August 2005

"Our litigation system tends to do a poor job of compensating most people who are hurt by drug side effects. It enriches lawyers a lot and leads to lots of abuses of the legal system. Lawyers lump plaintiffs who may be sick from the drug with people whose sickness is not linked to the drug in question. That's tantamount to fraud."

Jim Copland, head of the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute,
Investor's Business Daily, August 1, 2005

Mercky Science Overlooked in Vioxx Case

"A Texas jury hit Merck with a symbolically staggering $253.5 million judgment (it will be reduced to $26.1 million under a Texas law capping punitive damages) even though the evidence that Vioxx actually caused the victim's death was extremely thin …. A coroner had listed the cause of death as arrhythmia and Vioxx has never been linked to arrhythmias, so many experts considered the case against Merck quite weak. Even so, the jury bought the speculative theory put forth by the plaintiff's lawyer …. [T]his case was less about science than about punishing Merck for what jurors considered an egregious history of covering up evidence of risk while promoting the drug so heavily to consumers." Editorial, New York Times, June 23, 2005
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Trading a Jaguar for a Jail Cell

"A federal judge has sentenced a key figure in the fen-phen diet drug fraud case to 31 months in prison. Eva Johnson, 55, was the last of 12 Fayette residents charged last year in the IRS/FBI fraud investigation, to be sentenced …. U.S. District Judge William H. Barbour Jr. said Johnson could sell the Jaguar she purchased with her settlement money to pay some of the $750,000 she must pay in restitution …. Johnson had a prescription for the drug, but allowed others to use it to make fraudulent claims, prosecutors said. She created false prescriptions for relatives and used settlement money to buy a new Jaguar, according to an affidavit." The Associated Press, August 2, 2005
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Exposing Junk Science

"Silicone breast implants (SBIs) just moved a step closer to federal regulators' approval. That's bad news for personal injury lawyers involved in implant litigation. And they appear to be getting pretty desperate …. Personal injury lawyers well understand FDA approval of SBIs would finally expose their multibillion-dollar litigation against previous SBI manufacturers as nothing more than junk science-fueled, highway robbery." Commentary by Steven Milloy, The Washington Times, August 21, 2005
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The U.S House of Representatives approved the Help Efficient, Accessible, Low-cost Timely Healthcare Act of 2005 in late July. The bill would enact reasonable limits on pain and suffering awards in medical malpractice lawsuits and in lawsuits against drug makers who follow FDA regulations.

Illinois' Governor Rod Blagojevich recently signed into law a measure that limits pain and suffering damages in court cases to $500,000 against doctors and $1 million against hospitals. The new law also allows the state to investigate malpractice complaints and punish doctors for repeated negligence.

Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch has been on the road and on the airwaves promoting the launch of a new Sick of Lawsuits television ad. Dubbed "The Game," the ad depicts a fictitious personal injury lawyer as a game show contestant spinning a "prize" wheel in hopes of striking it rich. Among prize options are "File Junk Lawsuits Against Doctors," "Run Ads That Scare Patients," and "Rake in Millions." The ad will be airing in Rockford, Quincy, the Quad Cities, Peoria and the south and southwest suburbs of Chicago in the coming weeks. Executive Director David Knowles was interviewed by several local radio and television stations, and featured in a Rockford Register Star article.
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Texas' Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse also launched its version of "The Game" television ad in August. Earlier in the month, the group hosted former presidential adviser and current undersecretary of state Karen Hughes at its annual banquet. The event was covered by several print and broadcast news outlets, including the Corpus Christi Caller Times.


The Stats

56: Number of personal injury lawsuits filed in the Judicial Hellhole® of Jefferson County, Texas per 10,000 residents in 2003 - more than three times the statewide total of 17. "The Making of a Judicial Hellhole," American Tort Reform Association, August 9, 2005

$18 billion: Estimated amount Merck could pay on Vioxx-related lawsuits - a number that is more than five times the company's average annual R&D budget for the last three years. Investor's Business Daily, August 1, 2005

80: Percentage decrease of tort trials in federal courts over the past two decades. The Associated Press, August 17, 2005

90: Percentage of federal tort lawsuits that involved personal injury claims in 2003. On average, $201,000 was awarded in these claims. The Associated Press, August 17, 2005

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