KATRINA'S REFUGEES . . . After work yesterday, I was at a bar in Clayton, Missouri, and discovered there was a group of Katrina refugees who had arrived in St. Louis the night before. One of them was a lawyer who told me he'd had a solo practice in New Orleans since he graduated from law school five years ago. Not surprisingly, he was very morose. He said that his office had been demolished but even if it had survived, it wouldn't have mattered very much: his practice wouldn't survive in any case. He said he doubted that some portions of New Orleans would even be rebuilt. He talked about the refugee camps that would have to be established in other parts of the state. He criticized the local government for not planning well enough for the disaster and not ordering an evacuation soon enough. Very angry about what had happened, he mulled over possible causes of action as we talked, more out of frustration than anything else.
He told me he'd left New Orleans on Sunday. The last person he talked to on the phone was his secretary. He'd urged her to leave, but she wouldn't listen. With the phones down, he couldn't get in touch with her. "She's the person I'm worried about the most," he said.
Later in the evening, I received an email about the hurricane from Ken Suggs, the President of ATLA, who was attempting to get word out about hurricane relief to all ATLA members. I'll post the entire email in the continuation. Here's how the email concluded:
[A]s we pull together to offer help to our colleagues whose
practices have been devastated, I'd also encourage you to contribute to
the general relief efforts at redcross.org.
INTO A LION'S DEN . . . That's where I'll be headed next Wednesday, September 7, when I participate in a panel discussion about the Vioxx litigation at the American Enterprise Institute. While not literally lions, the three other speakers are all decidedly fearsome, as well as much less pro-plaintiff than me: Jack Calfee and Ted Frank, both of AEI, and Dan Troy, former chief counsel of the FDA and currently at Sidley & Austin.
The event is titled "The $253 Million Vioxx Verdict: What Does It Mean?" The AEI website sets out the parameters of the discussion:
What implications does this verdict have for drug development, for the pharmaceutical industry, and for the justice system? What consequences will this verdict have for consumers? Is further liability reform needed, or is the current jury trial system an appropriate means of regulating drug safety?
I'll be speaking specifically on this topic: "In Defense of the Jury System, Post-Ernst." All attempts to publicize the event on other weblogs will be much appreciated. Further details can be found at AEI, Point of Law, and Overlawyered.
UPDATE . . . For all of my collected Vioxx posts, look here. If you are (a) someone who was harmed by Vioxx or (b) a lawyer who wants to refer your Vioxx cases to a highly-competent team of mass-tort lawyers, look here.
GUEST WRITERS WELCOME TOMORROW . . . Guests posts run here on Wednesdays and are permanently stored in the "guests" and "guest 2" categories. If you have something to say, the rules are here. Writers of all political persuasions are welcome.
If you'd like to schedule your post for a later Wednesday, I'd be happy to give you feedback on your posting ideas or to provide a list of topics, specially-tailored to your own interests.
ERNEST AND RAY . . . Ray Ward of Minor Wisdom got out of New Orleans; Ernest Svenson of Ernie the Attorneydidn't.
Though I haven't been reading any weblogs today, I've seen plenty of images of the hurricane damage on CNN and the other networks. As someone who used to live in New Orleans (my favorite city in the world), and who has traveled all over the Mississippi Gulf Coast--well, it's not easy to watch.
Good luck to Ernest and Ray, as well as all the others.
THIS WEEK'S BLAWG REVIEW . . . Blawg Review #21 is being hosted by Carolyn Elefant of MyShingle.com. As it happens, MyShingle.com was the first law-related weblog I ever read and was one of the first four I linked to when I started Legal Underground. That's why I'm especially happy that Carolyn is participating in Blawg Review, where I continue to be a contributing editor.
JUST DON'T REFORM AWAY THEIR RIGHT TO SUE . . . The tort reformers at the Washington Legal Foundation have a new idea for reforming the legal system: sue plaintiffs' lawyers. According to an article at Law.com, the lawsuits would be based on the allegations in the ongoing federal investigation of Milberg Weiss. (More about the investigation here and here.)
In the Law.com article, cooler heads were asked to comment, including law professor Joseph Grundfest:
Joseph Grundfest, a securities expert at Stanford Law School and frequent critic of the plaintiffs bar, said Thursday that he has heard little about the idea of private civil suits in connection with the federal investigation.
"All of this seems premature until we know what allegations, if any, are going to be made against the firm and individual attorneys," he said.
(MIS)QUOTED IN THE ECONOMIST . . . Thanks to the reader who emailed me the news that The Economist quoted me in "The lessons of Merck's bad day in court" (August 27 print edition).
Although not available online, here's the paragraph in which I was quoted:
Mark Lanier, the plaintiff's lawyer, made much of Merck's allegedly deliberate economy with the truth, and played on the current public hostility towards the drug industry to win his case. This was despite the lack of any scientific evidence that Vioxx actually killed Mr Ernst. Evan Schaeffer, another personal injury lawyer, says that it had been widely assumed this lack of evidence made the case "unwinnable for the plaintiffs".
I've been interviewed by The Economist before, but not about Vioxx, so I assume the writer was quoting a Vioxx post where I wrote as follows:
One important thing to take away from today's verdict, even though it will presumably be reduced by virtue of the Texas law on punitive damages, is that this was a case perceived to have causation problems that made it virtually unwinnable for the plaintiffs.
The quote in The Economist implies that I thought the plaintiff's case in Ernst v. Merck lacked causation evidence. In fact, I only said that this was the perception, largely because it's what Merck told the press. My views about the plaintiff's scientific evidence were directly the opposite, as I said in my post "Vioxx and Arrhythmias."
My collected Vioxx posts are here. If you are (a) someone who was harmed by Vioxx or (b) a lawyer who wants to refer your Vioxx cases to a highly-competent team of mass-tort lawyers, look here.