May 2005

Welcome to the new Sick of Lawsuits Update! Just as we recently redesigned our Web site, the new Sick of Lawsuits Update will provide supporters with easy access to the latest civil justice reform headlines, local activities to fight lawsuit abuse and ways that you can take action.

Stop Lawyer Advertising Free-For-All

"In one of the world's great ironies, personal injury lawyers rush to sue other industries over claims of false or misleading advertising, or ads that fail to provide adequate warnings. At the same time, the lawyers don't hold themselves to the same standards in their own advertisements. Nowhere is this more evident than in ads 'warning' people about various medications such 'trolling for clients' ads are misleading and often have devastating side effects . In recent surveys conducted by Charlton Research for the grass root group Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, three of every four respondents said they believe personal injury lawyer ads encourage people to sue even if they have not been injured, and that personal injury lawyers are more interested in making money than helping patients . We may not be able to fix all the problems at once, but we can take steps to curb lawsuit abuse, starting with irresponsible personal injury advertisements." Commentary by Dr. David Priver, Provo Daily Herald, May 12, 2005

Questionable Texas Case Raises Eyes in New York

"A federal grand jury has been convened in Manhattan to consider possible criminal charges arising out of civil litigation over exposure to silica and asbestos, according to lawyers involved in the civil cases. The grand jury has subpoenaed documents from at least one of the companies that screened people who later claimed they had suffered injuries as a result of exposure to silica . The federal investigation comes amid questions about some silica-related claims that emerged in federal court proceedings in Corpus Christi, Tex. Several doctors testified there that they had diagnosed silicosis in patients they had never met or interviewed. Some of the doctors had made diagnoses of asbestos-related disease in claimants at one time, then silicosis in the same claimants at a later time - with no mention of what happened to the earlier illness." New York Times, May 18, 2005

Fen-Phen Fraud Continues

"A person who recruited Fen-Phen clients on behalf of a Jackson law firm is cooperating with an ongoing federal investigation that has resulted in convictions of a dozen people who falsely said they were harmed by the diet drug . [Gregory P.] Warren recruited plaintiffs on behalf of the law firm [Schwartz & Associates of Jackson] even if the plaintiff had never taken the drug, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Jackson . Warren also is accused of failing to report on his tax return nearly $200,000 he was paid by attorneys in 2000 for recruiting Fen-Phen plaintiffs . [Florine] Wyatt is accused of submitting a false claim that one of her family members had used Fen-Phen . The family member netted $10,070, according to the U.S. attorney's office . Eldridge said the arrests of Warren and Wyatt signal the second wave of arrests is on the way into false Fen-Phen claims. Last year, 12 Fayette residents were charged in a joint FBI/IRS investigation into false claims to take part in a $400 million settlement for those who suffered injuries from taking the diet drug." The Clarion-Ledger, May 4, 2005

Texas passed asbestos and silica litigation reform this month. The law establishes medical criteria for all pending and future asbestos claims, speeds up trials for the most seriously ill and assures them adequate compensation, cuts down on uninjured plaintiffs filing suit by requiring asbestos cases to be tried individually, and shuts down the mass screening operations that have misdiagnosed tens of thousands of claims. (Houston Chronicle, May 19, 2005)

In a final push before ending their legislative session, the Florida legislature also passed asbestos and silica litigation reform. The bill creates medical criteria for filing claims and helps to stop personal injury lawyers from "shopping" for favorable courts to file their claims. (The Associated Press, May 6, 2005)

The Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse group launched its campaign to challenge irresponsible personal injury lawyer advertising this month with a press conference at a local hospital. Sick of Lawsuits spokesperson Dr. Evelyn Tobias Merrill was interviewed by three local broadcast media outlets, NBC, ABC and Telemundo, about how personal injury lawyer advertising can scare patients and harm consumers. The press conference and results of their survey on personal injury lawyer advertising were covered in a May 13 article in the Corpus Christi Caller Times. Read the full story.

Sick of held its second Web chat this month in its "On-Call" Web chat series. Dr. Paul Offit joined Sick of Lawsuits supporters on May 17 to discuss the impact of lawsuit abuse on vaccine production in the U.S. Read the full transcript of the Web chat.


The Stats

40: Percentage of personal injury lawyer television advertising in West Virginia over the past year that focused on prescription drug and health care litigation. (TNS Media Intelligence, March 2005)

$18 million: Estimated amount Merck could have to pay in Vioxx litigation cases. (The Associated Press, May 24, 2005)

4 in 5: Number of Texans surveyed who are concerned that frivolous lawsuits have made it harder for them and their families to get affordable health care. (Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse, Conducted by Braun Research, April 2005)

60: Number of obstetricians who have left the District of Columbia over the past two years due to the city's medical liability crisis. (The Washington Times, May 14, 2005)

Take Action

Act Now to Stop Dangerous and Irresponsible Personal Injury Lawyer Advertising!

Personal injury lawyer advertisements often use misleading, inflammatory and baseless claims that can confuse consumers and scare them into thinking they have been harmed.

Send a letter urging the Federal Trade Commission to pursue stricter guidelines on personal injury lawyer advertising.