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Sam Munson Archives

Against Arbitration

Today Lou Whiteman of GC South has a long piece up at Law.com on the decline in the use of arbitration in favor of other means of settling legal disputes. The first paragraph relates the experiences of one Jonathan B. Wilson, whose name readers of this site may recognize.

New Featured Discussion

Beginning tomorrow, Tuesday 7/11, Ted Frank and Peter Nordberg of Daubert on the Web and Blog 702 continue their thought-provoking disucssion on medical malpractice litigation. For the run up, see here, here, here, and here. Enjoy!

No Sanctions for O'Quinn

In a disturbing but not surprising turn of events, Judge Isadore Patrick, of Vicksburg, Mississippi, denied motions for sanctions against a firm that relied on thousands of suspect diagnoses in its silicosis litigation.

Mary Alice Robbins reports in Texas Lawyer that

On June 27, Circuit Court Judge Isadore W. Patrick of Vicksburg, Miss., denied motions for sanctions against the former firm of O'Quinn, Laminack & Pirtle, now called the O'Quinn Law Firm. In March, a dozen of some 72 defendants in McDuff, et al. v. Aearo, et al. and Braxton, et al. v. Aearo, et al. filed motions in the Circuit Court of Sharkey and Issaquena counties, seeking about $165,000 in sanctions from O'Quinn Laminack for allegedly pursuing frivolous claims on behalf of clients and submitting allegedly unreliable diagnoses to support those claims.

The 12 defendants argued in their motions that Patrick should apply findings that U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack of Corpus Christi made in the MDL proceeding and sanction O'Quinn Laminack. The Mississippi circuit court need not engage in independent fact-finding to recognize that O'Quinn Laminack's conduct in the silicosis litigation necessitates sanctions, the defendants argued.

Read the whole thing here.

Tobacco Road to Victory

The WSJ reports that Florida's Supreme Court, today, upheld a decision, made by an appellate court in 2003, to toss out a $145 billion verdict against America's largest tobacco companies, made in Engle in 2000. This award was the largest single punitive award in US history. In a 79-page ruling, the court wrote:

"We vacate the punitive damages award because we unanimously conclude that the punitive damages award is excessive as a matter of law..."
Read the whole thing ($$$) here.

H.R. 5491

On Wednesday, June 28th, Rep. Richard Baker will be leading a hearing entitled "Investor Protection: A Review of Plaintiffs' Attorney Abuses in Securities Litigation and Legislative Remedies." H.R. 5491 is a bill that has been gestating in the House since May 25th, a bill aimed at preventing and discouraging the kind of abuses brought to light by the Milberg indictments. There's been little media coverage of H.R. 5491 (one wonders if this has something to do with the industry it's aimed at.) The results of this hearing ought to be interesting.

Cali Lead Paint

According to Mike McKee, in the Recorder, eight makers of lead paint may find themselves stuck with a cleanup bill in the billions:

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to review a ruling that OK'd a suit seeking to force manufacturers, such as Atlantic Richfield Co. and Sherwin-Williams Co., to cover the costs of abating lead paint inside and outside all types of structures.

This litigation has been hard-fought for years: 12 Bay Area counties and eight paint manufacturers have wrestled over it. It looks like one more victory for the trial bar at this point. Anyone interested in this subject should read PoL's own Jim Copland's excellent article on the subject in the Spring 2006 City Journal.

Milberg ReLieff

According to Justin Scheck, reporting in the Recorder, prominent San Francisco plaintiffs' firm Lieff Cabraser is in negotiations with Milberg to take on wholesale a group of fleeing Milberg partners. Another SF attorney, Melvin Goldman, thinks this is a good idea:

"I don't think anyone who works there is particularly tainted by working there," he said. Rather, it's the firm itself that's got the taint. And by vacating the firm, Milberg partners would have an easier time keeping clients made skittish by the federal charges.

He may be right. And, as Scheck notes, this grab would really power Lieff Cabraser up in securities law. But it seems just as likely that it could cut the other way, and that the Milberg taint won't vanish. Wait and see.

Trial Lawyers, Inc. Update

Make sure to check out the new installment in the Center for Legal Policy's ongoing coverage of America's lawsuit industry. We have just released a new TLI update: The Move to Reverse Michigan's Model Reforms.

Michigan has the good fortune to be the only state in the union with an FDA defense law: once a drug has recieved FDA approval, its maker cannot be sued for damages, except in case of fraud on the part of drugmaker or government. Now, the plaintiffs' bar has launched an assault on this unique protection, putting the state in economic danger and threatening to lower the quality of its citizens health. Read and download the whole report here.

More Milberg

According to the invaluable Amanda Bronstad of the NLJ:

Federal prosecutors who indicted Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman last month are in talks with a Denver lawyer whose testimony could sharpen the investigation's focus toward Melvyn Weiss, founding partner of the New York-based law firm, according to sources familiar with the government's probe.

Read the whole thing here.Things just keep getting worse for the firm. An indictment against the founding partner would make the already severe damage they have suffered even more grave. Stay tuned for further developments.

Asbestos Strikes Back

Following last year's damaging revelations about the dubious quality of much of the medical evidence used to support the class action against former and current makers/distributors of asbestos, a coalition of such companies has decided to fight back. Shannon P. Duffy in the Legal Intelligencer reports:

In a bold and unprecedented move that could drastically alter the nature of asbestos litigation, a coalition of 47 companies last week asked a federal judge to dismiss tens of thousands of pending cases, alleging that the vast majority of them are premised on flawed or fraudulent medical diagnoses. In the motion, defense lawyers say they are targeting claims that stem from "mass medical screening enterprises" which, they say, have clogged the courts with thousands of bogus asbestos claims.

Read the whole thing here.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.