Friday, May 26, 2006

DON'T SUE THE LAWYER

There was a class-action lawsuit brought against Apple Computers for their I-Pod Nano music player, claiming the screen of the Nano scratched easily, becoming unreadable. The lawfirm Hagens Berman are seeking remedies including a refund of moneys paid and a share of the company’s profits on the music player’s sales. One cannot deny this would be a sweet deal for the lawyers, but I hope the suit is thrown out and the legal firm publicly mocked for even attempting it.

However, the legal blog Overlawyered points out a side story related to the Nano suit:

An education in how class actions start: Jason Tomczak says that he posted on his blog about the iPod Nano, and was contacted by plaintiffs' lawyers seeking to bring a lawsuit against Apple. Tomczak says that he told the lawyers he wasn't interested in suing, but, nevertheless, the law firms of Hagens Berman and David P. Meyer and Associates filed suit naming Tomczak as the lead plaintiff. Two days later, they realized their mistake, and sent Tomczak a proposed attorney-client retainer, which Tomczak refused to sign.

Annoyed at the bad publicity and being named in a lawsuit he did not choose to be...

Tomczak hired lawyers and filed a lawsuit against the law firms; his lawyers don't seem to have explained to him the repercussions of challenging the plaintiffs' bar, however, and, after what he calls a harassing deposition, the law firms have filed counterclaims against Tomczak, seeking their fees for defending themselves. Jason Tomczak now asks to clear his name: are there reporters out there who want to cover this David v. Goliath story? (See also Milt Policzer, "Who Needs Plaintiffs", Courthouse News undated).

Commenters had their day:

It sounds like Hagens Berman showed at a minimum gross negligence in filing official court documents. KNowingly doing so is definately a violation of the legal rules of ethics. The court should sanction them, and maybe a judge with a taste for justice will recommend that lawyer(s) be disbarred over this filing and the firm's subsequent actions.
-by JKoerner

It is almost impossible to read this story and believe that it is on the level.

Let it be that Hagens Berman follows in the steps of Milberg Weiss down the path of professional disgrace and ignominy.
-by wavemaker


Any legal filing should require the signature of the person it's supposedly filed in the name of to be valid.

Unforunately, that is not the case, and this case is not the first (or likely the last) of its kind.

I had a friend who had a lawyer file in his name without permission. He personally went down to the courthouse and dropped the suit, since the lawyer wouldn't. A year later, the defendent sued HIM for defamation; he lost, even though he hadn't filed the suit, so he sued the lawyer who filed it, only to have that thrown out as after the statute of limitations. It was a complete screw-over, to the tune of over $50K.
-by Deoxy


Deoxy: in what state did THAT happen? Statements made in legal filings can almost never be used as the basis for defamation. I think you may not have the whole story there.
-by Mike


Musta made some comments to the court clerks while he was filing his voluntary dismissal.
-by wavemaker


Why sue the law firm? Better to have his own lawyers file a motion to have him dropped from the suit, and file an ethical complaint with the state bar.
-by AMH

I had a short discussion with a lawyer friend about the Milberg-Weiss case and he mentioned the disproportionate power law firms have over public policy by lawsuits and publicized cases. Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards made millions in lawsuits, including a highly publicized case in which he "channeled" a baby in the womb of a mother, claiming to speak for it, wishing that more tests were done because it was born with Cerebral Palsy. The lawsuit was won and despite the medical fact that the test would have done nothing for the child in question, it's a regular part of many hospitals' childbirth procedure, to avoid such a lawsuit again. This obviously increases the cost of the entire experience for parents, which through insurance affects all of us. I think it's high time for tort reform.

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