Litigation Practice Group Podcast
The tragedy of asbestos continues to play out. The ensuing litigation has no counterpart in our history. Over 10,000 companies have been named as defendants, leading to 100 bankruptcies (and counting). While the litigation continues apace, it has undergone radical changes from the 1985-2003 period, when millions of nonmalignant asbestos claims, mostly of asbestosis, surged through the civil justice system. U.S. District Court Judge Janis G. Jack painstakingly documented that the litigation screenings which had generated approximately 90% these claims were permeated with fraud. As stated by Judge Jack:
"it [was] clear that the lawyers, doctors and screening companies were all willing participants [in a scheme] to manufacture. . . [diagnoses] for money."
Malignancies, most especially mesothelioma and lung cancer, account for a substantial percentage of the billions being paid out currently. Because of the unique nature of asbestos etiology and bankruptcies, trusts with assets of approximately $30 billion have been created from the assets of reorganized companies to compensate current and future victims of asbestos exposures.
Asbestos claimants today have two separate sources from which to seek compensation: claims against the trusts and suits against solvent defendants in the tort system. In “Fraud and Abuse in Mesothelioma Litigation,” 88 Tulane L. Rev. 1071 (2014), Professor Lester Brickman has examined the interplay between trust payments to claimants and tort claims. He presents evidence that plaintiffs and their counsel have routinely failed to identify exposures to the products of reorganized companies when suing defendants in the tort system even though they state, under oath, that the claimants had “meaningful and credible exposures” to the very products that plaintiffs have denied having exposed to in interrogatories, depositions, and trial testimony. Plaintiffs’ counsel steadfastly maintain that with a sole exception, there is no evidence that plaintiffs or their counsel have engaged in unethical or illegal conduct.
Recently, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge George R. Hodges, in In re Garlock Sealing Techs., 504 B.R. 71 (Bankr. W.D.N.C. 2014), found a “startling pattern of misrepresentation” “of exposure evidence,” thus sustaining Professor Brickman’s expert testimony in the Garlock bankruptcy. The committee representing the interests of plaintiffs and their counsel have appealed Judge Hodges’ Order.
The significance of Judge Hodges’ Order is yet to be determined. Already, Garlock has filed RICO actions against several of the law firms that obtained substantial payments from Garlock. Insurers and defendants are undoubtedly conducting investigations based on the revelations in Garlock and newly emerging evidence that may result in additional lawsuits being brought against plaintiffs’ counsel. If so, we may be entering a new era in litigation.
Sponsored by the Federalist Society's Practice Groups
- Prof. Lester Brickman, Yeshiva University, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
- Mark A. Behrens, Partner, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, L.L.P.
Putting aside criminal cases, the stakes for all sides are perhaps never higher than in a class action case – mere certification of a class can increase the pressure to settle exponentially. But, of course, the class must be properly composed in order to be certified. In the recently-decided Wal-Mart v. Dukes case, the U.S. Supreme Court revisited some of the basic requirements for certification of a class of plaintiffs, including commonality. Other requirements of Rule 23 certification may surface in ongoing litigation stemming from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, where defense attorneys are arguing, among other things, that the settlement agreement is being administered and interpreted overly broadly to include numerous class members who have not suffered any injury caused by BP. Our experts will discuss recent developments in class action litigation, including a pending petition for cert in the BP case. The Federalist Society presented this panel on September 4, 2014.
- Prof. Neal K. Katyal, Partner, Hogan Lovells, and Paul and Patricia Saunders Professor of National Security Law, Georgetown University Law Center
- Hon. Theodore B. Olson, Partner, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP
- Moderator: Mr. Stuart S. Taylor, Jr., Nonresident Senior Fellow in Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution
National Press Club Little Rock Lawyers Chapter
The Little Rock Lawyers Chapter hosted a debate titled "Is Tort Reform Conservative?" at the Arkansas State Capitol in the Old Supreme Court Room on June 24, 2014. Brian Brooks of the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association and James Copland of the Manhattan Institute offered their contrasting views on the constitutionality of varying tort reform measures, and also shared their analyses on how those measures align with traditional conservative values.
Litigation Practice Group Podcast
- Brian Brooks, Counsel, Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association
- James R. Copland, Senior Fellow and Director, Manhattan Institute's Center for Legal Policy
- Moderator: Chad Pekron, Quattlebaum, Grooms, Tull & Burrow PLLC
Cy pres (from the French cy pres comme —“as near as possible”) originated in the trust context, but has more recently been applied to class action litigation, as courts try to determine what to do with sometimes significant amounts of settlement funds remaining after all identified plaintiff awards have been made. In recent decades, courts have agreed to award such remaining funds to third party recipients who, while not parties to the underlying suits, are deemed worthy by the court. Sometimes, the courts have selected these third party recipients based on recommendations from the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. What are the legal underpinnings for such awards to entities or people not party to the underlying case? What are the policy considerations in making or prohibiting such awards? These and other questions were discussed by our experts.
- Prof. Brian T. Fitzpatrick, Vanderbilt University Law School
- Mr. Theodore H. Frank, Founder and President, Center for Class Action Fairness and Adjunct Fellow, Manhattan Institute Center for Legal Policy