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The Buffalo News: Silver Indictment Offers Hope for Lawsuit Reform

This weekend the Buffalo News published a letter to the editor from LRANY’s Manager of Government Affairs, Scott Hobson highlighting the renewed opportunity for lawsuit reform with new leadership in the assembly.

An excerpt:

“News that former speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver has been indicted by a federal grand jury on corruption and conspiracy charges has spurred a renewed sense of optimism for supporters of common-sense lawsuit reform.

Silver, who served “of counsel” to a large personal injury law firm, was long seen as the greatest obstacle to lawsuit reform, unwilling to even consider proposals that would erode his personal profits and those of his employer. And while the personal injury lawyers thrived under Silver’s leadership, the rest of the state, particularly upstate, suffered. Thanks in no small part to our oppressive legal climate, many businesses have been forced to close or flee the state, taking jobs and tax dollars with them.”

Read Full Letter

The Most Outrageous Lawsuit of the Month Jan. ’15: Woman Sues When Tights Don’t Cause Orgasm

Welcome to the first 2015 edition of the most outrageous lawsuit of the month.

This month’s lawsuit is not guaranteed to hit the spot.

This week, Phoebe Stonbely will discuss a lawsuit about, Mung Wang – a woman from Queens has brought a federal class action case against the tights manufacture KushyFoot – for $5 Million. Why you ask, because the tights did not give her an orgasm.

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Statement from Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York Executive Director Tom Stebbins on Mayor de Blasio’s Recognition of Frivolous Lawsuits’ Impact on NYC

January 30, 2015

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Statement from Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York Executive Director Tom Stebbins on Mayor de Blasio’s Recognition of Frivolous Lawsuits’ Impact on NYC

“We applaud Mayor de Blasio’s recognition that frivolous lawsuits are major drain on the city coffers. As comptroller Stringer recently reported, New York City spends more on lawsuits than on parks, libraries and aging combined, to say nothing of frivolous lawsuits’ impact to the private sector.

We can fix this. We need to reform the rule of “joint and several” liability (where a party 1% at fault can be held 100% liable) to a more equitable “fair share” system, where liability is proportional to fault.

We also call on the mayor to support reform of the archaic and ineffective “Scaffold Law,” which holds contractors and property owners (including the City) fully liable in lawsuits for gravity-related construction injuries regardless of any contributing fault of a worker. Disaster relief organizations like Habitat for Humanity have identified the Scaffold Law as a major impediment to rebuilding efforts in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Affordable housing advocates have also called for reform of the Scaffold Law. The School Construction Authority has noted that they paid an additional $215m in insurance costs due to the Scaffold Law in 2014 alone, enough to build several new schools. Meanwhile, our kids go to school in trailers.

We need stop spending taxpayer dollars on frivolous lawsuits, and start spending them on the things that really matter to New Yorkers.”

-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 Full PDF Statement

Statement from LRANY Executive Director on Speaker Silver Arrest

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January 22, 2015

Contact: Phoebe Stonbely
pstonbely@lrany.org
518.512.5265

Statement from Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York Executive Director Tom Stebbins

Speaker Sheldon Silver’s alleged corruption and violations of a spate of federal laws represent a shameful breach of public trust and abuse of authority, the charges should be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. For years, Speaker Silver collected millions to enrich himself, his law firm, and trial lawyers across New York.

New York has long been “Sue York,” a “trial lawyer’s playground” and a perennial “Judicial Hellhole.” With today’s indictment, we hope that the balance of justice in New York will soon tilt back to New Yorkers and away from the trial lawyer special interests who have lorded over Albany for too long.

 

 

For Immediate Release: New York City Court Ranked #1 Worst “Judicial Hellhole” in USA


Contact: Phoebe Stonbely

518.512.5265

pstonbely@lrany.org

New York City Court Ranked #1 Worst “Judicial Hellhole” in USA

Bias, Political Profiteering Plague “Systematically Unfair” Court 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Albany, NY (December 16, 2014) – The 2014-15 edition of the American Tort Reform Foundation’s “Judicial Hellholes” report, released today, identifies the New York City Asbestos Litigation court (NYCAL) as the most unfair court in the nation. Since 2002, the Judicial Hellholes report has identified jurisdictions around the country where judges systematically apply court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner. While NYCAL has been identified in the past as a “Judicial Hellhole,” new developments have pushed the court to the #1 spot and into the national spotlight.

American Tort Reform Association president Tiger Joyce explained the reason for the New York court’s dubious distinction, “Troubling developments in NYCAL in 2014 have served to make an already plaintiff-friendly court inarguably so. At the behest of a powerful New York-based plaintiffs’ law firm, which happens to pay the moonlighting speaker of the state Assembly $750,000 a year, NYCAL’s managing judge revived long suspended procedures that effectively coerce asbestos defendants into settling cases. And when defendants insist on a trial and lose, they face verdicts that are much higher than elsewhere around the country.”

The report notes that the manager of the asbestos docket, Judge Sherry Klein Heitler, has adopted a series of unjust and deleterious procedures. She has reintroduced punitive damages in asbestos cases in contradiction to a near 20-year old agreement. She also allowed plaintiffs’ lawyers to circumvent a requirement that they disclose claims they have filed or plan to file with trusts established by bankrupted defendants. The report also found that NYCAL judges:

–          Allow plaintiffs’ lawyers to try multiple, dissimilar cases together (consolidation)
–          Impose liability on one company for the products of another
–          Routinely hold defendants jointly liable for a plaintiff’s entire damages award despite a New York law that provides for allocation of liability in proportion to fault

The report concludes that as a result of such practices, multimillion-dollar awards in asbestos cases tried in New York City have become commonplace. Further, the report notes that the Speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, is also on the payroll of one of the law firms profiting from the NYCAL imbalance, and has aggressively opposed efforts to reform the state’s tort laws.

Tom Stebbins, Executive Director of the Albany-based Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York underscored the seriousness of the situation in the NYCAL. “For years, we’ve seen all manner of legal shenanigans in the asbestos court, including aggressive efforts by personal injury asbestos firms to influence the court’s decision making. They have precipitated a lawsuit feeding frenzy, bankrupting American companies and siphoning millions of dollars from future victims. It’s no surprise the court was named the worst ‘Judicial Hellhole’ in the nation”

The report notes that the state’s high court has an opportunity to move the court in the right direction. “With the speaker strangling all meaningful legislative tort reforms in the cradle, mitigation of NYCAL injustices will have to come from the state’s high court. And the Court of Appeals is now considering cases involving both the unfair consolidation of asbestos cases and third-party liability, so it can and should rein in NYCAL’s plainly plaintiff-favoring bias,” Joyce urged.

He noted the New York Court of Appeals’ 2014 rejection of medical monitoring claims in the absence of manifest injury, a decision cited among the report’s “Points of Light,” as a reason to hope it will also move to restore some balance in NYCAL courtrooms.

The full 2014-15 Judicial Hellholes report can be found here: http://goo.gl/Pxnl1g

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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.

Letter: Schools Suffer Under State’s Scaffold Law

In today’s Times Union, LRANY Executive Director Tom Stebbins writes that the Scaffold Law is siphoning critical dollars from our educational system.

New York voters approved the $2 billion “Smart Schools Bond Act” for school construction and technology upgrades. Sadly, much of that money will be wasted due to a law that only exists in New York: Our notorious Scaffold Law.

The law doesn’t really have much to do with scaffolds. What it does is hold contractors and property owners (including schools) absolutely liable in lawsuits for all gravity-related injuries, regardless of contributing fault by the worker. If gravity is involved (which is common here on Earth), the contractor and school are 100 percent liable for an injury, even if the worker was 99 percent responsible.

This seemingly small liability law has a massive price tag with no perceivable safety benefit. Schools are especially hard hit; the New York City School Construction Authority recently had to pay $200 million for just one year of “owner controlled insurance.”

Read the full letter here

Photos: Annual Meeting and Scaffold Law Reform Summit

On November 19th, LRANY hosted our first Annual Meeting and Key Issues Summit focused on Scaffold Law reform. The day included an overview of recent Court of Appeals rulings, a luncheon, keynote address by singer Collette McLafferty, and panel discussions on the legal, insurance, and political dimensions of the Scaffold Law.

Thanks to all who attended and our generous sponsors! We hope to see you all next year.

Photos can be found here: http://on.fb.me/1L3Ii6c

Frivolous Lawsuit Leaves Singer Numb, Traumatized, But Determined to Change the System

McLafferty

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Albany, NY (November 20, 2014)- Earlier this year, Collette McLafferty’s life was turned upside down.

Without warning, the successful Manhattan singer and songwriter was served with a $10 million lawsuit by a P!nk cover band co-creator  and personal injury lawyer Charles Bonfonte. The lawsuit alleges that McLafferty and her fellow bandmates’ lack of sex appeal and talent hurt his image, thus entitling him to millions in damages.

McLafferty said the absurd and offensive lawsuit left her “numb” and “traumatized.” But she refuses to sit quietly on the sidelines. “I would say I’m in the ‘anger phase’ right now,” she said in a recent interview on YNN Albany’s Capital Tonight program. 

Working with the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY), she has vowed to use her new-found publicity to champion legal reforms to prevent lawsuit abuse. On November 19th, she traveled to Albany to speak as the keynote at the organization’s annual lawsuit reform summit, where advocates unveiled a new proposal to curb abusive lawsuits and help victims of lawsuit abuse get justice.

The proposal, informally dubbed “Collette’s Law,” will take aim at frivolous lawsuits by allowing courts to require those who file meritless actions to pay the other party’s legal costs, increasing sanctions for plaintiffs who file frivolous lawsuits, and broadening the definition of conduct which may be considered frivolous. Tom Stebbins, Executive Director of LRANY said “Too often we see the legal system misused for personal gain or harassment. We need real, common-sense lawsuit reforms to end lawsuit abuse here in New York once and for all.” 

“Nobody should have to go through what I’ve been through. This is the first step in the fight for justice for lawsuit abuse victims,” said McLafferty. 

See Collette tell her story here

LRANY Video Series: The Cultural Impact of Lawsuits

This week on the LRANY Video Series, Tom Stebbins brings you a video on the cultural impact of lawsuits in New York.

We often touch on the economic impact that lawsuits have on our state but it starts with the cultural changes impacted by lawsuits. Lawsuits create a sue-happy mentality and fear of lawsuits continuously enacts changes in business practices, product development and even in our schools.

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