May 17, 2007
Damages and the Supremes
LegalNewsLine has an article addressing the recent punitives remand and suggesting that it may be part of a trend of remands based on vague instructions rather than concerns about the constitutionality of the size of the damages awarded.
(The article is written with a definite point of view, incidentally. Note the conclusion explicit in this sentence: "For the second time in three months on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court (USSC) sent a lawsuit with an excessive punitive damages awards [sic] back to a lower court to review the amount." (emphasis added))
May 16, 2007
"Tort Reform" & Google's New Timeline View
Significance? Probably none. Fun to play around with, though, and it successfully distracted me from grading for upwards of two minutes.
In yet another adventure in the tension between bias and experience, President Bush has nominated Michael Baroody (of the National Association of Manufacturers) to head up the CPSC. Public Citizen's Consumer Law & Policy Blog has today's news (involving a $150,000 severance payment from NAM to Baroody if he is confirmed), plus links to their older posts.
This Saturday is the Western New England College School of Law graduation. It's a fun year for me for two reasons. First, my first 1Ls are graduating. And second, my judge is the commencement speaker.
So, first: Congratulations to all of my former students who are graduating!
Second, any local readers may want to attend. Judge Rosenbaum is quite an entertaining fellow and will likely have some interesting things to say.
May 15, 2007
AGs Continue to Go After MySpace
Eight state attorneys general wrote MySpace Monday (press release from Connecticut AG, letter [PDF]) requesting information about registered sex offenders using the service. MySpace built a database late last year and earlier this year with information about offenders from around the country, and the AGs state that they believe that "thousands of known sex offenders have been confirmed as MySpace members."
The AGs requested a response by May 29.
(Earlier posts about litigation relating to MySpace are here.)
$55M Punitives Verdict Remanded
A few years back, a California plaintiff got a judgment for a total of $82.6 million ($55 million of it in punitive damages) in a Ford Explorer rollover case. (The jury had awarded a total of just shy of $370 million; both the compensatory and punitive verdicts were reversed at the trial and appellate levels.) Yesterday, the Supreme Court remanded it [PDF] for further consideration under the Williams case.
The LA Times piece has more on the story.
May 14, 2007
Near Misses & Tort Law
Interesting sounding article on SSRN (forthcoming Illinois Law Review) about proximity and the law. The abstract:
Perceptions of proximity matter to people. When something that harms them was nearly avoided, or when they narrowly escape being harmed by something, or when they almost acquire something they want, but nevertheless fail to do so, they tend to react more strongly than when a harm that befalls them was unavoidable or when a potential harm never came close to occurring, or when they miss getting the thing they want by a lot. In this article, we explore these psychological phenomena and their implications for legal policy and process. We begin by reviewing the existing literature on the psychology of proximity and proceed to consider the implications of that psychology for the law of torts and crimes (i.e., harms), and for the law of auctions and gambling (i.e., goods). We then turn to examples of the phenomena produced by law itself - that is, to near misses of legality. Here we address how lawmakers could mitigate the frustrations of near misses by structuring law, and the manner in which legal judgments are issued, differently. In particular, we will focus on the implications of the psychology of proximity for the rules-standards debate and assess the virtues of substantial compliance doctrines in that context, a form of legal structure that has received insufficient attention in the course of that debate. Our ultimate conclusion is that lawmakers should take the psychology of proximity into consideration when they make policy choices, but in so doing lawmakers need to bear in mind the potential functionality of that psychology. Near miss experiences can be painful but simultaneously educational, stirring behavioral adjustments in those who endure them.
"End the Censorship of Science"
An interesting column from The Scientist on the confidentiality of peer review and other materials. The conclusion:
So what possible benefit can confidentiality serve? Who is being protected from what? One editor who responded to my e-mail replied that “review processes everywhere benefit from candor, and abundant experience tells us that without confidentiality evaluators are likely to be less candid.”
If this is true, it can be accommodated by instituting a period of confidentiality for manuscript files. Here’s my proposal: Science journals open their files to reasonable requests after a five-year interval. Just as government files are made public – in the United Kingdom after a 30-year lag, in the United States after 25, according to change late last year – this would be a powerful contribution to an open society. It will get to the heart of how research is done and how human relationships govern science. And it will be a goldmine for science history studies, which are not given nearly enough credence.
I’d love a couple of months’ sabbatical poking around in the dusty storerooms of the major journals, wouldn’t you?
May 13, 2007
No Criminal Charges in Radio Wii Stunt
A wrongful death suit is still pending, but prosecutors announced last month (scroll down) that no criminal charges would be filed in the death of Jennifer Strange, who died after participating in a radio station's idiotic "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" contest. Earlier posts are here.