Blog: Today in Legal Reform
In a letter to the European Commission, ILR President Lisa Rickard warns that mass legal action under the EU’s draft data-protection proposal could lead to abuses similar to those in the U.S. class action system. “We have yet to see the case made for EU measures on collective redress, and since there is no guarantee that the problems of the U.S. class action system would not be replicated, it is imperative that any EU measures that are adopted include certain essential safeguards,” Rickard’s letter says. (Law 360)
An Ecuadorian judge who once presided over a lawsuit against Chevron submitted an affidavit that the plaintiffs lawyers in the case offered a $500,000 bribe to the judge if they were allowed to write the decision, reports ThomsonReuters. The case, which has been tainted with allegations of illegal and improper conduct, resulted in a $19 billion verdict against Chevron. The company continues to fight the enforcement of the verdict in American courts.
The Associated Press reports that Louisiana’s attorney general has paid more than $15 million to outside law firms that he hired to sue over the gulf oil spill, many of whom have donated money to the AG’s campaigns. The judge overseeing the case recently took issue with the use of outside counsel, saying they have “obstructed and frustrated the progress of the litigation” instead of cooperating with other attorneys in the case.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers in a multibillion environmental lawsuit have been accused of defrauding the investors that were funding the suit, Roger Parloff reports in Fortune. In a letter to lawyers, the funders write “we believe that you and particularly your U.S. representatives engaged in a multi-month scheme to deceive and defraud in order to secure desperately needed funding, all the while concealing material information and misrepresenting critical facts in the fear that we would have walked away had we known the true state of affairs.”
The Supreme Court today will hear will hear oral arguments on “the lawsuit industry’s attempt to end-run Congressional limits on abusive class actions,” says a Wall Street Journal editorial. The court will decide whether plaintiffs can bypass the Class Action Fairness Act if they cap their damages at $5 million, the threshold for removing cases to federal court. “Congress has addressed this state-court abuse, and we hope the High Court protects the law that restored some sanity to class actions” concludes the Journal.
The number of asbestos lawsuits filed in 2012 in Madison County, Illinois reached an all-time high of 1,563, an increase of more than 600 from the previous year. Asbestos filings have steadily increased in Madison County since 2006, reports the Madison County Record. Madison Country was named the sixth most unfair and unreasonable jurisdiction in the nation in ILR’s most recent lawsuit climate survey.
Main Justice reports that the DOJ and SEC combined to collect $260 million in FCPA fines and penalties in 2012, down 60 percent from 2011. According to Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP’s 2012 Year-End FCPA Update, the drop is due to several big trials and the drafting of an FCPA guidance document that dominated staff time.
Ohio is on the verge of becoming the first state to clamp down on the abuse of asbestos bankruptcy trusts by requiring greater transparency from claimants. The trusts, established to compensate asbestos victims when defendant companies go bankrupt, risk being prematurely depleted when plaintiffs’ lawyer “double dip,” first making claims to the trusts and then filing lawsuits against solvent companies for the same injury, the Wall Street Journal reports.
A first of its kind bill that would prevent “double dip” claims against asbestos bankruptcy trusts and in the tort system is currently on its way to Governor John Kasich for signature.
A trio of cases on the Supreme Court schedule could have a far-reaching effect on class action law, explains Daniel Fisher in Forbes. If decided in the defendants’ favor, the cases (Comcast v. Behrend, The Standard Fire Insurance vs. Knowles, and Amgen vs. Conn. Retirement Plans) could “lay waste to the class-action bar” writes Fisher, but he notes that the court decided two of three class action cases last year in the plaintiffs' favor.