WHAM 13: ADA lawsuits targeting Finger Lakes wineries/others under scrutiny

WHAM) – New lawsuits filed in federal court last week target two Finger Lakes wineries, accusing them of having websites that are not accessible to people who are blind or visually-impaired. 13 WHAM News first reported last fall on the rash of lawsuits being filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Now the lawsuits, and law firms behind them, are under the microscope.

“These lawsuits are clearly driven by lawyers and not by the plaintiffs,” said Adam Morey of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.

Justin Young is legally blind. He sues voice-over software to surf the web. “Any text on the screen, that’s what will say,” when he demonstrated it for 13 WHAM News in October.

Since then, dozens of wineries and hundreds of small businesses have been sued under the ADA for having websites incompatible with screen-reading software. There’s just one problem.

“There’s a regulatory gap. There’s no clear law on where the ADA applies to websites,” said Morey. Disability groups and some members of congress have long called on the US Department of Justice to issue ADA guidelines for the internet. So far that hasn’t happened.

Watch the full segment here.

Andreatta: Steuben County woman wants Ricola to cough up $5 million

There is a tidal wave of class-action food labeling litigation flooding federal courts right now, led by lawyers looking to cash in on subjective interpretations of marketing terms like “natural” and “healthy.”

A U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform study found 425 active cases between 2015 and 2016 compared to just 19 in 2008. A fifth were in New York, which, according to the group, bears the highest annual cost of tort litigation of any state at $6,066 per household.

“We’re not saying this particular case should or shouldn’t be brought,” said the group’s spokesman, Bryan Quigley. “But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking this is a consumer-driven case to help people, and the lawyers are there to bring justice.

“This is lawyer-driven litigation for the purposes of a settlement that often enriches the plaintiffs’ firm and gives the broad class pennies or coupons.”

Some recent headline grabbers include:

A Buffalo woman who led a class-action against the manufacturer of Canada Dry Ginger Ale because the soda didn’t contain real ginger.

A class-action lawsuit out of Albany that claimed the American Heart Association’s logo on StarKist Tuna misrepresented the brand as healthier than other tunas.

A Manhattan woman who sued Tootsie Roll Industries on behalf of Junior Mints consumers, claiming half her box of Junior Mints was filled with air, despite the weight of the candy being listed on the package.  

The latter case was tossed by a judge who said, “The law simply does not provide the level of coddling the plaintiff seeks.”

No one wants to fall victim to false advertising, and there should be recourse for consumers who’ve been legitimately defrauded. Companies that engage in bogus marketing should get pinched, like tobacco companies.

But what reasonable consumer has been aggrieved by the claims in such cases or, in this case, the term “naturally soothing?”

None, says Adam Morey, of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.

“When judges throw these cases out, they often do so on the grounds that a reasonable consumer would not find that to be injurious,” Morey said. “This looks like one of those cases.”

Click here to read the full column.

WHAM 13: Local business leaders rally against New York’s Scaffold Law

Rochester, N.Y. – Local business leaders are calling for New York to repeal a law they say raises the cost of construction projects.

Opponents of the Scaffold Law say insurance companies are forced to charge higher premiums for construction insurance because the law holds builders 100 percent responsible for gravity-related injuries at a work site.

Friday, local business leaders gathered to call on New York to repeal the law.

“It’s been around since 1885, and every other state has gotten rid of it because it’s costly and provides no benefit,” said Lawsuit Reform Alliance executive director Tom Stebbins. “We in New York cannot advance if we have a law that costs billions of dollars, only exists in New York and has no discernible benefit.”

Click here to watch the full segment.

NY Post: Nearly half of the world’s ‘most ridiculous’ lawsuits were filed in NY

The New York Post reports that…

Nearly half of the “most ridiculous” lawsuits in the world this year were filed in New York.

The Empire State has the dubious distinction of landing four of the top 10 spots in an annual list compiled by the US Chamber ­Institute for Legal Reform.

Brooklyn federal class-action suit against Kind Bars took the No. 2 spot. The snack-bar company was sued for putting what the plaintiff called “chemical-sounding terms like ascorbic acid” in its products, which is just another name for vitamin C, the institute says. The case is ­ongoing.

The No. 3 slot belongs to Biola Daniel, of Manhattan, who sued Tootsie Roll Industries, claiming her box of Junior Mints was half-filled with air — even though the amount of mints is listed on the package.

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald tossed the candy case, saying that allowing the suit to proceed would “enshrine into law an embarrassing level of mathematical illiteracy.”

“The law simply does not provide the level of coddling plaintiffs seek,” she added.

Read the full story here.

Today’s Verdict with David Lesch

LRANY’s Thomas Stebbins joined David Lesch on Today’s Verdict to talk about lawsuit lending and the high cost of municipal liability in New York City

NY Post: Wall St. cashing in on NYC’s legal feeding frenzy

Wall Street hedge funds are cashing in on New York’s legal feeding frenzy by financing “mass tort litigation” over prescription drugs and medical devices in exchange for a piece of the action when the cases settle, the “Judicial Hellholes” report reveals.

The result is an “unfair playing field for defendants,” the report says.

Tom Stebbins of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York called the funding “the latest money-making innovation for the lawsuit industry.

“Our civil-justice system has been converted into a profit center,” Stebbins said.

“Financiers draw out cases to maximize return, not ensure fairness in the system.”

The situation led the New York City Bar Association to issue a formal ethics opinion in July, barring lawyers from cutting funding deals with non-lawyers.

That edict, intended “to protect the lawyer’s independence of judgment,” followed a New York Times report on a boom in litigation financing by hedge funds.

The Times article, published in June, cited analyst estimates that litigation funding was a burgeoning, $10 billion industry.

Read the full story here.

Daily News: Lawmakers and advocates gear up to reform costly construction law

The New York Daily News ran a story about the renewed push to reform New York’s costly construction liability law, the “Scaffold Law”:

Critics of a controversial state law that makes construction companies 100% liable for work-site injuries are pushing for an overhaul of the statute amid ramped-up talks on a massive new train tunnel project.

Those opposed to the so-called “Scaffold Law” — the only one of its kind in the country — say it could add up to $300 million to the cost of the Gateway project to bring a new tunnel underneath the Hudson River to better accommodate Amtrak and NJ Transit. President Trump and Gov. Cuomo met recently to discuss the fate of the project.

And they argue it’s already increased insurance costs.

Read the full story here.

NYC is drowning in ridiculous, pricey lawsuits

New York City is being tort-ured.

The Big Apple is drowning in so many frivolous lawsuits — over everything from food packaging and advertising to the design of retail websites — that the city’s court system has become one of the nation’s worst places for civil justice, a damning report out Tuesday reveals.

The American Tort Reform Foundation will give New York City the dubious distinction of placing No. 3 on its annual list of “Judicial Hellholes” where plaintiffs lawyers run amok with the help of accommodating judges and do-nothing lawmakers.

The report, a copy of which was provided to The Post in advance, turns up the heat on the city’s court system, which has previously come under fire from the ATRF for the “brazenly plaintiff-favoring ways” of a special court for asbestos-related personal injury suits in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Read the full story from the New York Post here.

NY Post: Underwood’s Exxon probe is doomed to fail

The New York Post published an op-ed from LRANY’s Public Affairs Manager Adam Morey about the baseless lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood against Exxon Mobil for allegedly defrauding investors.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood launched a desperate bid to salvage her predecessor’s failed three-year fishing expedition by filing suit against ExxonMobil in Manhattan Supreme Court. Talk about a stretch: It’s hard to understand even what wrongdoing Underwood is alleging, never mind how she can prove it.

Why would Underwood file such a weak case? Well, aside from any residual loyalty to Schneiderman or colleagues who worked on the probe, and aside from any ideological motivation of her own, there may be something else driving her action: She’s being pushed by outside lawyers.

Read the full op-ed here.

LRANY win at the New York Court of Appeals

The New York Law Journal reports that the New York Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, affirmed the lower court’s decision to toss an $11 million asbestos verdict rendered against Ford Motor Company, citing “insufficient evidence.” The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York joined local and national allies in the filing of an amicus brief in support of the decision. Arthur Juni, the plaintiff in the case was represented by Weitz & Luxenberg, the asbestos litigation firm that once counted corruption-convict and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Juni was at one time treated by Dr. Robert Taub, the Columbia University researcher at the heart of Silver’s corruption scandal.

The full New York Law Journal story can be found here.