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Sick of Lawsuits Update
November 2007

"For Pennsylvania physicians practicing in six high-risk specialties, defensive medicine is the rule, rather than the exception. The practice is just one more factor adding to the high cost of delivering health care. Any health-care reform debate must also take a serious look at the need for lawsuit abuse reform, beginning with ensuring that defendants in medical malpractice cases -- and all civil liability cases for that matter -- are held responsible more proportionately to their actual degree of fault."

Brian Kelly, Director of Government Affairs at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry regarding the importance of electing government officials who will embrace the need for civil justice reforms within the healthcare debate.
The Patriot-News, October 29, 2007.

In the News

Temperature drops in 'judicial hell'

“The temperature in "judicial hell" dropped considerably last week, thanks to the Alabama Supreme Court's decision to throw out an absurdly punitive damage award against ExxonMobil. In a resounding 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court tossed out more than $3.5 billion in punitive damages the state was awarded in a dispute over royalties from natural gas drilling in waters off Mobile County. The court also reduced the compensatory damages in the case, leaving the state with about $52 million out of its original mind-boggling haul of almost $12 billion. The ruling was a victory for tort reformers as well as ExxonMobil. Alabama solidified its reputation as a hellhole of civil injustice in 2003, when a Montgomery jury whopped the oil industry giant with $11.8 billion in punitive damages. Still, it was the largest punitive damage award in the nation that year -- and perhaps the worst-ever example of Alabama's populist approach to punishing "big bidness" and enriching trial lawyers. During the 1990s, tort reformers fought to clean up the state's civil justice system, which had earned a reputation as a backward place where businesses could be waylaid by jackpot-seeking plaintiffs and lawyers.”  The Press Register, November 6, 2007. Read More »

CSX Lawyers Says They Cannot Find Key Witness in Asbestos Case

“Lawyers for the CSX Transportation Corporation, which is fighting costly asbestos claims, say they have been unable to find a crucial witness in a case, a doctor whom they accuse of fabricating scores of medical evaluations. The doctor, Ray A. Harron, a semi-retired radiologist from Bridgeport, W.Va., has evaluated X-rays and written medical reports for more than 88,000 people who are seeking compensation for asbestos-related lung injuries. Dr. Harron, who charged $125 for each asbestos report, probably earned millions of dollars for his work, which in the past he has defended as proper. The amended complaint of CSX, filed in United States District Court in Wheeling, W.Va., accused Dr. Harron of working with a Pittsburgh law firm, Peirce, Raimond & Coulter, to fraudulently manufacture claims that CSX caused asbestosis, an often fatal illness, for scores of current and former employees.” The New York Times, November 7, 2007.  Read More »

Lawyer who sued wrong physician won't pay up

“A Mississippi plaintiff lawyer sued the wrong physician in a medical liability case, but the doctor says he's the one paying the price. Court documents show that Lawrence E. Stewart, MD, a McComb, Miss., otolaryngologist, was confused with his deceased father, Edsel F. Stewart, MD. His father was an obstetrician/gynecologist who practiced in the same town. He died in 1999. Stewart spent the next year defending himself because plaintiff attorney Charles E. Gibson III of Ridgeland, Miss., failed to drop him from the case voluntarily. Because Dr. Stewart's medical liability insurance policy had a $10,000 deductible, he was forced to pay $6,100 of his own money to cover the cost of dismissing himself from the suit. He won a preliminary victory in 2004, when the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi granted his request and ordered Gibson to pay his legal fees. Gibson, who did not return calls for comment, is appealing the award to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.” American Medical News, October 29, 2007. Read More »

A Bride Sues Her Florist Over Pastel Hydrangeas

“The wedding bouquet has barely faded and already an Upper East Side bride has regrets — not because she married, but because of the flowers.  The bride, Elana Glatt, says her florist committed a series of faux pas at her wedding on Aug. 11. In the most ‘egregious,’ Ms. Glatt says in a lawsuit alleging breach of contract, the florist substituted pastel pink and green hydrangeas for the dark rust and green hydrangeas she had specified for 22 centerpieces. The florist, Stamos Arakas, owns Posy Floral Design at 145 East 72nd Street. He said that he and his wife, Paula, had done their best to match the color of the hydrangeas with a picture Ms. Glatt had given them, but explained to her that because of the vagaries of nature and the lighting at the reception, the colors might not look exactly the same. [...] “My father used to tell me, ‘Don’t deal with lawyers,’” Mr. Arakas said. “Maybe he was right, God bless his soul.” The New York Times, October 16, 2007. Read More »

Recent Sick of Lawsuits Activities

Sick of Lawsuits and the Parent Bloggers Network ran a “Wacky Warning Label” contest for member bloggers to post pictures of the most ridiculous warning labels on their blogs.  Judged by Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, the grand prize was awarded to a blogger who entered a warning label on a chainsaw reading, “Danger: do not hold the wrong end of the chainsaw.” Other entries included a label warning not to eat a rocking chair, and a pesticide can warning “Do not use on humans. The contest called attention the way lawsuit abuse has spurred companies to warn consumers about common sense practices.  “The growing number of frivolous lawsuits has prompted manufacturers to cover all their bases where it comes to warning labels on products,” said the Parent Bloggers Network. “These labels may be funny, but lawsuit abuse costs all of us money. Let’s bring common sense back.” Read More »

Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch Executive Director Travis Akin authored a Halloween-themed op-ed titled “Different name, same scary agenda” discussing the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s name change.  The piece highlighted some of the more “frightening” lawsuits in the state and reminded citizens of the “junk lawsuit horror show” playing in Illinois’ courts. The op-ed ran in the Southern Illinoisan, the Madison County Record, the Clay County Advocate, the Randolph County Herald Tribune and the Steeleville Ledger.  Read More »

West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse launched the WVClosedforBusiness.com website, which emphasizes the fact that, contrary to the claims of Governor Manchin’s recent state slogan, “Open for Business,” the state’s litigious environment does not welcome business investment.   Read More »

$474 Million: The annual amount New York City paid for claims against it in fiscal year 2006.  The majority of that money went to resolve medical malpractice cases at municipal hospitals. The New York Post, August 24, 2007.

11: The number of times in less than 3 years that West Virginia businesses have cut more than 100 jobs at a time.  Since June of 2006, West Virginia has seen 1,500 manufacturing jobs disappear from 147 firms that shut down operations in West Virginia, largely due to the litigious environment.  West Virginia Record, October 15, 2007.

$737.37 Billion: The annual social cost of tort litigation in the United States.  This is the equivalent of the combined annual output of six New England States: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Pacific Research Institute, “Jackpot Justice: The True Cost of America’s Tort System,” March 26, 2007.


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