Peck Participates in NCSC Meetings

November 15th, 2012

On November 15, CCL President Robert S. Peck co-chaired the Lawyers Committee meeting of the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), held in Washington, D.C.  The meeting discussed various initiatives to protect the courts and their functions during this time of budget crisis.  At a luncheon the following day, Delaware Chief Justice Myron Steele, president of the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and chair of the NCSC Board of Directors, inducted Peck into the Warren E. Burger Society in recognition for “his active and long-time commitment to improving the administration of justice in the state courts and for building public understanding of the need for a strong and independent judiciary.”

Peck Speaks to NATLE

November 13th, 2012

CCL President Robert S. Peck spoke to trial lawyer executives on constitutional challenges to tort reform laws on Nov. 13 in Portland, OR.  Members of the National Association of Trial Lawyer Executives, meeting at their annual Government Affairs Conference, heard about recent cases in states around the nation and key elements of what contributes to a successful court challenge.

Supreme Court Wrestles With Itself In Oral Argument About Class Actions

November 5th, 2012

The Supreme Court wrestled with itself in oral argument about class actions, seeming to conclude it had asked the wrong question in a key case about evidentiary burdens.

In Comcast v. Behrend, in which AAJ, AARP, and Public Justice submitted an amicus brief, written by CCL vice president John Vail, the Court had asked whether, when certifying a class, a trial court must rely on admissible evidence.  At oral argument it became clear that the Court was interested not in admissibility of evidence, but in the quantum of evidence necessary to support class certification.   

The Court had discussed the case at eight conferences, a highly unusual number, before granting review and articulating the question presented.  Most cases are conferenced  just once and most often the Court accepts a question presented in a petition.  The Court seemed chagrined at its own inability to distinguish admissibility and weight of evidence, Justice Kennedy noting, “it has been an awful long time since I have been in the courtroom.”

The Court’s confusion led plaintiff and defense observers to predict that the Court would not hand down a broad ruling in the case. 

ABA Debates Guidelines on Retention of Experts by Laywers

November 2nd, 2012

During the ABA Annual Meeting in August 2012, the ABA House of Delegates debated a set of guidelines on retention of experts by lawyers that had been proposed by its Litigation Section.  The House ultimately rejected the guidelines, which were voluntary in nature, and the debate over them is recounted in an article in the November 2012 ABA Journal.  The article quotes CCL President Robert S. Peck, a delegate in the ABA House, as recognizing the guidelines as “simply a reference point” that would likely be followed “in an ideal world.” The guidelines were intended to provide advice on issues of professionalism, confidentiality, conflicts of interest, and expert fees.

Maryland’s Highest Court to Rule on Dram Shop Liability

October 31st, 2012

Maryland could save 15 to 25 lives a year by making bars responsible for serving drinks to visibly intoxicated persons, CCL told the Maryland Court of Appeals in a brief filed today, representing the plaintiffs.  Maryland now is one of just a few states that do not impose what is known as dram shop liability.   

The Dogfish Head Ale House in Gaithersburg, Maryland, served at least 21 drinks to an obviously intoxicated Michael Eaton.  Within 45 minutes of driving away from the bar, Eaton reached a speed of at least 88 miles per hour when he plowed into the rear of the Warr family’s car, killing ten-year old Jazimen and seriously injured three other members of her family.  Eaton pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and is now in prison.

“This case is an effort to hold the bar that caused this tragedy responsible for its actions, “ said CCL lawyer John Vail, counsel for the plaintiffs.  Vail further explained that the Maryland Court of Appeals already has endorsed the principles that lead to dram shop liability, reversing two older cases without naming them.  “It simply needs to apply those principles to this case,” Vail noted.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Maryland Association for Justice filed amicus briefs supporting the plaintiffs.  The plaintiffs also are represented by Andy Bederman and Jason Fernandez of Greenberg and Bederman in Silver Spring, MD.

The case, Warr v. JMGM Group, LLC, will be argued by Vail on March 12, 2013.

Peck Participates in RAND Institute for Civil Justice Board of Overseers Meeting in Pentagon City, VA

October 26th, 2012

As vice chair of the Board of Overseers, CCL’s Robert S. Peck participated in the biannual meeting of the RAND Institute for Civil Justice, which conducts objective, empirically based, analytic research aimed at improving the operation of the civil justice system Oct. 25-26 in Pentagon City, Va. Among the topics discussed during that meeting was the role of hedge funds in the financial crisis, emerging legal issues in public nuisance litigation, compensation of members of wounded members of the military, and use of new survey technology for gathering data about civil justice issues.

Supreme Court Urged To Make ERISA Plans Pay their Share of Fees

October 25th, 2012

CCL prepared an Amicus Curiae brief for the American Association for Justice in the high-profile case, U.S. Airways, Inc. v. McCutchen, No. 11-2885, pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. The case focuses on the rights of an ERISA plan to reimbursement of benefits out of a personal injury award obtained by the beneficiary. The AAJ amicus brief argues that the ERISA plan should be required to pay its share of the attorney fees incurred by the beneficiary to achieve the award. CCL Attorney Jeffrey White authored brief, filed Oct. 25, 2012.

NH Strikes Down Mandatory Screening Panels

October 25th, 2012

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has struck down parts of the state’s mandatory screening panel statute in medical malpractice cases as an infringement of the litigants’ right to trial by jury. In re Southern New Hampshire Med. Ctr., 2012 WL 5349992 (N.H. Oct. 30, 2012). CCL prepared an amicus brief filed on behalf of the American Association for Justice and New Hampshire Association for Justice. The brief, authored by CCL attorney Jeffrey White, surveyed the experience of other states, some of which struck down their screening panel statutes as violative of the jury right, while many others repealed the legislation as costly and ineffective. The New Hampshire court rejected the lower court’s determination that the statute violated the separation of powers doctrine, but held that provisions preventing the parties from using documents and witnesses to attack the panel findings violated the state constitutional right to trial by jury.

Peck Speaks on Medicare Issues in ABA Teleseminar

October 23rd, 2012

CCL’s Robert S. Peck spoke about Medicare liens and recent case developments during an American Bar Association continuing legal education teleseminar conducted Oct. 23. Peck who was counsel in the groundbreaking case of Bradley v. Sebelius, 621 F.3d 1330 (11th Cir. 2010), which held that Medicare was only entitled to its pro rata share of a settlement to reimburse it for medical expenses, rather than the entire settlement, as it had asserted.

CCL Responds to Petition for Rehearing Filed by ERISA Plan

October 22nd, 2012

An ERISA plan seeking reimbursement out of a tort settlement continues its quest to enforce its lien against the beneficiary’s lawyers. The plan lost in the district court and before a unanimous panel of the Eighth Circuit. Treasurer, Trustees of Drury Industries, Inc. Health Care Plan and Trust v. Goding, 692 F.3d 888 (8th Cir. 2012). The plan has now petitioned for rehearing en banc. CCL’s Jeffrey White, representing the law firm, filed his response to the rehearing Petition Oct. 22.