TortsProf Blog

Editor: Christopher J. Robinette
Southwestern Law School

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

AR: House Passes Amended Tort Reform Proposal

By a 66-30 vote, the House passed an amended proposal to put on the ballot a state constitutional amendment to cap non-economic and punitive damages in some lawsuits.  It now goes back to the Senate, which had passed the proposal with smaller caps.  McClatchy DC Bureau has the story.

February 28, 2017 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 27, 2017

AR Tort Reform Proposal: Caps Doubled by House Committee

The Arkansas legislature is considering a proposed constitutional amendment that would go to voters in November 2018.  The version passed by the Senate would authorize a vote on caps on non-economic and punitive damages at $250,000 each.  A House committee voted to increase those caps to $500,000 each.  The amended bill must now pass both houses.  Arkansas Online has the story.

February 27, 2017 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Levmore & Fagan on the Confidentiality Settlements

Saul Levmore & Frank Fagan have posted to SSRN Semi-Confidential Settlements in Civil, Criminal, and Sexual Assault Cases.  The abstract provides:

Settlement is more likely if parties are free to set its terms, including a promise that these terms will remain secret between them. State sunshine-in-litigation laws work to defeat this incentive for confidentiality in order to protect third parties from otherwise unknown hazards. The intuition is that a wrongdoer should not be able to pay one plaintiff for silence at the expense of other victims. This Article begins by showing that the intuition is often wrong or overstated. A plaintiff who can assess defendant’s vulnerability to future claims can extract a large enough settlement to provide substantial deterrence, and at much lower cost to the legal system. The argument does not transfer well to most criminal cases, where the defendant might pay not to avoid other claims but to avoid incarceration, which offers no direct benefit to the settling victim. It is further complicated in sexual assault cases, where the plaintiff might settle too quickly in order to protect her privacy. The discussion works toward the idea that in some settings semi-confidentiality – the disclosure of the substance of settlement but not the magnitude of monetary payments – is superior to both secrecy and transparency. The right amount of confidentiality is a function of the parties’ interest in privacy, the likelihood that the wrongdoing is part of a pattern unknown to the settling plaintiff, and the accuracy of the litigation process that settlement seeks to bypass. We are able to identify cases where law ought to allow (even) criminal cases to be settled privately and confidentially, and also cases where even sexual assault victims should be steered away from confidential settlement and toward translucency.

February 24, 2017 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

VA: Battery or Negligence?

The jurisdictions wrestle with the line between battery and negligence, especially negligence based on informed consent.  The Virginia Supreme Court just drew the line in a case in which a physician fused the wrong level on the patient's spine (C-6 and C-7 instead of C-5 and C-6).  The court ruled this was an issue of negligence, not battery:

In the case of battery, there has been precedent that defines it as any unwanted bodily contact or the consent of the patient. Whereas the tort of negligence has been set up to ensure individuals act with reasonable care. As well, in battery there is the question of intent whereas intent is not a consideration in negligence.

“These considerations lead us to conclude that a physician is not liable for battery unless the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case that the physician performed an operation ‘against the patient’s will or substantially at variance with the consent given,’” according to the court's opinion.

The court also concluded that whether or not Mayr disclosed the risks involved with the surgery will also fall under the tort of negligence.

“When a patient has consented to surgery but complains that the physician has not disclosed certain risks, the dispositive question is whether the physician breached the standard of care by failing to disclose those risks. Breach of the standard of care falls within the realm of negligence and does not constitute an intentional tort,” the opinion states.

Forbes has the story.

February 22, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

MO: Lots of Tort Reform

The Southeast Missourian has a summary of all the reforms pushed in Missouri this year.  Here is the bullet-point list:

Republicans this session have proposed dozens of bills under the tort-reform umbrella. Some of the proposals would:

* Add legal steps for people suing over asbestos exposure.

* Make it harder for employees to sue for discrimination in the workplace.

* Restrict injured or defrauded people from joining together in lawsuits against companies and clamp down on class-action lawsuits.

* Change the requirements used to determine whether a witness is an "expert" for non-jury civil cases.

* Allow juries to see only the out-of-pocket amount paid, not the price before insurance, for medical expenses in personal-injury cases.

Missouri already has passed laws supported by American Tort Reform Association in nine of 10 legal areas the group wants reformed, although the Supreme Court struck down some. Only Ohio, Texas and Colorado have done more, according to the association.

February 21, 2017 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Monday, February 20, 2017

AR: Tort Reform Clears Senate

The Arkansas Senate voted 21-10 to send a proposed constitutional amendment involving damage caps to the House for further consideration.  Given that 53 of the 100 members of the House are co-sponsors, it has a good chance of passing.  If the House approves the proposal, it will be on the ballot in the 2018 general election.  Arkansas Online has the story; more coverage at KARK.

February 20, 2017 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

KY: Med Mal Panel Bill "Idling in the House"

A bill to create med mal panels has, once again, been introduced in Kentucky:

The bill states that unless all parties involved agree to go directly to court, the complaint should be reviewed by an independent panel before it can move forward. The panel would consist of one attorney and three health care providers, with the attorney acting as the panel chairperson.

Once the panel is chosen, both parties may submit evidence to be reviewed. Two or more members of the panel must agree that evidence shows there was or was not malpractice.

The opinion will be issued within six months of the complaint being filed. That opinion can be used as evidence in the court if the case is able to move forward.

The bill passed the Senate in early January, but has made no progress in the House.  Legal NewsLine has the story.

February 16, 2017 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

AR: Senate Panel Approves Tort Reform Amendment

Yesterday an Arkansas Senate committee voted to advance a constitutional amendment involving damage caps to the full Senate.  The bill's sponsor will request a vote tomorrow.  McClatchy DC Bureau has details.

February 15, 2017 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

JOTWELL Torts: Sebok on Abraham & White on the Emergence of Tort Law

At JOTWELL, Tony Sebok reviews Ken Abraham & Ted White's The Transformation of the Civil Trial and the Emergence of American Tort Law

February 14, 2017 in Scholarship, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Does Evidence of Common Insurance of the Defendant and Defense Expert Demonstrate Expert Bias in Med Mal Cases?

Marc Ginsberg has posted to SSRN Does Evidence of Common Insurance Demonstrate Relevant Expert Witness Bias in Medical Negligence Litigation?.  The abstract provides:

Does "common insurance" shared by the defendant-physician and the medical expert-witness establish an expert bias? In the past ten to fifteen years, the common insurance question has received attention by the state courts. It has been well understood that "evidence" of the presence or absence of liability insurance is simply inadmissible to prove fault pursuant to the Federal Rule of Evidence 411. Rule 411, however, is not a complete bar to admissibility and allows the trial court to admit evidence of liability insurance to prove a witness's bias or prejudice. This paper explores the various "models" of common insurance evidence, the theory of common insurance "bias" and the professional risk potentially assumed by expert witnesses who give false testimony.

February 13, 2017 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 10, 2017

AR: Tort Reform Returns

You may recall that last fall the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a tort reform ballot initiative.  It's back.  The Arkansas Times reports:

A proposed amendment to the Arkansas Constitution filed last week in the Senate seeks to limit the amounts that can be awarded to claimants in civil actions, such as medical malpractice lawsuits. If Senate Joint Resolution 8 is approved by the General Assembly — and with a long list of co-sponsors, it seems likely to pass — it would appear before voters on the 2018 ballot. Sen. Missy Irvin (R-Mountain View) is the lead sponsor.

Like the so-called "tort reform" measure on the 2016 ballot (which was disqualified by the state Supreme Court not long before the election), SJR 8 would place a cap of $250,000 on noneconomic damages, meaning compensation for hard-to-quantify personal losses such as pain and suffering. The proposed amendment also places a cap on punitive damages, though that ceiling is more flexible. But SJR 8 also would give the legislature control over the rules of pleading, practice and procedure in the judicial branch, thus taking power away from Arkansas courts and giving it to the General Assembly.

February 10, 2017 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Judge Gorsuch and Products Liability Cases

At JD Supra Business Advisor, Eric Wolff reviews a potential Justice Gorsuch's effect on products cases.

February 9, 2017 in Products Liability | Permalink | Comments (0)

MO: Collateral Source, Daubert Bills Pass House

Tort reform measures altering the collateral source rule and establishing Daubert as the standard to judge scientific methodology in state courts have passed the Missouri House.  The Missouri Times has the story.

February 9, 2017 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Wells on Harmonizing European Tort Law

Mike Wells has posted to SSRN Harmonizing European Tort Law and the Comparative Method:  Basic Questions of Tort Law from a Comparative Perspective.  The abstract provides:

This is a book review of Basic Questions of Tort Law from a Comparative Perspective, edited by Professor Helmut Koziol. This book is the second of two volumes on “basic questions of tort law.” In the first volume, Professor Helmut Koziol examined German, Austrian, and Swiss tort law. In this volume Professor Koziol has assembled essays by distinguished scholars from several European legal systems as well as the United States and Japan, each of whom follows the structure of Koziol’s earlier book and explains how those basic questions are handled in their own systems.

This review focuses on Professor Koziol’s ultimate aim of harmonization, and on the contribution of these essays to that project. Harmonization of tort law across the member states is not just a matter of working out answers to such questions as the content of the liability rule or whether non-pecuniary harm should be recoverable. Harmonization raises an issue of European Union federalism. That question is not explicitly addressed in either volume, yet the value of the project, and prospects for its success, turn on the answer to it. I argue that Professor Koziol has not made a convincing case for EU displacement of member state tort law.

February 7, 2017 in Books, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 6, 2017

MO: Tort Reform Update

According to this article in The Missouri Times, the collateral source and Daubert bills I reported on earlier are going to pass the state House.  The next reform bills will focus on venue and joinder, and are aimed at restricting out-of-state plaintiffs from Missouri.

February 6, 2017 in Legislation, Reforms, & Political News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Paris Climate Accord as Tobacco-Style Mass Tort Settlement

Over at the American College of Environmental Lawyers, Eugene Trisko's post "Paris:  Should We Stay or Should We Go?", analogizes the Paris climate accords to the settlement of tobacco claims.

Thanks to John Dernbach for the tip.

February 2, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Self-Driving Cars: The Reasonable Computer

At Singularity Hub, Ryan Abbott, professor of law and medicine, discusses coming changes in technology and how they might affect tort law:

Abbott appears to be the first to suggest in a soon-to-be-published paper that tort law treat AI machines like people when it comes to liability issues. And, perhaps more radically, he suggests people be judged against the competency of a computer when AI proves to be consistently safer than a human being.


Safety is also the big reason why Abbott argues that in the not-too-distant future, human error in tort law will be measured against the unerring competency of machines.

“This means that defendants would no longer have their liability based on what a hypothetical, reasonable person would have done in their situation, but what a computer would have done,” Abbott writes. “While this will mean that the average person’s best efforts will no longer be sufficient to avoid liability, the rule would benefit the general welfare.”

The full article is here.

Updated:  Alberto Bernabe comments at Torts Blog.

February 1, 2017 in Products Liability, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)