This week the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund. The issue in the case is the ongoing viability of fraud-on-the market theory as an underlying assumption in shareholder class actions.
This week the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Halliburton Co. v. Erica P. John Fund. The issue in the case is the ongoing viability of fraud-on-the market theory as an underlying assumption in shareholder class actions.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman has released a summary of the civil judgments obtained by the state during 2013. The $304 million collected is a $104 million increase over 2012 judgments. Litigation-related payouts by the State in 2013 totaled approximately $77.7 million.
A New Jersey teen is making headlines across the country for the lawsuit she has filed against her parents seeking monetary support. However, this is just the tip of the juvenile lawsuits iceberg.
Justin Fox | Harvard Business Review Blog Network
The Supreme Court is going to host a debate next week on the efficient market hypothesis. The battle lines may not be exactly what you’d expect: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Justice Samuel Alito have already argued that the EMH is, as Alito put it, “a faulty economic premise,” while Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Obama administration have backed the idea that, as a sextet of Justice Department lawyers put it, “markets process publicly available information about a company into the company’s stock price.”
A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of February 15-21, 2014.
Filling a lawsuit is always a gamble since the odds are never certain, but for these litigants what’s at stake is gambling.
Thanks to its plaintiff-friendly procedural rules and broad consumer protection laws, New Jersey is a hotbed of class action litigation. These four cases provide just a snapshot of the sort of cases coming to the New Jersey courts as class actions, highlighting the challenges judges face in overseeing this sort litigation.
I can hear the television commercial now: “Did you suffer emotional damage when Michael Jackson died? You may be eligible for compensation.”
A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of February 1-7, 2014.
A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of January 25-31, 2014.
Jon Bramnick|The Record
As Americans, we believe in giving people a “second chance.” The proposed “Ban the Box” legislation is not the answer to the problem of a job applicant with a criminal history.
Imagine you are looking to hire someone to care for your elderly mother. That person will be alone with her and will have access to her home and her possessions.
After receiving applications for the job, you discover that one of the applicants has a criminal history of assault and theft. One would presumably be concerned about hiring that person to assist your mother.
You may not have a choice if “Ban the Box” legislation is enacted.
A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of January 18-24, 2014.
How to Sue Over the Christie Bridge Scandal and Win
John Culhane | Slate
As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tries to recover from the fallout for his administration’s participation in the vindictive decision to close lanes and snarl traffic on the George Washington Bridge for five days, he will get no help from lawsuits brought by angry citizens stuck in the mess. The first suit has already dropped. These claims will surely breed others. They could keep the story alive for years. And they could even result, unusually, in personal liability for the officials involved, including, perhaps, the governor himself.
One of NJCJI’s top priorities for 2014 is advancing legislation that will bring transparency to bankruptcy trust litigation and discourage fraud so that settlement dollars are available to legitimately injured parties. The desperate need for this legislation was most recently illustrated by a ruling from U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge George Hodges revealing the “tort system was infected by the manipulation of exposure evidence by plaintiffs and their lawyers.”
Bankruptcy Judge: Plaintiffs, Lawyers Covered Up Evidence In Garlock Mesothelioma Cases: LexisNexis, Jan. 13, 2014.
Judge Finds Fraud and Deceit by Plaintiffs’ Lawyers in Asbestos Cases: Bloomberg Business Week, Jan. 13, 2014.
The Asbestos Scam, Part 2 (opinion): The New York Times, Jan. 13, 2014.
The Judge Won’t Call Asbestos-Lawyer Shenanigans Fraud, But It Sure Smells Like It: Forbes, Jan. 11, 2014.
Embattled Gasket Maker Sues Asbestos Lawyers For Fraud: Forbes, Jan. 10, 2014.
Judge Slashes Asbestos Liability In Garlock Bankruptcy To $125 Million: Forbes, Jan. 10, 2014
While the asbestos trusts are currently the most well-known types of these trusts thanks to the relentless television ads by plaintiffs’ attorneys, they are not the only such trusts. Any company filing for bankruptcy that faces potential legal claims can set up a trust to streamline and resolve claims.
As a state with a strong manufacturing sector and a court system known for allowing questionable claims to move forward, New Jersey businesses stand to lose if double-dipping and fraud are not limited.
Here's Who's Behind The Huge Civil Lawsuit From The Chris Christie Bridge Scandal
Brett LoGiurato | Business Insider
Four-hour delays. Late for work. Lost wages. Late for crucial doctor's appointments.
Some of these alleged hardships are at the heart of a proposed class-action complaint in the burgeoning George Washington Bridge scandal. The complaint was filed last Thursday, the day after new revelations tying the administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to the lane closures.
Chris Christie hires law firm to review administration's role in 'Bridgegate'
By Statehouse Bureau | Asbury Park Press
A former federal prosecutor will head up an internal review by the administration of Gov. Chris Christie of his staff’s involvement with the politically motivated lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in September 2013.
The administration this morning announced the hiring of the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher law firm and specifically Randy Mastro to assist both with the review and an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office into the closings, which snarled traffic for four days in Fort Lee.
Bridge scandal: Chris Christie's Nominees Delayed
By Jenna Portnoy | The Star-Ledger
The ongoing scandal over George Washington Bridge lane closures is having more ripple effects through Gov. Chris Christie’s administration.
The Republican governor has put on hold his plan to nominate John Hoffman, his acting attorney general, to the state Superior Court. The move comes as the nomination of Christie’s chief of staff, Kevin O’Dowd, is also in a holding pattern.
Judge Questions Whether $765 NFL Concussions Settlement is Enough
Cindy Boren | Washington Post
A federal judge in Philadelphia issued a preliminary rejection of a $765 million settlement of concussion claims by more than 4,500 former NFL players on Tuesday, ruling that the amount agreed upon may be insufficient to cover payouts, medical tests and treatments.
Will Consumer Class Actions vs. Target Survive?
By Alison Frankel | Reuters
Who doesn't empathize with the 70 million Target customers whose private information was supposedly hacked?
No one likes to worry about identity theft and impaired credit ratings, the odds of which, according to Reuters, drastically increase for data breach victims. But that doesn't mean Target customers have a cause of action in federal court.
Litigation Finance Firm Raises $260 Million for New Fund
By William Alden | New York Times DealBook
An upstart investment firm that bets on lawsuits has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for its second fund.
The firm, Gerchen Keller Capital, is expected to announce on Monday that it has amassed about $260 million for the fund, bringing its total investor commitments to $310 million. The fresh capital, coming less than a year after Gerchen Keller opened its doors, underscores investors’ confidence in an obscure corner of Wall Street that has gained adherents in recent years.
Litigation finance, as the business is known, often involves bankrolling plaintiffs in exchange for a slice of the lawsuit’s potential winnings.
Corporate Takeover? In 2013, a Lawsuit Almost Always Followed
By Steven M. Davidoff | New York Times DealBook
These days, you can be sure that when a company announces it is being acquired, it will also be sued by a bevy of plaintiffs’ lawyers.
N.J. Senate Confirms Robert Hanna as Superior Court Judge
By Alexi Friedman | Star-Ledger
As Gov. Chris Christie’s choice for state Supreme Court judge, Robert Hanna waited a year for a confirmation hearing that never came. Senate Democrats blocked his selection and another Christie nominee to fill a different seat on the high court, fearing they would cause partisan imbalance.
Ceremony for Newest N.J. Justice, Fernandez-Vina, Set for Friday
By Salvador Rizzo | The Star-Ledger
The newest associate justice on the state Supreme Court, Faustino Fernandez-Vina, will be sworn in Friday in a ceremony at Rutgers University in Camden, the court announced today.
Fernandez-Vina, a Republican who was appointed last year by Gov. Chris Christie, joined the court Nov. 19 and has been hearing cases already.
BP Appeal to Stop 'Fictitious' U.S. Oil Spill Claims Fails
One of BP's attempts to curb payouts for what it says are "fictitious" and "absurd" claims related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill has failed after a legal appeal was rejected by a U.S. court.
Bill Protecting Rescue Squads from Lawsuits Hits a Dead End with Change of Legislative Session
By MaryAnn Spoto | The Star-Ledger
A bill protecting rescue squads from civil lawsuits stopped dead in its tracks Tuesday after the legislative session ended without the state Senate voting on the measure.
If you think America's litigious culture is a recent trend, think again. Back in 1938, Ms. Helen Silva was enjoying a turkey dinner at Woolworth’s restaurant when she choked on a small bone. A bystander came to her rescue, but she sued the restaurant for $36 in medical fees and embarrassment. The bone was ultimately found to be native to turkeys (imagine that), nixing Woolworth's liability and the $500 judgment rendered against it.
It’s been nearly twenty years since Stella Liebeck made the first McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit famous by spilling coffee in her own lap and suing the fast food chain.
But becoming a posterchild for our overly litigious culture has done little to discourage copycats, as a McDonald’s in River Edge, Bergen County discovered this week.
A Florida man who was visiting family in Bergen County two years ago is now coming forward with a suit against McDonald’s in River Edge, alleging that an employee “failed to properly secure the lid,” which apparently induces a lack of consumer coordination and second-degree burns.
The comments below from NJ.com capture the sentiment well:
Notes: This suit is not to be confused with the New Jersey resident who filed suit against a chain of Wawa stores for selling hot, highly-spillable coffee last month. And yes, McDonald happens to be the surname of yours truly. It is purely coincidental, as I am not affiliated with the defending company in any way.
..said Good Morning America’s Lara Spencer.
Spencer was responding to news that a Texas high school football coach is suing the Dallas Cowboys Stadium over a runaway golf cart incident in 2011.
Remember that? Neither do I, but it supposedly went viral:
Despite conceding that he wasn’t seriously hurt while attempting to get the unmanned golf cart under control, Amendola is also seeking compensation for the following: past and future physical pain and suffering [interesting, since he wasn’t seriously hurt]; past and future mental anguish; physical impairment, past and future; disfigurement, past and future; past and future medical expenses; loss of earning capacity [he’s still a gainfully employed high school football coach]; loss of enjoyment.
Here's some advice: Drop the lawsuit and laugh. It’s the best medicine.
Unsurprisingly, Judge Higbee rejected the motion.
Roche has now escalated its efforts to remove her, filing an appeal motion.
We can tell you that New Jersey’s courtrooms are among the nation’s easiest in which to file a ridiculous lawsuit, but sometimes the weaknesses of the NJCFA speak for themselves.
Two New Jersey residents contend that the size of their ‘footlong’ sub from Subway fell short of twelve inches. And with a straight face, they were able to file a lawsuit under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act with ease. Their lawyer is seeking class-action status on behalf of everyone who’s purchased one and meets the criteria.
A recent NJ BIZ article (Advocates hope bill takes bite out of N.J. fraud law / Jared Kaltwasser, 2/4/13)) examines a possible remedy for the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, sponsored by Assemblyman Craig Coughlin. A-3264 has been referred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.
A-3282 clarifies that first aid, ambulance or rescue squads, as entities, have immunity from civil damages in certain circumstances
While this may seem to be a routine legislative clarification, the catalyst case, Murray v. Plainfield Rescue Squad, was eye-opening.
In August 2004, a young man was shot by his own brother. Alive and able to speak, his parents immediately called 911. The Plainfield Rescue Squad arrived by ambulance and fruitlessly performed CPR; some believe that if he had instead been immediately transported to the hospital, Odis Murray would have had a 20 – 30 percent chance of survival.
The Murrays decided to file a wrongful death lawsuit – not against their other son, Akeem Murray, who intentionally fired the shot that killed Odis – but against the Plainfield Rescue Squad.
A lower court found that the because the Squad provided “intermediate life support services in good faith,” they were protected from civil liability under N.J.S.A. 26:2K-29, also known as the Good Samaritan Act.
The Supreme Court ultimately disagreed. The spirit of the act was to protect volunteers acting in good faith from liability so as to not dissuade volunteer responders from helping in the first place. While it specified who would be protected, it did not define ‘rescue squads’ clearly enough for the Court’s liking.
“The Legislature chose to provide immunity to volunteer rescue squads and to rescue squads rendering advanced life support services,” wrote Justice Barry Albin in a unanimous decision. “By the clear language of N.J.S.A. 26:2K-29, the Legislature chose not to provide immunity to rescue squads, as entities, rendering intermediate life support services.
“If the failure to provide immunity to such rescue squads was an oversight, any corrective measure must be taken by the Legislature.”
The Legislature took the first step toward clarifying the intent of the Act today. Primary sponsors of A-3282 include Assemblymen Eric Peterson (R-Hunterdon), Anthony Bucco (R-Morris), and Chairman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington). Its companion bill, S-2165, is sponsored by Senator Kip Bateman (R-Somerset) and has been referred to the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.
Superstorm Sandy did something few insurance brokers could do: it forced homeowners to, in some cases, read their insurance policies for the first time.
Many of us opt for lower premiums in exchange for higher deductibles. Others quickly sign on the dotted line and hope we never meet the devil lurking in the details. But when the worst happens, as many New Jerseyans experienced late last year, customers expect their insurer to cover their losses as defined in their coverage.
New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co. (NJM) CEO Bernie Flynn told a legislative committee last month that they expect payouts to reach $300 million. State Farm has made a point of expediting their 30,000 Sandy-related claims. On some occasions, however, an insurer may fail to live up to their end of the agreement and deny payment to a customer. New Jersey consumers are able to file suit against their insurer in these instances. But recently reintroduced legislation threatens to add more bureaucracy and litigation into an already stressed civil justice system.
S-2460, the covertly dubbed “Consumer Protection Act of 2012,” is a new lease on trial lawyers’ attempt to create a new cause of action for ‘bad faith’ (S-766/A-3434). It wouldn’t simply codify existing case law with respect to ‘bad faith;’ rather, a court would only need to find that an insurer acted ‘unreasonably’ in order to win a bad faith case, adding subjectivity and the potential for awards beyond one’s coverage.
Acting Department of Banking and Insurance commissioner Kenneth Kobylowski noted that New Jersey’s strong homeowners’ insurance market had rates near the national average despite having property values among the highest in the country.
"To have average premiums in the middle of the marketplace is just a testament to how stable, how competitive and how well-run our homeowners' market is," he told NJ BIZ.
But if the cost of doing business increases for New Jersey’s insurance industry, we can all expect our premiums to rise.
A Hunterdon County Country Club may be on the hook for a prank played by two of its members.
James Kavanagh, Jr. and Gregg Chaplin convinced their 68-year-old friend, Barry Russo, to eat a “delicious” brownie, the product of Kavanagh’s “special culinary training.”
You guessed it: the brownie was laced with pot.
The behavior of Kavanagh and Chaplin may more closely resemble sophomoric teenage trouble making than the caliber of Copper Hill Country Club’s average patron. According to the diabetic Russo, this prank may have contributed to his feeling “light-headed and dizzy,” among other ailments.
Russo is suing the Copper Hill Country Club, its owner, and the two men for an undisclosed amount of money. And no, neither the Copper Hill Country Club nor its owner is alleged to have participated in the lacing or ingestion of said brownie.
Chaplin vehemently disputes Russo’s account.
It’s a story that’s easy to miss in the post-Sandy, post-Election Day, “fiscal cliff” news cycle, but one that will stick with you for a while after learning about it.
A New Jersey appeals court has determined that an emergency room doctor must stand trial for failing to report to the Division of Youth and Family Services that he treated a child who ingested cologne.
The 3-year-old patient, identified in court papers as “S.A.,” was abandoned by her mother soon after birth in 1998. The Division (DYFS) placed her in the care of her father two years later. She was brought to Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune in early 2001 by other relatives, who said that she was “walking with an unsteady gait and was observed as lethargic and weak with an unusual odor on her breath.”
From a layman’s standpoint, it appears that the emergency room doctor, Daniel Yu, performed a thorough examination, leading him to conclude (correctly) that the young child ingested cologne. She was treated and her extended family was on its way.
Two months after the cologne incident, DYFS received a disturbing report: S.A., still under her father’s care, had been severely burned and beaten. She had chemical burns on various parts of her body, including her vagina. At this point S.A. was removed from her father’s custody by the Division. She was later adopted by the plaintiff in this case, L.A. v. DYFS, A-2726-11, who is identified as L.A. in court papers.
And in 2007, L.A. filed suit – not just against the Division, which evidently had some history with the child’s family – but against Dr. Yu and Jersey Shore University Medical Center. DYFS settled with L.A. for $5 million. No suit was filed against the child’s abuser.
N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.10 requires anyone who believes a child is being abused or neglected to contact DYFS. Mercer County Superior Court Judge Paul Innes didn’t believe that a toddler ingesting a foreign substance was indicative of abuse. It’s the sort of thing that happens in the happiest of homes from time to time, to the tune of at least 100,000 childhood emergency room visits each year. The appellate court, however, disagreed with his assessment, and the case will be going forward.
The medical community fears that if Dr. Yu and the hospital are found liable, doctors and hospital staff will be pressured to report abuse for tiniest of infractions, overwhelming a DYFS system that is already overwhelmed and creating an adverse affect on children’s health and well-being. The threat of DYFS involvement may discourage parents from seeking immediate care when children swallow things they shouldn’t, mask their child’s symptoms, or even deter them from bringing their child to the emergency room altogether in order to avoid the legal scrutiny and uncertainty to follow.
The need to reform our legal system isn’t just about the taxes we pay or improving New Jersey’s economy. It’s also about injecting common sense into real-life situations we all face.
So, should the doctor and hospital be found liable of malpractice for not reporting that a toddler drank cologne to DYFS, you may want to prepare yourself for a barrage of questions the next time you take your kid to the E.R. for sticking a LEGO in his ear.
When red is the only color your skin turns, you tend to take note of the sunblock products that work. After all, it’s a bit obvious when a particular line of sunscreen fails. Pictured is one of my personal favorites, Coppertone’s sensitive skin SPF 50.
But under New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act, what’s obvious to the consumer can have little bearing on the outcome. New Jersey-based Merck just settled a longstanding class action lawsuit in which plaintiffs claim that the power of Coppertone was overstated in advertising, using words such as “waterproof,” “sweatproof,” and (shocker) “sunblock.”
Originally developed by Schering-Plough, Merck acquired Coppertone (and its lawsuit) when it bought Schering in 2009. The case was originally filed in 2003. And consumers, like me, readily used Coppertone products in ignorant bliss in the interim, unaware that our UVA-protected skin wasn’t as protected as the attorneys in this case contend.
Here’s how things will change under the settlement: Coppertone will stop using the words “sunblock,” “waterproof,” “sweatproof,” and “all day” on its labeling. The content of the sunscreen will remain the same. Yes, the same. And under this $3- $10 million settlement, I will get $1.50. According to Reuters, Merck stated that it agreed to the settlement “solely for the purpose of avoiding the burden, expense, risk and uncertainty of continuing to litigate those issues."
Nice of the lawyers to reward me with $1.50 for my patronage and leave my product formula intact. Heck, for $1.50 I can get:
I can’t get a bottle of sunblock, but apparently that’s beside the point.
Now if only I could figure out how to collect.
A young man who was severely brain injured during a Little League game will receive a $14.5 million settlement. Approximately $4.7 million will go to his attorneys.
A baseball hit from a metal bat struck him in the chest at age 12. Now 18, Steve Domalewski has difficulty speaking and can’t stand on his own. He’s lucky to be alive. It was a costly freak accident that will affect him and his family forever.
Metal bats are controversial because of their potential to cause serious injury, as one did to Steve Domalewski. According to the Star-Ledger, the suit targeted Hillerich & Bradsby, makers of Louisville Sluggers; Little League, Inc., which approved use of the bat; and The Sports Authority, which sold the bat.
Some comments from NJ.com:
why stop here? Sue the town for allowing the game to happen. Sue the state for allowing the town to allow the game to happen. Sue the United States for allowing the state to allow the town to have the game. Sue the makers of the baseball for making the baseball too hard. Sue the opposing batter and his family for hitting the ball. Sue the opposing kid's coach for putting the kid out there that hit the ball that hurt this young man. Sue the maker of this kid's glove for not catching this comebacker in time. Sue the umps who didn't stop this game proactively before the child got injured. Sue PAL Baseball for having this league in which the child got injured.
You forgot the shirt maker for not making it out of a material that would deflect a ball...LOL
In part, it’s, the human-versus-animal, possession-versus- humankind argument.
New Jersey resident Joyce McDougall witnessed her cute Maltese-poodle’s violent death at the hands (paws?) of another dog in Morris Plains. She filed suit for the cost of a replacement dog, and for emotional distress.
A trial court agreed that she should receive more than the cost to replace her pet and issued her $5,000. But being compensated for emotional distress was reserved for people who witness the violent death of a close family member, they said, based on the 1980 Portee v. Jaffee doctrine. The New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously upheld that decision this week.
In a much-needed reality check, Justice Helen Hoens observed that the vast majority of states do not allow owners to sue for emotional distress when their animals are killed. And beyond that, the Courts have been very limited in what they consider to be a “close family member” under this doctrine. The New Jersey Law Journal notes that an appellate court in the 1980s said it did not apply to a woman who saw her 5-year-old neighbor, with whom she was very close, mauled to death by a circus animal (Eyrich ex rel. Eyrich v. Dam, 193 N.J. Super. 244).
"It would make little sense, we think, to permit [the] plaintiff to recover for her emotional distress over the loss of her dog when she would be precluded from any such recovery if she instead had the misfortune of watching a neighbor's child, whom she regarded as her own, torn apart by a wild animal," Hoens said.
And if the Court were to expand Portee to include animals, it would open the floodgates for New Jerseyans to sue for emotional distress after watching heirlooms or other property destroyed, the Justices reasoned. As if New Jersey needs any help maintaining its status as a Judicial Hellhole…
Listen to executive director Marcus Rayner discuss the first of what is expected to be many lawsuits stemming from the movie theatre massacre in Aurora, Colorado on 1210 WPHT Philadelphia with Rich Zeoli.
“There’s only one person who’s responsible, and it’s the guy who’s been arrested.”
The controversial lawsuit was filed by a survivor of the massacre who was not physically injured. His lawyers say they are considering filing suit against everyone from Warner Brothers to the shooter’s doctors, to the move theater itself. The suspect, who was unemployed, does not seem to make the cut.
You can listen to the entire segment here: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/personality/rich-zeoli/#
Yes, that would be the killer.
A survivor of the Aurora, Colorado theatre massacre has hired an attorney and plans to file suit for his extreme emotional distress. According to TMZ, Torrence Brown, Jr. and his attorney are considering who to target for compensation – the movie theatre, the shooters’ doctors, or Warner Brothers. The alleged shooter, who was unemployed, apparently doesn’t make the cut.
It’s not surprising that this massacre, like so many before it, has revived a national conversation about gun control. Governor Christie has said that such a debate is premature for a nation in mourning. But what is as surprising as it is appalling, however, is the speed at which Brown’s attorney unabashedly began screening potential defendants to vet the best way to leverage our legal system for financial gain.
Brown wasn’t physically injured, but his friend, eighteen-year-old A.J. Boik, was shot in the chest and died.
Funerals for A.J. and other victims will take place later this week.
A class action lawsuit brought by major corporations and trade associations against Visa, Inc., and Mastercard, Inc., charged that the companies’ fees to retailers were excessive. And after a $725 billion settlement, the plaintiffs are seeing that the defendants aren’t the only ones charging high fees.
The settlement includes a $1.2 billion temporary fee-reduction. With history as a guide, attorneys can make as much as $600 million, which is roughly 10 percent of the remaining settlement. This puts it on par with fees received by lawyers during Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco litigation according to an expert quoted in a Reuters report.
Later this week, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as “Obamacare.” The law’s constitutionality has sparked discussions and debate over the past three years as we vet the best way to keep ourselves healthy. But irrespective of your position on the mandates and regulations that comprise it, New Jersey has a health care crisis all its own — one that has the potential to affect how its residents access specialized medical care in the very near future, and one that the court’s decision isn’t likely to affect.
New Jersey’s crisis is a shortage of doctors. And the hemorrhaging will affect us all.
Ask around and you’re likely to hear frustration about the amount of time it takes to schedule a visit with an OB-GYN. Unfortunately, that is becoming the norm. The New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospitals reports that there is already a 12 percent gap between physician supply and demand. New Jersey’s medical schools graduated 860 newly minted physicians in 2009; only 370 stayed in the state. By 2020, New Jersey is expected to be short an additional 3,000 physicians needed to care for its population.
And these shortages are most profound in obstetrics, cardiovascular specialties and family medicine. In short, women will bear the brunt.
One of the comments on NJ.com may have said it best:
“Instead of suing she should be making a huge donation to the PBA for having well trained officers who saved her life. She should be ashamed of herself.” – ireaddaily
Back in March, Carteret resident Ellen Shane was shopping at Woodbridge Center Mall with her husband when she was grabbed by a parolee and taken hostage. He held a knife to her throat and dragged her by her hair to a nearby department store, in full view of her distraught husband who was unable to free her. Fortunately a Woodbridge police officer was able to do so, shooting and killing the man who refused to let her go.
Now comes the afterthought: Shane realizes the potential to profit from the ordeal. She is suing the Woodbridge Township police department for $5 million, saying that the department “failed to protect public safety” and that she was “injured as a result of the officer’s actions.”
Would she have preferred to be killed? A commenter named Fallstaff pointed out, “The other option was to have her throat cut, so I believe she got the required police protection.”
Mayor John McCormac is standing by the officer, calling him a hero.
And $5 million can’t change that.
What it can change is morale in the police department, the allocation of crucial tax dollars, and the lives of Shane and her lawyer, who will strike it rich off the backs of a hero and taxpayers and never look back.
In the criminal court system, it’s often said that justice delayed is justice denied.
But for the civil court system in Union County, justice is suspended.
A political stalemate over judicial vacancies is contributing to a shortage of judges available to hear civil cases, according to a report in the Star-Ledger. A nearly 40 percent vacancy rate among judges, a backlog of over 800 cases, and four recall justices on vacation beginning July 1st means that the Union County Courthouse will not hear any civil cases during the months of July and August, a spokesperson said. Civil cases include everything from child custody disputes and divorces to the resource-draining “I-drove-drunk-and-hurt-myself-time-to-sue-the-bar” cases for which New Jersey has become infamous.
New Jerseyans from all walks of life need access to our civil courts. Union County taxpayers are no exception. Once the political stalemates are resolved, the Legislature needs to get serious about keeping frivolous lawsuits of our civil courts, which take scarce time, money, and resources away from disputes which need judicial intervention.
As you may recall from a previous post, a Morris County judge was being asked to decide whether a woman who sent a text message to her boyfriend just before he caused a serious accident could be held liable.
Judge David Rand rejected the plaintiff’s effort to hold the text sender liable. “Were I to extend a duty of care [to the text sender] in this case, in my judgment any form of distraction could potentially serve as a basis of liability,” he said.
The case was believed to be the first of its kind. Morris County motorcyclists who were severely injured and each had a leg amputated sued Kyle Best, the driver of the car, as well as his girlfriend, from whom he was receiving a text message at the time he caused the accident. The injured parties claimed that she knew or “should have known” the driver would be reading the text while driving, even though she wasn’t with him in the vehicle.
According to a Daily Record report, the plaintiffs’ attorney is planning to appeal.
A894, sponsored by Assemblymen Chuisano and Wisniewski, would allow defendants to appeal a class action certification immediately. This means that defendants who believe the court made a mistake will not have to incur the time and expense of going to trial only to have to do it all over again because the class certification was erroneous from the start.
Learn more about A894 and how it would affect class action lawsuits and New Jersey's economy here.
Please support A894 in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday, 5/21, at 10:00 a.m. in Committee Room 12
Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes, III (D18), Chair
Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D20), Vice Chair
A New Jersey court will soon decide whether a woman who sent a text message to an irresponsible teenager is liable for the accident he caused.
It was a horrible accident: the Morris County teenager, tinkering with unimportant texts while behind the wheel, struck a motorcycle ridden by a couple. They were severely injured and each had a leg amputated. They’ve described it as being in prison, and their lives will never be the same.
To make matters even worse, the driver, Kyle Best, received a mere slap on the wrist – a nominal fine and some community service. The law didn’t even require his license be revoked. He’s free to drive and risk the penalties for texting while driving again if he so chooses.
But the couple’s attorney has filed a lawsuit against not just the teenager – but the person he was conversing with via text at the time of the accident.
“The victim's lawyer claims the woman aided and abetted the driver's negligence by texting him when she knew or should have known he was driving,” according to an Associated Press report. “However, her lawyer is seeking to have her dismissed as a defendant, saying she had no control over when the driver would read the message. He also claims the legal arguments made by the victims' attorney are not supported by case law.”
The Daily Record reports that Morris County Superior Court Judge David Rand is expected to decide on May 25th whether to dismiss Shannon Colonna, the woman who sent the text message to Best, as a defendant in the suit.
NJLRA mused over the implications if the court finds the text-sender liable: will people need to sign waivers before we can hand them a bottle opener? It would open a legal can-of-worms bound only by a lawyer’s imagination and ability. What’s next, “the phone made me do it”?
It’s a painful situation in which New Jerseyans have to wonder how our legal system became so unfair. Dismissing the claim against Colonna wouldn’t right the wrongs committed against the couple. But it would help bring common sense and personal responsibility back into the legal equation.
Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Yet, that’s the legal tactic trial lawyers have employed against Merck, one of the state’s leading employers.
At issue is whether Fosamax, a drug designed to prevent osteoporosis, caused osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ).
Juries are unconvinced. Six bellweather cases have gone to trial, and Merck is currently on a five-case winning streak. Its only hiccup was the first Fosomax case, which ended in a mistrial. (A subsequent trial awarded the plaintiff $8 million in damages, which was later reduced to $1.5. The plaintiff’s attorneys have asked for a new trial on damages, which is scheduled for September).
Despite being 1-for-6, there are still 2,345 state and federal Fosamax product liability cases pending against Merck. It’s insanity yielding to a let’s-keep-trying-until-we-get-it-right offensive. After all, no matter how insane it seems to continue to pursue such cases, there really isn’t a downside for plaintiffs’ attorneys – just Merck, its employees, and those who rely on it for life-saving drugs.
You know it’s serious when legal reformers and trial lawyers agree.
Legal reformers consistently argue that when the publicly-financed civil court system is inundated with absurd litigation, the brakes are put on justice for everyone else.
Child custody cases, divorces, landlord-tenant disputes, and temporary restraining orders sought by battered women must compete for the same day in court as the guy who sues the bar after crashing his motorcycle in a drunken stupor and the woman who spills hot coffee on her lap.
And that day in court, of course, is underwritten by taxpayers. So when funding is cut to the judicial branch, as it was in 42 states last year, the pace of justice slows considerably.
"The impact on people in great distress, such as abused women seeking temporary restraining orders, is beyond measure in money," says Jon Streeter, president of the State Bar of California.
The simplest divorce cases can now take a year to resolve in some states. “Such delays are not just creating inconvenience for people trying to claim money from landlords or tenants, or fight traffic tickets. Court cuts are hitting people where they live,” writes Alan Greenblatt for NPR.
Criminal cases take precedence over civil cases, of course. But that’s hardly comforting to the everyday Americans who need the civil court system to protect them or make them whole. One circuit in Georgia stopped hearing civil cases altogether.
Backlog in states have become so significant that Institute for Legal Reform President Lisa Rickard and American Bar Association President Bill Robinson III pleaded with lawmakers to take cuts to the judiciary seriously. "When states financially starve their judiciaries, they inadvertently create environments toxic to economic growth," they wrote in an op-ed in USA TODAY.
New Jersey’s annual “budget break” is the period between the end of March and June when Assembly and Senate Budget Committees meet to finalize the next fiscal year’s budget. The emphasis on budgetary matters can seemingly push legal reform to the back burner, as the rest of the Legislature remains in recess and voting sessions are suspended.
But as Lawsuit Reform Watch noted last year at this time, one of the most appealing aspects about legal reform is that it has the power to spur economic growth while being budget-neutral. There are some things tort reformers can do:
Attend NJLRA’s Membership Luncheon, featuring Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald. Assemblyman Greenwald recently assumed the title of Assembly Majority Leader in the Democratic Caucus. What legal reform progress does he envision in the near future? Come hear his thoughts on all things legal reform on Tuesday, April 10th, at noon. You will be in the company of 60+ business leaders, association presidents, and NJLRA members at this event. Paul Matey, Deputy Chief Counsel to Governor Christie, will also deliver remarks. There is no cost to attend, but registration is required. Click here to register. Directions to NJ CAR are available here.
Take a look at your municipal budget. How much money is your town or city spending on litigation costs? It’s probably much higher than you think. Could some endangered local government service be spared if its litigation tab weren’t so high? Perhaps it’s worth mentioning at your next town council meeting, especially if a lot of cases are referred to expensive private firms. You’ll be happy you spoke up when your next property tax bill is due.
Follow NJLRA. In addition to subscribing to our blog feed, we are active on Facebook and Twitter. And as rumor has it, a Pintrest board may be in the works. In addition to legislative developments and the latest doctor shortage statistics, we’ll be sure to let you know which New Jersey bar will be the next sued by patrons for ‘making’ them drunk.
Whether you live or work in the Trenton area (or just read about it on occasion), you may remember the unfortunate death of a man who had fallen into a snow bank at the intersection of South Warren and West Front streets last winter.
Quirino Azcona, a popular deliveryman whom friends called “Cabrera,” stopped at an unnamed bar after his shift ended at Supreme Food in the City’s South Ward in late January 2011. Fresh snow lined the path he took to his residence in the West Ward. Surveillance footage suggests that he was heavily intoxicated, stumbling several times before he fell into a snow bank and didn’t get up. He laid there for an unspecified period of time, hidden from sight by the snow, before he was tragically caught in a city plow and gruesomely killed.
In addition to the City, Azcona’s estranged wife and children have decided to sue the bar.
"The bar served him to the point where he was intoxicated," his lawyer said in a statement to the Times of Trenton. "The poor guy got drunk, went out into the snow and got run over by a snowplow.”
Yes, the poor guy got drunk after drinking alcohol. What reasonable adult could anticipate such a consequence?
The weather conditions certainly were a key contributor to Azcona’s accident, but I suppose the bar is a defendant when Mother Nature is unavailable. We’ve seen similar situations before.
We’ve all been warned about the consequences of drinking and driving (really, the consequences of drinking and doing just about anything), which is why most bar patrons take precautions when consuming alcohol. But as the suing-the-bar-where-you-voluntarily-drank-alcohol-trend continues, the courts are allowing the intoxicated and their kin to shift responsibility to others rather than hold them responsible for their actions (see Voss vs. Tranquilino, Killarney’s in Hamilton, et. all).
We probably won’t ever know if the unnamed bar in question is the only establishment Azcona patronized on the night of his death, or whether things may have turned out differently if he had been walking with a friend instead of alone. But we can use his untimely death as an opportunity to remind the public to take weather conditions into account when enjoying a night out, even when planning to walk. And, hopefully, keep others from meeting a similar fate. This isn’t something that a lawsuit can do.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys will argue that personal responsibility is too much of a buzz kill for patrons, so the bar needs to supervise the adults in their presence. But judging by the comments associated with the Times of Trenton’s story, it seems that most of us agree that having a bar play nanny to its patrons is a greater buzz bill.
Azcona certainly isn’t the first person to pass out in a drunken stupor after leaving a bar. But if the suing-the-bar-where-you-voluntarily-drank-alcohol-trend continues in New Jersey, nightlife in the Garden State may undergo an involuntary rehab.
NJLRA Statement on NJ Supreme Court Decision in Kendall v. Roche
5-1 decision will allow case to proceed, despite concerns regarding statute of limitations, FDA’s approval
TRENTON, N.J. – Marcus Rayner, executive director of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance, issued the following statement regarding the state Supreme Court’s decision in Kendall v. Roche:
“The New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Kendall v. Roche negatively impacts thousands of businesses across the state at time when we are trying to create jobs and recover from a severe economic downturn. The court’s disregard for New Jersey’s statute of limitations adds uncertainty in challenging times.
“By finding that the Federal Food and Drug Administration’s approval is inadequate, Roche and other product manufacturers can now be found liable for damages even if all steps to obtain the proper labeling were taken and approved. This adds great uncertainty to the business community and essentially adds enormous overhead costs to the development of critical and life-saving drugs.
# # #
The New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance (NJLRA) is a statewide, bipartisan group of businesses, individuals and organizations committed to improving the State’s civil justice system by advocating for legal reforms in the legislature and in the courts. NJLRA believes a balanced civil justice system is critical to ensuring fair and open courts, maintaining and attracting jobs and fostering economic growth in New Jersey. NJLRA is the only organization in New Jersey dedicated exclusively to civil justice reform.
Carl Wilkins’ family suffered an unspeakable nightmare when their loved one was tragically struck and killed after a double hit-and-run incident. The family’s attorney has indicated that they intend to sue NJ Transit, the state of New Jersey and Ewing Township for his death, along with the women who committed this crime (“Hit-and-run victim’s family targets NJ Transit, Ewing, state, 2 others,” Feb. 8).
The individuals who killed Mr. Wilkins deserve to be found liable for their actions. Taking the law a step further, however, and suing the township, state and NJ Transit is costly and misdirected anger. There is no question that this was a tragedy. But as Ewing Township fights to keep its streets safe with fewer police officers, adding a hefty lawsuit to the agenda will undoubtedly jeopardize their ability to provide the services we have become accustomed to as taxpayers.
Suing Ewing Township won’t make crossing the street safer. But working with local and state government to address traffic patterns instead of working against them may yield the changes we need to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again.
-- Marcus Rayner, Feb 23rd
The writer is executive director of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance (njlra.org).
In 2006, children at a South Jersey daycare facility played freely. Then state inspectors informed them that their facility existed on a heavily contaminated former thermometer factory. A class action lawsuit against the building’s owners, as well as local, county, and state government entities found all parties liable.
It may take several years until all of the damage done to these children comes to light, which is why the judge ordered each of these entities to pay for the children’s medical monitoring until age 24. The fund was supposed to consist of $1.5 million for neuropsychological tests for the 100 children involved. Early detection and treatment if health problems emerge, the order stressed.
But so far, nearly 6 years parents were first told that their children were subjected to unsafe levels of mercury at Kiddie Kollege, not a single test has been administered through this fund.
As is the case with far too many class-action lawsuits, the victims’ plight has taken a back seat to disputes over attorneys’ fees. $1.5 million was put in escrow for medical testing last year. But the $3 million requested by the five law firms representing the plaintiffs and $1.4 million already paid to Franklin Township’s attorney by its insurer are far from settled, delaying the children’s medical monitoring. The township’s attorney has even asked for a new trial.
The children who this case was supposed to be about haven’t accessed the testing that may affect the quality and duration of their lives. But the lawyers who fought for it (and against it) probably don’t want you to know that.
A $4.1 million settlement awarded to a north Jersey man who overdosed on stolen drugs as a teen is gaining national infamy. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce nominated it for this month’s Most Ridiculous Lawsuit http://www.facesoflawsuitabuse.org/.
The plaintiff, who said the neighborhood pharmacy should have done a better job of guarding the drugs his friend stole, sued several partygoers, the host, and the host’s mother in addition to the pharmacy.
The pharmacy will pay the majority of the settlement.
As of today, the Bergen County settlement is killing the competition by a 3 – 1 margin. You can cast your vote on the Institute of Legal Reform’s website.
"In this case, the pharmacy was the victim - not the plaintiff, who made a decision to ingest stolen drugs.” said Marcus Rayner, NJLRA’s executive director. “Yet it is the pharmacy that is being denied justice by today's legal system and the drug user who is benefiting from it.”
“This case underscores just how much our tort system has become out-of-step with common sense and fairness. Instead of investing in Ridgewood's local economy, Harding Pharmacy will be sending $1.9 million to the pocket of a man who made poor and illegal choices,” he said.
Doesn’t this just make your heart, um, not swell with pride?
Since you just can’t make some things up (“Man who overdosed at teen house party awarded $4.1 million settlement,” Markos, The Record), here is NJLRA’s statement:
Ridgewood drug store to pay nearly half; underscores need for legal reform
TRENTON, N.J. – Marcus Rayner, executive director of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance, released the following statement regarding a $4.1 million settlement awarded to a 21-year-old who overdosed on Xanax stolen from a local pharmacy:
“In this case, the pharmacy was the victim – not the plaintiff, who made a decision to ingest stolen drugs. Yet it is the pharmacy that is being denied justice by today’s legal system and the drug user who is benefiting from it.
“The pressure to settle cases – even ones as ridiculous as this – is high, particularly for small businesses like Harding Pharmacy. This isn’t CVS or Walgreens, with a legal department to handle such matters. This is a neighborhood business, which settled a case of questionable merit presumably because the cost of justice is simply too high and out-of-reach.
“In New Jersey a drunk driver can already sue a bar tender if he injures himself while driving under the influence. Apparently pharmacies which have drugs stolen from them can be financially liable for thieves’ overdoses. It is a classic example of abusing the system in the hopes of winning a jackpot judgment at everyone else’s expense.
“This case underscores just how much our tort system has become out-of-step with common sense and fairness. Instead of investing in Ridgewood’s local economy, $1.9 million will be going into the pocket of a man who made poor and illegal choices.
Scott Simon voluntarily ingested Xanax stolen by a friend who used to work for the pharmacy nearly four years ago. His cohorts did not seek immediate medical attention after he went into a coma. Harding Pharmacy will pay $1.9 million. Other parties will pay the remaining amount.
The so-called “lame duck” session of the Legislature – the period between Election Day and the start of the next legislative session in January – is traditionally a period of frenetic lawmaking activity. For outgoing legislators who may be retiring or have not been reelected, it is the very last chance they have to shepherd bills through the democratic process.
NJLRA has five bills which it hopes will advance:
A-2473/S-480, which would apply the $50 million appeal bond cap enjoyed by tobacco companies to all businesses in New Jersey, so they do not have to prepay in order to appeal a judicial decision.
A-3333/S-2855, which would limit causes of actions under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act to consumers who suffer an ascertainable loss (as opposed to businesses), and make the Act applicable only to transactions which occur in New Jersey.
A-4228/S-3028, the “New Jersey Licensed Alcoholic Beverage Server Fair Liability Act.” This bill would prevent drunken motorists, convicted of DUI, from suing licensed beverage servers who served them in the event they drive drunk and cause themselves injury. (Yes, thanks to the New Jersey Supreme Court, we need legislation to clarify that drunk drivers cannot legally profit from their irresponsibility).
A-4135, which would allow defendants the right to immediately appeal a class action certification.
A-1982/S-760, which would address skyrocketing medical malpractice premiums and a consequential physician shortage in certain specialties by: protecting volunteer physicians acting in good faith from liability; prevent insurance companies from immediately imposing an increase on doctors who are named in a malpractice suit; require physicians providing expert testimony to be licensed in New Jersey and board certified in the appropriate specialty; and reverse the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Ryan v. Renny, which gutted the Affidavit of Merit Statute enacted in 2004.
LRW will keep you abreast should any of the aforementioned bills advanced. For the most up-to-date legislative calendar, click here to visit the Legislature’s website.
Unfortunately, it occurs all too often: a plaintiff overstates, inflates, or fabricates an injury altogether after an auto accident and seeks compensation.
And then she posts photos of herself completing a 5k on Facebook.
Defendants are beginning to fight back, asking courts for permission to introduce a plaintiff’s Facebook content if it appears to contradict statements made in court about the scope of their injuries.
In a recent Pennsylvania case, Largent v. Reed, Jennifer Largent claimed that an automobile accident caused by the defendant, Jennifer Rosko, left her and her husband with “serious and permanent physical and mental injuries.” Largent’s injuries were so extensive that she needed to walk with a cane, she told the Court.
All it took was a search of the plaintiff’s public profile to see Largent’s status updates about going to the gym and “enjoying life with her family.” Judge Richard Walsh was satisfied that the defendants met relevancy standard needed to probe the rest of her page. Noting Facebook’s motto – “Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life” – Walsh wrote:
[No court has ever] recognized a ‘general privacy privilege’ for Facebook information, and neither will we… only the uninitiated or foolish could believe that Facebook is an online lockbox of secrets.”
Ben Present, writing for the Legal Intelligencer, notes that this is the third Pennsylvania civil court to decide that a party’s Facebook page falls within the scope of discovery if posted information appears to contradict statements in discovery or testimony. Let’s hope that plaintiffs and attorneys will begin to think twice before crowding our courts with bogus claims- that’s something honest Pennsylvanians can ‘like.’
The best odds in Atlantic City may be in the Courtroom - not its casinos. The Press of Atlantic City reports that until very recently, the City paid out an average of $2.5 million annually in legal settlements.
“…a shocking number of the plaintiffs suing Atlantic City are current or former employees of the resort. It verges on sport, a local tradition as popular as strolling the Boardwalk.” - Press of Atlantic City, 11/20/11
NJLRA has underscored the amount of money the Atlantic City school district must budget each year for lawsuits in previous posts. But the Press of Atlantic City’s editorial in Sunday’s paper draws attention to the high price of slip-and-falls – for the city’s taxpayers.
“Former firefighter Ricky Williams settled a suit with the city after claiming he had been the subject of racist threats by his supervisor. The city then fired the supervisor, Capt. Edmund Mawhinney, who subsequently sued for wrongful termination and got a six-figure settlement.
It would almost be comical - if these lawsuits and settlements weren't taking money out of taxpayers' pockets.
Why is the city sued so often? Hard to say. The resort has a long history of not carefully following its own policies and procedures - that has certainly led to plenty of lawsuits from disgruntled employees.
And, of course, plenty of plaintiffs sue the city simply because it appears to work.”
One thing is for certain: wasting precious taxpayer dollars on excessive litigation in an era of budget cuts and economic downturn is no laughing matter- except, perhaps, to the lawyers and plaintiffs they represent.
Dateline NBC will be airing an interview this evening with Justine Winters, the Montana teenager who made headlines last year for killing a pregnant mom and her 13-year-old son during a failed suicide attempt. What Dateline does not mention in its teaser (as of now, at least) is that Winters later filed suit against the deceased mother’s estate for, among other things “lack of capacity to enjoy [her] life.”
Winters was driving at a speed of 86 miles per hour, not wearing a seatbelt, and texting her ex-boyfriend of her plans to crash her vehicle when she struck pregnant Erin Thompson and her son Caden.
“Crossing the Line” airs at 9 p.m. EST.
Unless you read about it here, of course.
If you purchased a $0.99 iTunes giftcard, you could make a 30% return on your investment.
Apparently iTunes raised the price of most of their songs from $0.99 to $1.29 in April 2009. In legalese, this means that if you purchased a $0.99 giftcard before May 2010 (and no, I don’t understand the point of a $0.99 giftcard, either), you may be entitled to a large cash credit of $3.25.
Attorneys William M. Audet, Jonas P. Mann, Audet & Partners, LLP were kind enough to file this class action lawsuit on your behalf. They are seeking a mere $2.1 million for their trouble. The named plaintiffs in the suit, Johnson v. Apple Inc., will receive a $2,500 return on their $0.99 investment.
While Apple maintains that it did nothing wrong, it seems that they’ve preferred to roll over and play dead rather than to risk an even greater financial loss: they are not contesting the $2,500 settlement for each named plaintiff, nor are they contesting the aforementioned attorneys’ fees. The class’s own attorneys state:
Apple denies all allegations in the Lawsuit and in the Owens Action, and has asserted many defenses. Apple is entering into this settlement to avoid burdensome and costly litigation. The settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing or an indication that any law was violated.
And yes, if you were one of the folks who used a $0.99 iTunes giftcard during this period, they are representing you as well (unless you choose to opt out of the settlement – which you must do before December 29th).
Finally, no greediness permitted: the fine print clearly states that you are entitled to one $3.25 credit, no matter how many giftcards you redeemed. Click here to enlarge and see for yourself:
Want to see New Jersey's unemployment rate drop by up to 2.3%?
Tort reform would bring a welcome infusion of cash and jobs into New Jersey’s struggling economy, according to a report issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform.
New Jersey could save as much as $1.7 billion if comprehensive tort reform is enacted, according to the study, which measured New Jersey’s tort activity index. A decrease in the state’s index would also yield between 35,000 and 94,000 new jobs, nudging the state’s unemployment rate down from 9.2% to 8.35% - 6.9%. Litigation costs would drop by as much as 21.5%.
“The correlation between tort reform and economic growth is evident,” said Marcus Rayner, executive director of the New Jersey Lawsuit Reform Alliance. “This study demonstrates that the economic growth New Jersey so desperately needs can be spurred with common-sense tort reform.
“$1.7 billion reinvested in our economy will help put people back to work and help New Jersey reclaim its economic footing. Civil justice reform is a way to capture the money we waste on lawyer’s fees and litigation costs – without raising taxes or cutting essential services.”
A state’s tort index is comprised of the number of tort claims filed annually, the frequency of major verdict awards, and the concentration of attorneys practicing in the state.
Statehouses across the country are grappling with budget deficits and declining revenue. We’ve all heard of successful programs meeting their demise due to an absence of funding. Crippling budgetary trade-offs being made to our educational system, law enforcement, and the like have become so commonplace that they barely raise eyebrows in disbelief.
What we’ve heard less about is the economic downturn’s impact on a key cornerstone in our democracy: justice.
Layoffs, furloughs, and unfilled judicial vacancies eventually leave their mark on our judicial system. The American Bar Association’s Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System found that civil cases have been the hardest hit by budget cuts. Typical civil cases include everything from child custody and divorce to employee compensation.
In the past few months, we’ve had a patron pursue a lawsuit against restaurant for injuries he sustained while driving his motorcycle drunk all the way up to the State Supreme Court; a lifeguard sue for age discrimination just before he retired; a patient who fell asleep while polishing a gun sue his doctor; and a woman who filed suit against ABC, claiming to be “severely damaged” after the station read the wrong winning lottery numbers.
These are the types of cases pushing back court dates for issues that matter. These are the types of cases being vetted when resources thin and demand for the court’s services grow. And yes, these all happened here in New Jersey.
“All of us must have and protect our right and our freedom to use courtrooms when we need to…That courtroom must be open to protect families…to validate and protect contracts for business...” said newly elected ABA President Wm. T. Robinson III at a symposium in Kentucky.
Spreading ever-thinning public funds around may be a new reality for the foreseeable future. But compromising access to justice is one sacrifice Americans shouldn’t have to make.
No matter what the trial lawyers tell you, filing a frivolous lawsuit isn’t a victimless crime.