Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #2-7

Published June 27, 2003

Lawyers Rank Last in American Confidence

The June 1 issue of American Enterprise magazine carried the results of a Harris Interactive poll that asked people how much confidence they have in various American institutions. Not surprisingly, the U.S. military came in first with a positive confidence rating of 62 percent. Dead last – ranking 14th out of the 14 institutions included in the questionnaire – were law firms, with only a 12 percent confidence rating. The U.S. Supreme Court, on the other hand, ranked third, well ahead of organized religion and television news. As reported in the National Law Journal

Trial Lawyers on the Run … In Texas

Last November, when Republicans took over the Texas legislature for the first time in 130 years, tort reform’s time had finally come. With Texas being long considered a “judicial hellhole” by American business groups, the reforms enacted in early June promise some much-needed relief for companies doing business in the Long Star State. The omnibus bill covers everything from class-action certification and appeal bonds to product liability and proportionate responsibility. The legislation limits multidistrict litigation, ends venue shopping, and even includes a modified version of “loser pays.” Next on the reformers’ agenda – asbestos! From The Wall Street Journal and Houston Chronicle

Trial Lawyers on the Run … In Louisiana

Last month a New Orleans personal injury lawyer agreed to a plea bargain on charges he illegally paid “runners” some $200,000 to solicit accident victims for his firm and then hid the payments from state and federal officials. The lawyer, Curtis Cooney, Jr., further compounded his problems by urging his secretary to lie to a grand jury about the payments. The guilty plea was part of a four-year federal investigation of personal injury lawyers that has resulted so far in more than 20 convictions. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune

Trial Lawyers on the Run … In Mississippi

The ongoing federal grand jury probe into whether wealthy Mississippi trial lawyers paid off loans for state judges in exchange for favorable rulings is uncovering a tantalizing “web of connections.” At the center of the web is Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, whose firm made more than $1 billion from the national tobacco settlement. He is former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s brother-in-law and has close ties to Mississippi Attorney General Michael Moore, who awarded Scruggs the state’s tobacco litigation contract. The lead FBI agent on the probe was suddenly reassigned to counter-terrorism duty outside of the country when he questioned the cozy links among the three men. So far no indictments have been handed down. From the Biloxi Sun-Herald

Trial Lawyers on the Run … In New York

In a rare burst of New York State bipartisan politics, the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic- controlled assembly voted to amend a 1986 law in order to save state hospitals potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in increased medical malpractice insurance costs. The action arose out of a $140 million award against New York Presbyterian Hospital over severe brain damage to a four-year-old boy during a surgical procedure. After determining his medical costs would be some $300,000 a year, the jury then calculated yearly inflation costs for the 55 additional years they assumed the boy would live. By the 1986 law the judge then had to add a 4 percent inflation factor to the award, in effect counting inflation a second time and resulting in a total award three-and-a-half times higher than the jury’s determination. In order to buy Democratic support for eliminating such double counting, the “pain and suffering” cap in medical malpractice cases was increased from $250,000 to $500,000, among other patient-friendly changes. From The New York Times

Trial Lawyer Just Plain Running

Downstate Illinois personal injury lawyer John Simmons, 35, has announced his intention to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Peter Fitzgerald. Simmons, a multimillionaire, made his fortune representing workers who developed cancer after exposure to asbestos. Earlier this year a jury awarded $250 million to a retired steelworker represented by Simmons’ firm in a case against U.S. Steel Corp. Simmons operates out of noted “judicial hellhole” Madison County. From the Chicago Sun-Times

Sears Reveals Its Softer Side, Settles Lawsuit in Madison County

While we’re visiting Madison County, Sears recently settled a class-action suit in the county to “avoid the burden, expense, and diversion of resources from continuing litigation.” Reading between the lines, what Sears was really saying is they would have been nuts to take their chances with a Madison County judge and jury. Sears was accused of leaving out one step in its advertised wheel-balancing service on “some occasions.” Individual Sears customers can receive from $3 to $10, depending upon their level of documentation. The lawyers cleared a cool $2.45 million … just in case you were wondering how trial lawyers like John Simmons become multimillionaires at the age of 35. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The Iron Curtain Should Have Fallen on His Head

A former spy for the KGB who escaped from a British jail after serving five years of a 42-year prison sentence is now suing the British government in the European Court of Human Rights for confiscating £90,000 he was expecting to make from his memoirs. George Blake, who has lived in Moscow on a KGB pension since his escape, published his memoirs in 1990. The British government seized the money and donated it to a national children’s charity, saying Blake should not profit from crimes that “resulted in the deaths and persecution of British agents working for a free world.” Blake had unsuccessfully sued the British government directly six times before appealing to the European Court. From The Telegraph

Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly

Published by The Heartland Institute (312/377-4000), a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1984. The full text of this newsletter is also available in Adobe Acrobat’s PDF format; click here.
Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Editors: Diane Carol Bast, Paul Fisher, Dan Hales

Information on lawsuit abuse can be found on these Web sites:

The Heartland Institute
19 South La Salle Street #903
Chicago, Illinois 60603
phone 312/377-4000
fax 312/377-5000
[email protected]