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.

NEW YORK CITY APPEALS GLOBAL WARMING LAWSUIT AGAINST OIL COMPANIES

The Daily Caller quoted Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York executive director Tom Stebbins in a story about New York City appealing a federal judge’s decision to toss the city’s climate change lawsuit against the fossil fuel companies.

“Judge Keenan rightly tossed this lawsuit,” Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an emailed statement.

Stebbins also railed against New York City’s reliance on trial lawyers to bring their case against oil companies. The city initially filed its lawsuit in January.

“Policy should be decided in the statehouse, not the courthouse,” Stebbins said. “An issue as crucial and complex as climate change needs real leadership from elected officials, not private personal injury lawyers looking to cash in and line their own pockets.”

Read the full story here.

Crain’s: Law firms aim to strike it rich with settlements from Big Oil

Crain’s New York Business published an op-ed from LRANY’s Tom Stebbins about how private interests and law firms are working behind the scenes on climate change litigation:

New York politicians like to claim their leadership in the fight against climate change, but behind the scenes a small group of lawyers and donors are the ones pulling the levers.

Environmental activists, plaintiffs’ lawyers and government representatives gathered late last month at Columbia University to discuss expanding their effort to use the civil justice system to combat the effects of climate change. In recent years private contingency-fee lawyers have worked hard to conscript like-minded, headline-hunting elected officials including Mayor Bill de Blasio and disgraced former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to file lawsuits and join the litigation.

Profit-driven law firms, looking to strike it rich with a cut of possible settlements, are driving this effort to politicize the judiciary for financial gain. While their distortions of tort law have mostly failed in the courtroom, the lawyers have succeeded in infiltrating the offices of climate-crusading politicians.

Read the full op-ed here.

Wine Spectator: New York Wineries Sued over Website Accessibility for Visually Impaired

Wine Spectator magazine published an article about serial ADA litigation against New York based wineries:

Lawsuit Reform Alliance public affairs manager Adam Morey said he’s noticed an increasing trend of ADA Title III federal lawsuits filed against wineries and other small businesses in the past year. A study conducted in July by the Seyfarth Shaw Law Firm found that ADA lawsuits involving website accessibility hit record numbers this year—4,965 federal ADA Title III lawsuits were filed in the first six months of 2018 alone, according to the report, compared to the 7,663 that were filed for all of 2017. Of those 2018 suits, 1,026 were filed in New York.

“There aren’t clear guidelines from the [U.S.] Department of Justice on how the ADA applies to the Internet,” Morey told Wine Spectator. He believes law firms are taking advantage of the unclear regulations. “New York has quickly become the top jurisdiction for these lawsuits.”

Read the full article here.

Capitol Pressroom: Tom Stebbins on tort issues and the AG’s Exxon suit

LRANY executive director Tom Stebbins joined Susan Arbetter on Capitol Pressroom to discuss a recent study from Institute for Legal Reform that found New York’s per household tort costs was over $6000 annually. Stebbins also discussed what he sees as a misguided lawsuit filed by the New York Attorney General against Exxon Mobil.

Listen to the full interview here.

News 12 Westchester: Business leaders cite bridge cost in call for scaffold law reform

News 12 Westchester reports that on Friday, business leaders gathered in the shadow of the new Tappan Zee/Mario Cuomo bridge to call on elected officials to fix the only-in-New York Scaffold Law.

“The scaffold law, which holds construction companies 100 percent liable for injuries such as falls, added between $200 million and $400 million to the cost of the bridge project. Tom Stebbins, of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance, says the law has deterred development projects across the state. ‘Statewide it’s estimated to cost $785 million a year to the public of New York,’ says Stebbins. ‘Think about how many schools we could build. How many more bridges we could build. How we could fix the MTA with that money that we’re wasting on a law that only exists here in New York and has no discernible benefit.'”

Watch the video and read the full story here.

Daily News: Brooklyn lawyer files avalanche of lawsuits over website accessibility for the blind

LRANY executive director Tom Stebbins was quoted in a New York Daily News story on Sunday about a Brooklyn-based law firm that has filed hundred of lawsuits against companies for websites that the suits allege are not accessible for the blind:

A Brooklyn lawyer has filed hundreds of lawsuits this year over websites that fail to accommodate the blind – a practice that critics say is all about making a quick buck.

Attorney Joseph Mizrahi has filed an astonishing 411 suits in Manhattan Federal Court on behalf of 13 visually impaired people. The paperwork charges a wide array of businesses violated the Americans With Disabilities Act through sites that are incompatible with screen-reading programs. The suits seek to force each company to overhaul its site and make it accessible.

The businesses Mizrahi sued run the gamut – from casinos to retirement homes, racetracks to breweries. Steinway Pianos, the Dish Network, Apple and Caribbean Cruises all have landed in Mizrahi’s crosshairs in the past nine months.

“This is unquestionably being abused. The goal of these cases is just to get legal fees,” said Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Albany-based Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.

Click here to read the full story.

Crain’s: Critics blame scaffold law for megaproject’s insurance costs ballooning 557%

At the end of July, Crain’s New York Business ran an article about how New York’s Scaffold Law increases insurance costs on all construction projects in the state:

Documents from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board meeting last week show that insurance costs on East Side Access, the decade-delayed effort to link the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central, have ballooned 557% from the original estimates.

That was all the opportunity opponents of New York’s “scaffold law” needed to call attention to the statute, which is unique to the state.

“Insurers, it has been documented over and over, have left the market because of the scaffold law,” said Tom Stebbins, of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, a tort-reform group. “These are billion-dollar policies and people don’t want [to sell] them. That should tell you something.”

Stebbins noted that numerous judicial rulings in the past decade have expanded the scaffold law’s application to cover more and more workers hurt on the job, and he cited a report Willis itself published in 2017, which identified the law as the “primary culprit” for New York’s “highly litigious environment.” The result has been what Willis, which did not respond to a request for comment, termed an “insurance crisis.”

Read the full article here.