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Ted Cruz has made a lot of enemies.  I cannot remember a legitimate candidate for president who seemed to be as personally disliked as Ted Cruz. This quote in the Washington Post describes how ted cruz tort reformhe was viewed when he attended Princeton:  “You either didn’t know Ted Cruz, you hated him, or you were David Panton.”  That’s harsh.

What does this have to do with this post?  Nothing, really.  I just thought it was worth pointing out.

Cruz is very proud that he was on the front line in the tort reform battles, a point he will probably make in South Carolina – while I write this post.  He defended appellate challenges to the 2003 Texas law that allows Texas doctors to commit malpractice as often as they please with no limitations. He was an author of George W. Bush’s “Let’s turn a blind eye to our federalism platitudes and install nationwide tort reform.”

After these accomplishments, Cruz gave being a private lawyer a spin.  Even Cruz’ enemies who will now agree he is a fantastic appellate lawyer.   He did what you would expect him to do in private practice: help big companies fight each other and squash the little guy.  As a personal injury lawyer, Ted Cruz defended, on appeal, two mammoth plaintiffs’ verdicts in New Mexico that involved $110 million in damages between two plaintiffs.   Keep in mind this was after he passionately fought against personal injury victims in Texas and throughout the country.

Why would such a committed tort reformer agree to represent victims?  Cruz clarified that if he would get involved when “money had to be right.”

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Clearly, the new Republican tradition is to pay homage to Ronald Reagan whenever you have a segue to do so – and even when there’s not. Everyone has forgotten Iran-Contra and those Marines in Lebanon. Instead, we have focused on the fact that he presided over 8 years of relative peace and prosperity. Most people also agree he made a real contribution to our victory in the Cold War.

At a debate back for the RNC Chairmanship, Grover Norquist asked the candidates, “Who is your favorite Republican president?” Everyreagan tort reform one of the six candidates picked Reagan.

Poor Lincoln. Even Democrats look back on Reagan and point out – maybe correctly, I don’t know – that Reagan is not conservative enough to win the Republican nomination in 2016. (Of course, in 2018, the cult of Donald Trump has led to a devaluation of Reagan and his legacy.  But this is likely a very temporary revision.)

The Evidence

You have heard of Stella Liebeck and the McDonald’s coffee case. Yep, over 30 years later, that is still a thing. But before Stella, there was “the phone booth case” that Reagan raised in a 1986 speech:

A man was using a public telephone booth to place a call. An alleged drunk driver careened down the street, lost control of her car, and crashed into the phone booth. Now, it’s no surprise that the injured man sued. But you might be startled to hear whom he sued: the telephone company and associated firms.

All of this is true. People love to make a big deal about someone suing someone as a harbinger for chaos because the lawsuit is so unjust.  But all you need to file a lawsuit is 115 bucks (at least in Maryland).  People file utterly ridiculous lawsuits all the time.  In this case, the guy was paralyzed, and he brought suit and the phone company settled (for like $25,000 in a catastrophic injury case.)

I don’t know why insanity is imputed because some company does not have the guts to take a case to trial.  But everyone jumped on to the idea that there is great meaning to the court’s failure to rule for the defendant on its motion for summary judgment (edit: the trial judge granted the MSJ but the California Supreme Court flipped the order).   But I guess Reagan was pretty fired up about it in his speech, so that is why the legend lives on to this day that Reagan was pro-tort reform.

A Closer Look at Reagan and Tort Reform

I found on my Google +1 a post (update — Google +1 is dead) from someone who worked for Reagan, which looks at what he actually said about tort reform. Apparently, all of his years of public life, Reagan gave only one tort reform speech in his political career in which he specifically said the issue is one for individual states. He never followed up on this speech.

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dog breed homeowners insuranceMaryland made the right call by getting rid of the “one bite rule,” which created an assumption that dog owners know their dogs can bite.  In doing so, they effectively nixed a court ruling that said that Pit Bulls are inherently dangerous and imposed strict liability for owners and landlords.

At the end of the day though, insurance companies are most interested in these sorts of decisions, because they’re the ones paying out dog-bite claims.  And although the dog breeds may not be as big an issue for Maryland legislators anymore, your insurance company may still discriminate and charge you more based on the dog you have.

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“There’s two sides to every story. I saw the video. That’s their personal business, and it shouldn’t have affected his career. I don’t agree with domestic violence, but she’s still with him, so obviously it wasn’t that big of a deal. Everyone should just drop it.”

– Random Ravens Fan Last Night

“The case is a perfect symbol of all that’s wrong with the litigation system in this country.”

Lisa Rickard,  President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform and the American Tort Reform Association talking about the infamous lawsuit where an administrative law judge sued for $65 million claiming a dry cleaner had lost his pants

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tiger woods personal injury victims

Tiger Woods “easy” back surgery hurts some tort victims

Tiger Woods announced today that he has undergone successful back surgery and expects to be back playing golf this summer.  Good for him. This is bad news for golf fans who passionately root for or against Tiger.  But it is also bad for personal injury victims who are bringing a back injury claim in front of a jury.  Why?  Because juries get constant evidence from athletes that back injuries and back surgery is not a big deal.  Some will equate Tiger Woods to 58-year-old Mary Smith when she has a discectomy and fusion for a herniated disc after a car accident.

Why Tiger’s Surgery and Expected Recovery Misleads Juries

There are several reasons the comparison is unfair.  First, not all back injuries are created the same.  Tiger had a microdiscectomy for a pinched nerve.  That is light-years from, say, a herniated disc suffered by great trauma.  But some jurors view back surgery as back surgery, regardless of the severity of the injury. Second, Tiger is a professional athlete who dedicates his life to keeping his body in the best shape.  Tiger won’t even share his workout secrets.   He will also get stunning medical care.  The best doctors, and ridiculous amounts of medical attention you and I would never see. Finally, Tiger’s getting surgery in the first place is probably something you and I never would have gotten in the first place.  Why?  First, we are not violently swinging a golf club at the speed of light.   So I can probably still work out and work around the same injury that Tiger needs to get taken care of so he can perform on a world-class level. Continue reading

Max Kennerly writes a blog post about referral or co-counsel fees in personal injury cases, talking about a case where the lawyers agreed to a fee split but after a nice verdict, they argued about what those words meant regarding carving up the fee.

There has been talk, as Max points out, about reforming the system to not allow lawyers to fee split personal injury cases. The talk comes from advocates of tort reform who have the goal of making life more difficult for plaintiffs to bring claims.

Such a rule would do just that. My firm spends a lot of time and effort providing information about personal injury cases on the Internet. We absolutely want to attorney fee splittingattract victims directly. No doubt. Getting 100% of the fee in a case is a lot more enticing than getting two-thirds of that fee, which is what we get when we accept a referral from another attorney. When we get a good settlement or a verdict in a case where the client came to us, either from the Internet or non-attorney referral, the words “And it is all ours” slip out when discussing the case.

Yet I put a lot of time and energy into this blog that is directed not to victims, but to other lawyers. Why? I’ll tell you. Every single year, we look at where our fees are coming from. Prior clients and victims who find us on-line are rising every year. Yet together, they do not generate nearly as much in attorneys’ fees as cases that were referred to us by another lawyer. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about volume of cases. I’m talking total fees. So, absolutely, we think the smartest approach is to direct our efforts primarily toward trying to attract other lawyers in and out of Maryland who have a personal injury case. The thinking is if they are regularly reading this blog for news and information, and using the resources on our website, they will think of us when they need help with complex malpractice, accident or product liability claim. Continue reading

I learned last week that my peers selected me to be included in The Best Lawyers in America, 19th Edition.

My rule on these lists is very clear. These lists that rank the best lawyers – and probably particularly the best personal injury lawyers – are so flawed as to be useless… unless they pick me. In that case, they are the ultimate honor.

2013 Update: I was included on this list again for 2014.

Personal injury lawyers hate talking about their contingency fee agreements with their clients. Me too. But it is an interesting and important topic and one of great importance to people who are seriously injured and will hire an attorney. This post explains how our law firm operates and gives a few thoughts on contingency fee agreements in personal injury cases.

Our contingency fee agreement with our clients in every personal injury case is exactly the same. Our firm gets one-third of the recovery if the case settles before a lawsuit is filed. If a lawsuit is filed, or there is an agreement to arbitrate the case, our fee increases to 40%. We have fronted all client expenses in every case we have handled in the last 10 years. If we are not willing to put up our own money, we would not be willing to take the fees

This is our agreement for every single personal injury case in our office. We have turned down at least two cases (that I know of: I’m sure there have been more) that have culminated in a seven-figure recovery because we did not agree to reduce our contingency fee.

Before I explain why we do it this way, let me go the other way and set forth the argument about why we shouldn’t have a set fee for all of our clients. Contingency fees in personal injury cases are designed to a large measure to compensate attorneys for the risk in time and money they must incur. So, theoretically, in a world of perfect information, calibrate the contingency fee with the risk/reward and set the attorneys’ fees accordingly. Continue reading

Tanning beds cause cancer. Cancer kills. Tanning beds also make you look old before your time.

This matters little to the Maryland Senate who crushed the bill in committee. Which committee? The Finance Committee. Because, you know, that makes sense.

The bill, sponsored by Montgomery County Democrat Jamie Raskin, would have prohibited anyone under 18 from using an electric tanning bed, eliminating a provision in Maryland law that allows minors to tan if they have parental permission. So the rule, and it is still the rule in 2018, is that minors can tan in Maryland if their parent or legal guardian provides written consent on the premises of the tanning facility.

tanning bed law

We do not ask parents if their kids can drink or smoke or skip school.  Why do we exempt tanning?  Call it Big Brother if you want, but I have no problem with stopping bad parents from letting their kids make awful choices.

The World Health Organization’s cancer division last summer listed tanning beds as definitive cancer-causers. I’m willing to take their word for it, along with many studies that concluded the risk of melanoma jumps by 75 percent in people who used tanning beds in their teens and 20s. Melanoma is lethal; 69,000 U.S. cases were diagnosed last year, and about 8,650 people died.

Listen, Katy Perry notwithstanding, it’s dumb to let your child go into a tanning bed. This we know. So what is the problem? According to the Indoor Tanning Association, 8% of the customers are 18 years old or younger. On an average day, over 1 million Americans engage in indoor tanning. Do the math. See where the lobbyists are coming from on this?

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