TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Widener Commonwealth Law School

Friday, June 6, 2008

Lawsuit Filed By Theme Park Actor Shot By Coworker

Wild West City, located in the wild west lands of New Jersey, "recreates 1880s life in Dodge City, Kansas," complete with shootouts.  A couple of years ago, Scott Harris, an actor/stuntman at the park, was playing a part in one of the shootout shows, and got shot by a coworker.  Only problem: he got shot with a real bullet.

The shooter, a then-17-year-old Sussex County high school student who also was a cowboy actor, accidentally loaded a .22-caliber revolver, which was owned by the theme park, with real bullets instead of blanks while running late for the shootout skit. Another actor, who has not been criminally charged, brought into a locker room two boxes of ammunition -- one with blanks, one with live rounds he had fired at a shooting range, authorities had said.

The teen mistakenly took some of the real bullets, not knowing they weren't blanks, authorities had said. He pleaded guilty in May 2007 to causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon, and was sentenced to six months of a probation program, with charges dismissed upon successful completion.

Harris filed suit against the park yesterday.


June 6, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sebok Interview on Public Nuisance

Over at Law And More, Jane Genova interviews Cardozo prof and FindLaw columnist Tony Sebok on his views on the Rhode Island lead paint case and public nuisance generally.

(Via PointofLaw)


June 6, 2008 in Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Third Time's The Charm or Three Strikes & You're Out?

We are still waiting for the Court's decision on the cert petition in Philip Morris v. Williams, the Oregon punitive damages case upholding a 100 to 1 ratio despite remand from the U.S. Supreme Court.  The petition has been punted three times now.   Originally scheduled for discussion at the May 22d conference, the petition was re-listed for discussion at the May 29th conference and again at the June 5th conference.   Assuming (a big assumption at this point!) that a decision was reached yesterday, the order will be out on Monday.


June 6, 2008 in Damages | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Can the Spirit be Allocated Some Fault?

Here's one to store away in your exam folder.

The Smoking Gun reports on the case of Matthew Lincoln, who is suing Lakewind Church for injuries he suffered during a service. At the service, hosted by a visiting minister, parishioners were offered individual prayers at the front of the sanctuary. People often swooned and fell down, and so the church provided "catchers" to help folks...but when Lincoln fell (after a light touch on his forehead by the pastor), no catchers were there, and he fell to the floor. The complaint alleges that the church breached its standard of care by "not supervising the catchers to be sure that they stood behind the person being prayed for...should they have a dizzying, fainting, or falling in the spirit as had occurred on many occasions before.""


June 5, 2008 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Top 10 Recent Torts Downloads on SSRN

Rank Downloads Paper Title
1 163 Ten Half-Truths About Tort Law
John C.P. Goldberg,
Vanderbilt University - School of Law,
Date posted to database: April 21, 2008
Last Revised: April 21, 2008
2 139 Jefferson Meets Coase: Land-Use Torts, Law and Economics, and Natural Property Rights
Eric Claeys,
George Mason University School of Law,
Date posted to database: April 9, 2008
Last Revised: April 22, 2008
3 106 Tort Negligence, Cost-Benefit Analysis and Tradeoffs: A Closer Look at the Controversy
Kenneth W. Simons,
Boston University - School of Law,
Date posted to database: April 11, 2008
Last Revised: April 16, 2008
4 100 Result-Selectivism in Private International Law
Symeon C. Symeonides,
Willamette University - College of Law,
Date posted to database: May 20, 2008
Last Revised: May 20, 2008
5 88 Whether Foreigner or Alien: A New Look at the Original Language of the Alien Tort Statute
M. Anderson Berry,
University of California, Berkeley - School of Law,
Date posted to database: April 2, 2008
Last Revised: May 1, 2008
6 82 Omniveillance, Google, Privacy in Public, and the Right to Your Digital Identity: A Tort for Recording and Disseminating an Individual's Image over the Internet
Josh Blackman,
George Mason University - School of Law,
Date posted to database: April 5, 2008
Last Revised: May 13, 2008
7 80 The Original Sense of the (Equal) Protection Clause: Subsequent Interpretation and Application
Christopher R. Green,
University of Mississippi - School of Law,
Date posted to database: March 5, 2008
Last Revised: April 18, 2008
8 67 Section 524(G) Without Compromise: Voting Rights and the Asbestos Bankruptcy Paradox
S. Todd Brown,
Temple University - James E. Beasley School of Law,
Date posted to database: April 1, 2008
Last Revised: May 5, 2008
9 66 The State of Information Security Law: A Focus on the Key Legal Trends
Thomas J. Smedinghoff,
Wildman Harrold,
Date posted to database: March 30, 2008
Last Revised: May 1, 2008
10 66

Two Worlds Collide: How the Supreme Court's Recent Punitive Damages Decisions Affect Class Actions
Sheila B. Scheuerman,
Charleston School of Law,
Date posted to database: May 1, 2008
Last Revised: May 1, 2008


June 5, 2008 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sebok on Rhode Island Lead Paint Case - Part II

In his latest Findlaw column, Tony Sebok concludes his two-part series on the lead paint nuisance suits filed by the State of Rhode Island against the lead paint industry.  Sebok focuses on two issues:  (1) "why, contrary to the impression of many observers, the defendants did not dominate the oral argument," and (2) "why the defendants should win, and what it will take for the Rhode Island Supreme Court to give them a victory based on principled adjudication, as opposed to mere expediency."

Sebok predicts that "the defendants will win some kind of reversal of the trial verdict," and hinges this conclusion on the distinction between public nuisance and tort law.  In short, Sebok believes that the Rhode Island Supreme Court will see the "public nuisance" suit for what it really is - a products liability claim with all the accompanying causation and repose issues. 


June 4, 2008 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

"Mass Torts Made Perfect"

Forbes reports on "Mass Torts Made Perfect,"  a "recent confab of plaintiff lawyers in Las Vegas."  "Conference tickets costing up to $1,395 were sold to 315 lawyers and paralegals."  The next conference will be held in October at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.


June 4, 2008 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Gottstein "Wouldn't Do It Again."

James Gottstein, who was part of the conduit of documents from David Egilman to the NYT and others, did an interview with Pharmalot, and says he was just dumb (his word), not intentionally violating a protective order.

I have a nearly-final PDF of my forthcoming Review of Litigation article on the subject; feel free to get in touch if you want a copy.


June 3, 2008 in Experts & Science | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lytton on Clergy Abuse Litigation

Professor Timothy Lytton (Albany) has published Holding Bishops Accountable:  How Lawsuits Helped the Catholic Church Confront Clergy Sexual Abuse (Harvard University Press 2008), available here.  The abstract (from SSRN) reads:

The sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy is arguably the most acute crisis Catholicism has faced since the Reformation. The prevalence of clergy sexual abuse and its shocking cover-up by church officials have obscured the largely untold story of the tort system's remarkable success in bringing the scandal to light, focusing attention on the need for institutional reform, and spurring church leaders and public officials into action.

Stories of the tort system as an engine of social justice are rare. Holding Bishops Accountable tells one such story by revealing how pleadings, discovery documents, and depositions fueled media coverage of the scandal. Timothy Lytton shows how the litigation strategy of plaintiffs' lawyers gave rise to a widespread belief that the real problem was not the actions of individual priests but rather the church's massive institutional failure. The book documents how church and government policymakers responded to the problem of clergy sexual abuse only under the pressure of private lawsuits.

As Lytton deftly demonstrates, the lessons of clergy sexual abuse litigation give us reason to reconsider the case for tort reform and to look more closely at how tort litigation can enhance the performance of public and private policymaking institutions.


June 3, 2008 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

More on "Medical Apologies"

The "medical apology" has received a lot of attention lately.  Yesterday at Overlawyered, Walter Olson quoted from this column by Michael O'Hare.  Twenty-five years ago, O'Hare worked on a Massachusetts state commission charged with addressing medical malpractice.  O'Hare offered this anecdote, which I take the liberty of quoting from Olson's post in full:

The story was that soon after [in-house hospital lawyer] Fred arrived, he was assigned to get on top of malpractice claims, and he sat down with six months’ worth of files. All of them, he discovered, began with a collection action for non-payment of a bill. So he ordered the accounting office to send him every overdue account before any efforts at collection, and invited the deadbeat patient into his office for a conversation. Invariably, the patient was withholding payment because he thought he had been mistreated. Often, the patient was right. The next meeting was with the practitioner accused of having screwed up, and the outcome was sometimes an apology and a promise to fix the problem for free (for example, another operation at no charge to retrieve the forgotten sponge), sometimes an expression of regret for a bad outcome with an explanation that the hospital hadn’t actually erred: not everything in medicine works every time. Of course this required that Sanders and Fred drive out fear, so the staffers could be honest and sympathetic.

The result of this was a really spectacular reduction in malpractice costs, even counting in the “warranty service” repairs; I don’t remember the numbers but it was on the order of more than half, partly in fees to defense lawyers, partly in claim payments. Frequently the bill even got paid. The reduction in lawsuits occurred both when the hospital was wrong and said so, and when it was right and said so; it turned out a lot of the injured patients just wanted to tell a live person what had happened to them and get an apology. Of course the public relations benefits are enormous, if hard to measure. And quality always goes up when your own people aren’t afraid to talk to each other about instructive mistakes.

It’s notable that Fred’s pay didn’t depend on how many cases he litigated….


June 3, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kentucky Kingdom: "Lessons Learned"

Kathy Fackler of has an editorial about what she sees as the lessons learned from the Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom accident and the regulatory implications. Even if you're not interested in amusement safety as such, it's a good example to think about. My initial post about the report is here.


June 3, 2008 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 2, 2008

Some Summer Reading

Sometime in the next few weeks, we'll hear the most recent ruling in the Exxon Valdez case. Want to seem really cool/mildly pathetic at your next summer party? Get up to speed on it thanks to the ScotusWiki.

Good times.


June 2, 2008 in Damages | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)