L.A. Jury Awards Record $417 Million In Talc Cancer Case

 

The plaintiff, Eva Echeverria, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. PhotoCredit: The Los Angeles Times online article, 8/21/2017

The plaintiff, Eva Echeverria, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007. PhotoCredit: The Los Angeles Times online article, 8/21/2017

The Los Angeles Times is among those reporting on a $417-million verdict against Johnson & Johnson over the company’s talc product, In effect, the jury found the company liable because it did not warn a 63-year-old woman diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer about the talcum cancer risks.
The Times noted that “… verdict marks the largest award yet in a number of suits claiming that the company’s talc powder causes ovarian cancer. More than 300 lawsuits are pending in California and more than 4,500 claims in the rest of the country, alleging that the healthcare giant ignored studies linking its Johnson’s Baby Powder and Shower to Shower products to cancer.”
The company says it will appeal, insisting that science is on its side. But the Times explained that the L.A. lawsuit “… cited a 1982 study that shows women who used talc on their genitals were at a 92% increased risk for ovarian cancer. The lead researcher, Daniel W. Cramer, later advised Johnson & Johnson to put a warning label on the product.”
The newspaper also backgrounded that “… ovarian cancer accounts for 1.3% of all new cancer cases in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute. But it is the eighth most common cancer and the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related death among women. Fewer than half of all patients survive five years after a diagnosis.”

Read the LAT report here: L.A. jury hits Johnson & Johnson with $417-million verdict over cancer link to its talc

Will Pot + RICO Challenge State’s Federalist Trend?

Marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn., in 2015. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)

Marijuana plants grow at LifeLine Labs in Cottage Grove, Minn., in 2015. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)

Writing in The Washington Post, legal commentator Jonathan H. Adler outlines both the context and challenges facing “legal” marijuana now that a law targeting gangsters is being used for civil resistance to state pot reforms. We’ve reported before that the federal 10th Circuit court has taken a stand and it’s significant.
 
Adler outlines the federal context, including how the U.S. Congress has linked marijuana to funding legislation, before going into the looming challenges.
 
He notes that “… a bigger potential threat [to state legalization efforts] comes from the fact that marijuana possession and distribution are predicate offenses under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). This means that those who produce or sell marijuana are potentially subject to civil RICO suits, whether or not such activities are legal under state law. So held the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit earlier this year. A federal judge once described RICO as “the monster that ate jurisprudence.” Barring real reform at the federal level, it could be the monster that ate marijuana federalism, too. Here again, an appropriations rider is insufficient.

 
Adler is arguing that the RICO use is a threat to the “federalism” model for state control. 
 
Opinion | Will marijuana make federalism go up in smoke?

Texas Journalist Explains Medicaid Flaw In Asbestos Lawsuits, Calls For Change

Photo Credit: File photo, Dallas Observer article, August 13, 2017

Photo Credit: File photo, Dallas Observer article, August 13, 2017

A Dallas-based journalist who pioneered coverage of asbestos lawsuit issues is calling for changes while explaining a “Catch 22″ that could be shortchanging states’ Medicaid coffers. Christine Biederman, writing as a contributor to The Hill newspaper in Washington D.C., explains that “… Medicaid secondary payer laws provide states potential funds. For example, if a Medicaid enrollee is sickened by asbestos, and Medicaid pays the healthcare bills, Medicaid is entitled to a share of any future personal injury settlement. Medicaid is theoretically required to recover part of the settlement.”

Biederman, who wrote a landmark Dallas Observer investigative story “Toxic Justice” 19 years ago, adds that “… in practice, this means that unless a lawyer, a defendant or another party to a personal injury claim is located in the same state as a Medicaid beneficiary, and thus required by state law to report payments, the state Medicaid agency will likely never learn about the money. Of course, the enrollee is supposed to report the windfall. If you think that usually happens … please get in touch, because I have an investment opportunity for you.”

The story benefits from the fact that Biederman is herself a Texas attorney and will be must-read material in the asbestos world. (Disclosure: Ms. Biederman contributed reporting to the documentary UnSettled by Canadian journalist Paul Johnson; the Courts Monitor has shared resources and research with producers of that film, scheduled for release this fall.)

Medicaid Catch-22: It’s time for the asbestos trusts to do what’s right

Legal Pot Might Be Sued Out of Business

The original suit claimed that the aroma from a nearby marijuana grow made horse riding less pleasant.Thinkstock file photo

The original suit claimed that the aroma from a nearby marijuana grow made horse riding less pleasant.Thinkstock file photo

A ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit is raising eyebrows in the legal marijuana industry and the Denver weekly newspaper Westword warns that the litigation “… is based on federal racketeering laws, that anti-marijuana forces hope will help them destroy the marijuana industry here and throughout the country.”
At issue is an argument that a Colorado pot-growing operation damages neighboring property owners — they say their horse-riding experience is diminished by the smell from marijuana and other concerns, including construction. In its decision, the 10th Circuit effectively found that the plaintiffs’ use of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) statute had merit because the adjacent property violates federal laws against marijuana, which is specifically mentioned in the RICO laws.
Westwood breaks it down: “This ruling could be game-changing. If the Reillys and Safe Streets Alliance succeed, other individuals or groups would be able to file complaints against marijuana businesses using RICO on a scale so massive that the entire industry could sink under the weight of litigation — or so opponents hope.”
Read the story here:
How Bizarre Pot Smell Ruling Could Destroy Colorado’s Marijuana Industry

New York City Embraces Civil Gideon

New York City’s Right to Counsel bill, proposed by Councilmember Mark Levine (pictured), passed on Thursday. Photo Credit: MoneyBox online article, 7/21/17

New York City’s Right to Counsel bill, proposed by Councilmember Mark Levine (pictured), passed on Thursday. Photo Credit: MoneyBox online article, 7/21/17

The argument for Civil Gideon process took a major step forward last week when the New York City Council passed legislation in support of legal representation in eviction cases. Sponsored by Manhattan City Council Representative Matt Levine, the measure allows the city to appoint counsel for those facing eviction court.
Though Mayor Bill DeBlasio is expected to sign the bill, the process will not happen overnight. The plan is to phase the assistance in over a five year period. A recent article in Slate Magazine pointed out that in the 150,000 housing eviction cases in the city, tenants in eviction cases were victorious in 77% of cases when legal counsel was appointed.

Read the Slate story here:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2017/07/21/new_york_city_has_taken_up_the_fight_against_the_eviction_machine_in_a_big.html

Massachusetts’ Top Court Nixes Immigration ‘Holds’

Photo Credit: The badge of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Fugitive Operations team is seen in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017. Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

Photo Credit: The badge of a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Fugitive Operations team is seen in Santa Ana, California, U.S., May 11, 2017.
Lucy Nicholson/File Photo

The top Massachusetts court has ruled that police and court officers do not have authority to detain undocumented immigrants until federal law enforcement officials can take them into custody, a controversial practice called a “hold” that is debated around the country. It is believed to be the first time a state supreme court has ruled to ban the practice and the Reuters news service says the “… decision amounts to a rejection of requests by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for courts and law enforcement agencies to hold illegal immigrants, who are facing civil deportation orders, in custody for up to 48 hours after their cases are resolved.”

The court ruled that ordering the hold amounts to a “fresh arrest” and said there is no authority to do so. News organizations quoted ICE officials as saying they are reviewing the decision.

Read the Reuters story here: Massachusetts cannot hold immigrants so U.S. can detain them: state top court

In Texas, That ‘Other’ Supreme Court Immigration Ruling Looms Large

A U.S. border patrol agent looks over the Rio Grande at the border between the United States and Mexico, in Roma, Texas. The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a U.S. border patrol officer accused of shooting a 15-year-old Mexican on Mexican soil has to stand trial. CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

A U.S. border patrol agent looks over the Rio Grande at the border between the United States and Mexico, in Roma, Texas. The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a U.S. border patrol officer accused of shooting a 15-year-old Mexican on Mexican soil has to stand trial.
CARLOS BARRIA/REUTERS

The recent Supreme Court decision upholding parts of President Trump’s travel ban earned most of the national media’s attention, but another ruling on border issues may also have huge impact. Newsweek magazine explains that “…. the ruling in the case of a teenager shot dead on Mexican soil by a U.S. border patrol officer in 2010 will have consequences for law enforcement along the border… the Supreme Court ruled that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals must consider the case, rejecting the lower court’s previous ruling that upheld the immunity from prosecution of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Jesus Mesa Jr., who fatally shot a 15-year-old Mexican, Sergio Adrian Hernández Guereca, under his left eye.

The FBI had previously cleared the agent of any wrongdoing, and the government had defended his immunity from civil lawsuits. The family and immigration advocates are welcoming the ruling and note that it will help determine future border agent practices.

See the Newsweek story here:

Trump’s efforts to restrict immigration from Mexico are hitting a legal wall in Texas

Boston Globe Deep-Dives Into Immigration Court Delays

Photo Credit: Boston Globe Report, Pat Greenhouse/Staff / File 2015

Photo Credit: Boston Globe Report, Pat Greenhouse/Staff / File 2015

Citing government studies, The Boston Glove is reporting that the immigration court “logjam” has more than doubled over the past decade, to include about a half-million cases including 11,271 cases in Boston,
“As a result, some respondents’ cases may take years to resolve,” government auditors said in the June 1 report on the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees the immigration court system.
The Globe story focuses on a woman, her husband, and their two children who “… fled war-torn Syria in 2013, moving first to Lebanon before arriving legally in Massachusetts in March 2014. They applied for asylum, were granted temporary permission to stay, and were given work permits. So far, however, they have no idea how long they’ll be allowed to remain in the United States. Or even if they will.”
The reporting cites several causes for the backlog, including too few judges and the 2014 jump in people seeing refuge here. Immigration courts are considered “civil,” rather than criminal and thus do not have to provide lawyers and other protections. The courts are not part of the federal courts system but are a function of the Justice Department.
Read the Globe story here: At immigration courts, a growing backlog – The Boston Globe

Civil Courts Deciding New Orleans Charter-School Segregation Issue

Civil lawsuits are as much a part of America’s charter school landscape as blackboards and parental ire, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is one of the latest battlegrounds. At issue is the Greater Grace Charter Academy a bit west of New Orleans that is 93 percent black enrollment, but where the population is only 62 percent black, according to the Associated Press.

In a report posted on the NOLA news website, the AP says that “… Louisiana’s education board approved the school’s charter and U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman allowed the opening last August. He noted the school has a non-discriminatory enrollment policy. He said blocking the opening would punish students who chose to enroll there. Opponents argue that approving a nearly one-race school ‘is contrary to the goals of desegregation.'”

Arguments are expected to be heard this month. Read the AP report here:
Charter school segregation lawsuit goes to U.S. appeals court

Report: Half of Californians Worry Somebody They Know Will Be Deported

A new report by the Capital & Main group, published at Newsweek, outlines how deeply the immigration and deportation issues are felt in California. The report also notes that”… fifty-one percent of California adults said increased federal immigration enforcement left them worried that someone they know could be deported, according to the survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. Thirty percent said they worry ‘a lot’ about it, according to the poll.

The report also notes that, under President Trump, “… deportations have actually fallen…compared with the same time period last year, but the number of arrests of undocumented immigrants has increased. Some of those people are owed a day in court, and the immigration courts are backlogged with pending cases.”

The immigration cours are designated as “civil” cases, as opposed to criminal cases. One difference is that people in civil cases lack the guarantee of a lawyer.

See the story here: http://www.newsweek.com/half-california-adults-believe-someone-know-deported-trump-619282