Monday, March 7, 2016
The Indiana House passed, 90-5, an increase in the med mal cap from $1.25M to $1.8M by 2019. Unlike the Judiciary Committee's proposal, there are no further increases. Indiana's is one of the few caps that is total (not solely on noneconomic damages).
Friday, March 4, 2016
PA: Grand Jury Report on Sexual Abuse of Children in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese; Statute of Limitations Debate
On Tuesday, a grand jury report was issued regarding the sexual molestation of hundreds of children over a 40-year period in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. The allegations are disturbing to read. The report recommended abolishing the criminal statute of limitations for sex crimes against minors and opening a window to allow sexual abuse victims to bring civil claims. Several bills have been introduced in the legislature. Parallel bills by Rep. Mark Rozzi, himself a sex abuse survivor, and Sen. Rob Teplitz would give victims until the age of 50 to file suit (up from the current age of 30) and would open a brief window for those whose claims would be time-barred by the 50-year limit. Sam Marshall, the President and CEO of the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania opposes the bills:
"We are allowed to reserve only for claims that are possible. Once a statute of limitations has passed, we can't hold or reserve money for that because claims are no longer possible," Marshall said. He questioned whether the grand jury in making its recommendations gave any consideration of the insurance regulation aspect of it.
"I realize that's not the driving concern in any of this but it is from an insurance perspective," he said. "It's a question of how can you be liable for something they claim for which by law you weren't allowed to reserve money for. That's the challenge here."
The debate reminds me of one of Jeffrey O'Connell's favorite statements about the difficulty of mixing morality and mathematics, something that happens constantly with tort law and insurance. Still the moral aspect of tort is very strong in this instance, not muted as it is in so many contexts. PennLive has the story. The Patriot News, in an editorial, supports the report's statute of limitations recommendations.
Thursday, March 3, 2016
In 2013, a 26-year-old doctor who was a member of The Commonwealth Medical College's charter class, died of complications from a blood clot at the hospital in which she was about to start her pediatric residency. Suit filed on the doctor's behalf alleges negligent treatment. Jury selection took 2 days as a pool of 70 was reduced to 16. The trial is expected to be long and involve numerous witnesses. The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader has details.
Wednesday, March 2, 2016
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
The House Judiciary Committee, 11-1, approved a $400,000 increase in the med mal cap, to a total of $1.65M. It would gradually increase every 4 years until 2031, with a final cap of $2.25M. The bill now goes to the full House, but may have trouble in the Senate. KSL.com has the story.
Monday, February 29, 2016
Eric Feldman has posted to SSRN Compensating the Victims of Japan's 3-11 Fukushima Disaster. The abstract provides:
Japan’s March 2011 triple disaster — first a large earthquake, followed by a massive tsunami and a nuclear meltdown — caused a devastating loss of life, damaged and destroyed property, and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless, hurt, and in need. This article looks at the effort to address the financial needs of the victims of the 3/11 disaster by examining the role of public and private actors in providing compensation, describing the types of groups and individuals for whom compensation is available, and analyzing the range of institutions through which compensation has been allocated. The story is in some ways cause for optimism — billions of dollars have been spent compensating millions of individuals and businesses, in most cases through extra-judicial channels that have minimized the need for protracted, expensive litigation. But this article also reveals a compensation structure that excludes large numbers of potential claims by privileging the losses of nuclear accident victims over those of earthquake and tsunami victims; describes a system in which those potentially eligible for compensation must navigate an overly complex institutional matrix for pursuing their claims; and discusses an increasing amount of litigation by individuals and groups within and beyond Japan that has clouded the compensation landscape. In short, post-Fukushima compensation is both laudable and lamentable, relying upon arbitrary distinctions between deserving and undeserving victims and leaving many victims unpaid and discontent, but also succeeding in managing a large number of claims.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Noah Kazis has posted to SSRN Tort Concepts in Traffic Crimes. The abstract provides:
Legal scholars have long understood tort and criminal law as parallel mechanisms for sanctioning private behavior. Most have also sought to keep them separate. In the context of traffic crime, however, the line between tort and criminal law is blurring, as criminal law takes on significant features of tort doctrine. This Comment, using New York as a case study, shows that the border between tort and crime has disintegrated distinctively and dramatically in the traffic-crash context. All three branches of New York government have imported tort concepts into traffic crimes, thus redefining basic criminal-law doctrines throughout the criminal code — reaching even the law of homicide. This Comment also suggests that the consistent application of tort frameworks to traffic crimes shows a shared, if unspoken, consensus that traffic crashes should be understood in the register of tort.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Yesterday a judge in Bridgeport Superior Court heard arguments over dismissing the lawsuit filed by families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting against manufacturers of the AR-15. In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which broadly shields gun manufacturers from liability. One of the exceptions to immunity is negligent entrustment:
In a 48-page brief arguing against dismissal of the case, attorney Josh Koskoff is trying to establish that the common law theory of negligent entrustment applies to the introduction of the AR-15 into the market by the Bushmaster Firearms International, the manufacturer of the weapon used by Adam Lanza in his shooting spree inside the school that left 26 people, including 20 children, dead.
"Their argument is what is negligent here is not selling the gun by the gun shop but what is negligent here is releasing the weapon into the market in the first place," Georgia State University Law Professor Timothy Lytton said.
In his brief, Koskoff argues that the AR-15 has no business being sold to civilians, that it was made for the military and "is built for mass casualty assaults" and to deliver "more wounds, of greater severity, in more victims, in less time."
A ruling is not expected soon. The Hartford Courant has the story.
Monday, February 22, 2016
Lynn Baker has posted to SSRN Aggregate Settlements and Attorney Liability: The Evolving Landscape. The abstract provides:
This Article was prepared for the Hofstra Law Review conference on "Lawyers as Targets: Suing, Prosecuting, and Defending Lawyers."
Over the past several decades, attorneys involved in mass tort settlements, especially those representing the plaintiffs, have faced an increasing number of large-dollar liability claims centered on the aggregate settlement rule: that is, the state equivalents to Rule 1.8(g) of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. During this period, courts have held that fee forfeiture, potentially totaling millions of dollars, is an appropriate remedy for violations of the Rule, even in the absence of any demonstrated harm to the client. At the same time, courts and other authoritative bodies have expressed a variety of often conflicting views regarding the obligations that the Rule imposes on attorneys and when the Rule applies, resulting in much uncertainty and little guidance for attorneys.
This Article offers both positive and normative clarification. It provides a thick description of the current interpretations of the aggregate settlement rule in order to identify the specific areas of disagreement among authorities. It goes on to offer a normative theory of the Rule and its purpose, which could usefully mitigate the current interpretive confusion regarding which settlements are "aggregate settlements" and what client disclosures are mandated by the Rule.
Friday, February 19, 2016
Brian Murchison has posted to SSRN Speech and Truth-Seeking Value. The abstract provides:
Courts in First Amendment cases long have invoked the truth-seeking value of speech, but they rarely probe its meaning or significance, and some ignore it altogether. As new cases implicate questions of truth and falsity, thorough assessment of the value is needed. This Article fills the gap by making three claims. First, interest in truth-seeking has resurfaced in journalism, politics, philosophy, and fiction, converging on a concept of provisional or “functional” truth. Second, the appeal of functional truth for the law may be that it clarifies thinking about a range of human priorities — survival, progress, and character — without insisting on truth in an absolute or transcendent sense. Third, the law’s current treatment of truth-seeking in First Amendment cases turns on whether a case implicates the truth of the past, present, or future. Cases about past truth involve its knowability; cases about present truth involve its hiddenness; and cases about future truth involve its falsification. Because judicial treatment of truth-seeking in each of these groupings is underdeveloped, legal thought can benefit from literary works by three major novelists: Paul Scott, author of Staying On; Kazuo Ishiguro, author of Never Let Me Go; and Ian McEwan, author of Atonement. Each of these works clarifies an important aspect of the truth-seeking value of expressive freedoms. The Article concludes by considering the value’s limitations, focusing on the complex setting of campaign finance.
Thursday, February 18, 2016
This past Saturday morning on Interstate 78, there was a terrible 64-vehicle crash that injured 73, including 3 fatalities. Many people cited a "whiteout" of snow as one of the causes. Weather, however, is a relatively rare cause of automobile accidents. According to local data, nearly 80 percent of accidents occur when there is no rain, sleet, fog, or snow. There were 109,000 accidents in 7 local counties between 2009 and 2014 and less than 6% of them occurred during snow or sleet (nationally, AAA states that 3.4% of accidents occur on snow-covered roads). On the other hand, aggressive driving was a factor in 64,000 of 109,000 accidents, and distracted driving was also a large contributor. Pennlive has details.
Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Monday, February 15, 2016
In conjunction with the British Institute of International and Comparative Law, Ken Oliphant is presenting "The Personal Injury Claims Process--Comparing Legal Cultures" on March 3 in London:
Friday, February 12, 2016
Shahar Dillbary has posted to SSRN Causation Actually. The abstract provides:
The article debunks the consensus that in concerted action, concurrent causes and alternative liability situations, the actual causation requirement is missing. While courts and scholars insist that in these cases tort law holds liable parties who clearly did not cause the victim’s harm, this article offers a novel approach. Using a simple model and applying it to leading decisions, it shows that a party who did not and could not even potentially injure the victim could nevertheless be a but-for reason for the harm. The article also challenges claims that causation theories like concerted action, substantial factor and alternative liability are fair to the victim or that they are designed to deter actors from engaging in “antisocial” activities. In deviation from the prior literature, this article reveals that these causation theories reduce the parties’ incentives to take care and result in more, rather than fewer, accidents. This article further shows that, despite lip service to the contrary, tort law promotes harmful activities that judges declare immoral, antisocial and illegal. The article argues, however, that in many cases this result can be justified on efficiency grounds. The article concludes that the but-for test should have a larger role in causation analysis, and it provides a number of policy recommendations to courts and lawmakers.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
In 1999, the Institute of Medicine published "To Err is Human:"
One of the report’s main conclusions is that the majority of medical errors do not result from individual recklessness or the actions of a particular group--this is not a "bad apple" problem. More commonly, errors are caused by faulty systems, processes, and conditions that lead people to make mistakes or fail to prevent them.
A new study from Lebanon suggests that conclusion may hold for other country's malpractice problems as well:
Most medical errors are the result of broader failures of the country’s health care system and not individual negligence, according to an upcoming report from the American University of Beirut Faculty of Health Sciences.
The Daily Star has the story.
Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Doug Richmond has posted to SSRN Fraud and Misrepresentation Claims Against Lawyers. The abstract provides:
When lawyers allegedly err in the course of clients’ representations, or, worse, allegedly engage in deliberate misconduct of some sort, aggrieved clients may sue for professional negligence, commonly described as legal malpractice, or for breach of fiduciary duty. A lawyer who treats a client dishonestly may face liability on one of these theories. Lawyers’ alleged dishonesty in their practices exposes them to potential liability to third-parties as well. For example, if a lawyer knowingly and substantially assists or encourages a client’s wrongdoing, those who are harmed by the client’s misconduct may sue the lawyer in tort for allegedly aiding and abetting the client’s misdeeds. Yet, while the consequences of lawyers’ alleged dishonesty should be apparent, lawyers seldom think themselves to be at risk for liability based on fraud or misrepresentation arising out of clients’ representations. This perspective probably traces at least in part to common notions of litigation practice, where parties generally cannot base fraud claims on opposing lawyers’ misrepresentations. Any comfort lawyers derive from this impression, however, overlooks three key points. First, lawyers may be sued for fraud or negligent misrepresentation by adversaries in litigation in some instances, as where, for example, they knowingly misrepresent material facts in negotiations. Second, transactional practice is such that business lawyers are natural targets of fraud and misrepresentation claims by third-parties based on false statements and failures to disclose information. Third, clients may sue their own lawyers for alleged fraud and negligent misrepresentation in appropriate cases.
In fact, fraud and misrepresentation are common theories of liability in suits against lawyers by both clients and third-parties. These claims pose an array of challenges for the targeted lawyers. Fraud claims may support punitive damage awards in cases where such damages would not otherwise be recoverable, or open the door to discovery that a court might refuse if only the lawyer’s professional negligence was in dispute. Because the presence of fraud normally is a question of fact, well-pleaded fraud claims are difficult for defendants to defeat at the motion to dismiss stage. Similarly, a claim for negligent misrepresentation is ordinarily one for a jury, unless the undisputed facts are so clear as to permit only one conclusion, thus devaluing a motion to dismiss as a defense tactic in many cases. Again because fraud and negligent misrepresentation claims are fact-intensive, a plaintiff may be able to avoid summary judgment and, by thus forcing the defendant to weigh the risk of trial, achieve a favorable settlement. Fraud and misrepresentation claims are particularly valuable to plaintiffs who cannot establish the existence of an attorney-client relationship with a lawyer-defendant because they avoid the general requirement of privity for liability based on professional negligence.
This Article examines lawyers’ and law firms’ potential civil liability for fraud and negligent misrepresentation. Part II provides an overview of the common law causes of action available to potential plaintiffs. After exploring these causes of action, it examines the role that rules of professional conduct play in establishing a standard of care or conduct, or the reasonableness of a plaintiff’s reliance on a lawyer’s misrepresentations. Part III discusses four illustrative negligent misrepresentation and fraud cases against lawyers, two arising out of litigation matters and two arising out of lawyers’ transactional practices. Finally, Part IV offers lawyers some practical advice on avoiding potential liability for fraud and negligent misrepresentations.
Monday, February 8, 2016
Bob Rabin has posted to SSRN Intangible Damages in American Tort Law: A Roadmap. The abstract provides:
This paper is meant to provide a succinct roadmap to the many pathways taken in providing recovery for intangible harm in tort. The paper was initially prepared for a comparative law conference, and in that setting, I assumed a lack of close familiarity with the historical origins and surprisingly broad expanse of recovery for intangible harm in American tort law. While succinctly presented, the present revised treatment, for those conversant with the US system, is meant to be comprehensive, addressing defamation and privacy, no-fault and tort reform, as well as the more conventional common law topics of intangible damages in cases of intentional and accidental harm.
Friday, February 5, 2016
Gijs Van Dijck (Tilburg University) has posted to SSRN Should Physicians Be Afraid of Tort Liability? Reviewing the Empirical Evidence. The abstract provides:
Do tort claims, or the fear of them, result in the adoption of practices aimed at protecting against tortious liability? Legislators, courts, and legal scholars often seem to think so, but is there empirical evidence to support this assumption? This article provides an answer to this question for the field of medical practice. An analysis of empirical studies on defensive medicine raises doubts as to whether the assumption holds true. The findings indicate that the empirical evidence is weak and that, if there is a concern about defensive practices, it seems to exist primarily in physicians’ minds. The results contribute to a better understanding of how tort law works, what effects it has on behaviour, and whether legal actors, especially at the intersection of law and medicine, should give credence to the defensive practices concern.