New York’s Medical Liability Crisis

Crain’s: Litigation Financing’s Dark Side: Vulture Capitalism

Crain’s New York Business has published a letter from LRANY’s Adam Morey that unveils the dark side of litigation financing.

An excerpt:

Law firms may be celebrating the rise of third party lawsuit financing (“Great equalizer coming to New York law,” op-ed), but outside of the commercial realm, the practice has a more troubling dark side: Consumer lawsuit loans take advantage of those who have already been injured.

Just this year New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed a complaint against a consumer litigation financing firm for cheating 9/11 first responders and brain-injured NFL players out of settlement funds. Another lender is currently being sued in Georgia federal court for allegedly charging interest rates over 100%, which would violate lending laws there. Because New York has no consumer protection laws subjecting lawsuit loans to rate caps, the lawsuit cash-advance industry charges unconscionably high interest rates and speculates on lawsuits. It’s vulture capitalism for the legal system.”

Read Full Letter Here

TRUCKING ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK JOINS FIGHT TO FIX THE SCAFFOLD LAW

TRUCKING ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK JOINS FIGHT TO FIX THE SCAFFOLD LAW

Expansive court decisions attract new members to the Scaffold Law Reform Coalition

ALBANY – The Trucking Association of New York (TANY) is the latest advocacy organization to join the coalition in support of A.5624, a bill introduced by Assemblymember John McDonald (D-Cohoes) aimed at updating the Scaffold Law’s strict liability rules.

“It is truly shocking that personal injury lawyers have convinced judges that a law meant to enumerate protections for construction workers on skyscrapers should be applied to someone who lost their footing on a flatbed truck,” said Kendra Hems, President of TANY, “Assemblyman McDonald’s bill is a no-brainer that will update the Scaffold Law’s burdensome liability rules, and make it less of a magnet for over-zealous lawyers looking to cash in on lawsuits.”

Introduced last month to the Assembly Judiciary Committee, Assemblyman McDonald’s bill applies New York’s existing negligence standards to lawsuits brought under the Scaffold Law. Judges currently apply “absolute liability” to these filings, a standard unique to the Scaffold Law, which faults only the property owner and contractor for worksite injuries, even if those parties had nothing to do with the accident.

“Most importantly,” the bill’s justification memo concludes, the proposed reform “would not weaken the law’s safety provisions.”

Last month, Habitat for Humanity sent a letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie calling the Scaffold Law’s impact on construction insurance “one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to affordable housing and disaster relief.”

Scaffold Law reform is supported by a diverse coalition including the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, Business Council of New York State, the New York Conference of Mayors, New York State Farm Bureau, Associated General Contractors, Unshackle Upstate, National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Manufacturers Association, New York State School Boards Association, and chambers of commerce across the state.

–###–

The Auburn Citizen — Legal Costs Hurt N.Y. Municipalities

By: Adam Morey

“As state budget season comes to a close in New York, the editors of the Auburn Citizen correctly observe that debate on many issues is hidden from public view (“Don’t shut public out of New York state budget,” Mar. 29). All too often, common sense proposals get amended or left behind without any public discussion.

This year, Governor Cuomo’s executive budget proposed much-needed relief for municipalities in the form of a reduction in the interest rate on legal settlements and judgments. Current New York law requires defendants — including taxpayer-funded entities such as cities and transportation authorities — to pay a 9 percent interest rate on expected payouts while a ruling is appealed.

The governor suggested a simple solution to ease this burden: match the interest rate on judgments to the federal rate, which remains below 2 percent. And this move couldn’t come at a better time. Last year, Governing Magazine reported that New York City pays out more in legal costs than the next 19 cities surveyed combined.”

Read Full Letter 

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY URGES NEW YORK LAWMAKERS TO FIX THE SCAFFOLD LAW

 

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY URGES NEW YORK LAWMAKERS TO FIX THE SCAFFOLD LAW

State chapter president points to Scaffold Law as obstacle to Superstorm Sandy recovery, affordable housing

ALBANY – Calling the Scaffold law “one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to affordable housing and disaster relief,” the president of Habitat for Humanity of New York State sent a letter to Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders urging them to support A.5624, a bill introduced by Assemblymember John McDonald (D-Cohoes) aimed at modernizing the law’s controversial liability rules.

The letter addressed to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Assembly Judiciary Committee Chair Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn), as well as the Executive Chamber and Senate coalition leaders, states that the Scaffold Law’s impact on construction insurance premiums jeopardized Habitat for Humanity’s efforts to rebuild following Superstorm Sandy.

“Due to the Scaffold Law’s ‘absolute liability’ standard, no insurer would write the policy to cover our volunteers,” wrote Judith Nelson, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of New York State, “We urge you to consider changing these archaic laws and assist affordable housing providers with more viable and economical solutions to the housing needs of New York families.”

Introduced last month to be considered by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, bill A.5624 applies New York’s existing negligence standards to lawsuits brought under the only-in-New York Scaffold Law. Judges currently apply “absolute liability” to these filings, a standard unique to the Scaffold Law, which faults only the property owner and contractor for worksite accidents, regardless of the contributing conduct of the employee.

“Most importantly,” the bill’s justification memo concludes, the proposed reform “would not weaken the law’s safety provisions.”

Scaffold Law reform is supported by a diverse coalition including the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, New York State School Boards Association, New York State Farm Bureau, Business Council of New York State, the New York Conference of Mayors, Associated General Contractors, Unshackle Upstate, National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Manufacturers Association, and chambers of commerce across the state.

 

–###–

OP-ED: FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, LRANY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR CALL ON NEW YORK LAWMAKERS TO REGULATE LAWSUIT CASH ADVANCES

OP-ED: FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL, LRANY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR CALL ON NEW YORK LAWMAKERS TO REGULATE LAWSUIT CASH ADVANCES

Lack of protections allowed legal funding firm to take advantage of 9/11 heroes, brain-injured NFL players

Unchecked lawsuit lending is a “stain” on New York’s reputation

ALBANY, NY – An op-ed by former Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker and Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) Executive Director Tom Stebbins published in today’s Times Union highlights the necessity for both houses of the New York State Legislature to pass consumer protection legislation that would cap interest rates on lawsuit cash advances.

Baker and Stebbins say an action filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office in February against a legal funding group that scammed 9/11 first responders and former NFL players out of lawsuit settlement funds should be a “wake up call” for legislators.

“New York lawmakers cannot let this practice continue,” wrote Baker and Stebbins, “Last year, the New York State Senate unanimously passed a bill subjecting lawsuit loans to existing consumer lending protections, and existing caps on interest rates…The New York State Assembly should follow Attorney General Schneiderman’s lead, regulate lawsuit loans, and ensure that injured New Yorkers are not victimized again.”

Baker and Stebbins are members of the advisory board of Progressive Policy Institute’s Center for Civil Justice.

Read the op-ed in its entirety below and HERE

View the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York’s explainer video on the issue HERE

–###–

Protect consumers from cash advance companies, too

By Thurbert Baker and Tom Stebbins

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman last month filed a complaint against a lawsuit cash advance firm for allegedly engaging in predatory lending practices. RD Legal Funding stands accused of shamefully taking advantage of 9/11 first responders and brain-injured NFL players by offering high interest advances on expected payouts from legal settlements.

Schneiderman’s filing should be wake-up call to lawmakers in Albany. To ensure more New Yorkers do not fall victim, New York desperately needs to pass legislation to apply existing consumer protection laws to these cash advance companies.

The fact is, “crash cash” lawsuit lenders have operated in the shadows, outside the purview of New York’s consumer lending laws, for too long. These lenders skirt consumer protections by calling their products “investments” rather than “loans,” and this allows them to charge annual interest rates that would make a loan shark blush. The lawsuit cash advance industry should play by the same rules as every other company that lends money.

You may have seen the late-night ads promising “quick cash” for your lawsuit. These ads are careful never to say the word “loan,” so the lenders may continue their farce and sidestep New York law. These fast-cash offers take advantage of the most vulnerable consumers — people who have already been injured.

Take the case of Joseph Gill, a Brooklyn resident who borrowed $4,000 for medical bills while his lawsuit arising from alleged police brutality was in court. By the time the case settled five years later, Joseph owed $116,000 on his loan.

Or the situation highlighted in the complaint by the attorney general: a first responder on the ground on 9/11 was advanced $18,000 while she waited for her settlement. After six months, she owed $33,000 — an outrageous 83 percent increase in less than a year.

New York lawmakers cannot let this practice continue. New York is the financial capital of the world, and the unchecked practice of lawsuit lending is a stain on the state’s position as a steward of the world’s finances. It is an industry that thrives on the victims who are most in need of assistance. States across the country have subjected these predatory loans to existing lending laws, and New York should do the same.

Last year, the state Senate unanimously passed a bill subjecting lawsuit loans to existing consumer lending protections, and existing caps on interest rates. In a stunning illustration of rarely seen bipartisanship, senators on both sides of the aisle came together to close the lawsuit lending loophole. Unfortunately, the Assembly failed to pass the bill, and so another year has gone by and New Yorkers continue to be victimized by this practice.

The Assembly should follow Schneiderman’s lead, regulate lawsuit loans, and ensure that injured New Yorkers are not victimized again.

Thurbert Baker and Tom Stebbins serve on the advisory board of the Progressive Policy Institute’s Center for Civil Justice. Baker is a former Georgia attorney general. Stebbins is the executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.

Ireland’s Trespasser Liability Rules a Lesson for New York

By: Adam Morey

In most jurisdictions, including almost all U.S. states, a property owner is not liable to a trespasser — or an uninvited guest — except in a few specific situations. Unfortunately, New York is not one of those states. So, according to state law, if a hiker is strolling through farmland without permission, and ends up injured through no fault of the landowner, the farmer can still be sued for that accident.

I was reminded of New York’s outlier status when it comes to trespasser liability while flipping through a recent issue of The Week. The publication notes an editorial by Irish Times columnist John O’Dwyer who laments that litigation may ruin his walks through the “sublime Irish countryside.” Indeed, from Galway to Dublin, Ireland’s natural features are an important draw for tourists and locals alike. That is, until last year when the trails through the country’s gorgeous landscape became “blossomed with ‘no access’ signs.”

Teresa Wall won a lawsuit against a property owner after she tripped while hiking Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains. And while a high court reversed that judgement, saying that the plaintiff was not paying attention, landowners are not encouraged. As O’Dwyer notes, if they can end up on the hook for injuries, property owners might “now abstain from improving trails” for fear that such work could be considered evidence against them. To ensure that the courts avoid placing unnecessary liability on landowners, he believes Irish lawmakers should tighten up the country’s statute governing trespasser liability. New York’s elected officials would be wise to follow suit.

New York Post: NYC’s Food Court

The New York Post has published an article highlighting a recent report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’ Institute for Legal Reform entitled : The Food Court- Trends in Food and Beverage Class Action Litigation – the report found that 22% of food related class action lawsuits are filed in New York State. LRANY’s Tom Stebbins was quoted in the Post article:

“New Yorkers are already well-known dining snobs — but this is just foodie foolishness.

There’s been a surge in class-action lawsuits filed in the city by persnickety Gothamites complaining about how their food is marketed — and now nearly a quarter of all such federal cases in the country are filed in New York state, according to a new report.

“‘The trial lawyers are getting fat on food lawsuits — and New Yorkers are picking up the bill,’ said Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.

‘People may laugh when Starbucks is sued for coffee that is too hot and sued again for coffee with too much ice, but these lawsuits should give everyone indigestion. The cost of defending these lawsuits is passed directly on to consumers like us.'”

Read Full Article

ALBANY ASSEMBLYMEMBER INTRODUCES BILL TO FIX NEW YORK’S ARCANE SCAFFOLD LAW


**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 16, 2017**
Contact: Adam Morey
amorey@lrany.org
518-512-5265

ALBANY ASSEMBLYMEMBER INTRODUCES BILL TO FIX
NEW YORK’S ARCANE SCAFFOLD LAW

Proposed legislation will provide “significant savings” for local governments,
and “not weaken the law’s safety provisions”

ALBANY – Backed by the 75 member Scaffold Law Reform Coalition, Assemblymember John McDonald (D-Cohoes) has introduced A.5624, a concise and comprehensive bill aimed at modernizing the liability rules under the state’s Scaffold Law.

According to the memo accompanying the bill, the legislation “will provide much needed relief to school districts, counties, and local governments by lowering their liability exposure and creating significant savings on all infrastructure construction projects in New York State.”

“Most importantly,” the memo concludes, the proposed reform “would not weaken the law’s safety provisions.”

A.5624 applies New York’s existing negligence standards to lawsuits brought under the only-in-New York Scaffold Law. Judges currently apply “absolute liability” to these filings, a standard unique to the Scaffold Law, which faults only the property owner and contractor for worksite accidents, regardless of the contributing conduct of the worker.

“I see very quickly that New York State is losing its competitive advantage,” Assemblymember McDonald said as he addressed the attendees of the Scaffold Law Reform Coalition’s annual lobby day in Albany on Tuesday.

“I represent Albany and Troy and Cohoes and Watervliet; these are communities that have a lot of blighted buildings. It’s hard work to repair and fix. And quite frankly, liability insurance plays a large overriding factor in driving up that cost. I want to get things done, and I want to do it safely. When the scaffold law was formed, OSHA and PESH – they weren’t acronyms then. They weren’t there to be the safeguards and the protectors,” McDonald later said in an interview with POLITICO New York.

Scaffold Law reform is supported by a diverse coalition including Habitat for Humanity, the Business Council of New York State, the New York Conference of Mayors, New York State Association for Affordable Housing, New York State Farm Bureau, Associated General Contractors, Unshackle Upstate, National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Manufacturers Association, New York State School Boards Association, and chambers of commerce across the state.

# # #

WWW.SCAFFOLDLAW.ORG