September 2011 Archives

How Madman Shows the Good "Bad Guy Trial Lawyers" Do

September 23, 2011


Personal injury attorneys are not very popular. They are blamed for many things wrong in this country. Politicians, particularly the Republican party, loves to blame "trial lawyers" for almost everything wrong with the nation, from the debt crises to EPA regulations. Most media seems to go along with that point of view, and of course, jokes about personal injury attorneys never go out of style.

That is why I find the show AMC show Madman so interesting. I don't really like the show itself. It is slow paced and the story lines tedious. What I am referring to is how the show portrays life in America back before plaintiff's attorneys made progress for the American consumer. If you watch the first couple of episodes of season one, you will see children playing with dry cleaning bags covering their mouths, children playing around in a moving car, pregnant women, and everyone else for that matter, smoking all the time. Before our time, such behavior was considered normal and safe, but now we know better. And the reason we know better is at least in part to the personal injury attorneys.

And while I do not know how accurate it is, the most interesting part is not just the smoking, but the anger and indignation the tobacco industry displayed when the government told them they could no longer advertise that smoking actually made someone healthier! We then get an inside look at how the tobacco industry used modern persuasion and manipulation to convince Americans smoking was perfectly healthy, even though all the available science showed the opposite.

When one considers how much safer the American consumer is now from the days of Madman, maybe trial lawyers aren't so bad after all.

MCSO Deputies Attack Man, Michael T. Wyman, Greeting His Friend and Then Accuse Him of Multiple Felonies

September 16, 2011

The following story is about as sad and disturbing as it gets. During a recent NASCAR event in Phoenix, Michael T. Wyman, saw his friend and gave him a bear hug. Apparently, in the eyes of Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies providing security at the event, that was enough to attack Mr. Wyman, arrest him, and then charge him with multiple felonies.

Fortunately for Mr. Wyman, the Maricopa County Attorneys' Office, responsible for prosecuting this case, dismissed all the charges against Mr. Wyman. Now Mr. Wyman is suing Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (see "Peoria man sues Sheriff's Office, cites abuse by deputies" by JJ Hensley)

Michael T. Wyman, 50, maintains in his lawsuit that he greeted an old friend with a bear hug near the track's Speed Cantina during a NASCAR race last November when, without warning, a deputy put him in a choke hold. The deputy threw him to the ground, Wyman alleges, and another deputy began shooting Wyman in the leg with a stun gun. 

Wyman was charged with resisting arrest, aggravated assault and disorderly conduct for his role in the Nov. 13 incident, but a judge dismissed the charges in March at the request of prosecutors.

The important point about this case is that all the available evidence indicates the deputies overreacted, and then, to protect themselves from sanction, blamed everything on Mr. Wyman, even though he did absolutely nothing wrong. According to the story, "a handful of witnesses acquainted with Wyman, including a firefighter and a 911 operator, could verify Wyman's claims."

According to his personal injury attorney:

Wyman continues to experience nerve damage from the stun-gun shock and has undergone surgeries, including a skin graft, to repair damage from the weapon and broken bones from a deputy stomping on Wyman's foot... 

If it is true that the deputies overreacted, I don't understand why the worst thing that will happen to the deputies is that the department and Sheriff Arpaio getsued.  It does not even seem like they will lose their job.  But imagine if these were not law enforcement but regular citizens who overreacted at a bar fight?  Wouldn't they be facing jail time for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and charges for false reporting?  Why should deputies get off easy just because they wear a badge

Can the Free Market Reform the Personal Injury System?

September 11, 2011

Every election cycle, with one approaching, both Republicans and Democrats argue about who is responsible for the fact 14% of America's GDP is devoted to health care. Health care is expensive, and getting even more expensive, so who is to blame? Democrats blame insurance companies and say that the Republican party is beholden to insurance interests, while Republicans blame trial lawyers and say they control the Democratic party.

Assuming for the sake of argument that the civil litigation system is out of control, what can be done about it? Notwithstanding the disaster that was Wall Street and the credit default swap fiasco, is there is any reason to think free market reform of the civil litigation system will better evaluate claims and liabilities than juries and judges?

Under English common law, which America follows, a plaintiff does not have the right to sell his claim. In other words, if you are hurt and have the right to sue someone, you do not have the right to sell your claim, collect the money, and let someone else deal with the lawsuit. The rational against allowing this behavior is that it would encourage speculation.

But what if a plaintiff could sell his claim, and in addition, a defendant could buy insurance after the fact, which could be purchased serially by numerous parties? Eventually, the price to buy the claim will equal the price to purchase after the fact insurance, in which case the case will be liquidated by free market pricing.

By way of example, assume Bill hurts John in a car accident. John sells his claim for $15,000 to Greg. Bill purchases after the fact insurance from David for $17,000. A neutral third party observer (the selling of claims and purchasing of after the fact insurance is secret from one another) gives Greg $15,000 and David makes $2,000 for his effort, and thus, the market values the injury at $15,000.

Now assume John sold his claim to Greg for the same $15,000 price, but David only paid Bill $13,000. Because David paid Bill less than Greg paid John, nothing happens and these rounds will continue until eventually the amount paid for after the fact insurance equals or exceeds the current price of the claim. If there is no resolution, let's say for 10 days, then all parties are returned to starting position and they can either try again through this process, or the normal civil litigation process.

For anyone reading this, keep in mind this is not how the personal injury actually works, just a possibility for evaluating and liquidating claims.

Motorcycle Fundraiser for Marine Benjamin Davidson Cancelled

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It was such a great story. A Marine veteran from Afghanistan and Iraq comes back home to Arizona and rides a motorcycle. But unfortunately for him, Benjamin Davidson, someone steals his Harley Davidson. So in an effort to alleviate the pain, a local organization, Phoenix Soldiers, decides to have a fundraiser and buy Sgt. Davidson a new Harley Davidson (Motorcycle Reportedly Stolen From Disabled Veteran in Phoenix).

A motorcycle belonging to a disabled veteran who recently returned to the United States after tours in the Middle East has reportedly been stolen.  Ben Davidson, a disabled veteran now living in Arizona, completed three combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. But Davidson's only mode of transportation was nowhere to be found when he returned to his north Phoenix apartment

So far so good. But there turns out to be a problem. It seems Sgt. Davidson is facing criminal charges, and not just any charges, but felony charges for aggravated assault (Marine's Mesa fundraiser canceled amid controversy by Alex Ferri of the Arizona Republic

The organizer of a fundraiser for a former Marine who claimed his motorcycle had been stolen has canceled the event after learning that the veteran is facing criminal charges in connection with an assault.

The charges against Davidson stem from a January incident outside his Phoenix apartment complex. According to court records, Davidson is awaiting trial on aggravated assault charges and other counts in connection with the incident.

Mr. Davidson says he never asked for the fundraiser and he says he suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome as a result of the combat he witnessed while deployed overseas.   At this point, it is important to remember that the police have only charged Mr. Davidson with a crime and he is not convicted him of anything.  I would have hoped that under the circumstances, Phoenix Soldiers would have given him the benefit of the doubt.