Articles Posted in Frivolous Lawsuits

A poll recently released by the Defense Research Institute found that an overwhelming majority of respondents found that our civil courts are fair.

Check out the DRI’s release here. Note that the headline says “41% Doubt Fairness of Civil Courts” when the article explains that 58% expressed confidence in court decisions.

There are other interesting nuggets here as well. 83% said that the side with the most money for lawyers usually wins. That’s really interesting in terms of personal injury litigation, where generally only one side has money for lawyers, and the other side only has a lawyer at all because of the existence of a contingent fee agreement.

One of the biggest names in the “legal blog” field is Overlawyered.com, primarily written and edited by Walter Olson. The site’s self-description states:

“Overlawyered.com explores an American legal system that too often turns litigation into a weapon against guilty and innocent alike, erodes individual responsibility, rewards sharp practice, enriches its participants at the public’s expense, and resists even modest efforts at reform and accountability.”

I love the site, and read it nearly every day even though as a trial lawyer I am clearly on the other side of the debate. I often disagree with Mr. Olson, but over the years I have grown to respect the work he does.  He was even kind enough to speak one year to my Insurance Law class at the University of Baltimore School of Law.  We agree on more than I thought we would.  But, either way, I think Overlawyered is usually intellectually honest. One of the main things we see on Overlawyered is sharp critiques of lawsuits seen as frivolous or unfair.

Hot of the presses is a new “study” on “Tort Liability Costs for Small Business” from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s tort reform propaganda ministry, the dubiously named “Institute for Legal Reform.”

Your Sources Matter

miller-zois_0144-200x300This report wears the sheep’s clothing of objectivity, but an examination of the sources and methods it uses reveals the wolf beneath. Consider this:

There is a man who lives in York, PA named Albert Snyder. His son was in the military, and was killed in the line of duty. When Mr. Snyder tried to bury his son in Baltimore County, MD, the funeral was picketed by members of the Westboro Baptist Church. They showed up with signs saying things like “God Hates Fags.” Apparently, they believe that U.S. military deaths are God’s revenge for our society’s tolerance of homosexuality. Mr. Snyder sued the Westboro Baptist Church and got an 11 million dollar verdict. This has been in the news recently because Mr. Snyder lost on appeal to the 4th Circuit, and was ordered to pay the church’s costs of about $16,000.

The same day, there was a $1.44 million dollar verdict in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County in a medical malpractice case. This was a death case. The defendant was an ER doctor who failed to diagnoses sepsis, leading to the death of the patient. Baltimore County is one of the most conservative jurisdictions in the state. Because of this, this verdict was also in the news.

Our local paper’s website allows comments, and I read the comments to both of these stories. The comments to the medmal story pillory the plaintiffs and their lawyers. The plaintiffs are called greedy, their case was called frivolous, and one commenter said it wasn’t fair because $1.44 million dollars won’t bring the dead man back. This is a case where a man died.

Here is a report about a New York lawyer who is helping a victim of horrific abuse. HT to Above the Law.

“Amy” was victimized by an uncle who used her as the star of child pornography. She has hired an attorney, James L. Marsh, who has had her evaluated, and has obtained expert reports showing the effects of the abuse on her, and documenting how much it has cost her in counseling, diminished wages, and lawyer fees. The total is about 3.4 million dollars.

Mr. Marsh has taken the position that every person convicted of posessing one of the images of Amy is jointly and severally liable for her damages. He has made hundreds of court filings seeking restitution on this basis. Many judges have agreed, although some have criticized this approach, arguing that the link between posessing a single image and the damages claimed is too tenuous.

Connecticut has outlawed the practice of using “runners”– when crooked lawyers pay third parties to solicit injury plaintiffs either in person at hospitals or by going through police reports. These injured folks are then steered to crooked doctors, and the crooked lawyer helps them recover on the trumped-up claim.

Of course, I am sure that there are also genuinely injured people who are ensnared by these “runners” as well. The problem there is that they end up with the lawyer who uses runners, rather than with the most competent lawyer for their kind of case.

This is one of the few things that reputable personal injury lawyers, insurance companies, judges and legislators all agree on. This is a practice that is a harm to society, and brings the legal system into disrepute. Thankfully, this practice has been illegal in Maryland for many years.

We are always hearing about these evil, un-American frivolous lawsuits that threaten the very fabric of our society. OK, I get it. I dislike frivolous lawsuits as much as anybody. They devalue the claims of the truly injured, diminish the reputation of the plaintiff’s bar, and waste time and money.

But what about meritless defenses that are made against non-frivolous lawsuits? Two great examples today.

First, Eric Turkewitz writes about a New York defense attorney making the argument that pain is not a “personal injury.” Riiiiiight.

The Baltimore Sun and The Daily Record report a new lawsuit involving a high-level staffer of the City Solicitor’s Office.

There are three government employees involved in a 5 million dollar lawsuit against a Domino’s pizza franchise in Ocean City, Maryland. DeMaune Millard, Mayor Dixon’s chief of staff, Jonathan Carpenter, a state Department of Transportation executive, and Donald R. Huskey, an assistant city solicitor, are the plaintiffs.

These three folks are suing the pizza place because they were denied service and because it took the restaurant’s staff approximately ten minutes to let them back out of the restaurant after the decision not to serve them. These plaintiffs were in O.C. for the annual Maryland Association of Counties conference in August 2008. They left an official event that ended at 10:30 p.m. at about 1:30 a.m., and were shortly thereafter buzzed into a nearby pizza place. They say they weren’t drunk and were denied service for no reason.

I see and hear a lot in the media about frivolous lawsuits.

Apparently, these are a huge problem. It has even led to the creation of a wildly popular and wholly fictional forwarded e-mail describing the facts of these ridiculous, frivolous lawsuits. It is called the “Stella Awards”, and circulates every few months to create public awareness of what a danger these stupid lawsuits are. They are called the “Stella Awards” because Stella was the first name of the Plaintiff in the infamous McDonalds “hot coffee” case.

It turns out, however, that the lawsuits profiled in the “Stellas” are pretty much completely false. So that doesn’t help much in the quest to find out about these frivolous lawsuits that are such a problem. I continued searching on the web.