A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of June 24-30.
A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of June 24-30.
NJCJI President, Marcus Rayner, has been asked to speak about the rising tide of food label lawsuits at NJBIZ’s upcoming Food BizNJ event.
Lawsuits about food and beverages gain notoriety because they are viewed by the public as a shocking or humorous anomaly. But as the number of these suits grows, the novelty wears off. People begin to view these sorts of lawsuits as legitimate, and the prediction that food is the next tobacco (aka the next big payday for trial attorneys) begins to sound less far-fetched.
What is driving the uptick in food-related lawsuits?
Between 2015 and 2016, there were 425 active food class-action suits in federal courts, while in 2008 there were only about 20. This data comes from a report by the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform. The report suggests that the increase in lawsuits is due to the fact that food labels, advertising, and packaging make suing easy, and every person in the world is a potential class member since we all have to eat and drink to survive.
We see a large number of food lawsuits filed in New Jersey because our state’s legal system welcomes them. Plaintiffs like our evidence rules and our expert witness rules, and our state’s consumer protection laws are some of the strongest in the nation.
Having strong consumer protection laws is a good thing. Having strong consumer protection laws that are virtually impossible to comply with, and that generously reward attorneys for bringing lawsuits under them is a recipe for disaster. Even New Jersey’s Law Revision Commission, which has been tasked with cleaning up the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, has noted that in its current form, the CFA is “infirm” and “one of the state’s most complicated statutes.”
These “Consumer” Lawsuits End Up Hurting Consumers
No matter how ridiculous the subject of a food-based consumer lawsuit is, defending against it is always costly. Those costs are passed along to consumers in the form of higher retail prices. So, ironically enough, excessive litigation in the name of consumer protection actually ends up hurting consumers.
Despite this, the number of food-based CFA lawsuits filed in New Jersey remains high thanks to the incentive structure set up in the Act’s remedy provisions. The law requires judges to award treble damages (triple damages in non-lawyer speak) and attorneys’ fees in all CFA cases. There are few other types of lawsuits that allow attorneys to reap such bountiful rewards.
It Is Time For Common Sense Reform
Unfortunately, the nature of the food industry – highly regulated and dependent on advertising – makes it an easy target. That’s why the New Jersey Civil Justice Institute is asking for some common sense reform to New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and other state laws and court rules that make our state a magnet for food lawsuits.
A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of March 11-17.
Red Bull does not actually give you wings. Some of Subway’s famous footlongs do not measure exactly twelve inches. Chobani Greek yogurt is made in the United States, not Greece. None of these statements are shocking, but each of them has recently been the subject of well-publicized lawsuits filed on behalf of consumers. Continue reading
A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of January 28-February 3.
Michael Symons | NJ101.5
State Sen. Diane Allen is retiring from the state Senate at the end of her current term, the latest in a line of veteran lawmakers opting not to seek re-election.
Anthony G. Attrino | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
A New Milford man has filed suit against the owners of an apartment building, claiming he suffered serious injuries after tripping over a Christmas tree left for trash collectors.
Jeannie O’Sullivan | Law360
The New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision this week to reinstate a $25 million verdict for a former Accutane user by applying the state’s statute of limitations could drive up the number of product liability suits in the Garden State from out-of-state plaintiffs hoping to avoid timeliness challenges, some attorneys say.
Emily Saul | NY Post
The widow and daughter of a Brooklyn man who killed himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge have filed a $10 million lawsuit against the Port Authority, saying the agency should have installed suicide-prevention barriers to stop him and the other troubled souls who have flocked almost daily to the span to kill themselves.
Steven Boranian | Drug & Device Law Blog
We thought we understood statutes of limitations and choice-of-law rules in New Jersey. Until yesterday. That was when we read the New Jersey Supreme Court’s opinion in McCarrell v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc., No. 076524, 2017 WL 344449 (N.J. Jan. 24, 2017), which unhinged that state’s statute of limitations and choice-of-law jurisprudence from its own precedent and placed statutes of limitations in a special class without much explanation. And the court did all of this for the stated purpose of preserving plaintiffs’ claims and not “discriminating” against an out-of-state plaintiff’s ability to sue a New Jersey company in New Jersey, after the suit would be barred in the plaintiff’s home state.
Michael J. Doherty Opinion | NJ.com
Everyone agrees that women deserve equal pay for equal work. Thankfully, both state and federal law already prohibit wage discrimination on the basis of an employee’s gender, as they rightly should.
Sara Randazzo | Wall Street Journal
During his decade on the bench, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Neil Gorsuch has penned several opinions that favor businesses over consumers in disputes about arbitration clauses, labor and employment issues, and class-action venues.
For the past two years, the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF) has listed New Jersey—or Atlantic County specifically—on the watchlist of their annual report examining the top nine courts or areas that have developed problematic legal reputations. But in the 2016-2017 ATRF report, New Jersey was bumped up to a full-blown judicial hellhole, no. 5 on the list.
Julia Marsh | NY Post
The big winner from a lawsuit against the Metropolitan Museum of Art over its recommended $25 admission charge is the plaintiffs’ lawyer — who is seeking a staggering $350,000 fee for handling a case that resulted in a nonmonetary settlement.
Christopher Dalton and Jinkal Pujara of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney | The Legal Intelligencer
Enacted over three decades ago, New Jersey’s Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act, N.J.S.A. 56:12-14 to -18 (TCCWNA), sat largely unnoticed by the plaintiffs bar until recently. But in the past couple of years, scores of putative class actions have been filed alleging violations of TCCWNA against a broad array of businesses such as Wal-Mart, Target, J. Crew, Select Comfort, Burlington Coat Factory, Toys “R” Us, Bed Bath & Beyond, TGI Friday’s, Johnston & Murphy, Whirlpool, and Bob’s Discount Furniture.
David Pitt | Associated Press
A Minnesota federal judge must hold hearings to determine whether a proposed settlement for about 100 million Target customers who were victims of a 2013 security breach treats all customers fairly, a federal appeals court says.
Reading about bizarre lawsuits, like the one NJ.com reported on this week where a guy is suing because he tripped over a Christmas tree set out at the curb, is somewhat of a guilty pleasure. It’s fun to imagine what in the world the plaintiff and their attorney were thinking. Although it is hard to assume it was something other than the “money, money, money, money, money” refrain in the classic O’Jays’ tune.
Our state’s judges shouldn’t have to waste time dealing with lawsuits that don’t pass the laugh test. But they do. All the time.
We cannot and should not shut the courthouse doors on such claims because we don’t want to prevent people with legitimate grievances from seeking justice, but we can discourage nefarious filers by making some common sense reforms to our legal system and empowering our judges to make quick work of silly suits.
The New Jersey Civil Justice Institute has an 11 point plan that could be adopted immediately to reduce lawsuit abuse. The time to act is now because the integrity of our court system should not be a laughing matter. Click here to join our fight for fairer laws and fewer lawsuits.
According to the New York Times, Josh Finkelman is the “Erin Brockovich of Super Bowl tickets.” After paying well over face value for tickets to Super Bowl XLVIII, which was held at Met Life Stadium in 2014, he sued the National Football League under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, arguing he should have been able to attend the game without buying expensive tickets on the secondary market.
Three years and multiple dismissals later, this case is still dragging on. Unfortunately, this is just one example of the many abusive lawsuits New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) has encouraged.
Rather than incentivizing legal shakedowns, our consumer protection laws should be doing what their name suggests – protecting consumers. It’s time for our Legislature to enact some common sense reforms that keep consumer protections in place, but don’t encourage legal abuse for profit. The ball is in the red zone, it is time to make a play.
A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of January 14-20. Continue reading
A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of January 7-13.
Brent Johnson and Susan K. Livio | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday delivered his seventh annual State of the State address — and even he noted it was markedly different than his previous ones.
Susan K. Livio | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
With Gov. Chris Christie devoting most of his final State of the State address laying out a blueprint to tackle heroin and opioid addiction, New Jersey lawmakers, lobbyists, and mental health experts offered mostly praise for his “passionate” remarks. Some took issue, however, with the governor’s singular focus on addiction. They said they hoped he would make room in his last year in office for other issues like school funding, preserving the Medicaid program expansion under Obamacare and the underfunded state pension system.
Dustin Racioppi | The Record
A little more than week after new bail reforms took effect in New Jersey, Governor Christie signed into law a bill that adds 20 new judges to the state Superior Court system and boosts spending by $9.3 million to pay for that expansion.
Saabira Chaudhuri | Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog
A lawsuit filed Tuesday in a California federal court claims Nestlé packages some of its Raisinets in opaque movie-theater-style containers that lead customers to believe they are buying a full box, when in fact only 60% of the box contains chocolate-coated raisins.
Aiming to transition seamlessly from her current position, college senior Molly Black is holding out hope that her current internship with BrownLink Media will lead to a class-action lawsuit, sources confirmed Monday. “I spend 12-hour days here, six days a week, so I think I have a decent shot of leveraging this experience directly into a legal battle against the company,” said Black, 21, adding that working through her legally mandated lunch hour would likely further increase her chances of staying on long-term as a plaintiff in a multiyear trial.
ABC 9 WFTV
A Florida man sentenced to 10 years in prison for using a stolen identity to obtain more than $300 in products and services from Verizon Wireless is suing the company for not stopping him.
Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
It’s shaping up to be a battle royale between members of some of the least popular professions in New Jersey. A Bergen County collections agency has filed a class action lawsuit against five lawyers who it claims are running a racketeering scheme targeting collections agencies. The lawsuit, filed in December in the U.S. District Court in Trenton, claims that the attorneys file bogus class action suits against the collections companies, knowing that the companies will be forced to settle the claims quickly for less than it would cost them to go through the judiciary process.
A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of December 31-January 6.
Kathleen Hopkins | Asbury Park Press
An explosive event in Aberdeen in 2014 has spawned the top honor this year in a contest of dubious distinction.
Charles Toutant | New Jersey Law Journal
After the Law Journal reports on a case or controversy, sometimes there are new developments that we miss out on when we move on to the next story. With 2016 coming to an end, we decided to take stock of new developments in some of those cases.
Bill Wichert | Law360
Employee-friendly initiatives, a proposal barring granting state contracts to businesses with mandatory arbitration clauses and gaming-related measures for racetracks may be on the horizon across New Jersey’s legislative and regulatory landscape in 2017, but the upcoming gubernatorial election could limit how much deal-making gets done.
Matt Arco | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Gov. Chris Christie nearing the end of his term, state lawmakers are up for re-election, and there’s a gubernatorial race. In other words, 2017 won’t be a snoozer in New Jersey.