October 31, 2008
Libya Pays $1.5 Billion for Compensation of Victims of Pan Am 103 Terror Attack
Article on cnn.com -- Libya pays $1.5 billion to settle terrorism claims. Here's an excerpt:
The United States has received $1.5 billion from Libya as payment for victims of terrorist attacks, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Congress on Friday.
"These funds are sufficient to provide the required compensation to victims of terrorism under the Libyan Claims Resolution Act," the State Department said in a statement.
"The administration will now move expeditiously to arrange for distribution of these funds in lieu of the pending U.S. court cases against Libya."
Washington had promised to normalize relations with Libya to reward it for abandoning its weapons of mass destruction program and for taking responsibility for the downing of Pan Am 103 and other terror attacks against Americans.
Mass Torts In China
For our readers interested in the recent spate of mass torts in China: When Calamity Strikes, Who Should Pay?
Fred Baron, 1947-2008
Fred Baron, one of the nation's leading mass tort plaintiffs' lawyers, died yesterday in Dallas. Founder of the law firm Baron & Budd, he played major roles in asbestos, MTBE, TCE, lead, and pesticide lawsuits, and was lead counsel for the objectors in the Amchem v. Windsor asbestos settlement class action case. Here is the obituary from the Dallas Morning News and today's entry in the WSJ Law Blog.
Issacharoff on How Last Term's SCOTUS Cases Fit Together
Samuel Issacharoff (NYU) has posted an article entitled Private Claims, Aggregate Rights on SSRN. The article does a great job of tying the three procedural cases from last term with larger complex litigation issues. And, like all of Issacharoff's work, is extraordinarily well written. The abstract is below:
In an odd set of procedure opinions last Term, the Supreme Court found itself confronted with the inadequacy of the federal rules for dealing with the sprawling array of aggregate disputes that currently engage the courts. Taken on their own terms, the three cases - Sprint Communications Co., L.P. v APCC Services, Inc, Republic of the Philippines v Pimentel, and Taylor v Sturgell - broke little new ground. Even the topics presented - real parties in interest, required parties, and non-party preclusion - are hardly the stuff of future debates over potential Supreme Court nominees.
Nonetheless, each of these cases presented privately held legal claims that could not be litigated to resolution absent aggregation with the claims of other parties. In each case, the formal workings of the procedural system were inadequate to the task. This Article contrasts the formalism of federal court procedural doctrines to the flexibility of bankruptcy workouts for asbestos claims and court-supervised private settlements, as in the recent Vioxx settlement. In the latter examples, courts have used more flexible principles of equity to oversee privately-ordered mass settlements. The article explores both the benefits and the limits of such private ordering in order to highlight the limitations on court-administration of mass harm litigation.
October 30, 2008
Drug and Medical Device Litigation Conference
American Conference Institute is running its 13th Annual Drug and Medical Device Litigation Conference in New York on Dec. 9-11, 2008. Speakers include many of the leading defense lawyers in pharmaceutical and medical device product liability litigation, as well as a line-up of judges who have handled many of the recent cases. Topics include preemption, juror perceptions, learned intermediary, litigation holds, scientific experts, politics, global trends, and generics. Ted Mayer and I will speak on ethical considerations in mass tort settlements.
Asbestos Litigation Conference in San Antonio
ALI-ABA is running a conference ominously entitled "Asbestos Litigation: Where Is It Going? When Will It End?" in San Antonio, Texas, on Dec. 4-5, 2008, with presentations by prominent lawyers and law professors including John Aldock, Patrick Hanlon, Deborah Hensler, Stephen Kazan, Mark Lanier, Ellen Pryor, Joe Rice, and Perry Weitz.
October 29, 2008
Secret Settlements in Mass Tort Cases
James M. Anderson (RAND) has posted an article entitled "Understanding Mass Tort Defendant Incentives for Confidential Settlements: Lessons from Bayer's Cerivastatin Litigation Strategy" on SSRN. The abstract is below.
Settlement agreements that require a plaintiff not to disclose or publicize any information about her claim are both common and controversial. Under some conditions, however, a mass tort defendant will rationally choose to discourage such secrecy. A defendant can use publicity to act as a commitment device akin to a most-favored-nation agreement to increase its bargaining power with plaintiffs. The paper uses the real world example of Bayer's cerivastatin litigation as a case study to illustrate this theory in practice and to explore the public policy implications of this finding.
October 27, 2008
U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Pharmaceutical Preemption Case
Article in the Wall Street Journal -- In Drug Case, Justices to Weigh Right to Sue, by Alicia Mundy and Shirley S. Wang. Here's an excerpt:
For nearly a century, Americans have been able to sue drug companies for deaths or injuries caused by medicines. Now the pharmaceutical industry and other big businesses are hoping the Supreme Court will sharply curb that right.
In a case called Wyeth v. Levine, which the court will hear next week, a Vermont guitarist named Diana Levine lost an arm to gangrene caused by an improperly administered nausea drug. A Vermont jury awarded her $6.7 million in damages from Wyeth, accepting her argument that the drug maker should have put stronger warnings on the label.
In its appeal of the verdict, the drug maker says the drug's label was approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and it argues the federal regulator's judgment should trump state law on issues of product safety. Many lawsuits are based on state consumer-safety regulations that often are stronger than federal standards.
Lawyers Involved in Kentucky Fen-Phen Settlement Disbarred
Brett Barrouquere of the Associated Press reports that the Kentucky Supreme Court disbarred William Gallion and Shirley Cunningham, Jr. from practice after mishandling money in the Fen-Phen settlement. The full story can be found here.