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A note on spinach law



From the Wall Street Journal article that Michael mentioned:

While Mr. Marler says the consulting is part of the firm's mission, critics say it is simply a way to win future plaintiffs. "You generate business by raising your profile," says Ted Frank, a tort-reform advocate with the American Enterprise Institute. "If you have a niche in the law, you're going to want to push your expertise out there."

For the record, and for fairness to Mr. Marler, my next sentence was "Defense attorneys do this, too."

Marler Clark may be guilty of self-aggrandizing: as another attorney notes, the food-safety reforms the firm takes credit for are industry-driven. The bad publicity from food poisoning costs far more than the damages awarded, and Marler Clark's lawsuits are more about ambulance-chasing after the injury and problem has been noted than about bringing attention to and correcting dangerous conditions. Their dozens of Googlebombing splogs may be objectionable for other reasons. But I don't find their marketing unethical. Unlike many other entrepreneurial plaintiffs' attorneys, Marler Clark isn't manufacturing injured plaintiffs, as opposed to tracking down the handful of people who suffer food poisoning. The firm has tried only one case, but these are suits where liability and injury and causation tend to be clear: what's to try? (Of course, this assumes that they always go after the right defendant, and the article doesn't say how the firm handles cases where an outbreak can't be traced to a single source.) The damages the firm wins in settlement, if true, may be ludicrous at times ($500,000 for vomiting and diarrhea in a "less-severe E. coli case"? I'll take that trade), but that's the fault of the legal system, not the law firm.

 

 


Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy
rmangual@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.