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Sick of Lawsuits Update
December 2007

"The practice [of judges donating leftover class-action settlement money to the charities of their choice] is getting out of hand. It gives rise to this unbelievable world that I was shocked to learn about, and I'm not easily shocked in litigation. Charities hire lawyers to go lobby the judge for the extra money. It is an invitation to wild corruption of the judicial process."

Samuel Issacharoff, a law professor at New York University, The New York Times, November 26, 2007.

In the News

Setting the Bar for Corruption

"John Edwards launched his slight public career -- one Senate term, two presidential candidacies -- with the money and reputation he made as a trial lawyer. Today he is the candidate of a small fraction of the electorate but a sizable portion of America's trial lawyers. Edwards says Washington is "corrupt." Well. Within Edwards's lucrative trial bar constituency, there has been a flurry of criminal indictments. Their target has been what Fortune magazine calls the law firm of Hubris Hypocrisy and Greed. (See Peter Elkind's jaw-dropping report in the issue of Nov. 13, 2006.) The real name of the nation's foremost securities class-action firm is Milberg Weiss. [...] Until Lerach pleaded guilty, he was a fundraiser for Edwards, for whom he collected $64,000 from lawyers in the firm he founded after he had a falling-out with Weiss. Remember this when next you hear Edwards's populist riff about trial lawyers as white knights protecting little people. The Washington Post, November 18, 2007. READ MORE »

Doling Out Other People's Money

"A couple of years ago, Judge Harold Baer Jr. found himself with $6 million of unclaimed money from the settlement of an antitrust class-action lawsuit. The case had involved fashion models, so he decided to give the extra money to charities likely to assist them. After interviewing a parade of applicants over two days, Judge Baer, a federal judge in New York, gave $1 million to an eating disorder program, $500,000 to a substance abuse program, and so on. Judges all over the country have gotten into the business of doling out leftover class-action settlement money, sometimes to organizations only tangentially related to the subject of the lawsuit. Hospitals are popular, as are law schools and legal aid societies. The practice is getting out of hand, said Samuel Issacharoff, a law professor at New York University. 'It gives rise to this unbelievable world that I was shocked to learn about, and I'm not easily shocked in litigation,' Professor Issacharoff said. 'Charities hire lawyers to go lobby the judge for the extra money.' Judges are turning into grant administrators, and some of them are starting to enjoy it. Who wouldn't? But the new judicial role does not fit well with the old one. 'It is,' Professor Issacharoff said, 'an invitation to wild corruption of the judicial process.'" The New York Times, November 26, 2007. READ MORE »

Tort reform the right cure for Texas' doctor shortage

"Basic economics teaches that imposing higher costs and burdensome regulations on businesses leads to fewer businesses and higher costs for consumers. The opposite is also true: Lower costs and fewer restrictions in a marketplace will lead to more market participants, greater supply, and lower prices for consumers. Texas' medical malpractice insurance industry provides a clear example of this principle. In the spring of 2003, the Texas Legislature passed medical liability reforms, subsequently approved by Texans via constitutional amendment. Prior to the reforms, Texas presented a hostile climate for medical practitioners. Frequent lawsuits against physicians and hospitals and escalating jury awards to plaintiffs drove doctors and insurers from the state, leading to physician shortages and higher costs for both doctors and patients. Frivolous medical malpractice lawsuits were rampant. Even though 85 percent of these suits failed, doctors paid tens of thousands of dollars to defend against them. This, of course, was bad for patients, as increased litigation means less time and money on actual patient care." The Houston Chronicle, November 23, 2007. READ MORE »

Recent Sick of Lawsuits Activities

Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch Executive Director Travis Akin authored an op-ed in response to a judge's ruling that overturned a 2005 law placing caps on medical malpractice awards. In the piece, entitled "Christmas Comes Early for Trial Lawyers," Akin observed that the 2005 law was "a real solution to the real problem of doctors leaving Illinois" and has been compromised by the "Santa Claus Cook County" courts. The op-ed ran in the Springfield State Journal-Register, Belleville News-Democrat, Southern Illinoisan, Champaign News Gazette, Newton Press Mentor, Moline Dispatch and the Murphysboro American. Akin also appeared in stories related to the case statewide, including an Associated Press article that appeared in Forbes and The Northwest Herald. READ MORE »

West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse observed Thanksgiving by highlighting a list of the "biggest turkeys" of lawsuit abuse in West Virginia Courts this year. The news release was covered in the West Virginia Record and WV CALA Executive Director Steve Cohen was a featured guest to discuss the "turkeys" on the Viewpoint with Jean Dean radio show, WRVC Huntington on November 20. READ MORE »

14,678: The Number of personal-injury claims filed against New York City in fiscal year 2006. The New York Post, August 24, 2007.

$458.5 Million: The amount New York City paid for claims against it in 2006 for medical malpractice, sidewalk falls, car accidents, police incidents, schools and shoddy roadways. The New York Post, August 24, 2007.

$55.5 Million: The amount New York City paid for sidewalk slip and fall lawsuit claims in 2006. The New York Post, August 24, 2007.

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