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LRANY Announces 2015 Schedule of Events

The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York is excited to announce our 2015 schedule of events.  For the first time, LRANY will be holding multiple educational and informational events throughout the year and across the state. These events will appeal to broad audiences. Both members and non-members alike are welcome to attend pending space limitations.

The events schedule is as follows:

The Daubert Dilemma, Cutting Edge Science and Law in the 21st Century
New York City | April 29, 2015

Asbestos Litigation, Business as Usual in a “Judicial Hellhole”
New York City | June 2015

LRANY Fall Meeting, Will the Plaintiffs’ Bar Pull the Sword from the Stone?
Westchester | September 2015

LRANY Annual Meeting & Key Issue Summit
Saratoga | Fall 2015

More information on all of these events is available at our events page here.

Sponsorship opportunities are available for all of our events, see our 2015 Sponsorship Opportunities here

Statement from Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York Executive Director Tom Stebbins Regarding the Imminent Departure of Sheldon Silver

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January 28, 2015

Statement from Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York Executive Director Tom Stebbins Regarding the Imminent Departure of Sheldon Silver

“News that Sheldon Silver will soon be replaced as Speaker of the Assembly marks the beginning of a new era in which New Yorkers can finally hope see to justice, fairness, and common sense return to our legal system.  For over a decade, Sheldon Silver served on the payroll of a personal injury law firm, and for over a decade New Yorkers suffered under the influence of the trial lawyer special interests.

After over 20 years of Silver’s tenure, we are left with a state ravaged by lawsuits and litigation. Our doctors and hospitals pay the highest liability insurance rates in the country, by a wide margin. Our contractors are unable to even find insurance, and when they do, rates are several times higher than those of their competitors in other states. Companies in the #1 ‘Judicial Hellhole’ that is the NYC Asbestos Litigation court face judgments that are 250% higher than the national average. Under Silver’s watch, the lawsuit industry has thrived while businesses have fled or crumbled under the burden of our imbalanced legal system.

We are all paying for Mr. Silver’s actions. Taxpayers are on the hook for well over a billion dollars a year in lawsuits and litigation. New York City spends more on lawsuits than on parks, libraries and aging combined. In just one year, the NYC School Construction Authority paid over $215m – the equivalent of 2-3 brand new schools – in additional insurance due to the outrageous Scaffold Law that Mr. Silver held in place for years while on the payroll of the trial lawyers who profit from it. Meanwhile, our kids go to school in trailers.

Today is a new day in Albany. We ask our elected officials to take on long overdue legal reforms, including Scaffold Law reform, transparency in asbestos litigation, stronger rules for experts and evidence in the courtroom, judgment interest rates in line with market rates, and fair share liability.

New York has been ‘Sue York’ for too long. We have no future as the lawsuit capital of the world. Today marks the beginning of a new era of justice, fairness, and common sense.”

-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.

PDF of Full Statement

Wall Street Journal: Sheldon Silver Charges Highlight Allure of Asbestos Cases

magnify asbestosIn the wake of Speaker Silver’s arrest, the press is connecting his potential links to asbestos cases.  LRANY Executive Director comments in this article.

An excerpt:

“Tom Stebbins, the executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, an Albany-based group that thinks businesses and others face too much litigation, said the relative shortage of potential plaintiffs, coupled with the high-dollar stakes, has led to “extremely aggressive behavior on the part of plaintiffs’ lawyers trying to land very lucrative clients.”

Companies with ties to asbestos production have put aside more than $30 billion for mesothelioma victims dating to the 1980s, according to a 2011 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, completed at the request of Congress. The report also concluded that nearly 100 companies were forced into bankruptcy because of asbestos liability.”

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For Immediate Release: Legal Reform Group Calls for Further Investigation by US Attorney into New York City Asbestos Courts

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January 26, 2015

For Immediate Release
Contact: Phoebe Stonbely
pstonbely@lrany.org
518.512.5265

Legal Reform Group Calls for Further Investigation by US Attorney into New York City Asbestos Courts

Group says Silver investigation and recent judicial rulings raise a lot of questions

(ALBANY, NY) Today, the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York called on US Attorney Preet Bharara to investigate if the alleged payment scheme involving New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver may have affected judicial selection, verdict trends, and recent judicial decisions in the New York City Asbestos Litigation court (NYCAL).

“The arrest of New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver gives New Yorkers a glimpse into the mysterious and profitable world of asbestos litigation,” said Tom Stebbins, the group’s Executive Director. “Based on the US Attorney’s complaint and recent press reports, we urge the US Attorney to further investigate if this payment scheme may have influenced judicial selection and recent decisions in NYCAL.”

The firm employing Speaker Silver, Weitz & Luxenberg, is the single most active law firm in the NYCAL court, accounting for more than half of the litigation. According to recent press reports, of 15 mesothelioma verdicts in the last four years, Weitz & Luxenberg won $273.5 million of $313.5 million awarded by NYCAL juries. The firm is so active that the NYCAL website apparently lists cases as “Weitz” and “Non-Weitz.”

In 2008, Speaker Silver appointed Arthur Luxenberg, a partner at the firm, to the influential Judicial Screening Committee. Since 2008, the average payments to Speaker Silver increased significantly according to the US Attorney complaint. “It certainly raises a lot of questions” said Stebbins.

Stebbins noted that since 2010 the average mesothelioma awards in the NYCAL are more than twice the national average. “The decisions currently coming out of the NYCAL are far out of line with the rest of the country. Given that asbestos is such a large part of the US Attorney’s complaint, we ask that Mr. Bharara shine a light into the NYCAL to discover if Speaker Silver’s alleged payment scheme is in any way connected to the court’s recent decisions.”

Stebbins noted that, at the request of Weitz & Luxenberg and others, the NYCAL recently lifted a long-standing agreement deferring punitive damages. The agreement was in place since 1996 to ensure funds for future asbestos plaintiffs, but NYCAL Judge Sherry Heitler recently ended the agreement, potentially allowing the law firm to reap millions more in asbestos claims.

Stebbins also noted that the NYCAL has recently consolidated several asbestos cases, allowing plaintiff’s firms to sue for several plaintiffs at the same time. “It’s really an assembly line approach to justice,” said Stebbins, “and it allows the plaintiffs firms to pick and choose what to highlight and create this kind of ‘franken-plaintiff,’ and the judges allow it.”

“There are so many red flags in the NYCAL. Mr. Bharara may have only scratched the surface,” warned 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.

See Full Release

New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Arrested, Charged With Five Counts of Fraud and Corruption

shelly cuffsBy: Scott Hobson & Phoebe Stonbely

The truth shall prevail.

This week, New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested and charged with five counts of fraud and corruption. The federal investigation alleges the Speaker abused his position and power to enrich himself, claiming he received excess of $6 million over the last decade. The millions came from multiple sources including referrals and kickbacks from a powerful real estate developer and the law practice of Weitz & Luxenburg.

The complaint states: “Sheldon Silver, the defendant, has engaged in and continues to engage in a secret and corrupt scheme to deprive the citizens of the state of New York of his honest services, and to extort individuals and entities under color of official right, as an elected legislator and as Speaker of the New York State Assembly.” 

In a press conference, US Attorney Preet Bahara offered a scathing assessment.,“The greedy art of secret self-reward was practiced by particular cleverness and cynicism by the speaker himself…Politicians are supposed to be on the people’s payroll, not on secret retainer to wealthy special interests they do favors for,” he continued. “These charges go to the very core of what ails Albany–a lack of transparency, lack of accountability, and lack of principle joined with an overabundance of greed, cronyism, and self-dealing.”

But that may just be the beginning. The arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on charges of corruption raises a host of new questions that prosecutors should address, particularly in relation to undue influence on the New York City Asbestos Litigation Court (NYCAL). Silver allegedly used his influence to drive millions of dollars in referrals to the asbestos firm Weitz and Luxenberg, generating hefty sums for himself and the firm, which reaps tremendous profits from its cases before the NYCAL.

The NYCAL was recently named the #1 “Judicial Hellhole” in the nation for its astoundingly preferential treatment of asbestos plaintiffs firms. In 2008, Speaker Silver appointed Weitz and Luxenberg partner, Arthur Luxenberg to the judicial selection committee, which in turn reviewed and approved the judges for the NYCAL.

As LRANY reported in 2014’s “Power of Attorney” Silver was courted by the powerful New York State Trial Lawyers Association, which has  contributed millions of dollars to legislators political campaigns and spent lavishly for an army of lobbyists. Silver has forcefully opposed tort reform measures that would have hurt the lawsuit industry’s profits.

In addition to charges of fraud and corruption, federal investigators should carefully investigate connections between Silver and the NYCAL and seek to uncover any potentially illegal or unethical conduct involving the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. Sunlight, they say, is the best disinfectant.

New York Law Journal: Speaker’s Arrest Prompts Calls for Change and Patience

In response to Speaker Silver’s arrest yesterday, the New York Law Journal ran an article today highlighting the facts of the situation and recording reactions from many, including LRANY Executive Director, Tom Stebbins.

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An excerpt:

“Tom Stebbins, the director of a business-supported Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, said Silver’s five-count criminal complaint suggests Silver’s role as a personal injury lawyer could have prevented him from allowing scaffold law reforms to be considered.

“It seems that Speaker Silver was opposing things like scaffold or asbestos transparency reform in part for the payments from Weitz & Luxenberg and not what was good for the people of the state of New York,” Stebbins said in an interview. “He was the roadblock to a lot of these reforms.”

Stebbins said his group, which is allied with the Business Council, the Partnership for New York City and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, favors distributing liability in instances where workers are injured in falls from heights, or are hurt by falling objects, in proportion to the fault that can be ascribed to worker, contractor or construction site owner.”

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