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

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.

WLF Program Details Regulators’, Trial Lawyers’ Efforts to Transform the Employer-Employee Relationship

For a higher-quality video, click here to access the archived version of the program as it was broadcast live from WLF’s platform.


Michael J. Lotito, Littler Mendelson LLP & Gregory P. Jacob, O’Melveny & Myers LLP

Program description:

Federal administrative agencies, through rule changes, policy statements, and enforcement actions, have taken aim at the traditional employer-employee relationship, unsettling decades of employment law in the process. Many state workplace regulators have taken similar actions, and class-action lawsuits alleging, among other things, improper worker classification have proliferated. Our speakers explain how these disparate actions are converging to impact independent contracting, franchising, and other long-standing employment practices, and what affected enterprises can do to fight back.

Sixth Circuit Affirms Class-Certification Order Despite Lack of Commonality

Cruz-Alvarez_FFeatured Expert Contributor – Civil Justice/Class Actions

Frank Cruz-Alvarez, Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P. (co-authored with Talia Zucker, Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P.)*

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s recent decision in Rikos v. The Procter & Gamble Company was a setback to Rule 23 jurisprudence, but as is often the case, there is a silver lining—Judge Deborah Cook’s dissenting opinion.  Judge Cook penned a thoughtful dissent that unravels the analytical shortcomings of the majority’s opinion, and demonstrates the conflict that exists between the majority opinion and the Supreme Court’s Rule 23 jurisprudence.

This lawsuit arose when three consumers (“Plaintiffs”), each residing in different states, purchased the product Align, a probiotic nutritional supplemental designed to promote digestive health, but believed it did not work as advertised. They subsequently brought this action against Procter & Gamble (“P&G”), the manufacturer of Align, claiming violations of various state unfair and deceptive practices because Align did not promote digestive health for anyone. Continue reading

Ninth Circuit Decision Allowing Appeal of Right from Order Denying Class Certification Is Ripe for Supreme Court Review

9thCirRule 23(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure gives appeals courts unfettered discretion in deciding whether to permit an interlocutory appeal from a class certification decision. Most circuits have exercised that discretion sparingly. But a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision issued last week affirmed that circuit’s unique rule: plaintiffs (but not defendants) are entitled to take an immediate appeal from an adverse class certification ruling, even when an appeals court panel has previously denied discretionary appeal under Rule 23(f). All plaintiffs need do is stipulate to dismissal of the complaint with prejudice, and then seek review of the order denying certification in connection with an appeal from the final judgment of dismissal. Never mind that a plaintiff who stipulates to dismissal of his lawsuit might reasonably be deemed to have abandoned his claims. Continue reading

Update: New Jury Again Exonerates KC Royals’ Mascot in Hot-Dog Incident

Not a Tortfeasor

Not a Tortfeasor

Almost exactly a year ago in the WLF Legal Pulse,  WLF general counsel Mark Chenoweth (a Kansas native and Royals fan) called foul on the Missouri Supreme Court for ordering a new trial in the case of a fan that alleged a hot dog, tossed by the Kansas City Royals’ mascot Sluggerrr (pictured left), caused an eye injury.

We recently learned that on June 17, a Jackson County jury, after a wasteful second trial, once again found the Royals not responsible for the fan’s injuries. In addition, it found the fan was not responsible for the injury either. In the original trial, the jury found him 100% responsible for his injuries. The second jury reached the correct decision without the benefit of the “Baseball Rule,” which, as pointed out in last year’s commentary, the Missouri high court inexplicably ruled inapplicable.

The plaintiff’s lawyer told the Kansas City Star that he “hoped the trial ‘sent a message’ to Major League Baseball.” The nature of such a message is unclear, however, especially given the fact that the fan lost his suit and the team won even without the protection of the Baseball Rule.

Unfortunately, the result in Coomer v. Kansas City Royals Baseball Corp. won’t put an end to plaintiffs’ lawyers’ persistent efforts to shift responsibility for ballpark injuries from inattentive fans to deep-pocketed sports franchises. For instance, a Seattle plaintiffs’ firm that specializes in bet-the-company lawsuits has filed a class action in the Northern District of California against Major League Baseball alleging common law negligence and California Unfair Competition Act violations for its failure to provide a safe fan experience. The suit amounts to a frontal assault on the Baseball Rule.

One of the arguments the class makes in support of its negligence claim: baseball teams’ allegedly distracting efforts to entertain fans with activities such as food tosses.

Majority Rule: Standing Continues to be Plaintiffs’ Achilles’ Heel in Data-Breach Class Actions

securityGuest Commentary

by Spencer Salmon, a 2015 Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at the Washington Legal Foundation and a student at Texas Tech School of Law.

Some years ago, when data breaches first became a problem for the business community, plaintiffs’ lawyers thought class actions on behalf of consumers whose information had been stolen would be the next big moneymaker. To their disappointment, a majority of federal courts across the United States has ruled in favor of data breaches’ most direct and obvious victim—hacked businesses—because plaintiffs have failed to establish standing to sue. In order to establish constitutional standing, plaintiffs must show that the alleged injury is concrete, particularized, actual or imminent, fairly traceable to the action challenged, and redressable. Absent standing, courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over the suit under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(1).

Recently, federal district courts from Nevada (In re, Inc., Customer Data Security Breach Litigation) and Minnesota (Carlsen v. Gamestop, Inc.) joined most federal courts in dismissing data-breach class-action lawsuits for lack of standing. Continue reading