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Race and Gender Bias Leaks Into Personal Injury Damages

The Washington Post's Kim Soffen has a fascinating--and sad--analysis of how racial bias and gender bias affects the amount of money that plaintiffs can recover from lawsuits. This results from the use of models to determine how much a plaintiff has lost in future income and that include estimates based on someone's race and gender. This isn't just a reflection of the gender and racial wealth gap in the United States because we already know that implicit bias appears to cause a difference in how much white men make in comparison to white women and women of color for the same jobs. Soffen reports that projections that take into account average earnings by race and gender result in white and male victims receiving larger awards.

The Affordable Care Act has banned the the use of race and gender averages in health care premiums. Perhaps tort recovery lawsuits should have the same rule.

Ohio Supreme Court Shields Data On Kids with Lead Poisoning From Law Firm

The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled that a law firm submitted too broad of a records request for data about residences where children were found to have elevated levels of lead in their bodies, the Associated Press' Andrew Welsh-Huggins reports.

The court ruled that Lipson O'Shea Legal Group's public records request was too specific and the Board of Health couldn't comply with the request without revealing the identity of the children. The law firm asked for documentation of all homes “'where a minor child was found to have elevated blood lead levels.'"

GM Seeks Bankruptcy Shield From Switch Lawsuits

General Motors, embroiled in litigation and regulatory scrutiny because of a defective ignition switch in millions of cars, moved last week in bankruptcy court to be shielded from liability for incidents that took place before July 10, 2009, which is when the company emerged from bankruptcy restructuring, The New York Times reported. The protection already exists in the restructuring agreement, but a coalition of eight class-action plaintiffs argue that part of the agreement should be voided, The Times further reports. The plaintiffs accuse "G.M. of committing bankruptcy fraud by not disclosing potential liabilities" from  the faulty switch. G.M. has been aware of problems with the switch for more than a deacde before recalling vehicles with the problematic part, The Times also reports. G.M., however, is not seeking the waiver of liability regarding personal injury cases.

Personal Injury Case Takes Lawyers On International Journey

Submitted by Amaris Elliott-Engel on Wed, 03/05/2014 - 08:44

An excerpted version of a piece I wrote for the Connecticut Law Tribune:

One of David Rosen's personal injury cases resolved for a confidential amount last fall. When he got the case, his offices were in New Haven, about 10 miles away from where plaintiff Brenda Adelson was living in Hamden.

But Adelson hadn't been hurt in Connecticut or even the continental United States. Her leg was severely crushed by a failing water tower in Mali, a landlocked Western country and a former French colony. Adelson's companion was killed.

Adelson was airlifted from Mali to Paris, then taken from Paris to Hartford, and then by helicopter to New Haven. Even though Adelson lost her left leg near the hip, doctors at Yale-New Haven Hospital saved her life, Rosen says.

In pursuing a lawsuit against the owners of the water tower, her lawyers traveled even further. Discovery was conducted in four countries on three continents, including Mali's capital of Bamako and Quebec City. Meanwhile, Rosen's associate, Hunter Smith, flew to Paris in just his third week on the job to participate in a deposition being taken in French. Smith grew up in Europe, and he learned French in school.

Adelson was in Mali as a volunteer for MBA Enterprise Corps, an organization that deploys recently graduated MBAs from U.S. business schools for long-term volunteer assignments in developing nations.

She went to a tiny village in Mali to view the newly constructed water tower at the invitation of Cristina Nardone, the local employee of a nonprofit group that supports sustainable tourism projects in developing countries and is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

According to court papers, Nardone was the one who issued the purchase order for the construction of the water tower. She was also the one killed when the tower collapsed while it was being filled with water for the first time during Adelson's and her visit to the village. The builders of the tower were ultimately convicted in a Malian court of involuntary homicide, involuntary battery and violating Mali's construction law.

Rosen and Smith, along with their cocounsel and opposing counsel, traveled to Mali to take depositions for the civil lawsuit. The capital was in the last section of Mali that was still held by the government, which was trying to put down an Islamist rebellion with the help of the French.

The attorneys stayed in a nice hotel in Bamako, where there was a "very, very high level of security," Rosen said. Armed guards screened vehicles in the parking lot and guests in the hotel lobby.

When the lawyers asked a witness why he was willing to travel eight hours to the capital to give a deposition, Rosen said the witness explained that it was the Malian way to try to help someone if asked for assistance.

At one point, the plaintiffs team looked for a piece of rebar—concrete reinforced with steel rods—because the issue arose whether rebar had been used in the water tower. During a break, taken so the witnesses and the interpreters could go to Islamic Friday prayers, Smith said he went out onto the street and asked a complete stranger if he could help acquire rebar. Just like that he got assistance.


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