CCL Opposes Dismissal of Florida Commercial-Speech Case

August 23rd, 2022

     In a brief filed in federal court in Florida, CCL argued that the multiple grounds asserted by the State to dismiss a challenge to restrictions on advertising and solicitation by roofing contractors should be denied. The State asked the Court to dismiss the case with prejudice, but CCL's brief shows why the case is both viable and should succeed on the merits.

      The case involves a Florida statute that, among other things, requires roofing contractor advertising to avoid any direct or indirect suggestion that the homeowner should file a claim with its insurer to cover damage or loss under a property insurance policy. The State claims that the provision is part of an anti-fraud measure, but CCL's points out that the advertising does not seek to encourage fraudulent claiming, only legitimate claims. Moreover, the State has conceded that only a small percentage of claims are fraudulent, though it has also failed to explain how it obtained that figure.

     The case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. It is captioned Restoration Association of Florida v. Griffin

CCL's Peck Succeeds in Amending and Passing Resolutions at ABA House of Delegates Meeting

August 9th, 2022

     Members of the ABA House of Delegates approved two resolutions as ABA policy in which CCL's Robert S. Peck played a key role. The first enacted new model rules for the governance and operation of legal referral programs, and the second reaffirmed existing ABA policy limiting the payment of legal fees to non-lawyers. 

      The first resolution, originally proposed but withdrawn in February, updated decades-old rules concerning legal referral projects. However, as proposed, the new rules would have permitted for-profit, non-lawyer legal referral programs to share contingency fees earned by the lawyers who received the referral, while imposing none of the client confidentiality or conflict of interest rules applicable to lawyers. In addition, the proposed rules had a weak transparency provision for the algorithms used by online legal platforms. Based on an amendment drafted and moved by Peck, the model rules now have a prohibition against fee-sharing with non-lawyer legal referral programs and a more demanding transparency requirement. 

       Peck was also one of the leaders of a group that proposed a reaffirmation of a 2000 policy adopted by the ABA in the face of efforts to expand fee-sharing with non-lawyers. That policy passed unanimously after opponents of the resolution agreed to an amendment that also reaffirmed a policy encouraging innovation in building greater access to justice. Peck explained that the resolution he supported did not threaten innovation or access to justice, a key part of his practice, but that permitting large corporations to practice law or take over legal practices would not benefit people in need of legal help. With agreement on the amendment, opposition evaporated, and the resolution passed. 

CCL Files Opposition to Motion to Dismiss in Florida Statutory Challenge

August 1st, 2022

     In its pending challenge to a Florida statute that limits marketing strrategies by roofing contractors, CCL President filed his brief in opposition to the State's motion to dismiss. The motion claims that the complaint should be dismissed with prejudice because it fails to state a viable claim.

      CCL's opposition, filed by President Robert S. Peck, lays out the claims and why it remains not just viable but meritorious. To the extent that the State's motion focuses on formatting issues, the opposition asserts that the complaint could be easily renumbered to satisfy the State's concerns.

Peck Article on Smart Products and Liability Published

July 25th, 2022

      The Hastings Law Journal has published CCL President Robert S. Peck's article, The Coming-Products Liability Revolution, originally presented as a paper at a symposium sponsored by the Pound Civil Justice Institute and the UC Hastings Center for Litigation and the Courts last November in San Francisco.

      Peck's article discusses how connected products, sometimes referred to as "smart" products, remain connected to manufacturers, who provide updates and maintain extensive control over the products even while in the consumer's possession. Old notions that products must be fit for use at the time they leave the manufacturer's or retailer's hands no longer make sense. Instead, Peck suggests that a form of strict liability must attach to injuries caused by products and relies on a long history of tort law to demonstrate why evolving concepts of liability accompany innovative technological advances.  

Blog Post Discusses "Too Many (Foot)notes" in Briefs

July 10th, 2022

     In his latest post on the Appellate Advocacy Blog, CCL President Robert S. Peck discusses a court's rejection of a brief for violating its rule against excessive footnoting. Many courts and judges look askance at footnotes, but some of the practice's harshest critics used them in opinions regularly. Peck's advice and description of the problem can be read at Too Many (Foot)notes.

Federal Appellate Courts Continue to Hold that City and State Climate Change Cases Belong in State Court

July 7th, 2022

     In decisions issued today, the First and Ninth Circuits continued to adhere to prior decisions that held that no federal issue justified removal of state and municipal climate-change cases to federal court and holding that the cases should be returned to state court.

      The new decisions involved cases brought respectively by the state of Rhode Island and the city and county of Honolulu. In the Rhode Island case, the First Circuit denied the defendant oil companies' motion for rehearing, finding no reason to reconsider its decision from earlier this year. In the Honolulu case, a new panel heard the oil companies' arguments and found the case belonged in state court. Earlier Ninth Circuit panels had made similar rulings in cases brought by various California counties and cities.

      In both cases decided today, CCL filed amicus curiae briefs urging the result issued by the courts on behalf of the National League of Cities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and thee International Municipal Lawyers Association.

CCL's Peck Quoted by Bloomberg Law about State Constitutions and Abortion after Dobbs

June 29th, 2022

     In "Abortion Rights Wars Shift to Battles over State Constitutions," Bloomberg Law reporter Mary Anne Pazanowski details the developing legal battle between the two sides now that the U.S. Supreme Court has abrogated the federal constitutional right. 

      She quotes CCL President Robert S. Peck, as a former law professor who taught classes about state constitutions, about the state of constitutional law on abortion rights. Peck noted that four states have used explicit state constitutional privacy rights to uphold rights to abortion, while other states have found a right under other provisions. Still, Peck points out that, as the Iowa Supreme Court held recently, changing membership on courts open the rights already established to reconsideration.

       The article can be found at Bloomberg Law on State Constitutions and Abortion.

CCL Wins Seventh Circuit Decision in COVID Death Case

June 15th, 2022

      Unanimously, the Seventh Circuit today held that a case alleging that an Illinois nursing home bore liability for the COVID death of one of its residents should be returned to state court for further proceedings in a case argued just two weeks ago by CCL President Robert S. Peck.

      In Martin v. Petersen Health Operations, the estate of Marlene Hill alleged that the nursing home resident died of COVID-19 due to negligence and willful and wanton misconduct that included insufficient staff, requiring staff with COVID symptoms to continue to work and expose vulnerable residents, and a failure to undertake any protective measures in a case filed in Illinois state court. The nursing home then removed the matter to federal court. In support, it claimed that it was acting under a federal officer as part of the national government's COVID response effort, that the case belonged in federal court due to a 2005 federal statute known as the PREP Act, and that the liability, if any, arose under federal rather than state law. 

      Based on a brief written by CCL, the district court ruled that none of the grounds asserted by the nursing home were valid and ordered the case remanded to state court. The nursing home appealed the decision to the Seventh Circuit, which heard argument on June 2. In a ruling written with unusual rapidity by Judge Frank Easterbrook, the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court and found no merit in the nursing home's argument. By rejecting those arguments and ordering the return of the case to state court, the Seventh Circuit joined three sister circuits, the Third, Fifth, and Ninth Circuits, in ruling that way.

      In its briefing, CCL pointed out that in addition to the appellate court rulings, more than 80 district courts had also ruled consistently with those decisions, with no valid decision coming out the other way. The Seventh Circuit also rejected the nursing home's reliance on pronouncements from the Department of Health and Human Services, holding that these lightly supported advisory opinions bore no weight.

      In arguing these issues, CCL served as co-counsel to the Chicago law firm of Levin Perconti.

CCL Challenges New Florida Statute Treating Insurance Assignees Differently from Insureds

June 1st, 2022

     Challenging a new Florida statute passed at special session less than a week earlier, CCL contended that a statute that home-repair contractors who receive assignments of benefits from a homeowner insurance policy cannot be treated less favorably than the homeowner and thus violates the Florida Constitution.

     Florida legislators targeted assignees in response to pleas from the insurance industry that property insurers were paying too much after wrongfully denying insurance benefits and then being successfully sued for clams that the insurers promised to pay after receiving premiums to assure coverage. Under the statute, a homeowner who receives covered repair and remediation services may sue for wrongfully denied benefits and receive attorney fees, but when the insurance proceeds are assigned to a contractor, a common occurrence, the assignee is not entitled to attorney fees for a successful lawsuit. The provision has the practical effect of making such lawsuits too expensive to bring for denials that can average $3500, thereby creating a perverse incentive for insurers to deny coverage and obtain a windfall.

     The lawsuit argues that the provision violates the Florida Constitution's single-subject restriction on legislation, its access to courts guarantee, equal protection, and due process. CCL is co-counsel in the case with the Boca Raton law firm of Shapiro, Blasi, Wasserman & Hermann.

Fourth Circuit Denies Rehearing En Banc and Motion to Stay Mandate

May 31st, 2022

     The Fourth Circuit denied serial applications from CCL to first rehear the case en banc and then to stay its mandate pending a petition for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court in the law firm's challenge to a West Virginia restrictive advertising statute that the district court held violated the First Amendment.

      In its rehearing petition and its stay motion, CCL argued that Supreme Court precedent does not permit a state to prohibit certain words, truthfully used, from only some speakers and also prohibits the state from requiring advertising include such substantial disclaimers that it blots out the speaker's message. The underlying statute bans the word "recall" from attorney drug and medical device case advertising, even though the word is accurately used when a manufacturer recalls a product for violating federal law. When a recall is issued, both the Food & Drug Administration and the manufacturer put out press releases and website information that the drug or medical device was recalled. Only lawyers advertising for clients injured by those devices cannot tell consumers that the product was recalled. Under Supreme Court precedent, that type of prohibition constitutes a form of content discrimination that is rarely justified. Even so, the Fourth Circuit permitted the statute to stand because it was concerned that "medically unsophisticated" persons would misinterpret the words and stop taking medication on the basis of the advertising, but, apparently, not on the basis of the FDA and manufacturers' use of the term.

     In addition, the Fourth Circuit failed to address CCL's argument that 30 seconds of disclaimers, which would take up the entirety of a television or radio advertisement was unduly burdensome in violation of other Supreme Court precedent. 

      A petition for certiorari in the case is due in late August.