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9 posts from August 2011

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Must Read NYT Op-Ed: Ugly? You May Have a Case

“… why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?”

Extending the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect the “ugly?”  Seriously?!

Most of us are taught that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, not the ADA attorney.

Nevertheless, Professor Daniel S. Hamermesh at the University of Texas, Austin, argues that even affirmative-action programs for the ugly should be in order.  Yes, he’s actually advocating to put ugliness-based lawsuits on the same platform of racial, ethnic, gender, and disability-based employment discrimination.

Oddly enough, he seems to acknowledge that money is the motivating – not supporting – factor in bringing potential lawsuits:

“There are other possible objections. ‘Ugliness’ is not a personal trait that many people choose to embrace; those whom we classify as protected might not be willing to admit that they are ugly.  But with the chance of obtaining extra pay and promotions amounting to $230,000 in lost lifetime earnings, there’s a large enough incentive to do so. Bringing anti-discrimination lawsuits is also costly, and few potential plaintiffs could afford to do so.  But many attorneys would be willing to organize classes of plaintiffs to overcome these costs, just as they do now in racial-discrimination and other lawsuits.”

Gee, there’s an idea. Let’s refrain from bathing and personal care and sue our way into cold hard cash.  Exactly what our business community (and kempt colleagues) need to thrive during an economic downturn. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tort Reform in New Jersey, Round 1 (2002 – 2003)

We get a lot of questions about tort reform efforts pre-NJLRA, particularly with respect to medical malpractice reform.  Here is a roundup of what occurred in New Jersey, 2002-2003.  Note: Since this effort predates NJLRA’s founding, please chime in with anything else that should be included. 

  • Omnibus legislation was introduced in December 2002 with the sponsorship of then-Assembly Majority Leader Joe Roberts.  The legislation, A50, was intended to address escalating medical malpractice insurance premiums and concerns over a consequential shortage of doctors in New Jersey.  Liability insurance for New Jersey’s hospitals had increased an average of 50 percent in just the previous year.  Dubbed the “Patients First Act,” A50 called for a $300,000 cap on non-economic damages for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals, while allowing plaintiffs to collect up to $1 million in “pain and suffering” from a special state fund; tightening the statute of limitations during which an individual could file a malpractice claim; create discoverability protections and medical error reporting to help healthcare providers improve patient safety; provide a “good Samaritan clause” for physicians providing emergency care on a volunteer basis. 
  • December 12, 2002: A50 clears Assembly Health and Human Services Committee; Assembly Banking and Insurance Committee, and Assembly Appropriations Committee before being passed by the full Assembly, 44-20-12.  The $300,000 cap on non-economic damages for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals is removed.
  • January 2003: Unhappy with the removal of the $300,000 cap, physician groups organize a three-day “work stoppage,” despite pleas from legislative sponsors for restraint.
  • March 2003: The Senate removes the $300,000 non-economic cap provision from its companion bill, S2174, before releasing it from the Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee with additional amendments.  It is passed by the full Senate, 32-5.
  • April 2003: Doctors’ associations threaten a second work-stoppage if the cap is not reinstated.
  • June 30, 2003: With heavy lobbying by the Trial Lawyers Association (now called the “American Association for Justice”) and waning physician sympathy, A50/S2174 dies on concurrence in the Assembly. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cryan will be keynote speaker at NJLRA Membership Luncheon

Cryan Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Cryan (D-Union) will be the keynote speaker at NJLRA’s annual Fall Membership Luncheon. 

The event will take place at the Trenton Country Club in West Trenton on Tuesday, September 13, at noon. 

Click here to RSVP now.  It’s free, but an RSVP is required.  We hope to see you there!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Anti-bullying law puts taxpayers at risk

We all remember Tyler Clementi’s tragic suicide last year, which propelled the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act through the Legislature.  Just about everyone agrees that addressing student bullying is a positive step toward deterring the conditions which contributed to this young man’s untimely death.   But as schools across New Jersey prepare to reopen next month, the unintended consequences of this law may end up may end up exposing school districts to costly liability that taxpayers will be forced to bear. 

According to a recent report in NJ Spotlight, online and out-of-school liability emerged as an area of concern for school personnel during required training sessions held over the summer.  Where to draw the line between parental and school responsibility has been a subject of debate for many years.  With the implementation of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, however, this responsibility and liabilities associated with it have been placed solely on school districts and the taxpayers which fund them.  Trial lawyers in New Jersey have essentially been given a blank check to sue school districts on behalf of bullied children, no matter how ambiguous the term “bullying” may be. 

School districts have an obligation to enforce New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination and to be responsive to student bullying.  But civil liability ultimately belongs on the backs of bullies, not taxpayers. 

It’s something school districts will have to come to grips with this school year when the law goes into effect.  Check out my letter-to-the-editor about it in the Courier News

Monday, August 15, 2011

We’re officially encouraged by Governor Christie’s remarks at the Jersey Shore last week:

Christie on Perry: a laudable record on tort reform (Max Pizarro / Politicker NJ)

Tort reform was a key element in Texas’s economic recovery at a pace unheard of in most other states.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Beach Reading

Government-Grief-Handlin-Amy-H-9780313392597 If you’re a small business entrepreneur and manage to sneak some time away this summer (or just a concerned citizen wanting to learn more about how your local government works), you might want to pick up a copy of Assemblywoman Amy Handlin’s latest book, Government Grief: How to Help Your Small Business Survive Mindless Regulation, Political Corruption, and Red Tape

Handlin, who represents the 13th Legislative District, offers practical advice for engaging with local government officials.  There are also extensive glossaries designed to make navigating the multitude of government bureaucracies easier, as well interesting commentary on what Handlin calls the “corruption tax.” 

Perhaps best of all, the book is straightforward, down-to-earth, and actually helpful; it’s not filled with the generalities and hyperboles we’ve come to associate with elected officials.  She stresses that the advice offered in her book (which is rooted in her extensive backgrounds in marketing and public service) is applicable to every state and local jurisdiction. 

You can check it out here.  Happy reading - hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

In case you were wondering…

The results* of our very unscientific Facebook poll are clear:

 

FB Poll

 *as of 8/9/2011, 1:04 p.m. EST

Yet, we still need legislation to deliver this message to the New Jersey Supreme Court

Thursday, August 04, 2011

In case you missed it: Read NJLRA’s letter-to-the-editor in the Hunterdon County Democrat

A jury recently awarded a $2.5 million judgment against Warren Township, population 16,000, over its handling of a report the Council received about an intoxicated municipal judge on the bench. With a total budget of $16 million, this is a surcharge residents will feel for years to come if it is not overturned on appeal, wrote Marcus Rayner, NJLRA’s executive director.

Click here to read the full letter and click here to read about the lawsuit costing Warren Township taxpayers one-eighth of their entire municipal budget

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

He’s back! Richard Kreimer, the NJ man who made $400k suing people

Richard Kreimer has discovered something the trial bar has known for quite some time: there is good money in suing people.

Excerpt from Alexi Friedman’s piece in the Star-Ledger:

“Kreimer, who is homeless, has made a name for himself over the years by suing NJ Transit, the Morristown Library, CVS pharmacy, a coffeehouse, a Chinese restaurant and various municipalities and mayors, all alleging First Amendment and civil rights violations. In most instances, he has been barred from or thrown out of a location.

Kreimer believes he is a target because he is homeless.

The suits — there have been close to 20 — have won the Morristown native equal parts scorn and support, a good bit of media coverage and hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements.

"I’m probably the most famous person in New Jersey," he boasted in between forkfuls of rice and sips from a soda from the train station, where he spends much of his time.”