To repeat part of the lead from Part 1, rarely am I presented with a topic that neatly ties in so many concepts previously presented on Slabbed, such as cognative bias. For purposes of this post cognative bias involving the media as we again visit with Matt Labash at the hard line GOP media resource The Weekly Standard. We profiled Matt’s 1998 profile of the Castano Group of trial lawyers that took down big tobacco before training their sites on the nation’s gun manufacturers in part 1, where I labeled Matt’s story a “hit piece” and it is true it was one and beyond my own opinion I’ll add I’m merely repeating Matt’s 2006 description of his first profile of Wendell Gauthier, Danny Abel et al thus the post title. In the interim and despite the earlier “hit piece” Matt ended up befriending Abel and using his NOLA area contacts to write a second story on the big easy for the Weekly Standard, this time post Katrina plus 6 months that I thought was simply excellent. Before we highlight some of that story’s high points we need to fill in a bit of the gap between the death of Gauthier and Hurricane Katrina for Trout Point Lodge/La Ferme D’Acadie owner Danny Abel and his boy toy sidekick Shane (D’Antoni) Gates and for that we need to highlight one of Abel’s true life literary adventures in OUTGUNNED: The First Complete Insider Account of the Battle Over Gun Control. Luckily for all of us Abel’s co-author Peter Brown has been kind enough to share his thoughts on the endeavor with the Slabbed Nation but before we delve into the lawsuit Abel and his boy toy Shane Gates recently filed against Mr Brown using the legal services of Aaron Broussard we must first visit with a 3rd party review of the book, which Brown claims was a complete flop:
Meanwhile, Outgunned, by journalist Peter Harry Brown and trial attorney Daniel G. Abel, is about what’s happening in the here and now. More specifically, the book is a sympathetic look at the efforts of a nationwide consortium of trial lawyers (including Abel) who called themselves the “Castano Group,” and who took on the gun industry in the late 1990s. Why are these lawyers particularly interesting? While it’s true that others had already tried to sue the gun industry (including in a well-publicized New York litigation), the Castano lawyers were different. In the world of the plaintiff’s bar, they were the A-Team. They had resources, connections, and experience–including the experience of winning a $346 billion settlement from the tobacco companies. They were also ambitious. Beginning in 1998, the Castano lawyers launched anti-gun suits in cities across the country–until more than 30 state and local governments were involved in litigation against the gun industry.
The Castano lawyers knew this would be extremely challenging litigation and were proven correct–most of it has floundered or failed. So why did they do it? Not for the cash, insist the authors, who point out that the gun Companies do not have the same deep pockets as Big tobacco and could never offer the same kind of rich settlement that the tobacco litigation yielded. But even if one accepts that the lawyers’ motives were largely pure (maybe they were, maybe they weren’t)–and, indeed, even if one discounts their failures in court–Outgunned is not a book that inspires great confidence in the potential of litigation to solve the nation’s most vexing policy issues.
It also is not a very reflective or analytic book. To be fair, Outgunned bills itself as an “insider account of the battle over gun control.” This is meant to be juicy stuff, not a policy tract. But without much critical argument to distract the reader, the book bogs down in a muck of appalling details about the Castano lawyers who are supposed to be our heroes–facts that the authors unabashedly trot out and never successfully excuse. The key players include well-connected Washington, D.C., lawyer John Coale–who is called “the clown prince of the legal world”–and Cincinnati’s Stanley Chesley, a.k.a. the “sultan of settlement.” But the lion’s share of the limelight is reserved for the book’s co-author Abel and his partner, Wendell Gauthier, with whom Abel bonded at the site of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India. Ah yes, those were the days. “While an elephant chased Gauthier through the streets of India,” recall the authors, “Abel crept over terrain with thickets full of cobras to spy on the Union Carbide plant.” Continue reading “Laissez les bons temps rouler! Slabbed travels back in time with the girls and ties a few things together. A Trout Point Lodge / Jefferson Parish Political Corruption Scandal Update Part 2.”
Rarely am I presented with a topic that neatly ties in so many legal concepts we’ve advocated here on Slabbed such as ordinary citizens losing their basic constitutional rights under the ruse of Tort Reform and as luck would have it, this area was used as the poster child for the need to strip ordinary citizens across this country of their constitutional rights so my sources on this topic can’t be better placed. The story includes all the finest corrupt trial lawyers from the now incarcerated Dick Scruggs to Calvin Fayard and beyond. It also includes a group of gay men we affectionately call the girls here on Slabbed that were affiliated with Wendell Gauthier. Luckily for me I don’t have to reinvent the wheel as two articles in the conservative publication the Weekly Standard well tells the story of the abuses that lead to a few men becoming obscenely wealthy while everyone else lost basic constitutional rights so lets hop in the wayback machine to 1998 and Matt Labash’s wide cited story Lawyers, Guns and Money:
Wendell Gauthier loves to smile. Sure, the most renowned class-action lawyer in New Orleans possesses many other trademarks. He has full-bodied Atticus Finch hair, and he’s tailored like a mogul from Milan. With a soft Cajun accent, he’s a fount of country-lawyer malapropisms (he says his old friend Edwin Edwards, the frequently indicted former governor of Louisiana, has a “photogenic mind”). But Gauthier’s defining characteristic is the infectious, perpetual, coprophagous grin. Indeed, an opposing lawyer once objected to a judge that Wendell Gauthier smiled too often. With his track record, who wouldn’t?
A veritable Zelig of mass-disaster litigation, Gauthier has twice ranked as one of the National Law Journal’s “100 Most Powerful Lawyers.” From the 1982 Pan Am plane crash to the 1980 MGM Grand hotel fire, from bone screws to breast implants, if it burns, leaks, seeps, or (praise God) explodes, chances are Gauthier is heading up the plaintiff’s committee, siphoning 25 percent to 35 percent contingency fees from the multi-million dollar jackpots relinquished by accident-prone companies waiting to get milked in class action lawsuits.
Then again folks, lazy and at times downright factually incorrect reporting of the McDonald’s Coffee case is a reason why the media in general was little more than a cheerleader for big businesses and their take over of the court system in furtherance of their own economic ends. Judging from the editorial page at the McComb Enterprise Journal it looks like blind idealogues make up the editorial board there. (H/T The Sun Herald which featured their ignorant brethren on the OpEd pages of today’s paper.)
I’ve always said the consumer bar could do a better job educating the public about the good the profession does for society, especially after years of being demonized by big business and their lackeys at the US Chamber of Commerce and various special interest trade groups such as the III.
Speaking of the III and Head Shill Robert Hartwig, here is a perfect example of the ol’ fallback line of demonizing trial lawyers after Allstate was literally caught with its hand in the NFIP cookie jar. Sadly the vast majority of the media is not equipped to tell the kind of in depth story on a complex subject as insurance and how it interfaces with the world of high finance and the legal system.
The upcoming Louisiana legislative session is a general-purpose one, not restricted to taxes and other fiscal matters. So, typically, the Legislature will take on every topic imaginable.
We’re glad one of those topics is insurance, the subject for an upcoming series of hearings by a joint legislative committee. Something is clearly wrong with our system, especially where homeowners insurance is concerned. The best look would come from the broadest field of view — the kind you get without ideological blinders.
We hope the committee will look for solutions everywhere logic might lead, from more and more effective regulation — preferably in concert with other Gulf Coast states — to tort reform, which seems to have had a calming effect on rates in Mississippi ($802).
Without a stable, affordable homeowners insurance market, South Louisiana has no future worth hoping for.
The “drafts file” is overflowing (again) and time is short (again) – nothing to do but pull a handful of things I think worth a mention and go for what Sop has called a “round-up” post.
First up is an update on Young v Scruggs – brief because the case is stuck on proper service of the summons issued to Dick Scruggs, a discussion I passed on recenty when reporting Defendant’s Rebuttal. What’s happened since the, however, is more interesting. First, the defendants fied a Motion to Strike Purported Summons that basically restated the argument Scruggs was not lawfully served and there was a pending motion to dismiss on that basis. Next, plaintiffs pop up and file Notice the summons has been reissued – and on that same day, according to the docket, defendants filed anAmended Motion to Strike that cites and attaches a recent Mississippi Supreme Court ruling on the subject that’s worth a look.
The latest news on USA v Minor (Whitfield and Teel) makes for interesting reading – so did the recently filed Motion for Rehearing that was sitting in drafts when most media had the story up. Here’s the Motion and here’s the latest:
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 28(j), Paul Minor notifies the Court of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United v. FEC, No. 08-205 (Jan. 21, 2010). That decision clarifies that the jury instructions in this case, which allowed the jury to convict the defendants of honest services fraud for campaign contributions made with only an intent to influence and without any quid pro quo, violate the First Amendment. h/t Legal Schnauzer (entire letter posted there)
Marbury v. Madison, Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade? Ask anyone in the U.S. or abroad and they will likely tell you about a woman who spilled coffee on herself and collected millions of dollars. The McDonald’s coffee case became the poster child for frivolous lawsuits in America. Jerry Seinfeld did an entire episode where Kramer sued Java World after spilling a café latté on himself while trying to get a seat in a movie theater. Jay Leno, David Letterman and other comedians have made the case the punch line for jokes; there are even the “Stella Awards” (for Stella Liebeck), given each year to the most outrageous and frivolous lawsuits. But if this case was so ridiculous, why did a jury award $2.9 million dollars to this 79 year old after a seven-day trial in 1994? Did McDonald’s not have good lawyers? And how did this case gain such notoriety and remain in the minds of so many people after so many years?
The McDonald’s coffee case has been routinely cited by the media as an example of how citizens have taken advantage of the legal system. In this documentary, you will learn what really happened to Stella, meet her grandson, who was driving the car, and hear from her doctor, the lawyers, McDonald’s quality assurance manager, and the jurors. Was the media’s portrayal of this case fair or was there an agenda by tort-reform groups to create a public perception that lawsuits were out of control. How did it become the poster child for tort reform, what is tort reform and how does it affect everyday Americans?
The recent New Yorker article on Dickie Scruggs has been a popular subject in the blogesphere. Personally I’m suffering from Scruggs fatigue and will disclose I personally think that drama is largely over. P. L. Blake could change all that and more of course, but it is hard to see the incentive for the elderly Blake to cooperate with federal investigators at this point.
My experience has been that the best discussions I’ve seen or participated in on the topic of Dickie Scruggs and/or coastal insurance issues have been with people who work in the insurance industry that are not practicing lawyers. That is not a slap at the bar as much an admission on my part of the type people my life experiences cause me to better identify. I guess that is why some of my favorite commenters here on slabbed hail from the industry even though we don’t exactly see eye to eye on many of these issues.
This brings me to Sam Friedman, Editor In-Chief of the National Underwriter, a property and casualty trade publication with whom I’ve had the pleasure of chatting on occasion. Sam’s blog graces our selective blogroll because of his even handed treatments of these important issues. We don’t agree on the need for the HR3121 multi-peril insurance concept or whether the Bloomberg Article The Insurance Hoax was a complete hatchet job. 😉 However, Sam does recognize the insurance problems we opine about so much here on slabbed. Reasonable people can disagree and yet still work together to find good solutions to mutually identified problems. Sam is such a person. Continue reading “Sam Friedman on Dickie Scruggs and the Courtroom as a Profit Center”
Just wondering and decided to post the question – not that the thought struck me out of the blue but that the question is one a lawyer would need to answer and that I’m not.
Given Judge Senter’s decisions disqualifying law firms that were not members of SKG, I’ve been researching the concept of vicarious liability – research that led to the related concept of joint and several liability and a website that explained related Mississippi tort reform legislation
Joint Liability Reform: H.B. 13 (special session) (2004). Abolishes joint and several liability. Provides that defendants are not responsible for any fault allocated to an immune tortfeasor or a tortfeasor whose liability is limited by law.
Here’s a link to the legislation signed into law. Feedback wanted and most welcome.