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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 Daily News: Toxic reaction over speedy shift of asbestos-case judge in Manhattan Supreme Court’s civil term

Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York executive director Tom Stebbins was quoted in a New York Daily News article about the sudden and suspicious reassignment of a judge overseeing the New York City asbestos docket:

“Sacking Justice Billings after only a few months certainly looks suspicious. This court is historically corrupt and chaotic. It has been a ‘Judicial Hellhole’ for three years straight,” said Tom Stebbins, executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York.

“Reassigning a key judge after just six months only adds to the appearance of chaos and corruption.”

The trial of disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver pulled back the curtain on shady aspects of asbestos litigation in New York, where verdicts are triple the national average.

It emerged that the influential firm Weitz & Luxenberg — where Silver was of-counsel despite doing no legal work — was given preferential access to potential jurors in the civil courthouse.

The practice was discontinued and Silver — who raked in big bucks referring cases to the firm, which boasts over $17 billion in verdicts and settlements — was cut loose amid corruption allegations.

Silver is awaiting retrial on those charges.

A courts official insisted the decision to remove Billings was not due to complaints by attorneys on either side of asbestos litigation.

The full article can be read here.

Forbes: With Silver Convicted, Some NY Dems Lend Support To Asbestos Transparency Bill

magnify asbestosForbes Business recently published a piece written by Legal Newsline reporter, Jessica Karmasek, focusing on the recent support for a piece of legislation calling for transparency in the asbestos trust system. LRANY Executive Director, Tom Stebbins, was quoted on the issue.

An excerpt:

The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, pointing to the kickback allegations against Silver, says the legislature is “rightfully interested” in overhauling New York’s asbestos courts.

“Asbestos was at the heart of New York’s recent corruption scandal involving former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver,” said Tom Stebbins, LRANY’s executive director. “The intricate kickback scheme uncovered by the U.S. Attorney illustrates the need for comprehensive asbestos litigation reform in New York.

“This bill, which has growing bipartisan support in both houses, would open claims up to transparency to root out fraud and misrepresentation in the system. The measure will protect both future funds for the injured and solvent businesses from becoming the next target of this dangerous double dipping strategy.”

Read the full article

New York Asbestos Court Goes from Worst to Second Worst in U.S. in Latest ‘Judicial Hellholes’ Report

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 17, 2015
Contact: Phoebe Stonbely
pstonbely@lrany.org
518.512.5265

New York Asbestos Court Goes from Worst to Second Worst in U.S. in Latest ‘Judicial Hellholes’ Report

National Group Cites the Conviction of Speaker Silver as a ‘Reason for Hope,’ Slides NY Court to #2 Spot

ALBANY – In their annual “Judicial Hellholes” report, the American Tort Reform Foundation has named the New York City Asbestos Litigation court (NYCAL) as the second worst Judicial Hellhole in the nation. Noting the recent arrest and conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the report moved the NYCAL from worst to second worst. “With Silver perhaps headed to prison and the pro-plaintiff judge who headed New York City’s asbestos docket retired and replaced, the Big Apple may begin to bob up from the bottom of the barrel,” said the report.

Local lawsuit reform advocate Tom Stebbins, from the Albany-based Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, says the incremental improvement is nothing to crow about. “Look, it took the entire state of California to knock a single New York court off the perch as the worst in the nation,” said Stebbins. “That’s nothing to be proud of.”

Observing the corruption conviction of Sheldon Silver, Stebbins urged that although some faces have changed, others have not, and key decisions are still pending. “At the request of Weitz and Luxenberg, the previous head judge consolidated cases, ended a long-standing agreement, and considered reintroducing punitive damages. Until we have resolution on those issues, it is hard for anyone to say if the court has truly improved.”

A copy of the report can be found here: http://bit.ly/1IWsFzt

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The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit association of businesses, professionals, healthcare providers, membership organizations, taxpayers, and concerned citizens committed to changing New York’s legal system to help create jobs and energize our economy.

LRANY Letter, Albany Times Union – Cleanse Agenda of Trial Lawyers

Lawsuit_1-6236The Albany Times Union recently published a letter to the editor written by LRANY’s Thomas Stebbins highlighting the opportunity for common sense reforms in the wake of Sheldon Silver’s conviction.

An excerpt:

“For years, it has been an open secret in Albany that the trial lawyers controlled the Assembly. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was known to work as “of counsel” for powerhouse tort law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, and many in Albany, including other legislators, believed Mr. Silver would not buck the interests of his employer.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo himself publicly stated that the trial lawyers were the ‘single most powerful political force in Albany.'”

Read Full Letter Here

Statement from LRANY Executive Director on Guilty Verdict in Sheldon Silver’s Corruption Trial

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November 30, 2015

Statement from LRANY Executive Director on Guilty Verdict in Sheldon Silver’s Corruption Trial

“As we have been saying for years, Sheldon Silver’s ‘income’ was nothing more than a political payment to ensure he executed the agenda of the trial lawyers who paid him. We are left with a state decimated by lawsuits and litigation – highest medical liability costs, highest construction insurance costs, and an asbestos court rated the worst the nation. Today marks a new day where the legislature can start working for the people of New York, not just the trial lawyers.”

-Tom Stebbins, Executive Director, Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York

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Contact: Tom Stebbins | Tstebbins@lrany.org | 518.424.5811  

The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit association of businesses, professionals, healthcare providers, membership organizations, taxpayers, and concerned citizens committed to changing New York’s legal system to help create jobs and energize our economy.

Statement from LRANY Executive Director on Sheldon Silver Trial

“For years, the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York has identified the payments from law firms to Sheldon Silver as a potentially massive conflict of interest. The investigation into this alleged corruption is overdue. New York needs legislators who are working for the people, not personal injury lawyers.”

-Tom Stebbins, Executive Director, Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York

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Thanks for Making Our ‘Asbestos Litigation’ Event a Success!

Asbestos CollageThank you to all of our guests who attended our event, “Asbestos Litigation: Business as Usual in a ‘Judicial Hellhole?’” yesterday in New York City. The exciting event featured insight and analysis on a critical asbestos litigation issues and trends from knowledgeable, experienced speakers including nationally recognized author and professor Lester Brickman.

We would also like to extend a special thank you to our sponsors, whose support made this event possible.

LRANY is looking forward to our upcoming 2015 events.

Click here for more information on our next events!

LRANY Applauds Introduction of Important Lawsuit Reform Bills

On May 14th, two critically important lawsuit reform bills were introduced in the New York State senate – asbestos trust transparency reform (see issue VIDEO here) and a sliding scale for contingency fees (see issue VIDEO here).

The first bill, S.5504, was introduced by Senator Tom O’Mara (R, Big Flats). This legislation would bring transparency to the asbestos trust system, and reduce fraud and abuse. Currently, those who allege harm from asbestos products may file a lawsuit against a solvent manufacturer, and/or pursue a claim against a trust established by a bankrupt manufacturer. Shockingly, however, the law does not require plaintiffs in asbestos actions to disclose whether they previously recovered from trust funds. Often, claimants will seek recoveries from both the tort system and the trust system alleging conflicting or even outright fraudulent claims. This bill would prevent fraud by requiring the disclosure of past, pending, and anticipated trust claims when a lawsuit is filed, ensuring a more equitable and transparent system.

The second bill, S.5499, was introduced by Senator George Amedore (R, Scotia), and would apply a sliding scale to attorneys’ contingency fees on verdicts and settlements over $250,000. The goal of this legislation is to allow victims to keep a greater percentage of their final award, and reduce the soaring cost of general liability insurance.

Contingency fee scales are a tried and true approach to reducing non-meritorious litigation – in fact, New York already has such a scale for medical malpractice cases. Enacted in 1986 as a response to a crippling medical liability crisis, the fee scale was integral in stabilizing insurance premiums and preventing the loss of health care services across the state. The Greater New York Hospital Association now estimates that without a contingency fee scale, medical liability costs would be as much as 40% higher, an increase of over $600 million annually. Broadening the fee scale to include all personal injury tort actions will lower liability costs across the board, saving taxpayers and businesses millions while still ensuring victims receive the compensation they deserve.

LRANY applauds Senator O’Mara and Senator Amedore for their commitment to advancing common sense legal reforms. New York has no future as the lawsuit capital of the world, and these two pieces of legislation are an important step in the right direction.

Response to Sheldon Silver’s Latest Indictment

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April 24, 2015

Response to Sheldon Silver’s Latest Indictment

“While the latest charges against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver should outrage New Yorkers, what is more outrageous is not what is illegal, but what is legal. According to press reports, Silver’s dealings with the lawsuit lending firm Counsel Financial are under investigation, but activities of the industry itself are what should be investigated and regulated.

Lawsuit lenders in New York often charge predatory rates far above what is considered legal for any other type of loan, sometimes in excess of 100% annually. By claiming their products are ‘investments,’ they are able to dodge New York’s strict consumer protection laws. Sheldon Silver’s newest indictment shows how profitable that model can be. Tragically, consumers who take these loans often see much or all of their final settlement or award consumed by interest charges and attorneys’ fees.

This latest charge against Sheldon Silver is a wake-up call that predatory lending is alive and well in New York. We urge lawmakers, the Attorney General, and the Department of Financial Services to come together to put an end to predatory lawsuit lending.”

-Tom Stebbins, Executive Director, Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York

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Contact: Phoebe Stonbely | PStonbely@lrany.org | 518.512.5265 

The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit association of businesses, professionals, healthcare providers, membership organizations, taxpayers, and concerned citizens committed to changing New York’s legal system to help create jobs and energize our economy.

See PDF of Statement