The Law Bits and Pieces

Frank's cornerImagine what a genuine malfunction might have cost

The bogus Toyota sudden-acceleration scandal, (I should know, I own two) fed by a credulous media and hungry lawyers, has now cost the Japanese automaker upwards of one billion dollars on paper in settlements, despite the lack of an actual mechanical basis for the claims. (The “on paper” is a necessary qualifier because class action settlements typically fall short of transferring the actual sums declared).

An attorney friend stated that “many more lawsuits remain unsettled, including one nearing trial alleging that the automaker was negligent in not installing a system that cuts off accelerator power when the brake pedal is depressed.”

Whatever their value as a gesture of reassurance, such systems are of no help whatsoever in the actual sudden-acceleration accidents that typically make it to court, in which drivers mistakenly believe themselves to be pressing the brake when their foot is actually on the accelerator. [L.A. Times, whose coverage as usual disappoints]

How Not To Correct the Record

Recently, I wrote about the Zimmerman trial and my disappointment (if not complete surprise) at how irresponsible many journalists, scholars and lawyers have been in reporting, discussing, and drawing conclusions from that case. As I noted there, one of the most serious, and most obviously incorrect, of the many widespread errors about the case is that Zimmerman racially profiled a seven-year-old black child. Now, the original police log of Zimmerman’s calls has been available to everyone with an Internet connection and two minutes to spare since March of 2012. Nevertheless, on July 16, 2013, The New Republic published an essay in which a distinguished law professor wrote the following (emphasis in original):

. . . Zimmerman was an edgy basket case with a gun who had called 911 46 times in 15 months, once to report the suspicious activities of a seven year old black boy.


EU considers harmonizing class action rules

The various member countries have very different traditions as to “collective redress” of legal claims, and while some have liberalized the procedures recently, none is anywhere near as liberal as the United States in permitting lawyers to assert class actions. That’s not going to change, according to Monique Goyens, director general of the European consumer organisation BEUC, which has pushed for new collective redress rules: “The key safeguards against exorbitant awards are in place. So we are not importing US class actions.”  [Euractiv] More specifically:

The safeguards include swiftly ending unfounded cases and avoiding national systems where lawyers’ fees are calculated as a percentage of the compensation awarded, like current systems in the US and, to a lesser extent, in some European countries. The Commission also advises countries to avoid punitive measures, inflicted on top of actual damage and compensation for victims.

Maybe one of these days we could get some of those safeguards over here.

“How To Fix Law School” symposium

Comments from the New Republic with David Lat, Paul Campos, Mike Kinsley etc. follows up on Noam Scheiber article on erosion of BigLaw business model, which in turn drew semi-rebuttal from Mark Obbie at Slate

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