200 posts categorized "Court Cases"

Thursday, April 03, 2014

State Bar Forum on Judicial Independence Long on Complaints, Short on Solutions

The New Jersey State Bar Association’s Task Force on Judicial Independence held the first of its four public hearings on April 1, 2014, at the New Jersey Law Center.  Though over 20 people testified at the three-hour hearing, few offered concrete suggestions for how the court system could be improved. The majority of the testimony focused on perceived problems with the system.

Continue reading "State Bar Forum on Judicial Independence Long on Complaints, Short on Solutions" »

Credit Card Receipt Spawns Class Action

“There was no foul. No one had a problem until a lawyer saw this and he filed a suit against us,” Friedman said. “But if we fight it, we’re not going to win.”


Continue reading "Credit Card Receipt Spawns Class Action" »

NJCJI Letter to the Editor: Fights on the Schoolyard Shouldn't be Solved in the Courtroom

The Star-Ledger editorial, "Bullying: If schools are liable, parents can be, too" (March 31), appropriately raised warnings about using courts to hold parents of child bullies liable, but I disagree with the conclusion that some good can come from the threat of litigation.


Continue reading "NJCJI Letter to the Editor: Fights on the Schoolyard Shouldn't be Solved in the Courtroom" »

Friday, March 21, 2014

NJCJI Files Brief in Malpractice Insurance Case

The New Jersey Civil Justice Institute has filed a motion to participate as amicus curiae in DeMarco v. Stoddard. The issue in the case is whether the rule for third party recovery that applies in the automobile context should be extended to medical malpractice absent statutory foundation, thereby requiring a malpractice insurer to underwrite a claim against a doctor who lied in order to get insurance coverage.

Continue reading "NJCJI Files Brief in Malpractice Insurance Case " »

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Top News Clips for the Week of March 8-14

A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of March 8-14, 2014.


Flushability of Wipes Spawns Class-Action Lawsuit

U-Jin Lee | ABC News

A New York doctor has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the makers of "flushable" wipes after experiencing what he claims were major plumbing and clogging issues in his home.

“The defendants should have known that their representations regarding flushable wipes were false and misleading,” the complaint states.

The lawsuit by Dr. Joseph Kurtz, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., cites Kimberly-Clark and Costco Wholesale corporations and seeks damages of at least $5 million.

Full Story.



An Elected Attorney General? Lawmaker Wants to Let Voters Choose, Not Christie

Matt Friedman | The Star-Ledger

Some now say the time has come to make New Jersey’s top law enforcement official more responsive to the public and less beholden to the governor, and one lawmaker has introduced a measure to do just that. The issue has taken on added urgency with the apparent decision by the Attorney General’s Office to stay out of the George Washington Bridge investigation, much to the annoyance of veteran prosecutors in the office.

Full Story.



Has Supreme Court lost its zeal to curb consumer class actions?

Alison Frankel | Reuters

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to grant review to two small Nebraska banks facing class action allegations that they failed to post stickers on ATM machines to alert users about add-on fees. That might not seem like a surprise, except that the certiorari petition by the banks’ counsel at Mayer Brown raised a question that the Supreme Court has previously struggled with: whether class action plaintiffs asserting federal laws that provide statutory damages have constitutional standing to sue even if they haven’t suffered any actual injury. The justices heard a different case posing the exact same question in 2011 in First American Financial v. Edwards, but didn’t resolve the issue because they dismissed the appeal on the last day of the term in June 2012. Class action opponents like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Washington Legal Foundation and the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals were hoping that the Nebraska banks’ case was a new chance to end litigation by uninjured plaintiffs whose small, individual statutory damages claims turn into a big nuisance when they’re accumulated in class actions.

Full Story. 



Can Panel Compel Kelly, Stepien to Release Bridgegate Emails?

Mark J. Magyar | NJ Spotlight

The future of the Legislature’s Bridgegate investigation is in the hands of a Superior Court judge who will decide whether Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien, the deputy chief of staff and campaign operative who are the only two staffers Gov. Chris Christie has fired, must turn over emails and other communications related to the infamous George Washington Bridge lane closures.

Full Story.



Family Feud Ends for NJ Teen Rachel Canning and her Parents

Ben Horowitz | The Star-Ledger

Rachel Canning, the 18-year-old who sued her parents for support after an escalating family squabble, returned home last night, an attorney for the couple said today.

Angelo Sarno, who represents the Cannings, would not say what sparked the reconciliation, but said the parents welcomed her back.

Full Story.



2013 Civil Justice Update: Recently Enacted State Reforms and Judicial Challenges

Andrew C. Cook | Federalist Society

The purpose of this paper is to provide a comprehensive national survey of both recent court decisions ruling on challenges to existing civil justice laws and the newly enacted civil justice reforms. This paper has two main parts: Part I describes state and federal court rulings in 2013 and Part II describes legislation passed during the year’s legislative session.

Full Story.



Chevron Case Shows Why We Must Police Lawsuit Fraud

Lisa A. Rickard | U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Terms like “racketeering,” “extortion,” “money laundering” and “wire fraud” are typically more associated with the Mafia than plaintiffs’ lawyers. But in a landmark ruling last week, a New York federal judge used these terms to describe conduct by a lawyer.

Full Story.


Thursday, March 06, 2014

Court Considers Changes to Securities 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.


Continue reading "Court Considers Changes to Securities Class Actions" »

State Collects Over $300 Million in Settlements in 2013

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.


Continue reading "State Collects Over $300 Million in Settlements in 2013" »

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Kids These Days

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.


Continue reading "Kids These Days" »

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ending the Shareholder Lawsuit Gravy Train

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.”

Full Story.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Top News Clips for the Week of Feb. 15-21

A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of February 15-21, 2014.

Continue reading "Top News Clips for the Week of Feb. 15-21" »

Parlaying the Courts

Filling a lawsuit is always a gamble since the odds are never certain, but for these litigants what’s at stake is gambling.


Continue reading "Parlaying the Courts " »

Class Action Update

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.

Continue reading "Class Action Update" »

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ridiculous Lawsuits

I can hear the television commercial now: “Did you suffer emotional damage when Michael Jackson died? You may be eligible for compensation.”

Continue reading "Ridiculous Lawsuits" »

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Top News Clips for the Week of Feb. 1-7

A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of February 1-7, 2014.

Continue reading "Top News Clips for the Week of Feb. 1-7" »

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 25-31

A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of January 25-31, 2014.


Opinion: Background Checks - ‘Ban the Box’ is Not the Answer

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.

Full Story.


Continue reading "Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 25-31" »

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 18-24

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.

Full Story.

Continue reading "Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 18-24" »

Friday, January 17, 2014

Court Exposes Abuse by Plaintiff Attorneys in Bankruptcy Trust Litigation

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.


Top News Clips for the Week of Jan. 13-17


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.

Full Story.


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.

Full Story.


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.

Full Story.


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.

Full Story.


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.

Full Story.


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.

Full Story.


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.

Full Story.


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.

Full Story.


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.

Full Story.


BP Appeal to Stop 'Fictitious' U.S. Oil Spill Claims Fails

By Reuters

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.

Full Story.


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.

Full Story.

Friday, November 22, 2013

When we wish you a happy, safe and lawsuit-free Thanksgiving... we mean it!

TurkeyIf 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. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Spilling hot coffee gets hotter

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. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

"Is 'personal embarrassment' really grounds for a lawsuit? Because I'd be a very wealthy woman..."

..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:


After taking a year and a half to mull it over, Willie Amendola, father of Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola, is seeking $ 1 million in damages for the "great personal embarrassment" he suffered.

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. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Roche forges ahead to replace judge for bias

A few months ago, Roche took the unprecedented step of asking Judge Carol Higbee, who presides over Accutane litigation in Atlantic County, NJ, to recuse herself for bias (Read Roche’s documentation here). 

Unsurprisingly, Judge Higbee rejected the motion. 

Roche has now escalated its efforts to remove her, filing an appeal motion

Read More.    

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Subway is the latest example of why NJ's Consumer Fraud Act needs fixing

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. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

A-3282 Passes Assembly Health Committee with Bipartisan Support

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.   

Click here for Assemblyman Conaway's statement.  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Bad faith bill reintroduced

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. 

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

The pot brownie lawsuit

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. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

When a child drinks cologne, by all means, sue the doctor...

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.     

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Seeing Red All Over

Coppertone sensitive skinWhen 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:

  • 3 postage stamps;
  • 1/3 of a latte;
  • One-way bus fare in Los Angeles

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. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Baseball Lawsuit

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.


1 Hour Ago



You forgot the shirt maker for not making it out of a material that would deflect a ball...LOL 


Wednesday, August 01, 2012

NJ Supreme Court Says ‘No’ – Why Pet Owners' ‘Emotional Distress’ Doesn’t Hold up in Court

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

Friday, July 27, 2012

Rayner on Aurora Massacre: Don’t blame Warner Brothers

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/#

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

TMZ: First Lawsuit Over James Holmes Massacre. Lawyer says "Somebody has to be responsible for the rampant violence that is shown today."

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.    

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The difference is, charging excessive fees is fair when WE do it…

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. 

And yes, a new ‘swipe fee’ may be in order for consumers as a result of the settlement. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How will SCOTUS Obamacare decision affect NJ? Read NJCJI’s op-ed in the Star-Ledger to find out


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.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Thanks for saving my life. That’ll cost you $5 million.

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. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Until further notice, the halls of justice will be closed

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.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A win for common sense

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.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

NJ Needs Class Action Reform - Support A894 in AJU Committee on Monday!

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

Committee members:

Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes, III (D18), Chair 

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D20), Vice Chair  

Assemblyman Ralph R. Caputo (D28) 

Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson (D37) 

Assemblyman John F. McKeon (D27) 

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R25) 

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R39) 

New Jersey Needs Class Action Reform. Support A-894

Monday, May 14, 2012

A driver reads a text and causes a serious accident. But it might be the sender’s fault.

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. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Insanity, behold the courts!

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. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cuts to the courts make their way into our homes

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. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Budget Break 2012. What’s a New Jersey Tort Reformer to do?

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 NJCJI’s Membership Luncheon, featuring Assembly Majority Leader Lou GreenwaldAssemblyman 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 NJCJI 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 registerDirections 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 NJCJI.  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

Monday, March 05, 2012

Unnamed Trenton Bar is the latest New Jersey establishment to be sued for a patron’s intoxication

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.

Monday, February 27, 2012

NJLRA Statement on NJ Supreme Court Decision in Kendall v. Roche


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. 



AnnMarie McDonald



# # #

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.

Read NJLRA’s letter-to-the-editor in the Times of Trenton


Advocating for traffic changes might be more helpful 

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).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A dirty secret the Kiddie Kollege nightmare left behind

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. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bergen County pharmacy settlement in the running for U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Ridiculous Lawsuit

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?

Friday, December 23, 2011

NJLRA Statement on $4.1 Million Settlement Awarded to Man Who Overdosed on Stolen Drug

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. 

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Lame Duck Season is upon us

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

Faking a disability? Don’t post it on Facebook.

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.’