Results matching “katrina”

Fifth Circuit reinstates climate change class action - PointOfLaw Forum

Russell Jackson brings word that the Fifth Circuit has now joined the Second Circuit's much-noted ruling in appearing to give a green light to climate change litigation:

The Fifth Circuit [panel in the new decision] held that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring their claims for unjust enrichment, fraudulent misrepresentation, and civil conspiracy, but that they had standing to assert their claims for public and private nuisance, trespass and negligence. The court further held that this latter group of claims did not present a non-justiciable political question.

The new opinion is Comer v. Murphy Oil (PDF). We covered the Second Circuit decision in Connecticut v. American Electric Power here and earlier, and (by contrast) a trial judge's dismissal (PDF) of the Kivalina suit here.

Louisiana's state-run property insurer - PointOfLaw Forum

Buck-passing on the bayou: A Katrina class action lawsuit against the state-run Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. could wind up inflicting a $95 million liability on ratepayers of privately owned property insurers, and the state's insurance commissioner favors legislation to shield the entity from the payout.

Federalist Society "Class Action Watch", May - PointOfLaw Forum

A few highlights from the new issue, dated last month:


  • Troy Yoshino and Patrick Perez, "Recent Wave of Case Law Rejects "Concealed Defect" Class Actions";
  • Karl Neudorfer and Erika Birg, "After Bridge: RICO Class Actions at a Crossing";
  • Randy Maniloff, "Fifth Circuit Expands False Claims Act Qui Tam Provisions in Time for Debate over Stimulus Package Fraud".

And other topics: CAFA & Katrina; certification in the Third Circuit; "foreign-cubed" actions; and mortgage-backed securities. The full issue is available in PDF form here.


Scruggs' good press - PointOfLaw Forum

We've often had occasion to marvel on the adoring press coverage the now-imprisoned tort potentate used to get, on Katrina-insurance suits and other matters. As a Mississippi lawsuit now reveals, million-dollar outlays for the services of PR firms were part of the formula.

In Congress next week, the familiar routine - PointOfLaw Forum

A hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday by the Senate Commerce Committee, the Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance Subcommittee, "Formaldehyde in Consumer Products/Textiles." This is the subcommittee chaired by Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) that oversaw consideration of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act last year.

Last year, House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman held accusatory hearings about formaldehyde in travel trailers supplied by FEMA to Katrina victims. The industry is concentrated around Elkhart, Ind., where the economy has since collapsed, turning it into a stage for President Obama to promote his stimulus policies.

The travel trailer hearings came amid lots of litigation against the industry, although a federal judge refused to certify a Katrina-related class action suit against the industry. (Interesting. FEMA says opening the windows is a big help.)

(UPDATE: The plaintiff's lawyers have hired a D.C. lobbyist to lobby for a health care fund for "families exposed to formaldehyde.")

As for the hearing on formaldehyde in clothing, one factor is lingerie litigation. From AP, April 8:

NEW ORLEANS -- Women in several states claim Victoria's Secret bras gave them rashes and other skin problems, and a group of lawyers sought Wednesday to consolidate their cases against the lingerie chain.

Federal lawsuits filed in Louisiana, Florida, New Jersey and New York accuse Victoria's Secret and its parent company, Limited Brands Inc., of negligently designing undergarments and misrepresenting the safety of their products.

This will be a well-covered hearing.

Yes, yes, not a joking matter. But neither are Congressional hearings that serve to further speculative litigation over overreaching legislation targeting an industry. We'll count on there being a good, substantive discussion of all the important issues.

Katrina whistleblower litigation, cont'd - PointOfLaw Forum

David Rossmiller believes the much-ballyhooed (by Dickie Scruggs, the New York Times, and others) False Claims Act over insurer wind-vs.-water practices may be getting ready to expire with a whimper. Not that Rossmiller is entirely lacking in admiration for the now-imprisoned trial lawyer legend: "Let's face it, give the man his due, Dickie Scruggs is the guy who took down Dickie Scruggs! That's hard to do."

The next round of litigation - PointOfLaw Forum

The American Association for Justice holds its winter convention starting next Saturday in New Orleans, providing an opportunity to see what might be new in the way of product liability and class action lawsuits coming from the nation's trial lawyers. A review of the convention's schedule reveals meetings of the following proposed litigation groups:

  • Oil and Gas Proposed Litigation Group Meeting
  • Federal Employees Liability Act (FELA) Proposed Litigation Group Meeting
  • Automated External Defibrillator (AED) Proposed Litigation Group Meeting
  • Asbestos Proposed Litigation Group Meeting
  • Bicycles Proposed Litigation Group
  • Intervention Cardiologist Proposed Litigation Group
  • Quinine Proposed Litigation Group Meeting

If you're a cardiologist who bikes to work after drinking gin and tonics, watch out!

AAJ describes litigation groups as "a critical tool for our members to level the playing field when forced to battle the overwhelming resources of corporate counsel. As a member of a Litigation Group you will be able to share accumulated information and experience, regarding a specific type of case."

The asbestos group raises questions -- there's a new angle on asbestos-related lawsuits? -- but the schedule does not provide additional info.

BTW, the AAJ's Townhall speaker is Howard Fineman of Newsweek. We see no mention of anybody from the new Obama Administration speaking, but perhaps that's a late-breaking development. Make it part a Katrina recovery tour.

Judge tosses Hood Katrina-insurance suit - PointOfLaw Forum

A county judge ruled Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood never had standing to file the action (YallPolitics, O'Brien/LegalNewsLine, NMC @ Folo, ruling in PDF form). Separately, large numbers of private civil actions against insurers, including a high-profile batch filed by now-disgraced Dickie Scruggs, have quietly settled in recent months [Sun-Herald, Lotus @ Folo ("this may have been the easiest money Provost Umphrey ever made. But I'll wager that some local folks have entirely had it with lawyers.")]

Around the web, January 4 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • "Report Details Global Reach of U.S. Securities Class Actions" [RiskMetrics summarized at AmLaw Litigation Daily]
  • Grim Madoff-clawback portent: in Bayou case $20 million of the $33 million recovered from redeeming investors went to pay legal fees [Bloomberg]
  • Investigative journalism about labor unions? Won't be as much if they succeed in gutting disclosure regulations [Wood, ShopFloor]
  • Judge dismisses antitrust suit filed by Louisiana AG Foti post-Katrina and -Rita against casualty insurance companies [AP/Forbes]
  • Top Illinois tort cases of 2008 [Chicago Daily Law Bulletin not online, summarized at Bernabe]
  • New Jersey not on liberal frontier as regards wrongful death damages but bill moving through legislature would fix that [NJLRA]

"Trial Lawyers Inc. -- Louisiana" - PointOfLaw Forum

The newest installment of the Manhattan Institute's popular Trial Lawyers Inc. series is on the Pelican State, lately rated second-worst of the fifty for business defendants in a survey of corporate lawyers. There are profiles of leading tort lawyer Russ Herman and former attorney general Charles Foti, mild praise for the state high court's refusal to destroy insurance law in the aftermath of Katrina, and mentions of the toxic tort litigations for which the state is particularly known, such as those over asbestos and mold. Something I didn't know: "In Louisiana's pension funds, Trial Lawyers, Inc. found its most accommodating and enthusiastic plaintiffs; indeed, three Louisiana pension funds are among the five most active lead plaintiffs nationally." (& Legal NewsLine).

P.S. While on the subject of Louisiana, AP reports that a judge has dismissed former AG Foti's post-Katrina antitrust suit against hurricane insurers.

Having written this week (here, here, here, here and here) on the various public policy aspects of the tobacco master settlement agreement 10 years after its enactment, we now get to perhaps the most important and lasting consequences of the MSA: the astounding increase in money and political power the agreement brought to the nation's trial lawyers, as well as the expansion of states' use of private contingency lawyers to carry out cash-seeking litigation. Any review of the decade following the MSA that omits these profound implications for the U.S. legal and political system is incomplete, woefully incomplete.

So that's the way we'd describe NPR's series, "The Tobacco Settlement, 10 Years Later," the most prominent media take on the MSA's anniversary. Each individual story was OK within its limited scope, but the reporters and producers all but skipped the trial lawyer angle, producing woefully incomplete journalism. A non-broadcast sidebar profiled some of the actors, "Update: Key Players In The Tobacco Settlement." There's a paragraph on Mississippi's former attorney general, Mike Moore, who initiated the state lawsuit against the tobacco companies because, "His friend, attorney Mike Lewis, came to him with the idea." And there's a paragraph on Dickie Scruggs:

Mississippi trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs first became well-known taking on the asbestos industry on behalf of sick shipyard workers. He was then hired to sue Big Tobacco, representing Mississippi in the protracted tobacco litigation in the 1990s and helping to broker a deal. He said the settlement earned his firm close to $1 billion. He continued as a class action warrior until getting into a dispute over legal fees in the settlement of Hurricane Katrina insurance cases. In 2007, he was indicted on charges of attempting to bribe a judge. He pleaded guilty and is serving five years at a federal prison in eastern Kentucky.

And that's it on the subject of trial lawyers.

Around the web, November 19 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • Have the Lerach/Weiss scandals and PSLRA really changed financial class actions? And what will the election mean? Panel discussion with Joseph Grundfest, Boris Feldman, Judge Vaughn Walker, others [D&O Diary]
  • Trial lawyers are determined to get Nevada's MICRA-like medical malpractice limits overturned [Insurance Journal]
  • $580 million Engle tobacco class action fund: you mean it might be taxable? And subject to Medicare recoupment? What fun is that? [DBR]
  • Even Democratic NLRB guru Bill Gould finds EFCA's arbitration provisions unfairly tilted toward unions that refuse to negotiate [Hirsch, WorkplaceProf]
  • "A Pennsylvania lawyer came to Charleston last month and filed 900 lawsuits in one day." Defendants were railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern, most were asbestos claims [WV Record]
  • Only the most reliable and objective sources: insurance official says "many of the allegations contained in the [AAJ insurer-bashing] report appear to have been lifted from legal briefs filed by [now-imprisoned felon] Richard Scruggs and other plaintiff attorneys" after Katrina [National Underwriter]

Around the web, November 18 - PointOfLaw Forum

  • All-purpose public contingency fee lawyers? Already representing Bay Area's San Mateo County to go after former lead-paint makers, Cotchett Pitre has now gotten itself hired to pursue financial claims in Lehman Brothers failure [NLJ]
  • Theodore Dalrymple reviews Paul Offit's new book on autism and anti-vaccine crankery [City Journal]
  • Judge Acker issues broad ruling against Rigsby sisters, the ones who funneled State Farm Katrina documents to Scruggs informants, in Renfroe contract dispute [Memorandum Opinion PDF, YallPolitics]
  • Adopting views of Third Restatement would be step in the right direction for Pennsylvania product liability [Stephen Fogdall (Schnader Harrison) for WLF, PDF]
  • At Drum Major Institute discussion on shareholder "say on pay", sounds as if panelists march to same drum [Hodak Value]
  • On card check/labor law reform, Obama memoir is ominous: "I owe those unions. When their leaders call, I do my best to call them back right away." [EFCA Updates]

Around the web, October 2 - PointOfLaw Forum

Plaintiffs dismiss Scruggs' McIntosh case - PointOfLaw Forum

David Rossmiller has the details on the whimper-like demise of what was once billed as a key Rigsby-backed Gulf Coast insurance case. It's worth bookmarking in case you ever run into someone who says, "You know, it's a shame Dickie Scruggs blew it all with the judge-bribing, because his Katrina wind/water cases really had a lot of merit."

Gustav - Pets Go with the People - PointOfLaw Forum

Today THE WALL STREET JOURNAL has a photo of a dog in a container, all ready to evacuate with its two-footed family. This change from Katrina days, when pets were left behind or owners stayed behind to be with them, is partly because of the power of the medium of blogging.

During Katrina, the call went out in the blogosphere to do what we could. And could I would with animal rescues.

One of the most poignant tales during that horror was of the boy who cried so hard he vomited when he realized he couldn't take Snowball on the bus out of New Orleans. Highlighting the Snowball tragedy, we volunteers in cyberspace helped get coverage of the lack of planning for pets during crises. Major media such as WSJ ran ongoing coverage. In Congress, Connecticut's Christopher Shays sponsored a bill restricting FEMA funds only to communities with provisions for pets during crises.

Gustav might be a monster but we humans can get through anything as long as we have our loved ones, including the four-footed ones.

Jim Hood settles State Farm case - PointOfLaw Forum

The Mississippi attorney general is spinning the settlement of his 2007 breach of contract action as some sort of triumph, claiming that it arm-twisted the insurer into higher Katrina payouts. As David Rossmiller notes, that means Hood winds up claiming credit for having "caused" events that in fact occurred before he filed his lawsuit. Call it backdating!

Scruggs and Rigsby update: dynamite depositions - PointOfLaw Forum

What other illegalities has Richard ("Dickie") Scruggs committed besides the one that's sending him to prison? According to the AP's Holbrook Mohr (via), in Scruggs's deposition in the ongoing McIntosh v. State Farm lawsuit, the insurer's attorneys "'alleged activity of a criminal nature against both of the Scruggses,' according to a motion filed Friday by an attorney representing Richard and Zach Scruggs," both of whom "invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and refused to answer the questions, the motion said." Scruggs and son "want to prevent their sworn testimony in [the] Hurricane Katrina lawsuit from becoming public and 'undermining the presumption of innocence' if they face criminal charges in the future" -- that is to say, separate and distinct charges from those in the bribery scheme under which they are already headed to prison. More at Y'allPolitics here and here.

Excerpts from the questions State Farm lawyers unsuccessfully sought to ask Scruggs can be found in the comments at Y'allPolitics, and are truly eye-popping:

Q. And you knew that the Rigsbys -- one of the Rigsbys had stolen this document out of the State Farm file, and based on that information, you informed Attorney General Hood that he could subpoena those records from State Farm and the company would never be able to produce them; isn't that a fact?

Q. You did tell Attorney General Hood to subpoena this document from State Farm knowing that it had been removed from their files and could not be produced; isn't that a fact?

Q. And, in fact, that's exactly what occurred, isn't it? General Hood subpoenaed the document, State Farm couldn't produce it, and you were able to report to the press that they were shredding or deep sixing or destroying evidence that you knew they didn't have; isn't that a fact?

Q. That was part of a program which you euphemistically called the play book from tobacco, wasn't it?

Of course, we don't know what answers Scruggs would have given had he not taken the Fifth -- maybe he would have had innocent explanations for everything. More on the Mississippi AG connection here. For questions about Scruggs's skillful manipulation of ABC News and CBS News coverage, which allegedly included sending the networks copies of documents which were under seal in court proceedings and not to be disclosed, see excerpts here, here, and here. What did ABC and CBS know, and when did they know it?

Meanwhile, on another front, State Farm has filed with a court a couple of depositions given by co-workers of renegade insurance adjusters Cori and Kerri Rigsby. Anita Lee in the Sun-Herald has the story. David Rossmiller has a long, meandering, cruelly funny post on the Rigsbys and their lost illusions. "You'll be heroes," they told co-workers they tried to recruit for the scheme. "We are going to get a book deal. We're going to make a movie. ...We're going to be famous." After all, hadn't most of those things happened for Scruggs's paid informant/spy in the tobacco caper? Kerri Rigsby "wanted Sandra Bullock to portray her in the movie." Another apparently important name in the Rigsby saga, whose name has not much surfaced in news coverage before now, seems to be that of the sisters' mother, Pat Lobrano, who it is suggested helped the initially reluctant Cori overcome her misgivings, recalling inevitably to mind the Mama Rose character in the musical Gypsy.

Rossmiller also provides the following paraphrase of piquant matter to be found in the deposition of co-worker Dana Lee:

[Lee] talks about the supposed meeting Scruggs had with a State Farm "insider" in Bloomington [Illinois, the insurer's headquarters town], which he bragged about in a news story, and which turns out to be so much Scruggsian hot air -- he hired a guy to meet him at the airport and hand him an empty envelope to make it look like he was getting some top secret documents. I guess he had no qualms about staging this phony baloney stunt and then claiming it as real to the media, but then again, that's not so hard to believe about a guy who would bribe a judge.

Also discussed: the purportedly "Dickensian" associations of the law firm name of Provost Umphrey, which must surely owe something to Uriah Heep's protestations of being an "umble person" living in an "umble abode".

P.S. I had skipped reading the deposition of Zach Scruggs on the mistaken assumption it wouldn't contain anything newsworthy, but quite the contrary: one of State Farm's lines of questioning seeks to develop the theme that former Sen. Trent Lott (who of course wasn't present during the questions and, unlike Zach, hasn't invoked the Fifth) acted improperly in the litigation. The AP's Holbrook Mohr has details.

More Scruggs trouble (Rigsby branch) - PointOfLaw Forum

Judge William M. Acker Jr. has ruled that key Scruggs Katrina co-operators Cori and Kerry Rigsby must pay $65,000 in contempt fines, and Dickie Scruggs is continuing to fight those payments on the renegade insurance adjusters' behalf, with not much time left before Acker's deadline (Anita Lee, Biloxi Sun-Herald). Meanwhile, Scruggs says he is under no obligation to pay the high bills that law firm Zuckerman Spaeder ran up representing the Rigsbys (it eventually withdrew after going unpaid for too long). That prompted a post from the inimitable David Rossmiller, which begins as follows:

Two questions.

Number 1.

Q: How close is this whole Rigsby mess to unraveling, like a crow swooping down, grabbing a loose thread on your suit and flying off?

A: Apparently, pretty close.

Number 2.

Q: When is an agreement to indemnify someone's expense not an agreement to indemnify someone's expenses?

A: Apparently, when Dickie Scruggs is involved....

House Oversight used as a 'discovery proxy' - PointOfLaw Forum

On Wednesday the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman held a hearing, "On Manufacturers of FEMA's Toxic Trailers," with testimony from four representatives of the travel trailer industry. The issue was formaldehyde levels in trailers that FEMA supplied to people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. It was your typical House Oversight hearing, full of attacks against industry and the Administration as bad actors.

Thankfully, some balance come from the ranking member of the committee, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), who gave an opening statement that reflected the real world difficulties that FEMA and the industry encountered after the disaster. Davis recounted the different reports on formaldehyde levels from tests conducted by the CDC and commented (our emphasis):

That leaves trailer occupants, already victimized by one storm, caught in a lingering tempest of post-Katrina political scapegoating, bureaucratic finger-pointing, and litigation. Once again the Committee risks being used as a discovery proxy for plaintiffs suing companies called to testify before us. Instead, we should be asking FEMA why contract requirements for habitable mobile units weren't more specific, why inspection procedures weren't consistent, and why heath concerns didn't trigger standardized testing and, where necessary, prompt remediation. We should be asking federal science and health agencies how to establish, and measure, workable standards for formaldehyde exposure in realistic settings.

Along those lines, here's...


  • An informative article on the lawsuits against one of the trailer manufacturers. It's from "Trial," the magazine of the American Association for Justice.

  • ToxicFEMAtrailer.com, a website from a lawfirm soliciting clients in a class-action lawsuit.

  • An MSNBC story on the hearing, "Congress names names in FEMA trailer probe -- House Democrats say manufacturers knew of high formaldehyde levels."

The MSNBC story is a real piece of work, "Congressional Democrats for the first time named names Wednesday in their investigation of formaldehyde-contaminated travel trailers provided by FEMA to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, charging that manufacturers knew but did not disclose that the units were emitting high levels of the toxic gas that could sicken inhabitants." Named names...The media cannot resist making McCarthy-era allusions, no matter how ridiculous and strained.

Anyway, it's the classic combination: "Investigating" politicians, industry-attacking class-action lawyers, and hyping, accusatory media. At least Rep. Davis identified the game being played.

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