Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #4-6

Published July 21, 2005

Vaccinate the Guy Behind the Tree

If you live in a part of the country where the syndicated Don Imus morning talk radio show can be heard, you are probably aware he has been on a toot the past few months on what he considers the well-established link between the vaccine preservative thimerosol, which contains mercury, and childhood autism. Imus is joined in his crusade by another renowned medical expert, Bobby Kennedy, Jr., who spewed forth on the topic in a lengthy article in Rolling Stone magazine.

Only problem is that all the credible science, including studies of hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S., Great Britain, and Denmark, have found no link.

The controversy has spawned some 4,800 lawsuits against vaccine manufacturers, with 200 having been filed in the past few months alone. More importantly, frightened parents have stopped vaccinating their children for such illnesses as measles, whooping cough, diphtheria, and polio, which could lead to a true childhood health disaster. From The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal

She Had a Nose for Radio

A former Detroit radio talk show host was awarded $10 million by a Michigan federal jury because she was fired when she complained that a fellow employee’s perfume made her sick. When the woman complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that her employer had failed to address her perfume allergy disability, the station retaliated and dismissed her. From The National Law Journal

When Politicians Hire Lawyers to Sue Taxpayers

The practice of allowing state attorneys general to hire outside counsel to litigate on the state’s behalf under contingency fee contracts is under fire nationwide. Currently at issue is a lawsuit in Rhode Island being litigated against the lead paint industry by outside plaintiffs’ superstar firm Motley Rice.

The industry says it is unconstitutional for an outside law firm to use the police powers of the state against a defendant when the firm has a personal financial interest in the result. The state’s highest court has agreed to hear the case. In addition, several states, including Colorado, Texas, and Virginia, have passed laws restricting their AGs’ ability to enter into such contingency fee arrangements. From The National Law Journal

Hellhole Not So Hot Anymore

Things may be looking up in “judicial hellhole” Madison County, Illinois. In recent months, jurors in the county returned two defense verdicts: one an asbestos case against General Electric and the second a medical malpractice trial. In a third trial, jurors awarded a 78-year-old plaintiff with asbestos-related disease a mere $50,000–far short of the $50 million his lawyers had demanded. Plaintiffs’ lawyers are blaming this turn of events on the negative publicity the county has received in recent years because of its runaway jury awards. From The National Law Journal

Second-Hand Cases Going Up in Smoke

Big Tobacco has won seven of the first eight second- hand smoke cases to go to trial in Florida as part of some 2,650 individual nonsmoking flight attendant suits pending in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court. In the eighth case, a jury awarded $5.5 million, which was reduced to $500,000.

The cases stem from a 1998 class-action settlement in the same court that established the industry’s general liability. Now the individual plaintiffs must prove their specific ailments were caused by second-hand smoke, which they are clearly having a great deal of difficulty doing. There are very few cancer cases among the attendants, and they are claiming virtually no life-threatening conditions. From The National Law Journal

When Lawyers Use Indians to Build Casinos

The Shinnecock Indian tribe, having decided it was gypped in an 1859 land deal by the Long Island Rail Road, has filed suit seeking billions of dollars in damages and the reclamation of 3,600 acres of its rightful property–including the land Shinnecock Hills golf course is built on, plus the adjacent National Golf Links of America and the entire campus of Southampton College.

However, following in the moccasin prints of fellow tribes in Colorado, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, the Shinnecocks are willing to give it all up for the right to build and operate a gambling casino somewhere nearby in the trendy–and very rich– Hamptons area of Eastern Long Island.

And by the way, if you think we’re being mean- spirited–the suit is being totally underwritten by a Detroit-based casino development firm. From Newsday and The New York Times

Fear of “Fear Factor”

A fan of NBC’s “Fear Factor” reality television show is suing the network for $2.5 million in damages, claiming that an episode in which contestants ate rats pureed in a blender made him dizzy, lightheaded, and nauseous and caused him to crash into a doorway, “causing suffering, injury, and great pain.” Austin Aitken of Cleveland told Associated Press that he often enjoys watching the show but this episode went “too far.”

“It’s barbaric, some of the things they ask these individuals to do,” Aitken told AP. “We believe that the claim is completely without merit,” NBC responded. From Associated Press

It Pays to Sue

Here’s one that bears watching. A federal grand jury in Los Angeles has indicted a well-known retired Palm Springs entertainment lawyer for allegedly receiving $2.4 million in secret and illegal kickbacks from Milberg Weiss, one of the nation’s most aggressive plaintiffs’ law firms.

The lawyer, Seymour Lazar, or close members of his family, served as lead plaintiffs in some 50 lawsuits over the past 20 years that resulted in settlements totaling nearly $44 million. Among the companies sued were United Airlines, Hertz Rent-a-Car, Denny’s Restaurants, and Standard Oil Company. The indictment charges Lazar with mail fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to obstruct justice, among other charges. Strangely, Milberg Weiss is not named in the indictment. From The New York Times and other sources

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
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Editors: Maureen Martin, Diane Carol Bast

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