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Most Outrageous Lawsuit of the Month September 2015: “Greatest Man in History” Sues NYPD

This month Phoebe Stonbely will discuss a lawsuit featuring a man from Brooklyn who is the self-proclaimed “greatest man in history”.

Tommy Adams who claims to be a well-known athlete, author and scientist who has predicted hurricanes and saved people from a burning building is seeking $6M from the NYPD. Claiming that the seven arrests for public urination he racked up over the last 8 years were unjust.

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NYDN EXCLUSIVE: Hundreds of Workers’ Compensation Suits Filed in Bronx Could Clog Courts, Advocates Say

Law school Gavel Books ScalesThe New York Daily News recently published an exclusive featuring commentary from LRANY’s Executive Director, Tom Stebbins.  The article focused on the hundreds of workers’ compensation suits have been filed in the Bronx that could clog the courts.

An excerpt:

“‘If successful, this would unleash legal Armageddon,’ Tom Stebbins of the watchdog group Lawsuit Reform Alliance said of the slew of cases a Bronx judge is now weighing whether to keep on the borough’s Civil Court docket.

The lawyers who filed the suits, from the firm Lewin & Baglio, claim medical providers have been stymied within the State Workers’ Compensation Board following a 2007 tweak to state law allowed such companies to bill insurance firms directly — slowing down payments. All of the suits seek less than $25,000 in damages.

“The door to recovery for pharmacies and durable medical providers has been locked for too long,” Lewin told the Daily News.

Aghast insurance firms and legal watchdogs feel the cases should be resolved by the Workers’ Compensation Board and have no place before a Bronx jury. The cases are ‘frivolous,’ Stebbins said.”

Read Full Article

For Immediate Release: Lawsuit Reform Alliance Estimates $200m in Additional Costs for LaGuardia Airport Project Due to the ‘Scaffold Law’

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For Immediate Release
July 30, 2015
Contact: Phoebe Stonbely
pstonbely@lrany.org
518.512.5265

Lawsuit Reform Alliance Estimates $200m in Additional Costs for LaGuardia Airport Project Due to the ‘Scaffold Law’
Infrastructure projects across the state costs more because of only-in-New York law

(Albany, NY) – The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, a non-profit, nonpartisan group dedicated to legal reform, says that a 100-year old state law will add about $200m in additional costs to the recently announced LaGuardia Airport rebuild. The law, commonly known as the “Scaffold Law,” exists only in New York and holds contractors and property owners absolutely, 100% liable in lawsuits for construction injuries, regardless of any contributing fault of a the worker.

“We applaud Governor Cuomo and Vice President Biden for investing in our state’s infrastructure, but unless the Scaffold Law is reformed, much of that money will be wasted,” said Tom Stebbins, the group’s executive director. “In this case, the City owns the land, so according to the Scaffold Law, the City and the Port Authority would potentially be liable for any claims — claims that might not be valid in any other state.”

Citing estimates from national contractors, the group conservatively estimates that approximately 5% of the LaGuardia project’s total cost will be spent on lawsuit claims driven by the Scaffold Law. Said Stebbins, “LaGuardia is just one project. In 2014, the New York City School Construction Authority spent an additional $215 million on insurance because of the Scaffold Law – enough to build 2-3 new schools. Statewide, the cost to municipalities is estimated to be $785 million.”

Stebbins noted that the Port Authority, which currently operates LaGuardia Airport, is already well aware of the costs of the Scaffold Law. “Data from the Port Authority shows that the claims costs on the New York side of a bridge project are twice that of the costs on the New Jersey side.” He quipped, “Maybe they should move LaGuardia to Jersey.”

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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

The Legislative Gazette: A Medical Liability Crisis

doctor medical lawsuitThe Legislative gazette recently posted a letter to the editor written by LRANY’s Scott W. Hobson.  The letter identifies the major issues faced by our medical liability system in New York and some simple steps we can take to fix it.

An excerpt:

“The Legislative Gazette’s recent piece on extending the statute of limitations for medical liability lawsuits only told one side of the story. Not once in the entire article did the reporter interview or quote any of the myriad of organizations who oppose extending the statute of limitations. Not once did the reporter even reference any of the many reasons that dramatically extending the statute of limitations for medical liability lawsuits would be bad policy for New York.

By every measure, New York is facing a medical liability crisis. Our state spends more on medical liability insurance, per capita, than any other state by an astronomical margin.”

Read full letter here.

 

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.

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

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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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

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.