February 16, 2008
Senate Compromise on Overhauling Consumer Product Safety Commission
Article in the Wall Street Journal -- Senate Forges Consumer-Safety Bill, by M.P. McQueen. Here's an excerpt:
Following a rash of toy recalls last year, Senate Democratic and Republican leaders announced Friday that they reached a compromise on a bill to overhaul the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The Senate is likely to vote this month on the bill, which would give the agency greater resources to remove unsafe products from the marketplace, but it would still have to be reconciled with a bill the House passed in December. Although industry groups have raised objections, the agreement appears to put CPSC-overhaul legislation back on track to clear Congress, especially in an election year when a crackdown on unsafe children's products has broad consumer appeal.
The bill would boost fines for safety violations to $20 million from the current $1.8 million, restore the commission to five members from three and require the safety agency to set up a database containing reports of injuries, illnesses or deaths from consumer products submitted by the public.
FDA Proposes Guildelines That Would Allow Industry to Provide Information on Off-Label Uses
Article in the Wall Street Journal -- Boost for Off-Label Drug Use: FDA Would Let Firms Keep Doctors Informed On Unapproved Methods, by Anna Wilde Mathews and Avery Johnson. Here's an excerpt:
The Food and Drug Administration wants to allow drug companies to give doctors information about unapproved uses of prescription drugs, a controversial move that is already drawing objections from Capitol Hill.
Companies generally aren't allowed to advertise or market such "off-label" uses, though doctors can prescribe drugs for any condition. The FDA has proposed guidelines allowing manufacturers to give physicians reprints of medical journal articles about uses of drugs and medical devices that haven't won the agency's approval.
The regulator is stepping into a high-stakes business issue, because off-label uses of prescription drugs are a mainstay of the industry -- an estimated 21% of drug use overall, according to a 2006 analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Drug makers are generally expected to welcome the proposal because it clarifies a blurry legal area. At least under certain conditions, it promises a haven for a controversial promotional practice. It also contains an argument from the agency that may help the companies in court cases about marketing practices: There are "important public policy reasons for allowing manufacturers to disseminate truthful and non-misleading medical journal articles" and reference materials about off-label uses.
February 14, 2008
Widener Law School Symposium on Crimtorts
As I've previously posted, Widener Law School in Harrisburg is hosting a symposium entitled, Crimtorts, on Monday, February 25, 2008. Here's the brochure: Download crimtorts_symposium_brochure.pdf One change from the brochure -- Professor Mary Kate Kearney is unable to present, and instead, Professor Frank Vandall of Emory will present. I will appear on the Applications Panel and discuss crimtorts and class actions.
Rhode Island Nightclub Fire Settlement
Another settlement has been reached in the Rhode Island nightclub fire litigation. Clear Channel Broadcasting, which owns the radio station that promoted the 2003 rock concert that ended in a tragic fire when pyrotechnics used by the band Great White ignited the club's soundproofing foam, has agreed to a $22 million aggregate settlement, according to this AP article on Law.com. The deal still requires the consent of each of the plaintiffs. According to the Law.com story, "[t]he tentative deal brings to more than $70 million the total amount of settlement money offered to survivors and victims' relatives. Other defendants that have reached settlements in recent months include The Home Depot, a manufacturer of insulation material, a pyrotechnics maker and a TV station whose cameraman was accused of blocking an exit while filming the fire." An earlier aggregate settlement was negotiated with other defendants several months ago. Here's more from today's news report:
The owner of a radio station that promoted a rock concert where pyrotechnics ignited a deadly blaze reached a tentative $22 million settlement with survivors and victims' relatives, according to court papers filed Wednesday.
The deal with Clear Channel Broadcasting is the latest in a series of settlements stemming from the Feb. 20, 2003, fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, R.I., that killed 100 people and injured more than twice that many. ...
The settlement requires the approval of all the plaintiffs and the federal judge overseeing the case, among other conditions, the court papers said. A Duke University law professor has been appointed to create a formula for the distribution of settlement money.
February 12, 2008
Institute for Legal Reform Creates I Am Lawsuit Abuse.org
The Institute for Legal Reform, which is affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has created a new website, I Am Lawsuit Abuse.org, which features stories of people who claim they were victimized by lawsuits.
Lerach Sentenced to Two Years Prison for Alleged Kickbacks to Class Representatives
Article in the Wall Street Journal -- Closing Argument: Mr. Lerach Mulls Life Behind Bars, by Peter Lattman. Here's an excerpt:
Yesterday in Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge John Walter sentenced Mr. Lerach, 61 years old, to two years in federal prison for conspiring to obstruct justice in connection with alleged kickback payments made by his former law firm, Milberg Weiss LLP. Mr. Lerach is also paying an $8 million penalty. He has been suspended from the practice of law and will be disbarred.
The punishment brings to an end a controversial legal career. The costly class-action lawsuits Mr. Lerach pursued in the name of shareholders made him loathed in America's boardrooms. Executives hit with his suits said they had been "Lerached." His defenders maintained he had championed investors and helped keep companies accountable.
It's the latter view that Mr. Lerach, who has earned more than $200 million, sees as his legacy. He recently looked back at his career and the case against him in an interview at his club and at his home, an Italianate California mansion perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla. And, with his Chihuahua, Tommy, on his lap, he looked ahead to being in prison and to getting out.
The Wall Street Journal also has an editorial on Lerach.