Does the American Law Institute Have an Ethics Problem on Its Hands?

ethicsThe brouhaha that engulfed the final draft of the Restatement of the Law, Liability Insurance (RLLI) at last month’s American Law Institute (ALI) annual meeting drew more publicity and concern than any ALI work product that I can recall.  And for good reason.  As numerous commentators observed—including Washington Legal Foundation’s Glenn Lammi and Mintz Levin’s Kim Marrkand—several provisions of the Restatement draft presented at the annual meeting deviated from the current legal rule in a majority or plurality of states.  Simply put, this “Restatement” does a lot less restating and a lot more revising than ought to be seen in something traveling under this banner. Continue reading

Supreme Court’s Presumption-of-Innocence Decision Should Inspire Asset-Forfeiture Reformers

supreme courtIn a US Supreme Court term filled with cases that “only a lawyer could love,” the justices did issue at least one decision in October Term 2016—Nelson v. Colorado—that any TV crime-drama viewer can understand. The decision turned on the bedrock principle that the accused is innocent until proven guilty. While Justice Ginsburg’s opinion applies directly to a Colorado law, it could prove highly influential in the ongoing debate over civil-asset forfeiture, a controversial law-enforcement practice. Continue reading

Forum-Shopping Plaintiffs Take a Major Hit in US Supreme Court

supreme courtForum-shopping plaintiffs’ attorneys have long sought to file their claims against large businesses in jurisdictions with reputations for favoring plaintiffs—without regard to whether the claims actually arose in those jurisdictions.  They justify their assertions of personal jurisdiction in such cases by arguing that a company that does business nationwide should be amenable to suit in any State in which it conducts substantial business.  In its 2014 Daimler AG v. Bauman decision, the US Supreme Court called into serious question the validity of such venturesome assertions of jurisdiction.  The Court’s decision last week in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court may have put such claims entirely to rest. Continue reading

News Flash! Jelly Beans Contain Sugar—The Continuing Saga of Evaporated Cane Juice Litigation

mckenziy_printGuest Commentary

By Yvonne M. McKenzie, a Partner with Pepper Hamilton LLP in the firm’s Philadelphia, PA office, and Colleen Kelly, an Associate with the firm.

In February, plaintiffs filed a class-action lawsuit in California against candy maker Jelly Belly on behalf of consumers who purchased jelly beans marketed as “Sport Beans.” They claimed that Jelly Belly used the phrase “evaporated cane juice” (ECJ) in its ingredient labeling to mislead consumers about the amount of sugar in Sport Beans.

Jelly Belly markets the product to athletes seeking a jolt of “quick energy,” which is usually accomplished through ingesting sugar and carbohydrates. Far from masking its ingredients, the product labeling clearly states that Sport Beans contain 19 grams of sugar per serving. Despite this, the plaintiffs claimed that the term ECJ misled them into thinking that the product contained juice, not sugar. Never mind that juice itself typically contains sugar. Continue reading

From Sea to Shining Sea: The Ninth Circuit Aligns with the Second Circuit in Affirming “Omnicare” Decision’s Benefits for Securities-Suit Targets

greenedFinkelsteinGuest Commentary

By Doug Greene and Bret Finkelstein, a Partner and an Associate, respectively, with Lane Powell PC in the firm’s Seattle, WA office.

In a matter of first impression in the Ninth Circuit, the court applied the Supreme Court’s Omnicare standard for pleading the falsity of a statement of opinion in City of Dearborn Heights Act 345 Police & Fire Retirement System v. Align Technology, Inc., — F.3d —, 2017 WL 1753276 (9th Cir. May 5, 2017). The Ninth Circuit decision builds on the momentum for the defense bar following the 2016 Second Circuit opinion in Tongue v. Sanofi, 816 F.3d 199 (2d Cir. 2016), correctly applies the rationale of Omnicare to Section 10(b) cases, and applies the Omnicare falsity analysis to an important category of statements of opinion: accounting reserves.

The Supreme Court’s landmark 2015 decision, Omnicare, Inc. v. Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund, 135 S. Ct. 1318 (2015), was originally met with mixed reviews by securities litigators of all stripes. Some commentators—including members of the defense bar—raised alarm following Omnicare, worrying that the decision was a win for plaintiffs because they felt it created a new area of potential liability for statements of opinion that were honestly held, but nonetheless misleading. Continue reading

Preserved Shark Repellent: Pennsylvania’s Abuse-of-Process Law Withstands a Constitutional Challenge

Shark_as_part_of_a_law_office_sign

Source: WikiMedia Commons

By Hillary Hunter, a 2017 Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation who will be entering her third year at Texas Tech University School of Law in the fall.

Suppose while swimming through life, innocently enough you draw the attention of an aggressive lawyer. You did nothing wrong, but still find yourself being circled by a predator. Now, like a shark sensing blood in the water, suppose the lawyer goes in for a bite. He files a baseless lawsuit, one aimed at wearing down your resources and patience to the point where you will surrender and settle. As you do your best to keep your head above water, you consider your options. Is there any shark repellent around?

Victims of lawsuit abuse in some states, in fact, do have legislatively crafted tools at their disposal to fight back. For example, Pennsylvania’s Dragonetti Act recently survived a state constitutional separation–of–powers challenge. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the law in Villani v. Seibert reflects the shared responsibility of the legislative and judicial branches to direct a state’s legal system and govern attorney conduct. Continue reading

The Supreme Court’s “Microsoft Corp. v. Baker” Decision Restores Much Needed Sanity to Federal Appellate Procedure

supreme courtMicrosoft Corp. v. Baker is one of those cases that only a lawyer could love. At issue was whether a federal appellate court has jurisdiction to review a class-certification order if the plaintiffs have voluntarily dismissed all of their claims, with prejudice.

Class-action plaintiffs have long sought the right to immediately appeal from orders denying class certification. In the 1960s and 1970s, some federal courts of appeals began allowing such an immediate right of appeal under the so-called death-knell doctrine. Under that judicially created rule, if the plaintiffs could show that the denial of class certification—if left unreviewed—would end the lawsuit for all practical purposes, the appeals court would grant review of that interlocutory order. Continue reading