Posts Tagged ‘Vermont’

Update: Blockbuster late fees

To settle litigation filed by the attorneys general of 47 states, the Blockbuster video chain

has agreed to take down the “No Late Fees” signs in its video stores. Customers will continue to pay extra to rent movies for longer than a week — but Blockbuster won’t call that a late fee.

It will be a “restocking” fee or something similar.

The company also agreed to make refunds available for some customers who paid under the earlier policy, and to pay $630,000 to the state AGs for their pains. New Hampshire and Vermont declined to join the action, with the head of consumer protection in New Hampshire explaining that there hadn’t been complaints from his state’s customers; New Jersey continues to pursue its own suit (see Mar. 10). (Michael D. Sorkin, “Blockbuster settles case over signs advertising no late fees”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mar. 30; Peter Lewis, “State settles Blockbuster late-fee allegations”, Seattle Times, Mar. 30; “N.H. opts out of Blockbuster late fees settlement”, Portsmouth Herald News, Mar. 31).

Canada: provincial tobacco copycat suits

Bad ideas from the U.S. hit Canada ten years later dept.: two Canadian provinces are seeking to replicate the success of state attorneys general in the U.S. and scoop up large amounts of money from tobacco companies through lawsuits without the bother of raising taxes. British Columbia’s legislature followed the lead of several U.S. states (Florida, Maryland and Vermont) and enacted an explicitly retroactive “we win, you lose” statute undercutting tobacco companies’ defenses against cost recoupment. Now Manitoba has joined in, its decision announced by Theresa Oswald, who bears the scary title of Healthy Living Minister. (“Manitoba to back B.C. in tobacco case”, CBC, Feb. 25)(B.C. law).

Vermont and Alberta radio

On Monday I was again a guest on Laurie Morrow’s True North Radio show reaching listeners around Vermont and nearby states. And yesterday I was a guest on QR77 in Calgary, Alberta, on the afternoons with Dave Taylor, with guest host Rob Breakenridge substituting for Taylor. To book a broadcast interview on my book The Rule of Lawyers, email me directly or contact Jamie Stockton at the St. Martin’s/Griffin publicity department: 212-674-5151, ext. 502.

State AGs on drugs

Those who follow the activities of state attorneys general know of their interest in the pharmaceutical industry. Last week, Vermont AG William Sorrell was named president of the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) for 2004-05. In his presidential address, Sorell announced that “the issue of drug pricing” would be NAAG’s “particular focus” during his tenure. Sorrell raised the following questions:

“What drives our high drug prices? Is it true that the pharmaceutical industry is the most profitable industry in this country? Is it true that our national spending on prescription drugs more than tripled from 1990 to 2001? Do research and development costs explain the prices we pay? What are the effects of advertising and other forms of marketing on demand for prescription drugs and the amounts we pay for them? If it is true that industry direct-to-consumer advertising expenditures increased seven times between 1995 and 2001, why has this been so and how are prices affected by these increases?

“What about conduct by companies that have violated state and federal antitrust, consumer protection and other laws? Is this another cost driver? And how transparent is the prescription drug marketing and distribution system? Why are cheaper generic equivalents neither prescribed by more doctors nor desired by more patients?”

There is a NAAG meeting scheduled for Chicago in January on this subject.

For more on this subject, go to this post on Point of Law.

The Rule of Lawyers on radio

I’m scheduled to be a guest tomorrow morning (Tues.) at 8 a.m. EDT on Jim Blasingame’s “Small Business Advocate” nationwide radio show (more), and then at 10 a.m. EDT on Cincinnati’s WLW. And then on Wednesday from 11 to 12 a.m. EDT I’ll be the guest of Laurie Morrow on Vermont’s “True North Radio“. In each case I’ll be discussing my book “The Rule of Lawyers”, just out in paperback from St. Martin’s/Griffin (more).

If you’re a booker for a broadcast show or other news outlet, you’re aware that it’s at times like this, with books just reaching the stores, that authors and publishers are most eager to cooperate. To ask about appearances, contact Jamie Stockton at the St. Martin’s publicity department: 212-674-5151, ext. 502, or email me directly.

While we’re at it, you just know that The Rule of Lawyers would make an ideal Father’s Day gift, and Amazon (although its stocks are low) offers special shipping guaranteed to arrive by the weekend. It’s also available from Barnes & Noble, Powell’s, and (hardcover) Laissez Faire Books.

Virginia primitive, round 5

Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review Online (“The Corner”, May 18) has written in defense of the new Virginia statute, much criticized in this space, which declares null and void within the state not only civil unions but also any “partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage” (Mar. 19, Apr. 18, Apr. 23, May 12). As I noted two weeks ago, given the unclarity of the law’s drafting, a prolonged guessing game about its meaning may be inevitable; but some guesses are more plausible than others.

Read On…

Med mal: around the blogs

Not that this exactly qualifies as news, but Sen. Tom Daschle says things to pro-tort-reform constituents back home that are rather different from what he says in Washington, notices the South Dakota Politics blog (Apr. 4, Apr. 7). And the departure of a surgeon in MedPundit Sydney Smith’s home town, coinciding with a particularly obdurate sound bite from ATLA-admired Sen. Patrick Leahy, prompts her (Apr. 10) to give the Vermont Democrat an Open Secrets look-up (see also MedRants, Apr. 8, with comments section). Dr. Smith also notes (Apr. 6) that the med-mal crisis in famed Madison County, Ill., may play a role in the contemplated closure of Scott Air Force Base in Belleville.

Howard Dean letter to the editor

An eagle-eyed reader draws our attention to the June 29, 1988 New York Times, where the then-Lieutenant Governor of Vermont writes to the editor about a Times story on large damages awards in a libel case.

To the Editor:

Randall Bezanson and Gilbert Cranberg detailed a situation that I hope will get far worse. As a physician, I have been frustrated for years by the reluctance of state legislatures and the United States Congress to deal with liability problems of all kinds.

I have long maintained that until the legal profession and the news media are also afflicted with the increasingly severe consequences of a tort system that benefits few people outside the legal profession, there will be no return to a fair and reasonable system of justice.

The trends toward lawyers suing one another for malpractice and toward outrageous-size punitive damages in libel cases give me hope that the crisis in our tort system may finally come to the attention of those who can make this a public issue and improve the situation for all of us who require liability insurance to do business.

Montpelier, Vt., June 17, 1988

The events of the past fifteen years should make Dr. Dean an even more enthusiastic proponent of tort reform; his Dean for America web site is somewhat more neutral.