Illinois Civil Justice League: Plaintiffs Power: Politics, Politicians & Documentaries

March 25, 2005

Plaintiffs Power: Politics, Politicians & Documentaries

This week, released its "Plaintiffs Power", a look at the Top 16 national personal injury firms in terms of financial revenue. There are several very interesting and timely articles that I'd highly recommend...

I thought it would be interesting to see how many of these 16 firms "dabbled" in the recent Illinois Supreme Court election.

- Baron & Budd, a Dallas asbestos firm with an office in Glen Carbon, tops the list with annual revenues estimated at more than $75 million. Baron & Budd contributed to $25,000 to Justice For All PAC and $25,000 to DPI this past fall.

- Milberg Weiss, a national firm built on securities class action cases, contributed $10,000 to DPI in October 2004.

- Lieff Cabraser contributed to DPI in 2000 and 2002, but stayed out of IL this year.

- Ness Motley (or whatever they separated into now) hasn't had interest in IL, but Richardson Patrick (recent partners who broke away in 2002) contributed $75,000 to DPI in 2004. This story about the breakup of Ness Motley is a must-read.

- Philip Corboy of Corboy & Demetrio is one of the famous $100,000 contributors to DPI.

I guess 4 out of 16 firms at $235,000 is a little interest...

If you missed "A Well-Oiled Machine," the story about Weitz & Luxenburg, make sure you read the box at the bottom titled, "Perry Weitz’s Recipe for a Delicious Mass Tort." If you're like me, I'm sure you can't resist a delicious mass tort on any restaurant's dessert menu! I was so excited to learn the recipe...

1. Be ahead of the curve. Read medical journals and FDA reports, stay in touch with physicians, listen to prospective clients and referring lawyers. "We like to be on the cutting edge of knowing about adverse reactions," says Weitz. "Once we begin to see an incidence of disease and death, we research it. Hopefully we’ll hear about it before The New York Times." And before the Association of Trial Lawyers of America establishes a working group.

2. Do your prep work. Weitz says he’s looking for two things when he evaluates a potential mass tort. First is science: "Is there causation? Will I be able to survive a Daubert motion?" Next is damages: "Are there serious injuries or death? Is there punitive conduct?" he says. "I look at the punitive conduct of a company, particularly if the damages are not serious. Punitive conduct gives us the ability to try lesser damage cases." Before filing a suit, Weitz says, the firm will get hold of liability documents, consult with potential expert witnesses, and conduct mock trials. "We spend an extraordinary amount on due diligence," he says, "to make sure we’re making the right choices."

3. Spread the word. Weitz & Luxenberg advertises for clients, and informs its referral network of dozens of firms in all areas of the country that it’s looking for new mass tort cases. "A lot of times the cases end up being filed here," says Weitz. "New York is better than being in Arkansas, Tennessee, or wherever."

4. File individual cases, not class actions. Weitz & Luxenberg only resorts to settlement classes in dire circumstances, such as the threatened bankruptcy of Sulzer in the hip replacement litigation.

5. Work up cases for trial. If defendants still aren’t scared into settling, let Robert Gordon or another of the firm’s trial specialists try a case or two. Spare no resources–manpower, experts, technological support–at trial.

6. Settle everything else. Let Weitz handle the economics and negotiations.

Imagine my surprise when "flour" wasn't even an ingredient...? And, I thought lawsuits were just about victims getting their day in court...

You have to wonder how Madison County litigation fits into this theme: (1) research and find the lawsuit, (2) advertise until you find a client, (3) scare the defendants until they're ready to settle.

I guess the "homemade" Madison County version of this recipe doesn't include #4: "File individual cases, not class actions."

Apparently, local firms are taking note of Weitz's political strategies:

As mass tort litigation has become a political issue, Weitz & Luxenberg has become politically active. On the state level, Weitz & Luxenberg recently brought on assembly speaker Sheldon Silver as of counsel, agreeing to pay him not as an employee, but according to the recovery in cases he attracts to the firm.

Silver took a beating in the New York press, which questioned whether he had a conflict of interest; Weitz insists that Silver's affiliation has nothing to do with politics: "New York hasn't been a tort-reforming state." The firm's federal politicking is more significant. For the last two years, Weitz has spent two days a week in Washington, lobbying against a proposed nationwide trust to end the asbestos litigation.

Have you heard of any local politicians joining any trial firms as "Of Counsel" lately?

On the same webpage, you'll find a fascinating article about how lawyers are getting into the documentary business. Juris Productions, run by Rob Feldman and Keiko Johnson, produces 60-minutes-styled video segments that attorneys use in pre-trial settlement meetings.

Johnson and Feldman, both former television journalists, are in the vanguard of a little-known but increasingly important business. In February 2002 they left six-figure salaries as producers at KNBC-TV news in Los Angeles to create settlement videos with the polish of network television broadcasts.

The company has an active client base of more than 20 firms, and Feldman estimates that they work on approximately 40 settlement documentaries a year. Juris had approximately $600,000 in revenue in 2003 and expects to at least double that number this year. The company has only eight full-time employees, but relies on a cadre of freelance videographers and moonlighting network professionals to fill in the holes.

Funny, I hadn't heard of trial lawyers using freelance journalists to produce, doesn't happen in Madison County...ever...


Blogger Amy Allen said...

Elucidating post, as usual.

7:53 AM  

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