New Jersey High Court Should Do Away with Plaintiffs’ Lawyers’ “Want-Ad” Closing Arguments

jury boxThe Schindler Elevator Corporation recently petitioned the Supreme Court of New Jersey to rebuke the plaintiffs’ bar’s most recent attempt to circumvent the longstanding prohibition on “Golden Rule” arguments. During closing arguments in Tufaro v. Headquarters Plaza, et al., a personal-injury trial, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jurors to think of awarding compensation “in terms of putting a want ad in the paper.” The hypothetical want ad would describe a job offer, one in which the applicant’s only duty is to suffer the plaintiff’s specific injuries. The insinuation is simple: How much payment would the jurors require to voluntarily endure the plaintiff’s injury? In other words, plaintiff’s counsel asks the jury to award damages based on how much compensation they would negotiate ex ante before agreeing to suffer the plaintiff’s injuries. This is exactly the type of Golden Rule argument that courts have long forbidden. Continue reading

In the Ninth Circuit, Not All Litigants Are Created Equal

9thCirThe U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this week denied Uber Technologies’s petition for Rule 23(f) interlocutory review of an order granting class certification in a major challenge to the manner in which Uber operates its ride-sharing business. The four named plaintiffs assert that every Uber driver should be classified as an employee, not (as is currently the case) an independent contractor. The denial of review is not unusual when viewed in isolation. Although Rule 23(f) grants federal appeals courts discretionary authority to hear interlocutory appeals from class-certification orders, appeals courts permit such appeals in only a fraction of all cases, and the default rule continues to be that litigants must await issuance of a final judgment before appealing from pre-judgment rulings to which they object. Continue reading

WLF Overcriminalization Timeline: Attorney-Client Privilege and Work-Product Doctrine

FrisbyGuest Commentary

Larson Frisby, American Bar Association*

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of six guest commentary posts that will address the six distinct topic areas covered in Washington Legal Foundation’s recently released Timeline: Federal Erosion of Business Civil Liberties. To read the other posts in this series, click here.

For more than a decade, the American Bar Association (ABA) has worked closely with the Washington Legal Foundation and other prominent business and legal groups to reverse or modify federal agency policies that have been eroding the attorney-client privilege and the work product doctrine. As shown by the WLF’s new chart, “Timeline: Federal Erosion of Business Civil Liberties, great progress has been achieved in preserving these important legal protections, but much still needs to be done.

The attorney-client privilege, which protects confidential communications between a client and a lawyer for the purpose of obtaining legal assistance, is a bedrock legal principle of our free society. It enables both individual and corporate clients to communicate with their lawyers in confidence, which is essential to preserving the client’s fundamental right to effective counsel. Continue reading

Video-on-Demand Available of WLF Web Seminar, Product Liability Risks of “The Internet of Things”

Speaker: H. Michael O’Brien, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP

Mr. O’Brien’s Powerpoint slides are available here.

Program description: The rapid proliferation of objects equipped with sensors and wireless capability, colloquially known as the “Internet of Things,” has inspired privacy and data-security concerns. Less considered, but no less serious, are the tort-liability risks that accompany these technologically-complex products. This program assessed how networked products could give rise to both traditional and unique failure-to-warn, design-defect, and other product-liability claims, and how businesses in the chain of supply, production, and sales can manage such risks.

District Court Tosses $15 Billion Facebook Tracking Class Action

Cruz-Alvarez_FFeatured Expert Contributor – Civil Justice/Class Actions

By Frank Cruz-Alvarez, Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P. (co-authored with Rachel A. Canfield, an associate with the firm)

After nearly three years, United States District Judge Edward J. Davila issued an order granting Facebook, Inc.’s (Facebook’s) motion to dismiss a $15 billion lawsuit accusing the social media company of improperly embedding cookies on Plaintiffs’ computers to collect and transmit their web browsing history. Order Granting Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss at 1-2, 19, In re Facebook Internet Tracking Litigation, Case No. 5:12-md-02314-EJD (N.D. Cal. Oct. 23, 2015).

The multi-district lawsuit arose from numerous cases challenging Facebook’s tracking practices. These cases were filed in various districts and subsequently transferred to the Northern District of California where they were consolidated. Id. at 6. Plaintiffs filed the lawsuit on behalf of Facebook members in ten different states that had active accounts from May 2010 through September 2011. Id.  Continue reading

Eighth Circuit Properly Rejects “Fear of Nuisance” Suit Arising from Pipeline Leak

faulkFeatured Expert Column − Complex Serial and Mass Tort Litigation

By Richard O. Faulk, Hollingsworth LLP

Can a public-nuisance lawsuit be based solely on property owners’ fear that their property values will be diminished by proximity to an adjacent contaminated tract? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently—and correctly—rejected a creative, but flawed, attempt by landowners to recover damages for such claims in Smith v. ConocoPhillips Pipeline Co.

The use of public nuisance litigation to redress environmental claims has proven extraordinarily controversial—and generally unsuccessful. Perhaps the most famous failure occurred when plaintiffs employed nuisance theories to redress environmental contamination at Love Canal, in which case over a decade of litigation failed to produce a solution.1 Thereafter, appellate courts generally rejected the tort’s use for a wide variety of claims ranging from lead paint contamination to climate change.2 Continue reading

Litigation Targeting Trans Fat Stayed: A Bump in the Road or Something More?

davidwallacehsfcomLGSMKellyGuest Commentary

by David L. Wallace and Michael R. Kelly, Herbert Smith Freehills LLP*

Since the 1950s, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils (PHOs) have been used to produce all sorts of packaged foods. These ingredients increase food shelf life and flavor stability. They also contain artificial trans fats, which have been linked to various health risks, including cardiovascular disease. Despite these risks, PHOs were until recently “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) for use as a food ingredient. The tide began to swing two years ago, though, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tentatively proposed to withdraw GRAS status for PHOs “based on current scientific information” about the health risks of trans-fat consumption. It finalized this determination in a June 2015 order, declaring “that there is no longer a consensus among qualified experts that partially hydrogenated oils … are generally recognized as safe for any use in human food.”

Lawyers Running With Regulations

This regulatory action makes PHOs a “food additive” subject to pre-market approval by the FDA. Without FDA approval, foods containing PHOs would be deemed “adulterated” under both federal and state laws. The agency left industry breathing room, however, giving it until June 2018 either to comply or to obtain approval for certain uses of PHOs. But, like time, regulation-chasing plaintiffs’ lawyers wait for no one, and pounced on the agency’s new stance in the name of “consumer protection.” Before the FDA had even finalized its decision on PHOs, they had already installed trans fats as the latest bogeyman on supermarket shelves and the food-litigation landscape—alongside such hated fighting words as “natural,” “healthy,” “freshly baked,” and “handcrafted.”       Continue reading