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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: On NYSTLA Lobby Day, LRANY Decries Trial Lawyer Influence

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For Immediate Release
May 17, 2016
Contact: Phoebe Stonbely
pstonbely@lrany.org
518.512.5265

On NYSTLA Lobby Day, LRANY Decries Trial Lawyer Influence
Deemed “the single most powerful political force in Albany,” by Governor Cuomo, legal reform group calls for end to shadow government and no-show jobs

POA-Report-2016-Web-Layout_HI-RESOLUTION-_PS-(002)-001ALBANY – As the trial lawyers roam the halls of the Capital and Legislative Office Building for their annual lobby day, the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY), the state’s only advocacy group dedicated to civil justice reform, is calling the out-sized political influence of the trial lawyer lobby a “shadow government.” The Albany-based group recently released its annual “Power of Attorney” report, which analyzes the lobbying spending and political contributions of New York’s plaintiffs’ lawyer lobby. LRANY found that for the sixth consecutive year, the plaintiffs’ lawyer lobbying spend continued to surge, a 64% increase since 2010. According to the report, in 2015 plaintiffs’ lawyers, their lobbying groups, and associated Political Action Committees (PACs) spent a combined $2.64 million to influence state elected officials.

“It is no secret that the strong influence of the trial lawyers translates into lawsuit friendly policies that hurt our local businesses, healthcare professionals and municipalities,” said Tom Stebbins, LRANY Executive Director. “Even though trial lawyers were at the center of the biggest corruption scandal to hit Albany in years, and that’s saying something, their influence remains strong thanks to the money they continue to shower on Albany politicians.”

The group features former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on the report’s cover to highlight the disgraced politician as an indisputable example of the trial lawyers’ influence over the New York legislature. “Dozens of bills were blocked by the former speaker, promoting policies that continually lined the pockets of the trial lawyers’ at the expense of the taxpayer and the state’s economy.” Stebbins explained, “the vicious cycle of political influence flourished as the millions made suing New Yorkers went right back into the coffers of high ranking elected officials.”

LRANY is hopeful that following the change in legislative leadership, New York may begin to see overdue civil justice reforms enacted. “Our elected officials are meant to represent the people, not the interests of their wealthiest donors,” argued Stebbins.

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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.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Court: Scaffold Law Applies to 1ft Fall

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*FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE*
April 14, 2016
Contact: Phoebe Stonbely
pstonbely@lrany.org
518.512.5265

Court: Scaffold Law Applies to 1ft Fall

Reformers say ‘new low’ highlights need for reform

(ALBANY, NY) – Advocates for reform of New York’s controversial ‘Scaffold Law’ are calling a recent decision applying the law to a 1ft ‘fall’ an example of how expansive and onerous the law has become. The decision, entered at the end of March in Manhattan Supreme Court by Judge Anil Singh, granted judgement in favor of the plaintiff for a fall from just “12-18 inches” – a height at which experts say no scaffold or safety device could have protected the worker from falling. “This ruling shows that essentially nothing can be done to avoid a claim under this ridiculous statute,” said Tom Stebbins, Executive Director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, “it also shows that the law is not about safety, but about liability and lawsuits that protects nothing other than trial lawyer’s profits.”

The Scaffold Law Reform Coalition – which has members from around the state including Habitat for Humanity, the New York State Association for Affordable Housing, the New York Conference of Mayors, and the Buffalo-Niagara Partnership – has strongly advocated for reform of the law for years. The Scaffold Law holds property owners and contractors absolutely liable in a lawsuit for elevation related construction injuries, regardless of the fault of the worker. The group, who claims the current law is draining our state financially, seeks to add comparative negligence to the statute so negligence is attributed proportional to fault. According to researchers at the Rockefeller Institute of Government the law costs taxpayers $785 million per year.

A copy of the court decision can be found here.

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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.

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.

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.

Legal Newsline – With Sheldon Silver Convicted, N.Y. Legal Reform Sees Chance at More Success

S1000050Today, Legal Newline published a story on the hope for true legal reform in New York post Sheldon Silver’s conviction, titled: ‘With Sheldon Silver Convicted, N.Y. Legal Reform Sees Chance at More Success’. This article quoted LRANY’s Executive Director, Tom Stebbins, on the issue multiple times – finishing the piece with: “This is a call to action”.

An excerpt:

 “The conviction of former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver could help legal reform efforts in the state.

Silver was found guilty of corruption by a federal jury on Nov. 30 for a scheme in which he steered state research funds to a Columbia University doctor studying mesothelioma in exchange for referrals to the doctor’s patients.

Silver could then refer those patients to the asbestos firm Weitz & Luxenberg, where he was also employed.

According to Tom Stebbins, the executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, Silver’s conviction marks a ‘new day in Albany.’

‘Over the course of decades, legal reform has been a nonstarter in Albany… We can finally achieve some of the legal reforms that will put New York back in line with the rest of the country,’ Stebbins told Legal Newsline.”

Read Full Article

 

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

Gotham Gazette Op-Ed – After Silver: Legal Reform is Ethics Reform

The Gotham Gazette published an Op-Ed today written by LRANY’s Execuitve Director, Thomas Stebbins. The Op-Ed focuses on the recent conviction of Sheldon Silver and the necessary reforms which must now be advanced now that his influence is no longer ruling Albany.

An excerpt:

“For decades it was an open secret in Albany that the New York Assembly was functionally controlled by the trial lawyers. Sheldon Silver, the former Assembly Speaker, was known to have a lucrative “of counsel” position with the powerhouse trial lawyer firm Weitz & Luxenberg, and most Albany insiders believed that Mr. Silver would not do anything to jeopardize that income. Governor Cuomo himself stated that the trial lawyers were the “single most powerful political force in Albany,” no doubt in partial reference to Mr. Silver’s position as an employee at a trial lawyer firm.

With the trial and subsequent conviction of Mr. Silver on corruption charges, we now know that the former speaker did virtually no real legal work to earn his “of counsel” income. What he did do was carry the legislative water for the trial lawyers, and we as New Yorkers are left with a state ravaged by lawsuits and litigation.”

Read Full Op-Ed

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.