Thursday, May 20, 2010

Size of BP Leak Larger Than BP Earlier Estimated

BP had been saying 5,000 barrels a day had been leaking into the Gulf, but the clean-up siphon is itself now pulling up 5,000 barrels a day and the siphon is only reaching a portion of the escaping oil.  For more, see the CNN story, BP: Oil gusher bigger than we estimated.

And here's some recently released video of the BP rig on fire after the initial explosion.


May 20, 2010 in Environmental Torts, Mass Disasters, Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Mass Tort Crisis Management

Recent crises stemming from BP's oil spill and Toyota's acceleration problems have brought a swarm of media coverage, congressional hearings, regulatory agency activity, corporate news conferences, and lawsuits.  Indeed, theories of liability may stem not only from the initial traumatic incident or incidents, but from the corporation's putative mishandling of the crisis once it unfolds.  On the corporate side, what's called for is thoughtful and coherent crisis management that moves the corporation through the crisis in a way that resonates with corporate core values, thereby maintaining the value of the ongoing enterprise, and that is mindful of impending theories of liability.

Despite the great need for such a coherent approach to mass tort crisis management, what's remarkable is the apparent paucity of attention given the subject by legal scholars.  That may be because crisis management involves public relations and communications, as well as management and leadership; hence crisis management has been the focus of public relations consultants and some professors in communications schools and business schools.  But at the heart of corporate crises are frequently the law and liability, so law professors should not be absent.  Lawyers and law firms already occasionally promote their ability to handle an emerging corporate crisis by quickly assembling a team of lawyers from a broad array of areas -- see, e.g., Skadden's Crisis Management; and lawyer practitioners have delivered various continuing education talks and papers on crisis management, as well as an interesting short symposium paper by Harvey L. Pitt and Karl A. Groskaufmanis, When Bad Things Happen to Good Companies: A Crisis Management Primer, 15 Cardozo L. Rev. 951 (1994).  But while practitioners bring on-the-ground expertise, they may lack the theoretical depth and interdisciplinary zeal of law professors, and practitioners present a conflict-of-interest risk in preferring, for example, fee-heavy litigation over other methods of mass tort crisis management and resolution.  A full academic account of mass tort crisis management would entail an awareness and integration of various legal areas -- tort, procedure, litigation, ethics, regulatory action, congressional investigations and activity (including possible compensation funds), and pertinent constitutional issues -- with public relations and management.  I look forward to turning my attention increasingly to that task.

Where do you look for corporate crisis management expertise in mass torts?  Books, articles, law firms, or consultants?  Does your law firm market itself as offering corporate crisis management; if so, what's your approach?  If you work at a consulting group that does crisis management, do you have in-house lawyers that assist you or do you work with the corporation's outside counsel?  Feel free to post a resource or comment.


May 17, 2010 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Current Affairs, Environmental Torts, Ethics, Lawyers, Mass Disasters, Mass Tort Scholarship, Procedure, Regulation, Vehicles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Walter Olson Joins Cato

Walter Olson, formerly of the Manhattan Institute, and known widely for his blogging on Overlawyered and Point of Law, has joined the Cato Institute as a Senior Fellow.  Cato's legal research has for some time focused on constitutional issues, and I hope Walter will expand their purview into broader issues of liability and litigation, including mass torts.  One wonders, for example, what position Cato, as a libertarian think tank, might take on regulatory preemption of private lawsuits; there may be interesting differences on such issues between Cato and the less-strictly-libertarian American Enterprise Institute.  For an interesting debate between Professors Richard Epstein and Rick Hills (both of NYU) on regulatory preemption of private lawsuits, see here.  Best wishes to Walter at Cato!


May 16, 2010 in Aggregate Litigation Procedures, Mass Tort Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)