Lawyers, Inc. series, this one focusing on class actions and mass torts [James Copland and colleagues]
- Prof. Jason Johnston says House-passed class action reform would have modest effect [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine] More on H.R. 1927, which also includes asbestos-litigation provisions and passed the House 211-188 with no Democratic votes [Mark Hofmann, Business Insurance; Republican Policy Committee]
- “The Supreme Court’s next big class action controversy: ascertainability” [Alison Frankel, Reuters on Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo]
- Texarkana forum-shopping: “Attorney files motion to dismiss class action settlement between USAA and Goodson law firm” [Benjamin Hardy, Arkansas Times, Adams v. USAA h/t Arkansas Business]
- TCPA, law that launched a thousand telemarketing class actions, might stand for “Total Cash for Plaintiffs’ Attorneys” [Adonis Hoffman, The Hill]
- Of course this exists [LivestockAccident.com]
- Eleventh Circuit: no, court can’t rely on professional association’s guidelines to exclude expert witness under Daubert [David Bernstein on Adams v. Lab Corp. of America, followup]
- “Why Can Plaintiffs Only Remember Solvent Defendants In Asbestos Cases?” [Abnormal Use, my two cents way back]
- “Predicting the future in tort law” [Kyle Graham]
- “LA County’s Lead Paint Lawsuit Could Spell Disaster for Apartment Owners” [Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles]
- Chicago personal injury attorney will face privacy suit over solicitations based on police crash records [Chamber-backed Cook County Record]
- No, it won’t: “Will HR 1927 Kill the Class Action?” [Andrew Trask/Class Strategist; Sean Wajert on House Judiciary action]
- Home lab butane cannabis fatality: “The Hash Oil contributory negligence lawsuit you’ve all been waiting for” [Elie Mystal, Above the Law]
- With Sheldon Silver out of the speaker’s chair, New York has better chance at reducing sky-high litigation costs [Manhattan Institute, earlier on scaffold law]
- Per Norton Rose Fulbright annual business survey, responding companies more than twice as likely to be facing five or more lawsuits if based in U.S. than if based elsewhere [Norton Rose Fulbright, Bob Dorigo Jones]
- “Hearing: H.R. 1927, the “Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act of 2015” [April House Judiciary Committee with John Beisner, Mark Behrens, Alexandra Lahav, Andrew Trask]
- Legal outlook for Illinois defendants deteriorates as Madison County sees resurgence in suits and Cook County remains itself [ICJL]
- Brown v. Nucor Corp.: did Fourth Circuit just try to gut Wal-Mart v. Dukes rules against combining bias plaintiffs in dissimilar situations into class action? [Hans Bader/Examiner, Derek Stikeleather/Maryland Appellate Blog]
- No wonder New York City consolidation trials are so popular with asbestos lawyers if they yield average of $24 million per plaintiff [Chamber-backed Legal NewsLine] Information in eye-opening Garlock asbestos bankruptcy (allegations of perjury, witness-coaching, etc.) now unsealed and online [same, earlier]
The Chamber of Commerce is calling attention to its ten favorites for the year [via Bainbridge, list can be found there]. Eight of the ten may ring a bell with those who have followed our coverage (goblin-toppler, helmet toss, undecillion dollars, man saved from drowning sues rescuers, California ADA serial filer, falls after seeing “Dexter” ad on subway, caught sleeping on camera at Yankees game, claims “Frozen” based on own life story), while two are new to us: