Sunday, October 23, 2016

Judge assigned to wrongful death case against Hilary Clinton steps aside and asks for case to be reassigned after allegations of forum shopping

Back in August I reported that the parents of two Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya, filed a lawsuit Hillary Clinton for wrongful death, alleging the 2012 attack "was directly and proximately caused" by the then-secretary of state's mishandling of government secrets.  I my post (here) I suggested the allegations in the complaint would be very difficult to prove and that there was a chance the case would be considered a frivolous lawsuit, in which case it should be dismissed and the lawyer should be sanctioned.

Now, a new report published in Politico (here) provides an interesting update on the story.  The judge who had been assigned the case decided to set aside and send the case back for reassignment.  It turns out the attorney who filed the case wanted that specific judge (a long time Clinton critic) and apparently tried to manipulate the system in order to get him.  According to the story, Clinton's lawyers filed a motion arguing, among other things that the plaintiffs' lawyer has a history of "judge shopping" and the judge gave up the case.

This new development adds to my concern over the plaintiffs' lawyer.  Did he first file a frivolous lawsuit and then try to manipulate the system in order to shop for the judge he wanted?   Will there be a hearing to discuss these questions?  Will the new judge impose sanctions?  Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 16, 2016

What are "non-economic damages" and why do tort reformers want to limit victims' ability to recover for them?

A few days ago I reported that the Supreme Court of Arkansas eliminated a ballot initiative that would have drastically capped compensation for “non-economic damages” to victims of medical malpractice and nursing home abuse.  (In fact, it has been reported that the initiative was the brainchild of the nursing home industry.)

In response to this news, the PopTort has posted a good short comment on the nature of non-economic damages and the effects of placing "caps" on them.  You should read it here.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Movement afoot to prevent a vote on Arkansas referendum that would cap attorney fees and damages in medical cases -- UPDATED

September 3, 2016:   The ABA Journal online is reporting that two lawsuits have been filed this week to block an Arkansas ballot referendum that would cap non-economic damages and attorney fees in medical injury cases.  The state’s Bar Association also opposes the proposed measure which would require legislators to create a cap for non-economic damages in medical lawsuits against health-care providers of at least $250,000, and would limit contingency fees to one-third of any recovery after all costs of the litigation are deducted.

UPDATE (Oct. 13, 2016):  The TortsProf blog is reporting today that the Arkansas Supreme Court has just killed the ballot initiative.  TortsProf has a link to more information. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Update on the debate regarding possible liability for injuries caused by autonomous cars

I have been following the debate regarding the development of so called "self driving cars" or "autonomous cars and the debate on the legal issues that will arise regarding liability for injuries caused by them.  My previous posts (with lots of links to more information) are here, here, here and here.

One of the more interesting questions that is being debated is whether a car should be programmed to kill its occupants if it means saving the lives of other people or whether government regulations should focus on a utilitarian model where the vehicle is programmed to prioritize the good of the overall public above the individual.

This philosophical question - usually referred to as the trolley car problem - has been the subject of discussion in philosophy classes and books for a long time.  (You can watch such a class at Harvard here).

Interestingly, however, Techdirt is reporting that according to some engineers, the trolley problem should not be an issue when it comes to autonomous cars.  Or, at least, not yet.  For now, engineers are concerned with more basic problems.  As the article concludes:
[The trolley questions is] still a question that needs asking, but with no obvious solution on the horizon, engineers appear to be focused on notably more mundane problems. For example one study suggests that while self-driving cars do get into twice the number of accidents of manually controlled vehicles, those accidents usually occur because the automated car was too careful -- and didn't bend the rules a little like a normal driver would (rear ended for being too cautious at a right on red, for example). As such, the current problem du jour isn't some fantastical scenario involving an on-board AI killing you to save a busload of crying toddlers, but how to get self-driving cars to drive more like the inconsistent, sometimes downright goofy, and error-prone human beings they hope to someday replace. 
You can read the article (and the comments posted below it) here