Saturday, December 1, 2007
As the holidays are approaching, don't forget to pick up gifts for your favorite torts lovers. A couple of books that have caught my eye over the last week are Stephanie Mencimer's Blocking the Courthouse Door and Thomas Geoghegan's See You in Court: How the Right Made America a Lawsuit Nation.
Mencimer's book is a description of the tort reform movement and the players behind it, including an analysis of their next moves. The Texas Observer has a review here. Geoghegan's book is described by Adam Liptak of the NYT as a "sustained and engaged counterargument" to Philip Howard's 1995 book The Death of Common Sense. Geoghegan blames conservatives for undermining the contracts that used to regulate more of society, leaving tort as the default option. Liptak's review is here.
Friday, November 30, 2007
I am pleased to announce that Widener University School of Law will host the first national conference on "crimtorts." "Crimtorts" refers to the expanding middle ground between criminal and tort law. The conference will take place on February 25, 2008 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We have a fantastic lineup of speakers: Martha Chamallas (Ohio State), Mark Geistfeld (NYU), Keith Hylton (Boston University), Mary Kate Kearney (Widener), Tom Koenig (Northeastern Sociology), Jeffrey O'Connell (Virginia), Mike Rustad (Suffolk), Sheila Scheuerman (Charleston), Tony Sebok (Cardozo), Cathy Sharkey (NYU), Ken Simons (Boston University), and Byron Stier (Southwestern). I will post the brochure in the next few days. If you have any questions, please contact me, Chris Robinette, at (717) 541-3993 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please make plans to join us.
Given Prosser's later role as the Reporter for the Restatement (Second) of Torts (1965), I believe Prosser's thoughts on the general endeavor of the Restatements deserves its own post. After discussing English and American hornbooks on the first day of class (see post here), Prosser went on to discuss Restatements. Merrifield recorded the following:
Restatements-American Law Institute-Carnegie money-give rules-cite no cases-beyond first year students-doubtful whether courts will follow it.
That Prosser had a dubious attitude toward Restatements--"doubtful whether courts will follow it"--is fascinating considering it comes from the person who made such use of a Restatement to shape products liability and privacy law. Furthermore, no less a source than Wikipedia informs me that, as of March 1, 1995, the Restatements had been cited in court opinions 129,533 times.
I've been waiting to do much on the Scruggs indictment until I had a chance to read more sources and do a more comprehensive post; lucky for me, Walter Olson has done one at Overlawyered.com. The indictment is, as he quotes Stephanie Mencimer as saying, pretty damning.
The judge overseeing the tort litigation regarding a teenage girl's injuries at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom has approved the park's request to tear down the ride, reports the Courier Journal. The parties have still not agreed on an entity or procedure for testing the cable that snapped and severed the girl's feet, and it sounds like the litigation is not going particularly fast.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Two interesting recent posts/newsletters related to damage awards in tort litigation:
- The Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog discusses a 2003 study that found interesting -- and not necessarily intuitive -- relations among a plaintiff's race, a plaintiff's income, and damage awards.
- Prof. David Frankel (Iowa State econ) of MedMalReports.com -- a commercial entity assisting in evaluating the value of med mal cases based on a large database of settlements and verdicts -- sent along the first issue of the site's newsletter, which gives some big picture information about what affects award amounts. You can download it here: Download newsletterV1N1.pdf. While it's in part an ad for their services, it's interesting reading nonetheless.
As I noted in an earlier post (with a follow-up here), one of my former students loaned me his grandfather's Torts notebook. His grandfather, Leroy S. Merrifield (who went on to be a Torts professor himself), was a first-year law student at the University of Minnesota in 1938-39. His Torts professor was William Prosser.
In this time period, Prosser was writing Prosser on Torts, which would first appear three years later in 1941. The notebook makes it clear that Prosser was thinking quite a bit about hornbooks at that point. Merrifield's notes from the first day of class include an analysis of existing hornbooks--both English and American (with the English listed first!). Merrifield recorded the following:
Pollock-13th Ed.-English law; Salmond-8th Ed.-English law-best text; Clerk & Lindsell-8th Ed.-English law
Cooley-4th Ed.-not good but best; Chapin (1913)-"hornbook" accurate but incomplete; Harper-1933 disciple of Bohlen (casebook author) theoretical-presents one view-most useful.
Prosser had clearly considered these books very carefully. He described them on the first day of his Torts class. He had ranked them--Salmond was the best English text, Cooley was the best American text, Harper was the "most useful." And, importantly, he had found them lacking. Even the best American text was "not good." Prosser saw a need in the market, and he was planning to fill it.
In a related matter, it appears that Prosser, in 1938-39, was using as a text Francis Bohlen's Cases on the Law of Torts (3d ed. 1930). The reference to Bohlen as the "casebook author," combined with the page numbers for specific cases, provided the answer.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
None of the passengers who traveled with Atlanta lawyer Andrew Speaker caught TB, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who notes that he remains a defendant in civil suits alleging negligence in exposing others.
As the balloon with two passengers aboard took off, the vent ropes caught [the wife] by the ankle and hoisted her into the air.
Strong winds prevented John Long from returning to the take-off site, so he aimed for trees in the hope that his wife, who was dangling upside down, could grab onto something and untangle herself. After hitting one of the trees, she fell through the roof of a barn, landing on rotting floorboards.
And the students think we make these things up...
The FDA has issued a warning letter to GlaxoSmithKline for misleading "Dear Doctor" letters on the drug Tykerb, a daily pill for patients with advanced breast cancer. As CNNMoney (via AP) reports, the FDA asserts that the "Dear Doctor" letters omit the drug's risks and further exaggerate the drug's effectiveness.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Yesterday the Boston Globe ran an article presenting both sides of the recent medical malpractice reforms in Texas. As Bill posted here, the reforms appear to have attracted some physicians to Texas. However, the article reports that rural areas have not yet benefited. Furthermore, claimants are having an increasingly difficult time finding representation, even for potential suits that are strong on liability.
Monday, November 26, 2007
The March 2005 explosion at a BP refinery in Texas City, Texas, killed 15 workers and resulted in numerous lawsuits. BP has admitted responsibility and most suits have been settled; the first trial starts today in Galveston. Famed plaintiffs' lawyer Mark Lanier is trying the case and alleges "breathtaking . . . criminality" in the permitting process, specifically relating to a former regulator working for BP on obtaining permits for the refinery.
BP has entered into a plea agreement to resolve criminal charges; workers are attempting to derail that deal as insufficient punishment.
The story suggests that BP could have punitive damages exposure of up to $1 billion based on the alleged fraud in permitting, but that number appears untethered to anything other than, perhaps, Lanier's suggestion as to how much he'll ask for.
(Past discussion of the BP case is here.)
On Friday, the judge made public his June 7 opinion explaining his rationale, and it was all about the girl's father, Ronald Verni.
In 2004, a court appointed a guardian for the girl after learning that Verni had unlawfully used settlement money from other defendants to buy a condominium and had also misappropriated her social security money, Wilson wrote.
A series of domestic violence incidents led to permanent restraining orders that bar Verni from contacting his family or seeing his children without supervision, the judge wrote.
"By sealing the record of any potential settlement, the estranged father is far less likely to return to New Jersey and continuing his unlawful behavior," Wilson wrote.
A lawyer for Public Citizen (which sought to unseal the file) said that he didn't believe publishing the amount of the settlement would increase any risks.
The original lawsuit complained of a "culture of intoxication" at Giants stadium; perhaps of note, last week's story about harassment at Gate D at the same stadium observed that the stupidity there largely only occurred during Jets games (the Verni case involved a Giants game).
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Details here (on a site, OMG Yahoo, that frankly confuses and scares me, meaning, I think, that I'm officially old).
A former beverage manager at the Hard Rock Hotel has sued Dennis Rodman, claiming the ex-NBA star assaulted her last year by rubbing against her body and slapping her on the buttocks.
She also alleges retaliation by her employer when she complained of his conduct.
The NYT magazine has an interesting piece written by Daniel Carlat, the author of the Carlat Psychiatry Blog and the Carlat Psychiatry Report. Carlat worked as a paid consultant to Wyeth in marketing Effexor, an SSRI, and his NYT piece reports his experiences. A representative excerpt:
The first talk I gave brought me back to earth rather quickly. I distinctly remember the awkwardness of walking into my first waiting room. The receptionist slid the glass partition open and asked if I had an appointment.
“Actually, I’m here to meet with the doctor.”
“Oh, O.K. And is that a scheduled appointment?”
“I’m here to give a talk.”
A light went on. “Oh, are you part of the drug lunch?”
Regardless of how I preferred to think of myself (an educator, a psychiatrist, a consultant), I was now classified as one facet of a lunch helping to pitch a drug, a convincing sidekick to help the sales rep. Eventually, with an internal wince, I began to introduce myself as “Dr. Carlat, here for the Wyeth lunch.”
The drug rep who arranged the lunch was always there, usually an attractive, vivacious woman with platters of gourmet sandwiches in tow. Hungry doctors and their staff of nurses and receptionists would filter into the lunch room, grateful for free food.