Archive for the ‘Liability / Lawsuits / Insurance’ Category.

Workers Comp. and Unemployment

Breaking news from California:

The Workers' Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau (WCIRB) made it official and submitted a mid-year filing for a 9.1% increase in the pure premium advisory rate that Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones approved less than six months ago. The proposed July 1 increase follows the 37% increase that Jones approved for January 1 that was hidden by the change in benchmarks for pure premium rates that was made at his request....

The Bureau insists that an increase of this magnitude is necessary to combat the continued deterioration in the claims experience, as well as an uptick in claim frequency in the 2010 accident year. Much of the increase will also go to pay for the higher loss adjustment expenses carriers are incurring fighting liens and litigating permanent disability claims. Projected ALAE costs are up to $11,403 per indemnity claim for the 2011 accident year compared to $10,698 the year before.

A 9.1% increase a half year after a 37% increase is just crazy.  This tends to confirm three issues I have written about before:

  1. People are filing workers comp claims as a substitute for or a supplement to unemployment.  Our company has seen a significant increase in people "coincidentally" suffering an injury on one of the last few days, and particularly the very last day, before they are to be laid off.  Only such fraud explains an increase in claims when economic activity is way down, particularly when more dangerous professions like construction employment fell much more than office employment in the recession.  We have also seen, by the way, an increase in frivolous labor lawsuits in CA coincident with the economic decline.  A year ago I had an employee in CA tell me that she had attended a brainstorming session the night before among several of my ex-employees trying to generate ideas for ways to sue our company.  I can't wait for an improvement in the economy when the returns of working are higher than the returns of brainstorming ways to extract money from our company via the legal system.
  2. California in general does a bad job of policing workers comp. fraud.  Woe to the employer that actually attempts to question an outrageously suspicious claim.  Last time I tried to do so in CA I got slapped with a lawsuit.
  3. All states do a terrible job policing permanent disability claims.  I hire a lot of older workers.  I can't tell you how many people show up at my door trying to be paid under the table because they don't want to endanger their permanent disability by having a record of getting paid for doing very physical outdoor work for us.  They assure me they are 100% capable to do heavy physical labor.  Since I don't pay anyone off the books, they end up finding work elsewhere.   Many of you may not believe such people exist, but I have met a number of folks who consider getting a permanent disability, or at least something a doctor will testify is a permanent disability, the equivalent of hitting the lotto.  I have even been sued by a woman for submitting testimony to the social security administration that might have harmed her chances of getting a permanent disability ruling.  The lawsuit stated that if she was denied the disability payment after I testified that I had seen no evidence of any limitations in what she could do on the job,  that I should be liable for paying her the lifetime amount she would have gotten.  So I wimped out and withdrew my testimony and let the taxpayers pay her rather than farting around with a lawsuit.

The Mapmakers Petition

This could have also been labelled as from the files of "anti-trust is not about consumers."  Apparently, a mapmaker in France has successfully sued and won damages from Google for unfair competition, ie from providing Google Maps for free.

Just as in the Microsoft anti-trust case and just about every anti-trust case in history, companies who brought the suit are really trying to stop an up-start competitor from trashing their business model, but they have to couch this true concern in mumbled words about the consumer.  Specifically, they raise that ever-popular boogeyman of jacking up prices once the  monopoly is secured.  The next time this happens, of course, will be the first time.  Its a myth.  For example, in Google's case, left unsaid is how they would jack up their prices when at least two other companies (Bing, Mapquest) also provide mapping services online for free.

Patent Process Officially Broken

Google awarded a patent for changing the Google logo on particular days with date-relevent doodles.  Really.  From the patent award

A system provides a periodically changing story line and/or a special event company logo to entice users to access a web page. For the story line, the system may receive objects that tell a story according to the story line and successively provide the objects on the web page for predetermined or random amounts of time. For the special event company logo, the system may modify a standard company logo for a special event to create a special event logo, associate one or more search terms with the special event logo, and upload the special event logo to the web page. The system may then receive a user selection of the special event logo and provide search results relating to the special event.

Put a turkey on Thanksgiving in your website banner, and just wait for the Google lawyers to call.  Outstanding.

Recording Industry Responsible For Entire World Economic Output

Apparently the RIAA has demanded $75 trillion in damages from file sharing site Lime Wire.  Via Overlawyered.

Official Announcement: Civil Rights Movement Can Declare Victory

The Civil Rights movement can officially declare victory, if this is the kind of racism being faced by African Americans today.  Seriously, if the harms are really this trivial, let's move on to other issues.  If there is still meaningful racism out there, let's stop clogging the courts and wasting our time with this kind of trivial BS and work the real issues.

Postscript:  It could be that I am just not hip to modern lingo.  I suppose that the words "please turn off your cell phones during the movie" is actually a well known code phrase meaning "back to slavery all of you" and I am just not aware.  If I am missing something, please let me know so I too can feel appropriately victimized next time I go see a movie.

Nice Satire

If you want some enjoyable satire this Friday, this is a nice piece from Ken at Popehat, who has gone the libel tourism route by using French courts to sue a US editor for a bad review of a US book by a US author.

The article becomes all the sweeter as a recent email he received raises the possibility that this particular academic completely missed the heavy-handed irony and satire.

What a Bunch of Wusses

It would be difficult to find many folks who are more paranoid protectors of privacy information than I am.  But I have to say the tone of this is really pathetic.  (via Overlawyered)   Seriously, how many people think these folks feel truly harmed and how many think they are acting in order to try to score a tort payoff?

Consumers are hoping to cash in on last week's state Supreme Court ruling that it's illegal for retailers to ask customers for their ZIP Codes during credit card transactions, except in limited cases.

More than a dozen new lawsuits have been filed against major chains that do business in California, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., Crate & Barrel andVictoria's Secret. More filings are expected in the coming weeks.

The flurry of litigation stems from a decision last week againstWilliams-Sonoma Inc. in which the state high court ruled unanimously that ZIP Codes were "personal identification information" that merchants can't demand from customers under a California consumer privacy law.

This rush to court is pathetic on a number of levels

  • Zip code is personal, really?  Do you believe that?
  • Just say no.  Seriously.  I do it all the time -- I get asked for a phone number or a zip code and I always answer "no, sorry."  You know how many retailers have decided they did not want to make a sale to me at that point?  Zero.
  • It's ex post facto law.  Nowhere was it made clear to retailers that the law barred collecting zip codes.  Not until a group of judges effectively made this individual practice illegal did it become so, and then it was enforced retroactively on stores.  If the legislature wants collecting zip codes to be illegal, it should have written in the law that collecting zip codes is illegal.  Or, as a minimum, liability should begin on the day after the court decision.  Suing someone for taking a zip code last year when it only became clear this week it was illegal is classic ex post facto law.
  • Ira Stoll has a funny comment - guess what the first piece of information Jerry Brown's web site asks for?

Strategic Vs. Tactical Victory

This is a strategy that I think makes a lot of sense (via Overlawyered)

Vowing no longer to be Mister Nice City (assuming it ever qualified as such), Chicago is now willing to pay $50,000 to fight (successfully) a police-misconduct case it could have settled for $10,000:

Even though the city stands to lose money litigating every case under $100,000, a spokeswoman for the law department said that recently compiled figures showed the strategy seemed to be saving taxpayer money by dissuading lawyers from suing the police unless they are confident of victory.

I used to work for Emerson Electric, a company that amongst its divisions made both ladders and table saws, two sure-fire litigation magnets.  We got ladder suits, for example, from some guy who propped the base of the ladder up on 6 stacked paint cans and then leaned the top of the ladder on some high voltage lines, all during a hurricane and got hurt, and immediately sued the ladder manufacturer for making a defective product.

Emerson decided early on it was going to be a hard target.  It hired in-house legal staff and fought nearly every single suit all the way to court if necessary.  If attorneys had a good case of a real defect or negligence, fine, they could win their day in court.  However, if they were looking for a quick percentage of a settlement, they needed to look elsewhere.  Turned out there were a lot of the latter.

It's Official: Trial Lawyers Manufactured the Vaccine Autism Scare

From CNN:

A now-retracted British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an "elaborate fraud" that has done long-lasting damage to public health, a leading medical publication reported Wednesday.An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study -- and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible.

"It's one thing to have a bad study, a study full of error, and for the authors then to admit that they made errors," Fiona Godlee, BMJ's editor-in-chief, told CNN. "But in this case, we have a very different picture of what seems to be a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data."

Why anyone took a study serioiusly based on a population of 12 whole people always amazed me.  Anyway, to continue:

Wakefield has been unable to reproduce his results in the face of criticism, and other researchers have been unable to match them. Most of his co-authors withdrew their names from the study in 2004 after learning he had had been paid by a law firm that intended to sue vaccine manufacturers -- a serious conflict of interest he failed to disclose. After years on controversy, the Lancet, the prestigious journal that originally published the research, retracted Wakefield's paper last February.

The series of articles launched Wednesday are investigative journalism, not results of a clinical study. The writer, Brian Deer, said Wakefield "chiseled" the data before him, "falsifying medical histories of children and essentially concocting a picture, which was the picture he was contracted to find by lawyers hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers and to create a vaccine scare."

According to BMJ, Wakefield received more than 435,000 pounds ($674,000) from the lawyers. Godlee said the study shows that of the 12 cases Wakefield examined in his paper, five showed developmental problems before receiving the MMR vaccine and three never had autism.

"It's always hard to explain fraud and where it affects people to lie in science," Godlee said. "But it does seem a financial motive was underlying this, both in terms of payments by lawyers and through legal aid grants that he received but also through financial schemes that he hoped would benefit him through diagnostic and other tests for autism and MMR-related issues."

Wakefield has been responsible for a whole lot of misery and probably not a few deaths over the last decade.  Just losing his medical license, which happened earlier this year, is getting off cheap.

Government Oversight Worse Than Private Alternatives

Via Overlawyered:

As part of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA), Congress mandated that the CPSC create a "publicly available consumer product safety information database" compiling consumer complaints about the safety of products. Last week, by a 3-2 majority, the commission voted to adopt regulations that have dismayed many in the business community by ensuring that the database will needlessly include a wide range of secondhand, false, unfounded or tactical reports. The Washington Times editorializes:

"¦[Under the regulations as adopted last week] anybody who wants to trash a product, for whatever reason, can do so. The commission can leave a complaint on the database indefinitely without investigating its merits "even if a manufacturer has already provided evidence the claim is inaccurate," as noted by Carter Wood of the National Association of Manufacturers' "Shopfloor" blog"¦.

Trial lawyers pushing class-action suits could gin up hundreds of anonymous complaints, then point the jurors to those complaints at the "official" CPSC website as [support for] their theories that a product in question caused vast harm. "The agency does not appear to be concerned about fairness and does not care that unfounded complaints could damage the reputation of a company," said [Commissioner Nancy] Nord.

Commissioners Nord and Anne Northup introduced an alternative proposal (PDF) aimed at making the contents of the database more reliable and accurate but were outvoted by the Democratic commission majority led by Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. Nord: "under the majority's approach, the database will not differentiate between complaints entered by lawyers, competitors, labor unions and advocacy groups who may have their own reasons to "˜salt' the database, from those of actual consumers with firsthand experience with a product."

Any number of private actors have already tackled this problem. Amazon.com has probably the most comprehensive set of product reviews, and has taken a number of steps (e.g. real name reviews) to increase trust in their system.  Reviewers who are shills (either for or against a product) are quickly outed by other reviewers.   Another site whose reviews I rely on a lot is TripAdvisor, which has hotel and other travel reviews.   TripAdvisor allows the reviewed hotels to respond to individual reviews in a way that the consumer can see to get both sides of the story.

Apparently, none of this back and forth will be allowed in the CPSC data base.  The Democrats who wrote the process only want bad stuff in the data base, so it will not allow manufacturer responses or even positive reviews to appear.  The only possible justification for the government to run this database would be for the government to take a role in investigating and confirming or overturning claims and complaints, but it is clear it won't be doing this either.   This will just be a location for disgruntled people to drop turds on various manufacturers, all with the imprimatur of the government.  I can't see consumers finding much value here compared to the alternatives, but I can see the value in a courtroom to be able to stuff a government site with unsubstantiated claims and then use that site to say that the "official" government site is full of criticisms of the product.

Shareholder Suits

From Overlawyered today:

"A new study in the Financial Analysts Journal casts serious doubt on the premise [of litigation social efficiency], at least when it comes to shareholder class actions. In most cases, the authors found, the litigation mainly serves to punish shareholders who have already suffered from a downturn in their stock. Only suits targeting illegal insider trading, and to a lesser extent, accounting fraud were associated with subsequent higher long-term returns."

Way back in early 2006 (have I been blogging so long?) I was guest blogging at Overlawyered and I wrote this:

But from a philosophical standpoint, shareholder suits have never made much sense to me. While I can understand the shareholders of the company suing a minority shareholder who might be enriching themselves disproportionately (e.g. Rigas family at Adelphia), suits by shareholders against the company they own seem"¦ crazy.

Any successful verdict for shareholders against the company would effectively come out of the pockets of the company's owners who are.. the shareholders. So in effect, shareholders are suing themselves, and, win or lose, they as a group end up with less than if the suit had never been started, since a good chunk of the payout goes to the lawyers. The only way these suits make financial sense (except to the lawyers, like Bill Lerach) is if only a small subset of the shareholders participate, and then these are just vehicles for transferring money from half the shareholders to the other half, or in other words from one wronged party that does not engage in litigation to another wronged party who is aggressively litigious. Is there really justice here?

OK, you could argue that many of these shareholders are not suing themselves, because they are past shareholders that dumped their stock at a loss. But given these facts, these suits are even less fair. If these suits are made by past shareholders who held stock (ie, were the owners) at the time certain wrongs were committed, they are in fact paid by current and future shareholders who may well have not even owned the company at the time of the abuses, and who may in fact be participating in cleaning the company up. So these litigants are in effect making the argument that because the company was run unethically when they owned it, they are going to sue the people who bought it from them and cleaned it up? Shouldn't the payment be the other way around, with past owners paying current owners for the mess they left?

I understand that theoretically they might have an incentive improvement from the threat of these suits that improves corporate governance.  But this is mitigated by the fact that most corporations consider these suits to be random landmines without merit, to be avoided if possible, to be settled if necessary, but that have little bearing on the underlying governance of the company.

OK, Its Time to Fix Internet Patents (or Maybe Just Put Them Down)

A patent troll company thinks it owns exclusive rights to rollover messages on web sites, among many other common features as outlined in the brazenly, ridiculously general patent entitled "Accessing, assembling, and using bodies of information."    I am just waiting for the patent on breathing or metabolizing food.  Story here, via Overlawyered.

Irony Alert

Via Overlawyered, from here

Taiwan's Intellectual Property Office said it had disqualified Wu Chih-wei and asked him to return the medal and prize money he got for winning the "Protect Copyright" poster-design contest, after Wu admitted he had copied the design he submitted.

Quote of the Day

I am sure this will garner much sympathy from all of you

"[Attorney George Fleming] said he had worked too long and too hard for a lousy $41 million," said Jim Doyle, who left the firm after objecting to Fleming's unusual decision to include non-client expenses among those billed to clients.

Via Overlawyered.  Fleming is accused of padding his expenses in a class action settlement.

What Kind of Freaking Lawyer is This Lady?

Everyone seems to know who Gloria Allred is, though I have never heard of her.  Apparently she is opposed to Meg Whitman getting elected (I am not even sure - is Whitman running for Senator or Governor?).  But her approach is weird.  She attacks Whitman for not identifying and firing an illegal immigrant fast enough.  There is no way for this accusation to be true given the timeline Allred outlines unless Ms. Whitman's illegal immigrant maid at some point farbricated or falsified documents.  In specific, Allred is claiming Whitman did not act fast enough when the Feds sent her a letter saying there was a problem with her maid's social security number.  Implicit in all this is that Whitman's maid must have fabricated documentation and as a minimum provided a false or stolen social security number.

OK, all normal team pepsi - team coke political BS, except for this:  Whitman's maid is Allred's legal client.  Allred, in order to publicly score points on Whitman, is hanging her own client out to dry by as much as admitting her client engaged in identity theft.  The maid's lawyer is complaining that her client was not fired fast enough.  Unbelievable.  Is this the true state of legal ethics today?  And not a mention of this obvious ethical issue in the AP story.

Told Ya

Based on past studies of sudden acceleration problems  (e.g. that the vast majority of sudden acceleration problems mysteriously happen to senior citizens) I predicted that many of the Toyota failures would come down to operator error.  The incentives for operators are substantial, even before tort action, both from a psychological and monetary standpoint to blame their own errors on Toyota.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has analyzed dozens of data recorders from Toyota Motor Corp. vehicles involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration and found that at the time of the crashes, throttles were wide open and the brakes were not engaged, people familiar with the findings said.

The results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyota and Lexus vehicles surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes. But the findings don't exonerate Toyota from two known issues blamed for sudden acceleration in its vehicles: sticky accelerator pedals and floor mats that can trap accelerator pedals to the floor.

The findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration involve a sample of reports in which a driver of a Toyota vehicle said the brakes were depressed but failed to stop the car from accelerating and ultimately crashing.

The data recorders analyzed by NHTSA were selected by the agency, not Toyota, based on complaints the drivers had filed with the government.

The findings are consistent with a 1989 government-sponsored study that blamed similar driver mistakes for a rash of sudden-acceleration reports involving Audi 5000 sedans.

The Toyota findings, which haven't been released by NHTSA, support Toyota's position that sudden-acceleration reports involving its vehicles weren't caused by electronic glitches in computer-controlled throttle systems, as some safety advocates and plaintiffs' attorneys have alleged. More than 100 people have sued the auto maker claiming crashes were the result of faulty electronics.

Of course breast implants pretty clearly never caused immune disorders, but that did not stop tort lawyers from bankrupting an entire industry on that theory.  So it is nice that Toyota has the facts on its side, but that may or may not help in court, and almost certainly will not help in Congress or the Administration, whose agendas were always driven more by the desire to help domestic auto companies against a powerful foreign rival.

Did You Hear the One About...

When I grew up in Houston, we told Aggie jokes, like others might tell blond jokes or fill-in-disfavored-ethnic-group jokes.  Anyway, way back in the 70's a joke went around something like this:

Did you hear about the Aggie who was caught in the New York blackout?  He was stranded on an escalator for three hours.

I remember this only after seeing this story via overlawyered:

Kim Kreis, et al. v. American Multi-Cinema Inc.; AMC Entertainment Inc., No. CGC-10-501102 (San Francisco Super. Ct. filed June 25, 2010).

Trip and fall lawsuit. The plaintiffs injured themselves on a stationary escalator at the defendants' movie theatre, as there was no sign posted warning them that it was not moving.

Is there any unwelcome outcome nowadays, however trivial, that can't spawn a lawsuit?

Equipment Financing Bleg

As a small business, there is just about no way to get a bank loan based on cash flow -- not just on future projections of cash flow, but even just based on a history of strong cash flows in the company.  This is not particularly new post-financial-crash... I wrote about this issue years ago.

In contrast, it is fairly easy to get equipment financing.  I get 10 calls a week from folks trying to finance my equipment purchases.  If they can slap a lien against a moveable asset, people will lend money.  The only change I have noticed of late is that fewer of these folks will do titled assets (like road vehicles).  This is kind of ironic, since they can perfect their lien on titled assets more strongly, but apparently the government paperwork hassles with titles makes lending expensive for these assets.

The one exception to this is for boats.  We would like to buy a bunch of new pontoon boats for rental service at some of our lakeside marinas.  Pontoon boats are great assets - they have fast payback, they are tanks so they last forever, and they don't go very fast so they don't usually get in accidents.  But no one will touch boat lending.  Apparently there is too much liability for lenders.  Which is just crazy, when you think about it.  How in the world have we created a tort structure where Bank X is somehow liable for the actions of a boat user that gets hurt, just because Bank X lent the money for our company to buy the boat and then rent the boat to the user?\

Anyway, if anyone knows someone who finances such commercial boat purchases, drop me an email.

Somebody Should Write About This...

Years ago, I wrote a novel (still available at Amazon!) wherein a key plot point was a conspiracy between a Senator, a law firm, and a media company to create a high-profile tort case out of thin air.

Today, we may be seeing something similar with the Toyota sudden acceleration case.  In this case, we have the Senate calling stooges of the plaintiff's bar as "expert witnesses" with the whole thing getting a third of the air time on nightly news programs.   In my book, the whole thing was kicked off by a media company afraid of a new competitor - in this case it was kicked off by the US government, which controls GM, trying to sit on a competitor.

It is hard to spot the lowest behavior in the affair so far, but that honor can arguably go to ABC and the lengths to which it went to pretend it had recreated the problem.  In fact, they had to strip three wires, splice in a resistor of a very specific value and then short two other wires.  They made it sound like this is something that could easily happen naturally  (lol) but this is an easy thing to prove - and inspection of actual throttle assemblies from cars that have supposedly exhibited the sudden acceleration problem have shown no evidence of such shorting.  So the ABC story was completely fraudulent, similar to the old Dateline NBC story that secretly used model rocket engines to ignite gas tanks.   Its amazing to me that Toyota, acting in good faith will get sued for billions over a complex problem which may or may not exist in a few cars, while ABC will suffer no repercussions from outright fraud.

Basically ABC proved that if you bypass a potentiometer with a resistor, you can spoof the potentiometer setting.  Duh.  The same hack on a radio would cause sudden acceleration of your volume.

Henry Payne has more.

Will They Never Learn?

When will attorneys every get a clue?  Trying to strongarm people in the Internet age often backfires, as it did in this case, where lawyers demand comic book retailer Heavy Ink remove copies of a comic book parodying their client.   Thirty seconds spent perusing Heavy Ink founder Travis Corcoran's blog should have convinced them this would not end well.  TJIC's letter is a great example of not being intimidated by lawyers or the law.

Post-Tort Christmas Tree

from Times Online via Overlawyered

Shoppers stared in bemusement at the mysterious object that landed in a shopping precinct in Poole, Dorset, this week. Some compared it to a giant traffic cone, a witch's hat or a cheap special effect from an early episode of Doctor Who.

The 33ft structure turned out to be their Christmas tree, designed according to the principles of health and safety, circa 2009.

Thus it has no trunk so it won't blow over, no branches to break off and land on someone's head, no pine needles to poke a passer-by in the eye, no decorations for drunken teenagers to steal and no angel, presumably because it would need a dangerously long ladder to place it at the top....

The tree was commissioned by the Poole Town Centre Management Board because of fears that a real one would pose a hazard to shoppers.

23 Different Health Reform Plans, and Not One Mentions Torts

It is amazing to me that there can be numerous health care plans in Congress plus a jillion speeches on the topic by the President and not once does anyone mention "torts."  Now, I am not one to ascribe all cost problems in the medical field to defensive medicine and tort settlements.  Buthey t certainly are a factor.  It is just stunning that a President can stand up and talk numerous times about "unnecessary tests and procedures" and ascribe all of these to some weird profit motive by the doctors - weird because generally, the doctor gets no extra revenue from these tests, so somehow he or she is motivated by the profits of a third party lab.

But I think the rest of us understand that American tort law, which allows juries to make multi-million dollar judgements based on emotions and empathy rather than facts and true liability, has at least a share of the blame.   Not just the settlements, but the steps doctors go through to try to protect themselves from frivolous suits down the road.  Here are two interesting stories along these lines.  The first from Carpe Diem:

Zurich University Hospital has stopped treating North American "medical tourists," fearing million-dollar claims from litigious patients if operations go wrong. Hospitals in canton Valais have also adopted measures to protect themselves against visitors from the United States, Canada and Britain.

"The directive applies only to patients from the US and Canada who come to Zurich for elective, non-essential health treatments," said Zurich University Hospital spokeswoman Petra Seeburger.

"It is not because treatment is not financed; it is because of different legal systems." In a statement the hospital said it was "not prepared to risk astronomical damages or a massive increase in premiums." Seeburger emphasised that the restrictions only affected people not domiciled in Switzerland.

Apologies to Mark Perry for quoting his whole post, but if you are not reading Mark Perry, you should be.  The second example comes from Overlawyered:

Oh, I miss the days when you got a radiology report that said, "fracture right 3rd rib, no pneumothorax". Because of frivolous lawsuits radiologists have learned to be vague, noncommittal and to pass the buck of possible litigation. So now you get a 2 page report that says "linear lucency in right 3rd rib, clinical correlation recommended, underinflated lung fields cannot exclude underlying interstitial disease and or masses. CT recommended for further evaluation, if condition warrants." along with several other paragraphs of lawyer imposed legalmedspeak"¦.

When You Look Up "Ungrateful" In the Dictionary, You Will Find This Lady

Via Overlawyered, from here:

Lisa jumped out of the plane with Robin Rohemo, her tandem partner, and that's when it got really thrilling - the main parachute failed to deploy and Lisa hurtled toward the ground, somersaulting in the air, terrified of imminent and certain death when she'd smash into the [ground] at 100 miles per hour.

Luckily for Lisa, Mr. Rohemo knew exactly what to do during this mid-air free fall. First, he tried to cut the failed main chute off. Failing that, he told Lisa he needed her to stand on his knees and hold on. Lisa's words: "So I am holding as tight as I possibly could standing on his knees as we are falling to our death and I just felt this tremendous pressure pull on my hand ... and I figured we were going to die ...." Rohemo was able to free up the back-up chute, he and Lisa floated down to safety and no one died that day.

Whew, what a thrill. Maybe Lisa should've paid extra for the additional thrill. Instead, because her third and fourth fingers were fractured during the fall, she lawyered up and sued SkyDive claiming that Rohemo - her savior - had wrongfully told her to hold tight to a dangerous area of the parachute he was trying to cut away and then never told her to let go at an appropriate time. This, she and her lawyer claimed, presented Lisa with an enhanced risk not assumed or inherent in a tandem jump.

I don't know enough about parachuting to understand if she should be ticked off her main chute was packed wrong or something, but since that is not the basis of the suit, I assume that was not the issue.  Nevertheless, I would be sending Mr. Rohemo a case of scotch every Christmas for the rest of his life.  Lisa is suing him.

66,667% Contingency Fee

Via Overlawyered:

The settlement discussed in this space July 17 "” in which lawyers nabbed more than $25 million in fees and expenses, while fewer than 100 consumers redeemed Ford coupons worth $37,500 "” was covered by the Associated Press last week, which stirred outrage in many quarters [Krauss/PoL, Greenfield, Cal Biz Lit]. As Cal Civil Justice notes, the settlement was purportedly on behalf of owners who suffered no rollover or other mishap. Instead, it sought damages for losses in the vehicle's resale value due to adverse publicity, a nicely circular theory, since the adverse publicity was in good measure propelled by various allies of the plaintiff's bar.

Tort Lawyer Full Employment Act

From Walter Olson, on the House health care bill:

Contacts on Capitol Hill inform me that Republicans yesterday managed to block a remarkable provision that had been slipped into the House leadership's 794-page health care bill just before it went to a House Ways & Means markup session. If their description of the provision is accurate "” and my initial reading of the language gives me no reason to think it isn't "” it sounds as if they managed to (for the moment) hold off one of the more audacious and far-reaching trial lawyer power grabs seen on Capitol Hill in a while.

For some time now the federal government has been intensifying its pursuit of what are sometimes known as "Medicare liens" against third party defendants (more)....

The newly added language in the Thursday morning version of the health bill (for those following along, it's Section 1620 on pp. 713-721) would greatly expand the scope of these suits against third parties, while doing something entirely new: allow freelance lawyers to file them on behalf of the government "” without asking permission "” and collect rich bounties if they manage thereby to extract money from the defendants. Lawyers will recognize this as a qui tam procedure, of the sort that has led to a growing body of litigation filed by freelance bounty-hunters against universities, defense contractors and others alleged to have overcharged the government.

It gets worse. Language on p. 714 of the bill would permit the lawyers to file at least some sorts of Medicare recovery actions based on "any relevant evidence, including but not limited to relevant statistical or epidemiological evidence, or by other similarly reliable means". This reads very much as if an attempt is being made to lay the groundwork for claims against new classes of defendants who might not be proved liable in an individual case but are responsible in a "statistical" sense. The best known such controversies are over whether suppliers of products such as alcohol, calorie-laden foods, or guns should be compelled to pay compensation for society-wide patterns of illness or injury.

He has a lot more detail.  Ask anyone in a public contact business in California how similar laws for ADA violations have worked out.  Just one more horrible, failed law from California that has driven the state into the ground now being emulated at the national level.