The United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) were the talk of the country last year bringing home the gold medals. Their stories and names became part of the sports lore as they battled tough teams to reach the pinnacle of soccer. They beat Germany in the Women’s World Cup Finals in Canada and being treated to a ticker tape parade in New York City Much to their dismay, they have to continue fighting but this time in a court room against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF). According to various news reports, the USWNT filed suit against the USSF for wage disparity between the men’s soccer team and the women’s soccer team. The grievance was filed with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This lawsuit has caused conversation about the wage parity issue across the world and on other issues affecting female athletes. The USWNT has been more successful then the USMNT and according to the reports are paid four times less than the men. Hope Solo, one of the superstars on the team, was quoted as saying to Associated Press
“We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships, and the [men] get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.
The wage disparity complaints aren’t new from the USWNT. In fact, women soccer players all over the world have been battling for equality in pay and stature. As bad as the pay disparity is in the United States, some women’s national teams have it much worse. The fight for equality among the sexes never ends, but because sports is primarily merit based people may not understand the fight female athletes have to wage. In addition to pay, they have less sponsors, shoddier equipment, and less marketing devoted to their activities. In these past few years, underrepresented groups are making their voices heard on a range of issues. Women, especially, have become more vocal about the issues affecting them like work life balance and pay equity. The book Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg touched on these issues. There has been proposed legislation for equal pay among the sexes.This lawsuit announces to the world that the USWNT is now part of the fight to end the wage disparity between the sexes.
Various dioceses within the Catholic church continue to settle with victims of sex abuse at the hands of church officials and clergymen. Recently, the diocese of Camden settled two decades old sex abuse allegations. The settlement amount wasn’t revealed, but some outlets have reported the victims received five figures. According to published stories about the scandal, the male victims were abused in the 1950s and 1960s respectively. The abuse took place when the victims were adolescents. They received their compensation later in life. The sex abuse scandals have been haunting the Catholic Church for decades. The explosion of allegations, revelation of cover ups, and announcements of huge settlements have all damaged the reputation of the church. In addition, they have been big financial blows to the church who have had to pay millions to the victims.
The Camden settlements are just the latest in a string of settlements that the church has reached with victims for decades. The 2015 film Spotlight dramatized the journey journalists from the Boston Globe went through to report the allegations and stories of the victims.Aside from the film, the global scandal has been written, talked about, and discussed in many forms of media. Currently, there are lawsuits moving forward in court on this issue. While the topic has not been as widely covered as it once was when the scandal first broke, it is still deemed newsworthy. Catholic Sex Abuse scandal has effected and continues to affect individuals and families haunted by the trauma. The abuse and subsequent cover up went on for so long that it will still take decades before it dies down. Future settlements will probably be made because of the negative impact the sex abuse scandal has had on the Catholic Church. Victims are seeking compensation and justice for the abuse they suffered and continue to receive it even after a long period of time passes. The Camden settlements just show that the Catholic Church has a long way to go handling this issue.
According to the 9/11 First Responder’s Victims Compensation Fund (VCF), they have paid an estimated $234 million to claimants seeking compensation. Their latest update on March 1st was made by Sheila Birnbaum, the Special Master and main point person for the fund. The $234 million went to pay 1,000 claims and Birnbaum has pledged to continue to focus on expediting the payment of claims. This is big news which comes on the heels of the extension of the James Zadroga Act in 2015. That fight which went on for months required the assistance of Jon Stewart and others to shame and prod Congressional members to vote to extend the act.
Birnbaum also said the priority for the VCF will be the Group A claims. Group A claims are ones that have been received and computed due to the regulations before August 2011. The extension also makes these claims a priority to be paid. A timeline produced by the VCF shows that all Group A claims should be paid by June 2016. Group B funding and payments should begin in September 2016.
The extension of the James Zadroga Act has provided permanent funding to the VCF and has extended the window of when claimants can receive medical care. The Zadroga Act expired around October 2015. Until December 2015 when the extension was passed, it was a fight everyday to get meetings with members of Congress to hear the pleas from the 9/11 First Responder community. Activists like John Feal, 9/11 Health Watch, the entire New York Congressional Delegation, celebrities like Jon Stewart all worked together to get the bill passed.
Dow Chemical was the final holdout in the polyurethane litigation that has been ongoing for over a decade. It was announced, they settled the polyurethane class action lawsuit for $835 million. According to the company, they decided to settle because it was easier than dealing with unknown factors with the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In their press release about the settlement, they stated
Growing political uncertainties due to recent events within the Supreme Court and increased likelihood for unfavorable outcomes for business involved in class action suits have changed Dow’s risk assessment of the situation.
The company was accused of engaging in price-fixing on products that contained polyurethane for a long period of time. Dow Chemical vehemently denied the allegations and has fought them even after juries awarded huge verdicts against them. They had an appeal before the Supreme Court where they were hoping to have the verdicts overturned. Some news outlets have reported even if the Supreme Court heard the case in Scalia’s absence, a tie would have upheld the lower court’s decision which was bad for Dow Chemical. The death of Justice Scalia caused them to reevaluate the situation and settle the lawsuit which they have been dealing with for over 10 years. This should put an end to all polyurethane related litigation because Dow was the last company fighting. All the other companies settled their lawsuits with the plaintiffs. Once news got around Dow Chemical settled this lawsuit, analysts offered positive comments about it. So the plaintiffs now have to wait for distribution of the funds to remedy the problem.
New York University’s Center on Civil Justice held a conference in late 2015 on the topic of litigation funding. The all day affair featured three different panels where the topic was examined from different viewpoints. The first panel featured representatives from different legal funding companies and they explained the basics of the litigation funding.
New York University is one of the premier universities in the entire world with campuses all over the globe. Their panel on litigation funding adds stature to the industry and the panelists also added an additional level because of where they are in the industry. Some of the panelists were representatives from the biggest litigation funding companies. Others were people from academia who have studied and written about the topic.
Litigation Funding has been the topic of the month and has been gaining traction in recent months as the industry continues to grow. It is such a huge topic and growing part of the legal and finance industries, people need to be educated on all sides of the industry. In the recent years, several hedge funds, venture capital firms have put money into companies that are in the legal funding sector. In addition, several high powered attorneys in the law have defected to some litigation funding companies. So the industry now has name recognition and stature in the legal, finance, and increasingly in the media. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and The Economist have all covered the litigation funding industry. Those stories and others have helped increase the profile of the industry to the general public and interested parties.
The Utah Association for Justice (UAJ) is holding their 2016 Brain Injury Conference on February 26th at the Law and Justice Center in Salt Lake City. According to the UAJ’s website, online registration for the conference is closed, but it may be possible to apply in person. The one day conference will touch on a variety of topics important to those plaintiffs’ attorneys who litigate brain injury cases. Generally, brain injury cases can take a long time to resolve because of the amount of evidence and testimony from experts needed.
Scientifically speaking, there is a lot about the brain as a society we still don’t know. What years of science has shown us is damage to the brain whether one time or over time can be very dangerous to people. The issue of brain injuries has become mainstream. The National Football League (NFL) settled a huge class action with some former players on the issue. Now. there are issues being discussed about sports like soccer and hockey that can have some damaging effects on the brain. Leagues like the National Hockey League (NHL) and organizations like Federation Internationale de Football (FIFA) are dealing with complaints from activists and reports from the media about the damage some players may have or former players may have had when they played the sport. The settlement the NFL reached with its former players on the concussion issue shows a growing awareness of the problem. So trial lawyers are going to need the tips to properly litigate the brain injury cases and get advice from those plaintiffs’ attorneys that have litigated cases like them in the past.
According to the Court Statistics Project, civil lawsuits are dropping across the country. The Illinois Trial Lawyer Association cited that statistic as well as another statistic specifically focusing on the the drop of civil lawsuits in Illinois. The statistics are between the years 2010-2014. Some of the eye popping stats are tort cases dropping seven percent nationwide. Tort filings dropped 25 percent in the last decade. In Illinois, the number of civil cases dropped 33 percent between 2010 and 2014.
Civil lawsuits are ways the general public can remedy a wrong through the legal system. Class action lawsuits regarding pharmaceuticals, dangerous products, even the water we drink have all been improved by the actions some people take in court. It’s a bad sign if civil lawsuits are dropping because it could be mean people are not pursuing legal remedies for issues they are facing. But, there could be a lot of reasons why the lawsuits are dropping perhaps the cases are weak, the cost of litigation is too high, the plaintiffs have not found willing plaintiffs’ attorneys that are going to take the case. Whatever the situation, if this trend continues it could embolden defendants to do or continue bad actions because they know they will not suffer the consequences.
In addition to making a complaint public, civil lawsuits serve a purpose as part of the legal process to remedy a wrong and be compensated for suffering. They also serve as warnings to other companies engaged in similar actions that they may face the possibility of lawsuit. Civil lawsuits is a vital part of the legal ecosystem and for that system to work, it has to maintain its importance in that system.
To date, the Ohio Justice Association (OJA) is the only one of the 50 state justice Associations to have its own podcast.The podcast titled Civilly Speakingfocuses on topics that plaintiff attorneys and anyone involved on the plaintiff side of the law would be interested in. This is a new dynamic that may spawn a trend of podcasts for other justice associations to participate in. Podcasting is the new media phenomenon. Podcasts like Serial, Planet Money, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, are getting huge audiences to tune in to their programs. What’s more, the audience isn’t tied to a set time where they have to listen, they can simply listen at their own time. That’s the appeal of podcasting which the OJA appears to want to tap into.
According to OJA, each episode is 20 minutes or less and is perfect for the plaintiff attorney who has a little bit of downtime throughout their day. So far, there are only three episodes of Civilly Speaking. The topics discussed in those three episodes includes dealing with opposing counsel, defense medical exam doctors, and issues with cases about Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Aside from the new podcast, OJA will be holding their annual convention in May. The topics important to trial lawyers are going to be discussed at the convention. Topics including worker’s compensation, medical malpractice, mass torts, and trucking litigation. The podcast maybe highlighted during the convention.
The American Association for Justice released two reports about the tactics insurance will try to use to avoid paying their policyholders despite them paying premiums for in case bad situations occur or undercut policyholders on what should receive. The first report titled, Pattern of Greed 2007, focused on the actions some insurance companies used during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina against people who had claims because of the damage to their property. According to the report, Katrina caused an estimated $135 billion in damages. The damage left by the storm was shown worldwide and captured the attention of the world. The storm took place right after the Tsunami in Sri Lanka, where the world responded with supplies and personnel very quickly. Hurricane Katrina seemed to catch many government and emergency personnel off guard especially in New Orleans. After the immediate aftermath, the hard work of rebuilding was to begin and claims needed to be paid for that to commence. However, insurance companies started to push back and slow down the claims process. In the report, insurance companies are said to have “promoted” the flood damages angle and not wind damage because they wouldn’t be responsible for paying flood claims. In addition, the insurance companies would publish misleading statistics where they touted paying 90% of claims. Statistics which were disputed from government officials and policyholders. Some of the biggest companies in the insurance industry were named in the report. Companies like Nationwide, State Farm, and All State all had incidents where they denied policyholders what was owed to them.It is even claimed in the report some companies committed fraudulent actions to avoid paying their policyholders. The historical practices of the insurance companies is also mentioned in the report as well as their donations to different politicians.
The American Association for Justice’s second report was titled How Insurance Companies Deny, Delay, Confuse, and Refuse. That report was more of a general overview of how the industry avoids keeping their end of the bargain. Generally, people get insurance to protect their property against any foreseen or unforeseen disasters. It is pitched as a hedge because no one knows what damage a storm or the after effects of a storm will do property. Insurance is sold as a peace of mind for the policyholder. However, according to the report, insurance companies actively deny valid claims, discriminate over credit scores, delay payment, and confuse policyholders. In this report, AAJ published first account testimonials from people in these kinds of situations with insurance companies. To end the report, they offer advice to anyone with insurance: Know your policy, Fill out the forms carefully, Don’t cash premium refund checks, Put everything in writing, Contact your state insurance department, and Don’t give up.
In 2015, the New York Review of Books (NYRB) reviewed John Coffee Jr.’s book Entrepreneurial Litigation: It’s Rise, Fall, and Future. In his book, Coffee writes about the reality of lawyer financed, lawyer controlled and lawyer settled cases and the murky agenda some attorneys may have in pursuing those cases. He also touches on the topics of class actions and how they play a role in entrepreneurial litigation. The NYRB’s article focused on the effect class actions can have stopping corporate wrongdoing. That article written by Judge Jed S. Rakoff, of the Southern District of New York, broached on the history of class actions, the possibility of misconduct on the part of plaintiffs’ attorneys, the future of class actions, and the recent moves by Congress and the Supreme Court on the topic of class actions.
At the very outset of a plaintiffs’ attorney’s career, they know they will have to carry the reputation and financial burden alone on their shoulders. In addition to being lawyers, they are also entrepreneurs. The firm lives and dies by the skill of the plaintiffs’ attorney, the cases they take, and their financial standing. Whenever they take part in litigating big or high profile cases, their motives are questioned. Whether they are driven by fees, bringing justice to their client or gaining the stature associated with the litigation. One would assume its a mix of all three, but a plaintiffs’ attorney’s main job is to be a strong advocate for their client. They have to be skilled enough and knowledgeable enough to present their client’s case in court. Plaintiffs’ attorneys have to be able withstand the wherewithal to litigate these cases where delays are imminent and payment is delayed.