Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #2-9

Published July 30, 2003

It Was Only a Matter of Time

Lawyers representing twelve Scottish alcoholics between the ages of 18 and 60 have announced their intention to file suit in Edinburgh against the liquor companies they claim destroyed their clients’ lives. According to the Glasgow Daily Record, “the group will claim alcohol caused health problems, loss of jobs, relationship breakdown and adversely affected their quality of life.” The liquor companies, they assert, should have warned them of the risks. The lawyers say their litigation approach will be patterned on the approach taken against American tobacco companies.

We Know What’s Good for Us

A new Gallup poll found that while a third of the Americans surveyed believe the fast food industry is “very” or “somewhat” responsible for the obesity epidemic in this country, fewer then 10 percent favor holding the industry legally responsible. In other findings, 76 percent of Americans think fast food is “not too good” or “not good at all” for them, while a mere 1 percent think it is “very good.” Fewer than a quarter of the public say they pay a lot of attention to food warnings and recommendations; another 33 percent report paying a “fair amount” while 44 percent pay only “some” attention or less. From Gallup News Service

Crime Does Pay – Handsomely

Earlier this year a Bronx, New York jury awarded $51 million to a man who was shot and paralyzed by an off-duty police officer after the man waved a gun at the cop. Two spent shell casings from the man’s gun were found at the scene of the incident. An award of $76.4 million in an earlier trial had been set aside and a new trial ordered because the judge prevented information from being introduced that the man was a member of the Five Percenters gang, which espouses a vicious hatred of police and advises its members to shoot and kill police officers rather than submit to arrest. In July the award in the second trial was reduced to $9.75 million. From The New York Post and VerdictSearch

One Step Forward, Another One Back

In a ruling of mixed blessings, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein of the Eastern District of New York threw out a lawsuit filed by the NAACP against the gun industry. He found the NAACP had not demonstrated it had suffered a “special harm” apart from the harm guns do to the general public.

By contrast, he explained by way of example, commercial fishermen suffered a “special harm” from the pollution of the Hudson River–a harm greater than that felt by the general public. In a deviation from a New York appeals court ruling earlier this summer, however, Weinstein also found the gun industry had created a “public nuisance” by its marketing and distribution policies, which Weinstein asserted could be corrected through voluntary changes adopted by the manufacturers. From New York Law Journal

Shrinking Diet Drug Awards

Two Mississippi women have filed suit against their own former lawyers, claiming the attorneys cheated them out of a larger piece of a huge $150 million diet drug jury award by diluting the plaintiff pool with fake clients.

The women claim the lawyers signed up clients they knew had never taken the diet drug. The FBI is also conducting an investigation into the case and has subpoenaed records from the drug store where the majority of the claimants allegedly purchased the drugs. The FBI is keeping quiet about the purpose of its investigation. From The Clarion-Ledger

The Cost of Lawsuits

Advertising by lawyers seeking plaintiffs to represent is everywhere: television, radio, billboards, newspapers, and the Internet. One of the nation’s largest legal-advertising agencies, Network Affiliates, reported nearly 33 percent of its $20 million in legal billings in 2001 came from pharmaceutical litigation ads–up from roughly 1 percent 10 years ago. From Deseret News and

Senate Battle Begins on Asbestos Fund

On July 14, the U.S. Senate began debate on the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2003, aimed at addressing the nation’s asbestos litigation crisis. More than 200,000 asbestos tort claims are pending nationwide against more than 8,000 corporations. The Senate measure would end those lawsuits and protect firms against any future suits asbestos victims might bring.

In June, Judiciary Committee members reached agreement on language describing the medical criteria that would be used to evaluate asbestos injury claims and the amounts the trust fund would pay to claimants in each category. Injury claims would be heard by 20 special “asbestos masters.” Claimants would not be required to hire a lawyer to qualify for compensation. From Health Care News

New Threat to Mentally Ill: Lawyers

In a June 27 commentary for Scripps Howard News Service, Michael Fumento warns against “trawling lawyers” claiming new anti-psychotic drugs cause diabetes. “Frivolous lawsuits have sullied the reputation of many a safe and critical drug,” writes Fumento. “This time, schizophrenics and others with severe mental illness could suffer horribly when frightened away from their medication.” While there is, Fumento notes, legitimate concern over a possible link between these new drugs and type 2 diabetes, the medical research is just now getting underway. The absence of evidence appears to be of no concern to some lawyers, though: The only fact of interest to them is that the most popular of the new drugs, Zyprexa, is a product of deep-pockets pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly. From Naples Daily News

A Fungus Among Us: Mold Litigation

The Institute for Legal Reform, an arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, issued on July 17 two papers addressing the growing hazard of mold litigation. Insurers have paid billions of dollars for mold claims, and more than 10,000 suits are pending nationwide. One recent mold lawsuit in Texas involving a single family resulted in a $32 million verdict against an insurer. The papers–“Mold Litigation: How Hysteria and Junk Science Built a Cottage Industry” and”A Scientific View of the Health Effects of Mold”–are available on the Chamber Web site. From the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,

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. Phone 312/377-4000, fax 312/377-5000 Back issues are available online at
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
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