Thursday, June 7, 2007
Interesting article in the New York Times -- Some Small Law Firms Find Strength in Numbers, by Karen Donovan. One wonders if the boutique-law-firm networks could be of use to small plaintiffs firms in coordinating their efforts in a mass tort. Here's an excerpt:
Steven Spielvogel, a lanky 40-year-old lawyer who, with his angular looks and jet black hair, resembles Ric Ocasek of the 1980s band the Cars, has been on something of a tour of his own.
He has been promoting a network that connects small law firms around the country and the world. The idea is to give the better small law firms a way to compete with the big national and global firms.
Since starting the International Network of Boutique Law Firms, in 2004, Mr. Spielvogel has been knocking on doors and setting up lunches to persuade the lawyers at small firms with prestigious résumés to start a local chapter
“The network is designed to supplement pre-existing legal relationships,” he said. “It’s not about paying a fee to get listed in a directory: the standards are very rigorous and you can feel a certain level of comfort.”
The network so far has 250 law firms as members, and 16 international strategic partners, including Bolivia’s oldest law firm and Mexico’s oldest and largest firm.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
Judge Eldon Fallon (E.D. La.), who is overseeing the Vioxx MDL, yesterday ordered remittitur in the Barnett case. Last year, the plaintiff won a verdict of $51 million ($50 million compensatory plus $1 million punitive). The court found the amount excessive and, last August, ordered a new trial on damages. Yesterday, the court amended its order. At plaintiff's request, the court granted remittitur (obviously it's unusual for a plaintiff to ask for remittitur, but in this case the alternative was a new trial on damages). Specifically, the court ordered a new trial unless the plaintiff accepted a reduced damage award of $1.6 million ($600,000 compensatory plus $1 million punitive); the judge determined that $600,000 was the highest amount a jury could reasonably have awarded for compensatory damages. Here's the AP story in the Houston Chronicle -- Vioxx Plaintiff Can Get Damages or Retry.
Monday, June 4, 2007
Jim Beck and Mark Herrmann at the Drug and Device Law Blog have a wonderful post called Anatomy of a Mass Tort. It's among the best short descriptions of mass tort litigation I've seen. They describe the now-predictable life cycle of a mass tort: triggering event, client-gathering, class suits, individual suits, peripheral litigation, MDL, statewide centralization, wholesale defenses, eve-of-limitations filings, choice of law battles, trial themes, and settlement. What I like best is that they tell the story with just the right level of cynicism. They assume that both sides respond to incentives, but they make no assumption concerning whether the underlying claims are either meritorious or non-meritorious. Indeed, one of the most interesting (and troubling) things about mass tort litigation -- this, I think, is the main point of their post -- is the extent to which the story line looks the same regardless of whether the litigation involves a dangerous product and liability-worthy conduct. I'm not saying (and neither are they) that results in mass tort litigation bear no relation to the truth. Rather, they're making a subtler and more important point -- that once a trigger occurs, mass tort litigation takes on a life of its own.