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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

For Immediate Release: Watchdog Group Announces Financial Impact of Scaffold Law on Recently Announced Public Projects

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For Immediate Release
January 19, 2015
Contact: Phoebe Stonbely
pstonbely@lrany.org
518.512.5265

Watchdog Group Announces Financial Impact of Scaffold Law on Recently Announced Public Projects
Estimates that $5 billion will be ‘wasted’ on law that exists only in New York

ALBANY – The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) announced today that the so-called ‘Scaffold Law’ will consume at least $5 billion of public infrastructure spending planned by the Cuomo administration. “It’s a staggering figure,” said Tom Stebbins, Executive Director of LRANY. “Statewide, the financial burden of the Scaffold Law is greater than the entire cost of the Tappan Zee bridge project.”

The group used actuarial, public, and academic data to create the cost estimate, including data from the Port Authority and Metropolitan Transit Authority. After reviewing these sources, LRANY found that the Scaffold Law adds at least 5-7% to the cost of public projects in New York. While the full $100 billion in projects has not been clarified, the group estimated specific costs on several of the Governor’s initiatives, including:

  • $1.1-1.54 billion in additional costs to upstate transportation
  • $150-210 million in additional costs to Penn Station upgrades
  • $10-14 million in additional costs to upstate airport reconstruction
  • $50-70 million in additional costs to the Javits Center project
  • $50-70 million in additional costs to the LIRR project
  • $415-580 million in additional costs to the MTA Capital Plan

“No other state is burdened with these costs,” said Stebbins. “How can the Governor expect New York to compete?”

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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.

See PDF Release Here

Collette McLafferty Maintains Strength in Fight Against Abusive Lawsuit

collette speaking lrany 2Collette McLafferty, the professional singer who was sued for $10 million back in 2014 for being “too unattractive” for a P!nk tribute band, has not given up her fight. The lawsuit abuse victim turned lawsuit reform advocate continues to combat this frivolous lawsuit while simultaneously pushing for legislation to minimize abusive lawsuits.

From the beginning of her battle, Collette has been determined to keep her story in the press to help educate others about her lawsuit and New York’s broken civil justice system. Just this week, she earned recognition in The Huffington Post, with an article by a HuffPo writer who also works with Funded Justice.

After hearing Collette’s story, LRANY developed ‘Collette’s Law,’ legislation that takes aim at frivolous lawsuits by requiring those who file meritless actions to pay the other party’s legal costs, as well as increasing sanctions for those who file frivolous lawsuits.

While many lawsuit abuse victims settle, Collette is fighting. Unfortunately despite the obvious meritless nature of this lawsuit, Collette has incurred thousands of dollars in legal costs. She is currently raising money to cover the remaining $3,500 in legal costs through Funded Justice, a crowdfunding group that helps anyone with a legal issue who needs money to hire an attorney.

In a video, which can be found on her campaign page, Collette titles these funds “a contribution to ending the culture of frivolous lawsuits in New York.” LRANY has been honored to work with Collette over the last few years and to have found such a strong advocate for change. We encourage you to take a look at her campaign page and show your support.

See her campaign page with a video here

See The Huffington Post article here

Write a message to your elected official to support Collette’s Law here

LRANY Executive Director on 2016 State of the State

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January 13, 2016

LRANY Executive Director on 2016 State of the State

“Of the 14 proposals outlined by the Governor, 12 require construction, and there is no greater hindrance to construction in New York than a law the Governor himself has called ‘infuriating’ – the so-called ‘Scaffold Law.’ New York is the only state to have a law like it, it costs billions, and does not keep workers safe. If the Governor is serious about these proposals, he needs to reform the greatest impediment to their success: the Scaffold Law.”

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

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Contact: Phoebe Stonbely | PStonbely@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.

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

Syracuse Post-Standard: Changing Statute of Limitations for Sex Abuse Would Harm Schools, Churches

courtyThe Syracuse Post- Standard publsihed a letter to the editor written by LRANY Executive Director, Tom Stebbins, focused on the negative implications that could come from passing a bill to open a one-year period during which plaintiffs could file lawsuits for alleged abuse that happened at any time.

An Excerpt:

“We applaud Assemblymember Markey’s commitment to helping victims of sexual abuse get justice (“Reform statute of limitations to help sex abuse victims”, Sept.21). However, her proposal to open a one-year period during which plaintiffs could file lawsuits for alleged abuse that happened at any time, raises very serious concerns.

First and foremost, statutes of limitations exist –and have existed for thousands of years – in order to ensure that all people are afforded the opportunity to defend themselves in a court of law. Memories fade, witnesses die, and records are lost. In many cases, the alleged abuser themselves is no longer alive. When California adopted a similar proposal, 336 of the over 800 claims were against deceased individuals. In these cases, the “deep pocketed” institutions which employed the alleged abuser become the target of the lawsuit.”

Read Full Letter Here

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Singer Sued for $10M, Accused of being “Ugly and Untalented,” Rejects Settlement Offer and Gag Order, Vows to Fight for Meaningful Legal Reform

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For Immediate Release
September 16, 2015
Contact: Phoebe Stonbely
pstonbely@lrany.org
518.512.5265

Singer Sued for $10M, Accused of being “Ugly and Untalented,” Rejects Settlement Offer and Gag Order, Vows to Fight for Meaningful Legal Reform

(ALBANY, NY) – Collette McLafferty’s life was turned upside down in 2014 when the singer and songwriter was served with a $10 million lawsuit which accused her of being “ugly and untalented” by a person whom she had never met, stemming from a job she accepted in a P!NK tribute band. McLafferty says the one hundred and twelve page lawsuit, and the corresponding international press coverage, left her “numb” and “traumatized.”

Facing untold legal fees to defend herself against absurd claims, Collette turned to the internet. While internet commenters are notoriously cruel, Collette’s story evinced great sympathy from internet users the around the world. Bloggers and writers came to her defense, and turned their sights on the plaintiff who filed the $10 million case, Charles Bonfante.

Now the tables have turned. Under international criticism, Bonfante, a personal injury lawyer who is representing himself, recently offered to drop his lawsuit and actually pay Collette “half her legal fees.” But McLafferty refuses to give in, “Nobody should ever have to go through what I’ve been through. This situation has humiliated me publicly, damaged my reputation, my career, my livelihood. This is harassment, legalized extortion plain and simple,” she said.

McLafferty has teamed up with the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, a nonprofit, nonpartisan legal reform advocacy organization to draft “Collette’s Law.” The draft legislation takes aim at frivolous lawsuits by requiring those who file meritless actions to pay the other party’s legal costs, as well as increasing sanctions for plaintiffs who file frivolous lawsuits.

Tom Stebbins, Executive Director for the Alliance, stressed the need for systemic changes, “Sadly, Collette’s case is far from an isolated incident. You are more likely to get sued in New York than just about anywhere else in the world, thanks to our plaintiff-friendly laws, ineffective attorney discipline systems, and powerful trial lawyer special interest lobby.”

McLafferty is urging state lawmakers to introduce Collette’s Law and pass meaningful lawsuit reform. “My case shows just how broken our legal system really is. We need real, fundamental, reform to put an end to lawsuit abuse.”

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Watch Collette tell her story at http://youtu.be/Gf4fsrK3X8o

For more information, please contact Phoebe Stonbely at 518-512-5265 or pstonbely@LRANY.org.

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.

View PDF Release

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.

Wall Street Journal Reports on Controversial Lawsuit Bill before the Legislature

By: Scott Hobson

sue hereOn May 15th the Wall Street Journal reported on pending legislation which would give New York courts broad “general jurisdiction” over lawsuits against any corporation registered to do business in the state.

This is at odds with a recent unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that litigation must have a distinct connection with the venue where it is being litigated – for example, the alleged negligence occurred there, or it is the plaintiff or defendant’s residence or place of incorporation.

The enactment of this legislation would invite “litigation tourists” from around the world to avail themselves of our notoriously plaintiff-friendly courts.

The Wall Street Journal notes that many groups have expressed concern with the legislation.

“This is a particularly unfriendly bill to foreign business,” said Lanier Saperstein, a New York-based partner at Dorsey & Whitney LLP who represents foreign banks. The New York City Bar and the Business Council of New York State also oppose the legislation.

The dispute reflects foreign companies’ aversion to litigation in American courts, where legal rules allow for a broad pretrial exchange of evidence between parties-a process known as discovery-that has grown so costly in the digital age that some companies settle cases just to avoid it.”

The bill, A.6714, passed the Assembly this afternoon. The Senate companion, S.4846, is currently on the floor calendar.

Read the full article here

Read LRANY’s memo in opposition here