How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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Richard, your post was a little hard to understand, but thank you for admitting that the "abuse of asbestos litigation" you're decrying is confined to particular jurisdictions, in your opinion, and not asbestos cases everywhere. And actually, yes, I am in it to represent the little guy. If I wanted to represent the big guy, I'd be on the defense side of the bar and a lot richer.

In California (we're a small part of the legal system, but we do try), X-ray screening is done by the unions, not by plaintiffs' firms. We know very well that if we have hired guns and mass-screening vans, the already-hostile courts would throw out our cases. The defense side has no problem paying the same experts $500 an hour to testify that they couldn't see a thing in our clients' CT scans, or that their mesothelioma is caused by asbestos exposure. (Must have been idiopathic. "Idiopathic" is a medical term meaning "I don't know what made the plaintiff sick, but it's not anything the people who hired me did.")


Ted, as a lawyer experimenting with wikis, and who is using the Wikipedia as a model, I have to challenge your assertions about how wikis work. You state "edits of articles ... can only occur by consensus" - as you have edited the Wikipedia, you have to know that your claim is incorrect. Anybody here can go to the Wikipedia right now and, even without creating an account, add anything they want to any article, edit any article, and even delete any article, without any consensus whatsoever. It's both a strength and a drawback: The low threshold for editing makes it more likely that people will contribute, but it also means that the Wikipedia has to have a very active anti-spam team to clean up after spammers, and it means that editors can and do make unilateral changes to articles, sometimes for the worse. They have dispute resolution mechanisms in place, but they seem to be largely ineffective on topics like tort reform, abortion rights, or Israel/Palestine.

Look for example at the unilateral changes you have made topic of malpractice - while I credit you with resolving the problem by (in my opinion appropriately) removing your tort reform additions to the tort reform subject, there is no denying that you were able to unilaterally overwrite another editor's changes.

In my own experimentation, I am allowing anonymous contribution, but require people to sign up for accounts with verified email addresses, and exclude contributions from people who use free email services unless I can otherwise verify that the address is real. It may hinder the project, but my hope is that it will make contributors care more about what they write, knowing that there is at least a chance that they will be held accountable for their words and that they will lose their editing account and privileges if they are abusive.


Wikilawyer, I'm not sure why you're having this discussion on this website, rather than on one of the many Wikipedia talk pages. If you had provided an identity, I could have responded on Wikipedia.

It's true that one can make a short-term editorial change unilaterally. But if others object to that change, that change will not last. Thus, any long-term change can only occur by consensus, or at least acquiescence.

A look at the tort reform page shows a relatively well-balanced page that accounts for all points of view; many of the anti-liability-reform links (including one to this website) were added by me; the pro-liability-reform link that is engendering the most controversy on the talk page was added by a plaintiffs' attorney who made the mistake of relying on a fact sheet without reading the study for which the fact sheet quoted one sentence out of context, whereupon I added the entire paragraph from the study. I won't claim that it's perfect, but any imperfections are unintentional or reflect the fact that Wikipedia is a hobby and I'm not going to hone my writing to the same degree as in a more formal setting.

Wikipedia has a "neutral point of view" policy, and if I were abusing it by making biased edits and refusing in the face of criticism to account for opposing points of view, I would be barred from the site fairly quickly. The tort reform article is long, but so far, no one has identified a single specific thing in that article that violates the NPOV policy that I've resisted changing when it was edited; rather, we just get generalized (and anonymous) criticisms and insults. I'm quite confident that my interpretation of the Klick study in the malpractice article was correct, not least because I've talked to Klick about it, but in the interests of Wikipedia harmony, I backed off as a compromise. That's the way the system works, and the record will show that I yield to reasonable requests and occasionally also to unreasonable requests.

The reality is that I took an article that mischaracterized the issue of litigation reform and made it neutral. The fact that people who object to this have taken their objections to a website that has nothing to do with Wikipedia and have made those objections in the form of anonymous sniping and personal attacks, rather than using well-established Wikipedia procedures, shows that I'm not doing anything improper. I'm not sure why you're convinced the dispute resolution mechanisms are ineffective for tort reform; to date, there's been one escalation that the person who brought it withdrew when he admitted that my edit was a satisfactory resolution of his concern.


Hi, Ted. I thought it was obvious that I posted my comments here because you posted your incorrect information here. This was not a discussion until you made it one - I posted one time.

You are correct that the minutia of how a wiki works is best discussed elsewhere, which is presumably where you should hairsplit over unilateral editing versus editing by consensus.

May I close by suggesting that your discourse here and on Wikipedia suggests that you would benefit from a crash course on netiquette?


which has documented the means by which billions of dollars of asbestos cases have gotten settled in Madison County

Madison County, Madison County, how does that help me, please? I don't even practice in that state, much less in that county. You made a blanket statement about "asbestos cases," so I assume that you can refer me to those defendants that no longer even fight claims.


Mythago: it's not always about you.


Ted, to say that, you've obviously never met mythago. ;-)


Aaron, it's now all about my kids. Don't make me prattle on about them until you're ready to claw your own ears out. ;)

Ted, you made a broad generalization about "asbestos cases". When pressed, you referred to articles discussing an allegedly egregious legal situation, now at least somewhat remedied, in a single county. I'm a little crushed that the pro-plaintiff bias you implied permeates all of asbestos litigation is so limited, and baffled why you are being snippy about this.

For anyone really keen on knowing more about asbestos litigation, I highly recommend this article from the Journal of Economic Perspectives. The author (far from a go-go plaintiffs' advocate) makes a persuasive case that asbestos was the "perfect storm" of mass torts: you had decades of cover-ups, denials and fraud by major asbestos producers, a great deal of industrial work with thousands of asbestos-containing products, clear medical causation that's been known for most of the last century, and an uncounted number of plaintiffs. Ms. White notes that plaintiffs' attorneys have been searching very hard to find a similar mass tort--silicosis, Vioxx--on the same scale, but there isn't one and, she argues, isn't likely to be.

Many defendants do settle rather than fight when the plaintiff's illness is not at issue. That's because there are mountains of evidence regarding those defendants' asbestos-containing products, where they were sold or installed, and what kinds of activities caused exposure. In those situations, shouldn't defendants settle? Or is there some reason to make the same losing argument over and over again?

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