May 18, 2010
In last year’s federal terrorism case against once-suspected “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla, a team of defense lawyers were sitting at a back table in the Miami federal courtroom with their laptops searching online all the jurors when they discovered one had lied on her jury questionnaire.
The woman, a Miami-area government employee who has not been identified, said she had no personal experience in the criminal system.
It turned out she was currently under investigation for malfeasance, according to Linda Moreno, a Tampa, Fla., solo trial lawyer who served as a jury consultant for one of Padilla’s co-defendants. After the judge was informed, she dismissed the juror. See U.S. v. Hassoun, No. 0:04cr60001 (S.D. Fla.).
The Miami case was not unusual. As more and more information on people becomes available on the Internet, through posting on personal blogs, MySpace, Facebook and other social networking Web sites, the Internet has, in the last few years, become an important tool for jury consultants and trial lawyers.
Jury consultants say such sites are a treasure trove of information about potential and seated jurors that can be used in picking the right jurors, bouncing potential jurors and even influencing jurors through the trial and in closing arguments.
To mine the gold, jury consultants have begun turning to private investigators, some of whom have started niche businesses offering Internet jury research and “personality profiling” of jurors.
“If it’s within the law, with peoples’ lives at stake and millions and millions of dollars at stake, people will do whatever it takes to win a case,” said Marshall Hennington, a Beverly Hills, Calif., jury consultant at Hennington & Associates. “The stakes are getting higher and higher, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to persuade jurors that have strong biases … so we need information ahead of time. Everything is fair game.”
About 3,400 Californians whose health insurance was canceled by Kaiser, Health Net and PacifiCare after they got sick will soon receive notification that they may be eligible for new coverage and for compensation for medical bills they paid while they were uninsured.
In a deal with state regulators, the insurers agreed to offer former members new coverage regardless of preexisting medical conditions and to reimburse them for medical expenses. In exchange, the state Department of Managed Health Care will close investigations into the companies’ rescission practices. Regulators began mailing out notices to individuals Tuesday.
The state’s largest insurers have all been widely accused of looking for ways to drop individual policyholders who incur high costs. The insurers contend that members who are dropped have misrepresented their medical histories on their applications.
The practice has been condemned by lawmakers, judges and regulators.
The agreements between the state and the insurers were unprecedented in their ambition to restore coverage. But they also have come under fire from consumer advocates.
The mailed notices triggered another flare-up.
Lawyers for policyholders expressed concern Friday at a hearing in a suit against Health Net over a plan for the insurer to notify former members about the state agreement.
State law stipulates that such notices go through lawyers for members of the presumed class, said Mike Bidart, one of the policyholder lawyers.
Article: LA Times
Four years ago, a group of Marines was practicing low-level flying techniques in a helicopter near Camp Pendleton, maneuvers used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The nighttime exercise ended tragically when a copter hit a utility tower and the crew perished in the crash.
The families of the Marines are now suing San Diego Gas & Electric, saying the company knew its towers and power lines were a danger to aircraft in the area and failed to install ball-shaped markers or safety lights to prevent collisions.
Because of that failure, SDG&E is responsible for the Marines’ deaths, an attorney representing the families said Tuesday in San Diego Superior Court.
“The tower was not lit,” Todd Macaluso told the jury on the first day of the civil trial. “It had no ball marker, and we’re going to prove that the tower could not be seen.”
Lawyers for the utility said the crash was not the result of any negligence by SDG&E, but instead was caused by pilot error.
“These pilots basically got lost and didn’t know where they were,” attorney Larry Davis said.
Family members of Capt. Adam E. Miller, 29; 1st Lt. Michael S. Lawlor, 26; Staff Sgt. Lori A. Privette, 27; and Cpl. Joshua D. Harris, 21, are seeking unspecified general, economic and punitive damages in the wrongful-death lawsuit, filed in July 2004.
Article: Sign On San Diego
The lawsuit accused Gilead of fostering demand for Viread by using improper marketing, including aggressively promoting off-label uses for the drug after U.S. regulators ordered the company to stop.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a San Francisco district court’s decision to dismiss the case on the grounds that investors had failed to prove that their 2003 stock losses were related to the off-label sales and to alleged false statements the company made about Viread.
“Gilead’s fortunes, as reflected in its stock price, depended heavily on Viread’s commercial success,” the appeals court wrote in its opinion.
“Ultimately, 75 percent to 95 percent of Viread sales resulted from off-label marketing efforts,” the court said.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to resolve whether Exxon Mobil Corp. must pay victims of the 1989 Valdez oil spill $500 million in interest, leaving the two sides to battle over the issue in a lower court.
The justices, who last month cut punitive damages in the case from $2.5 billion to $507.5 million, today issued their formal judgment and said the question of interest should be addressed by an appeals court.
Exxon Mobil said previously in court papers that the victims are seeking $488 million in interest. That would mean an additional $15,000 apiece for tens of thousands of fishermen and other Alaskans.
“We’re fine” with the court’s action, the victims’ lead Supreme Court lawyer, Jeffrey Fisher, said in a telephone interview. “The court declined Exxon’s invitation to say we get no interest.” Last month, he said in an e-mail that both sides agree the amount of interest at issue “would be about $500 million and counting.”
For Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest energy company, the sum would represent about 10 hours of sales. The company had $40.6 billion in profit in 2007, surpassing the record it set a year earlier for annual net income by a U.S. corporation. The company on July 31 said net income for the second quarter was $11.7 billion, up from $10.3 billion a year earlier.
11 Million Gallons
Exxon fell $1.28 to close at $76.88 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.
It was only last February that Brandy Brady met Ricky Huggins at a Mardi Gras ball here. By April, they had decided to marry.
Ms. Brady says she loves Mr. Huggins, but she worries they are moving too fast. She questions how well they really know each other, and wants to better understand his mood swings.
But Ms. Brady, 38, also finds much to admire in Mr. Huggins, who is three years older. He strikes her as trustworthy and caring. He has a stable job as a plumber and a two-bedroom house. And perhaps above all, said Ms. Brady, who received a kidney transplant last year, “He’s got great insurance.”
More than romance, the couple readily acknowledge, it is Mr. Huggins’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield HMO policy that is driving their rush to the altar.
In a country where insurance is out of reach for many, it is not uncommon for couples to marry, or even to divorce, at least partly so one spouse can obtain or maintain health coverage.
There is no way to know how often it happens, but lawyers and patient advocacy groups say they see cases regularly.
In a poll conducted this spring by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy research group, 7 percent of adults said someone in their household had married in the past year to gain access to insurance. The foundation cautions that the number should not be taken literally, but rather as an intriguing indicator that some Americans “are making major life decisions on the basis of health care concerns.”
Stephen L. J. Hoffman, an officiant at a wedding chapel in Covington, Ky., said he was no longer shocked that one of 10 couples cite health insurance as the reason they stand before him.
Article: NY Times
Note to victims of accidents, medical malpractice, broken contracts and the like: When you sue, make a deal.
That is the clear lesson of a soon-to-be-released study of civil lawsuits that has found that most of the plaintiffs who decided to pass up a settlement offer and went to trial ended up getting less money than if they had taken that offer.
“The lesson for plaintiffs is, in the vast majority of cases, they are perceiving the defendant’s offer to be half a loaf when in fact it is an entire loaf or more,” said Randall L. Kiser, a co-author of the study and principal analyst at DecisionSet, a consulting firm that advises clients on litigation decisions.
Defendants made the wrong decision by proceeding to trial far less often, in 24 percent of cases, according to the study; plaintiffs were wrong in 61 percent of cases. In just 15 percent of cases, both sides were right to go to trial — meaning that the defendant paid less than the plaintiff had wanted but the plaintiff got more than the defendant had offered.
Article: NY Times
California company is voluntarily recalling 153,630 pounds of frozen ground beef, some of which has been linked to an outbreak of E. coli bacteria that shut down a Boy Scout camp in Goshen, Va., this week, federal officials said.
Meat Tied To Camp Outbreak Recalled
Tests Point To Beef In Camp Outbreak
S&S Foods of Azusa, Calif., is recalling 30-pound boxes of ground beef that went to distribution centers in Milwaukee and Allentown, Pa. The company is acting on the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, agency spokeswoman Laura Reiser said yesterday.
The meat was intended for food service companies and institutions and was not being sold in stores, Reiser said. The Agriculture Department would not say where the beef might have gone, she said. “From a public health standpoint, that’s not going to help the consumer or the doctor to treat their
Article: Washington Post
General Motors Corp GM.N agreed to pay $277 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit contending the automaker made false and misleading statements, according to the company and lawyers for the plaintiffs.
Deloitte & Touche, which was GM’s outside auditor, is contributing an additional $26 million cash payment, bringing the total settlement value to $303 million, law firms Grant & Eisenhofer and Labaton Sucharow said in a statement.
The auto maker disclosed the settlement in a regulatory filing on Thursday. It said the parties reached an agreement in principle last month.
“The settlement is subject to the negotiation of a formal agreement, which will be filed with the court in late August or early September 2008,” GM said.
GM will be required to pay one-half of the money into an escrow account within 30 days of preliminary court approval of the settlement, and the other half into an escrow account in January 2009. The case is being overseen by a federal judge in Michigan.
The Bikini islanders are coming to court. Again.
The latest round in a series of long-running lawsuits will be heard on Thursday at the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
The former residents of Bikini Atoll agreed to be removed from their homes in the 1940s so the United States could test atomic weapons there. The tests at Bikini took place from 1946 to 1958, when the atoll, part of the Marshall Islands, was an American trust territory. The residents, fewer than 200 at the time, were placed on nearby Pacific islands.
Although it has been 50 years since the testing ended, Bikini Atoll will be radioactive for years. Many of the islanders have developed illnesses resulting from the fallout of the testing, and from an attempt to resettle the atoll in the 1970s after the government mistakenly told them it was safe to go home.
The United States granted sovereignty to the Marshall Islands, including Bikini, in the 1980s. Part of the diplomatic compact included a $150 million payment that Congress, in ratifying the compact, called a “full and final settlement” of claims across the Marshall Islands.
Article: NY TimesNewer Posts »