Jackpot Litigation

For those who still hold out belief that the tort system today is still primarily about justice rather than just hijacking deep pockets, read this post at overlawyered.com.  From an online ad:

We will show you how to prove you had taken Vioxx, to prove that you had related side effects, and to find a good lawyer to win your case. There are still places selling Vioxx after the recall, you can find them online. Merck is still 100% fully responsible for any side effect. If you purchase Vioxx now, not only you can sue Merck, you can also sue the pharmacy store for selling recalled products. The purchase is risk free, as Merck will pay you every penny you spend on Vioxx including tax and shipping fees.

Quick, buy some before they take it off the shelf, so you too can get in on the lawsuit!

By the way, this little tidbit, also via Overlawyered.com, gave me a chuckle.  A woman is suing a railroad for hitting her when she was walking down the railroad tracks.  In part, she is suing the train for "failure of its engineer to...yield the right of way".  LOL - I can't believe the train didn't swerve out of the way.

UPDATE #1

Legal Underground has a post critical of this article:

As grist for its anti-lawyer message, Overlawyered.com is featuring this obvious Internet hoax: "Get Your Million Dollars from Vioxx Lawsuit."  Does Walter Olson really think his readers are so gullible?

In the comments section, I responded as follows:

Hmmm. I am one of the listed disciples (lol). I am willing to believe the ad is non-serious, meaning that it was aimed more at getting traffic and probably was not written by a law firm, and am posting an update as such with a link to this site.

Hoax? In my mind, its a hoax only if the legal advice is wrong or if you think no one would respond to the plea. I can't tell you if Vioxx can still be bought nowadays (that may be a hoax). However, if it was still on the shelf somewhere, ask yourself two honest questions:

1. Is there a lawyer out there who would happily try to make the case that a person who bought Vioxx after the recall can still be awarded damages?  Even if the attorney knew the person bought the Vioxx mainly to get in the class action?
2. Are there people out there who, if they thought it would get them in on a big class action, would go out today and load up on Vioxx solely to get a chance at having a lawsuit?

The honest answer is yes to both (just read the billboards in Florida). I mean, I would bet about any amount of money that someone out there has read this on the Internet and has tried to go buy Vioxx to get in on the jackpot. Guaranteed. Would any of you take the other side of this bet?

The fact that this ad may not be from a real lawyer does mean that I may have overstepped in painting law firms as being this bad (sorry), but I don't think its being fake in any way hurts the case that the notion of individual responsibility is on life support in this country.

By the way, after looking at Walter Olson's original post, I think he was pretty careful not to claim that the page was from a real law firm, and basically pointed to the same issues with the page's provenance that Legal Underground pointed out.

In the companies I have run, I have spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with a few really ridiculous lawsuits.  Here are two examples (that happened to companies I ran - this is not Internet hearsay or friend of a friend):

  1. A visitor to one of our facilities claims to have stepped, while walking in his bare feet, on a nail that was on the ground.  He did not come to us for first aid, but called us later after he had left our facility.  He never could produce the nail, nor could we ever find one in the area, but we agreed to pay any small bills he had -- we assumed he might have gone to the emergency room for a tetanus shot or maybe to get a band-aid.  It turns out he eventually claimed that the injury caused him to - get ready -  experience sexual dysfunction, which he eventually sued us over when we refused to pay any treatment costs.
  2. A woman came to our office at our facility limping, claiming to have fallen down the stairs and saying that we were gonna pay.  Despite the fact that it was a crowded area, no witnesses could be found.  We offered her a ride to the hospital which she refused.  Several of our employees thought we saw her come into the facility limping already.  Within the week, she was threatening to sue us for the cost of her knee operation.  Fortunately, since our employees saw her limping coming in, we did some more research, and members of her family told us she was also suing a restaurant she had visited the week before for the same injury.  It turns out she was uninsured, and had hurt her knee elsewhere, and was out trying to find some public business that she could get to pay for her operation. 

Given this experience, I am not going to apologize for believing that the referenced ad might be real.

UPDATE #2:

By the way, I don't think that Legal Underground was calling the train story a hoax, only the Vioxx.  By the way, the exact wording on the complaint against the railroad is even better than I thought:

"The [engineer] did not stop the train in a timely manner, and failed to yield the right of way to a pedestrian walking along the tracks in plain view"

A freight train's topping distance is measured in miles, even with full emergency braking.

She and her attorney's further argue:

that the railroad was negligent for failing to post signs warning 'of the dangers of walking near train tracks and that the tracks were actively in use

Lets leave aside the obvious point about individual responsibility, and ask what would happen if this were the legal standard, to have such signs.  To make sure someone saw one, you would have to have one say every 30 feet.  Since there are just over 200,000 miles of freight railroads in the North America that works out to a bit over 35,000,000 signs that need to be posted.  At $100 per sign this would cost $3.5 billion.

Here is the serious point:  Never would any legislature pass a law that said there had to be warning signs every 30 feet on railroads.  It would be way too costly for little benefit.  At grade crossings today, we have signs and flashing lights and even gates and still thousands of people a year drive in front of trains on grade crossings.  So, if we would never require it legislatively, how have we gotten to a point where a jury might effectively retroactively require such signs, and assess a multi-million dollar penalty for not doing it?

  • Sporky

    The owner of that million dollar vioxx site is not a lawyer, just some schmuck looking to make a few bucks off the Google Adsense program.

  • http://home.earthlink.net/~sleepyjackal/index.html Jackal

    Regulation by litigation is becoming a big problem. The Commons blog had something on it just a few days ago:
    http://commonsblog.org/archives/000228.php

  • http://www.mynippon.com/vioxx/ Vioxx Recall

    Thanks for pointing out in such great detail how many naive Americans are thinking that the Vioxx recall is some kind of a get-rich scheme. It is perfectly acceptable for people who were genuinely hurt by Vioxx to present a convincing legal argument and ask for compensation, but the types that you mention, well, they really need to get a life.

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  • http://www.donothaveone.com TC

    Once again a glarig example as to why we need to get the attorneys out of the law making, arguing, judging business!

    Talk about monopolys!

  • http://www.donothaveone.com TC

    "By the way, this little tidbit, also via Overlawyered.com, gave me a chuckle. A woman is suing a railroad for hitting her when she was walking down the railroad tracks. In part, she is suing the train for "failure of its engineer to...yield the right of way". LOL - I can't believe the train didn't swerve out of the way."

    Engineer should have hit the throttle then turned around to check a gauge or something.

    Actually the lawyer filing such should be taken on a walk upon the railway sidewalk! That fixes two problems in an afternoon. I think if more of them became unemployed by such crap the entire industry might could actually become a value to the world.

    But 100 at the bottom of any bay today, is but a good start!!