Sara Corcoran, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

Sara Corcoran, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

Courts Monitor Publisher and national correspondent, Sara Corcoran, provides insight on what we can expect in 2018 around the controversial asbestos litigation arena. Here’s an excerpt from her recent Huffington Post article, 2018: Trump-era Justice Asked to Turn The Tables in Asbestos Litigation:

“As 2018 gains full speed, it’s time for my annual look at trends in the nation’s longest-running personal injury litigation – asbestos. You may have peripheral awareness of it due to those “if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma” ads, but its reach is beyond those sound bites playing on loop.
Actually, asbestos lawsuits are the nation’s longest-running personal injury litigation and have driven nearly 100 companies into a special form of banktruptcy, where trust funds are set up to pay future liabilities. Those funds have become controversial and, in 2017, more than a dozen state attorneys general launched an investigation into whether asbestos trusts were skipping required payments to Medicaid or other agencies providing health care to asbestos victims. (When victims receive compensation for asbestos injuries, some of the money may be owed to repay agencies that provided health care, like Medicaid and veteran’s hospitals.)

Likely even more ominous for the plaintiff’s bar in 2018, the state AGs are asking President Trump’s Justice Department to join their investigations of the repayment issue. The letter making that ask was even noted during a U.S. Senate committee hearing.”

Read more: https://www. huffingtonpost.com/entry/2018- trump-era-justice-asked-to- turn-the-tables-in_us_ 5a4f819be4b0cd114bdb323b]

From our Publisher: Call it the “Mystery of the Missing Memo”

Sara Corcoran, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

Sara Corcoran, Founding Publisher of the California Courts Monitor

Sara Corcoran, correspondent and contributing editor, as well as founding publisher of the National Courts Monitor, is sleuthing to find a missing article about the so-called “Baron & Budd witness coaching memo,” which has gone missing from Wikipedia, where it resided for years.

Writes Sara in Huffington Post:

“The ‘Terrell memo,’ as it is also known in honor of the paralegal who is said to have written it, has been a standard and controversial document in asbestos litigation circles for at least a decade. Most recently, it was cited by a federal judge in North Carolina who found evidence of evidence suppression in a landmark bankruptcy case known as Garlock. Critics of the memo say it leads witnesses to lie; defenders say its just good legal work… The memo is also part of a current Texas civil lawsuit by Dallas journalist Christine Biederman. Earlier this year, when a Texas judge refused to unseal the testimony given by a prominent victims’ attorney named Russell Budd some 20 years ago, the journalist called it a ‘travesty.'”

Read more: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/call-it-the-mystery-of-the-missing-memo_us_5a312d74e4b04bd8793e95fd

 

Victims Attorneys Confront Filmmaker After Asbestos Documentary Screening

Photo Credit: Image from 9/21/17 SE TexasRecord online report.

Photo Credit: Image from 9/21/17 SE TexasRecord online report.

In a panel discussing following a work-in-progress screening of his new asbestos documentary, filmmaker Paul Johnson might put at least two of America’s leading trail attorneys in the “needs more progress” category. The SE Texas Record reports that “… a couple of Texas’ most well-known toxic tort litigators had a few choice words after watching the unveiling of “Unsettled,” a documentary that offers a glimpse “Inside the Strange World of Asbestos Lawsuits.”

The Record also noted that the screening, which took place Sept. 20 at The University of North Texas/Dallas School of Law, drew a strong following: “… law Professionals from all walks of life were in attendance, including professors, students and a handful of prominent trial lawyers, who were all privy to a heated discussion between expert panelists following the viewing.”

Responding to the “heat,” Johnson pushed back, according to the Record: “… as the panelist discussion winded down, Johnson said he wanted his film to raise the following question: ‘At the end of the day, are lawyers taking too much money away from sick people?’ Without receiving much of a response, he asked Simon and Siegel if there was more asbestos attorneys could do to police the “bad actors” and if there was a better way to handle asbestos litigation so more money would go to those truly injured by asbestos products.”

See the report here: https://setexasrecord.com/stories/511224309-toxic-tort-litigator-jeffrey-simon-calls-unsettled-asbestos-documentary-poorly-produced-following-screening

(note: producers of the movie say the discussion will be posted to the film’s trailer site later this week.

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

Texas Court Hearing Will Address Decades-Old Asbestos Testimony

A Texas reporter is trying to unearth asbestos-related testimony from nearly 20 years ago that might shed light on some more recent activity. Specifically, the reporter feels a deposition, apparently sealed for all this time, might shed light on a famous witness-coaching memo that came to light during the landmark Garlock bankruptcy case two years ago. A hearing is set for today (Jan. 31) in a downtown Austin, Tx., courtroom.


We will update the results, which are not expected to be immediate. Meanwhile, the case has attracted the attention of tort-reform organizations and even the center-right Tucker Carlson website Daily Caller, which published a scorched earth article on the even of the hearing. The reporter is also a contributor to the Paul Johnson Films documentary “UnSettled: Inside the Strange World of Asbestos Lawsuits” and did original reporting at the Dallas Observer that appeared in the film. Asbestos litigation is America’s longest-running tort litigation and a frequent target of civil lawsuit “reform” groups, typically backed by business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.


Read the Daily Caller opinion piece, from a regular contributor but not a news staff writer, here.

UnSettled: Inside the Strange World of Asbestos Lawsuits

Filmmaker Paul Johnson will show a work-in-progress documentary, UnSettled, this week. Photo Credit, Huffington Post 12/12/16 Post

Filmmaker Paul Johnson will show a work-in-progress documentary, UnSettled, this week. Photo Credit, Huffington Post 12/12/16 Post

For the past year, the Canadian journalist Paul Johnson has been making a documentary on the asbestos litigation industry. Entitled “UnSettled: Inside the Strange World of Asbestos Lawsuits,” it examines how the “business” of asbestos litigation has evolved over the years and focuses on just how politically aligned lawyers are on reform issues. Courts Monitor publisher, Sara Warner, spoke with Paul about the project and you can read the full interview in the Huffington Post.

Note: UnSettled will be screened for audience feedback at the Edward R. Murrow Room at the National Press Club, Washington D.C. this Wednesday, Dec. 14 at 3:30 p.m. Paul Johnson will hold a Q&A immediately following the screening. You can see the trailer at www.unsettledthemovie.com.

CM Publisher Posts Veteran’s Asbestos Plight On HuffPo

Courts Monitor Publisher Sara Warner has posted to The Huffington Post about how asbestos cancer policy impacts U.S. veterans. She notes that “… every year, hundreds or even thousands of American veterans who thought they survived military service discover that they were wrong; exposure to asbestos was a mortal wound that took decades to surface, evolving into the much-advertised mesothelioma, a terminal cancer.

She adds that “… both sides also agree that the government under which those vets served excludes itself from the resulting accountability, at least in the U.S. courts. What they do not agree upon is how to fix it, and the resulting debate has left veterans taking sides.”

Read the post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sara-warner/a-sad-truth-for-veterans_b_9417622.html

In-depth Analysis of Silver Conviction Implications

CCM publisher, Sara Warner, writes an in-depth analysis of the Sheldon Silver conviction implications in her latest Huffington Post blog. Take a look!

By the Playbook: Power, Greed & Corruption.

As reported in the NYT 4/4/15, "Sheldon Silver, the former New York State Assembly speaker, arrived at federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday. Credit Seth Wenig/Associated Press."

As reported in the NYT 4/4/15, “Sheldon Silver, the former New York State Assembly speaker, arrived at federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday. Credit Seth Wenig/Associated Press.”

When it comes to the Sheldon Silver corruption trial this week, you certainly can follow Politico’s “Playbook” advice and “pick your news.” The NY Post and Times are illustrating that the GOP/Dem. divide certainly makes for contrasting coverage. But Politico’s NY Playbook is doing a solid job linking to various sources, reporting this week in a curtain-raiser story that Silver “… has maintained his innocence and said he was looking forward to this day. On this mild autumn Tuesday, the man who led the State Assembly for over two decades wrapped himself in the system of Albany. What prosecutors cast as misdeeds — collecting referral fees from a real estate law firm employed by major developers and a firm that represented asbestos patients treated by a medical researcher that Silver gave state funding — were presented as the inevitable conflicts of a part-time Legislature where lawmakers have side jobs.”
 
(This is, of course, a criminal trial. The civil court implications come from allegations that Speaker Silver is charged with a kickback scheme involving referrals for mesothelioma victims, gaining millions of dollars in referral fees while funneling state funding to the clinic making the referrals.)
 
And we’re off…

Bi-Partisan Trials Allege Corruption In New York

You have to admit that two looming corruption trials in New York are at least bi-partsan. One will be of a Democrat, New York’s former Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver (slated to begin Nov. 2) and another is of a Republican, former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, two weeks later. The Wall Street Journal says the trials are “.. set to expose the inner workings of a cast of characters that stretches from the state capital to Nassau County to Columbia University, and to some of the country’s biggest law and real-estate firms.”
 
Both men, charged in totally separate cases, are both charged with schemes in which they are alleged to have used their public offices for personal gain. Silver is accused of raking in millions in civil court-related referrals as part of a process where he pushed state money to a clinic in return for that clinic sending asbestos-cancer victims to his law firm, which has not been accused of doing anything wrong.
 
It will be the stuff of New York litigation legend. See the WSJ coverage here: Albany Braces for Corruption Trials