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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

Capital Tonight Interview: Tom Stebbins on how fear of lawsuits impacts NY’s municipalities

Watch LRANY’s Tom Stebbins discuss with Nick Reisman how fear of lawsuits impacts NY’s municipalities on Capital Tonight.

The Buffalo News – Letter: Scaffold Law Increases Injuries, Costs Billions

scaffold cashThe Buffalo News recently published a letter to the editor written by LRANY’s Executive Director, Thomas B. Stebbins. The letter was in response to a piece written in favor of keeping the Scaffold Law as it is. Mr. Stebbins explains in his rebuttal that a simple reform to the New York only law would alleviate the pressures the antiquated law puts on our state – increasing injuries and costing millions.

An excerpt:

“One detail never mentioned in disingenuous defenses of New York’s odious Scaffold Law (‘No need to forfeit safety to add jobs,’ May 29 letter) is that New York is the only state that still has such a law. No other state imposes absolute liability on contractors who may have, to quote the state’s highest court: “had nothing to do with the plaintiff’s accident.” No other state still has such a standard because it is patently unfair, costs billions and makes work sites less safe.

The most frequently used argument against reform is the fraudulent claim that the law protects workers. If the Scaffold Law improved safety, shouldn’t New York lead in safety? We don’t. Shouldn’t other states have dramatically higher injury rates? They don’t. The Buffalo News even conducted its own investigation and found that ‘the Scaffold Law does nothing of note to make the state any safer for construction workers than other states.'”

Read full letter here.

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

Most Outrageous Lawsuit of the Month, April 2015 – “Trauma Queens” Sue For $20M Each

This month’s lawsuit features two NYC 20-somethings looking to capitalize off of a tragic event and a lawyer who was happy for the opportunity to take advantage of the legal system.

After the tragic East Village gas explosion earlier this month, Lucie Bauermeister and Anna Ramotowska though unharmed from the blast felt they were owed compensation for the emotional trauma caused from the event- so they filed a lawsuit for $20million EACH. That’s $40 million dollars these two women, deemed “trauma queens” by the NY Post, are seeking for virtually zero physical injuries.

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NYCAL Issues Bombshell Decision, Ruling Exposure to Friction Products Is Incapable of Causing Mesothelioma and Rejecting the Cumulative Exposure Theory

NYCAL Issues Bombshell Decision, Ruling Exposure to Friction Products Is Incapable of Causing Mesothelioma and Rejecting the Cumulative Exposure Theory 
(NYCAL, April 13, 2015)

By: Joseph J. Welter, Goldberg Segalla

gavel asbestosIn a decision that could change the landscape of NYCAL asbestos litigation in New York, Justice Barbara Jaffe issued a post-trial decision following an $11 million verdict against Ford, essentially precluding Drs. Steven Markowitz and Jacqueline Moline on Frye grounds because there is no established scientific connection between exposure to friction products and mesothelioma. Additionally, Justice Jaffe ruled that the plaintiff’s theory of cumulative exposure without quantifiable exposure is insufficient to establish legally sufficient asbestos exposure.

Justice Jaffe determined that the testimony of the plaintiff’s experts, Drs. Markowitz and Moline, failed to establish both general and specific causation between the plaintiff’s mesothelioma and friction products under the standards articulated by the New York Court of Appeals in Parker and Cornell. The court distinguished Lusternring, an earlier trial court decision that upheld a verdict against a gasket/packing manufacturer.

As for general causation, the court cited there are no epidemiological studies supporting a causal connection between exposure to the products at issue and mesothelioma. Dr. Markowitz admitted that 21 of 22 such studies “yielded no evidence of an increased risk of developing an asbestos-related disease.” Decision, at p. 30.  “And, while the absence of an epidemiological study is not fatal to proving causation … here, the failure to offer in evidence any study to support Markowitz’s opinion must be considered with the 21 studies which … do not show” an increased risk.

As for specific causation, Dr. Moline failed to provide “a scientific expression of [plaintiff’s] exposure to asbestos from brakes, clutches, or gaskets sold or distributed by defendant, and therefore, plaintiffs failed to prove specific causation.” Id., at p. 32.

The court also addressed the plaintiff’s cumulative exposure theory (i.e., that every single exposure constitutes a significant contributing factor), and found that the plaintiff “fail[ed] to offer sufficient evidence that any specific exposure increases the risk of a disease and is thus a significant contributing factor to causing the disease.” Id. Here, the court relied on Parker and Cornell regarding the proof necessary to establish causation as a matter of law in a toxic tort case, and determined that the plaintiff’s theory that “cumulative exposure to asbestos, no matter how small and without any quantification, was a substantial contributing factor, was contrary to New York law.”

Read the full decision here.

Scaffold Law Reform Advocates: Moya Bill a “Diversion”

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March 3rd, 2015

Scaffold Law Reform Advocates: Moya Bill a “Diversion”

Statement from Tom Stebbins, Executive Director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York in response to Assemblyman Moya’s Scaffold Law “transparency” legislation:

Assemblyman Moya’s “transparency” legislation is nothing but a poorly-disguised diversionary tactic. Our coalition of over 60 organizations, representing businesses, builders, union contractors, affordable housing organizations, nonprofits, municipal groups, and taxpayers, has already provided tomes of national insurance data to lawmakers at all levels of government.

The data is clear: New York’s insurance costs are the highest in the nation, and the reason is the Scaffold Law. Far from earning outsized profits, insurance companies are abandoning the New York construction market entirely. We are encouraged that organized labor and the personal injury lawyer lobby has finally acknowledged the serious impacts of our astronomical construction insurance rates. Unfortunately, this misguided legislation does nothing to advance a meaningful discussion about Scaffold Law reform, which has strong bipartisan support.

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

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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.

Full PDF Statement

Statement from LRANY Executive Director Tom Stebbins on Governor Cuomo’s Comments on Tort Reform

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February 26, 2015

Statement from Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York Executive Director Tom Stebbins on Governor Cuomo’s Comments on Tort Reform

Governor Cuomo recently noted that tort reform legislation never gets passed by the legislature because, “There are little secrets that never sit right.” These secrets are plain to see. New Yorkers are well aware of the outsized financial influence of the personal injury lawyer lobby, which spent well over a two million dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions last year alone. Unfortunately, the identities of the clients of lawyer-legislators remain shrouded in secrecy. We commend Governor Cuomo’s efforts to bring transparency to lawmakers’ sources of outside income and urge him to take on needed reforms to trial lawyer golden eggs like the Scaffold Law – the personal injury lawyer lobby has had their finger on the scales of justice for far too long.”

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

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

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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 Statement Here

Crain’s New York Business: Litigation Finance Needs Regulation

This weekend Crain’s New York Business published a letter to the editor from LRANY’s Manager of Government Affairs, Scott Hobson focusing on the over due reform and regulation of the litigation finance industry.

An Excerpt:

“Litigation-finance firms bet on the little guy” (Feb. 9), highlighting the litigation finance industry’s involvement with small business, serves as a timely reminder of the rapid growth of this questionable industry.

New York is at the epicenter of lawsuit lending, and the practice of lending directly to individual plaintiffs is on the rise. Troublingly, we have virtually no regulations in place to protect consumers from predatory lawsuit-lending practices.

The practice of lawsuit lending, referred to as third-party litigation financing, is illegal in the vast majority of Western nations. Lawsuit lenders seek out consumers who have filed lawsuits and offer cash advances on their claim in exchange for a percentage of whatever award they may later receive.”

Read Full Letter