A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of February 8-14, 2014.


The Plot to Make Big Food Pay

Helena Bottemiller Evich | Politico

Lawyers are pitching state attorneys general in 16 states with a radical idea: make the food industry pay for soaring obesity-related health care costs.


It’s a move straight from the playbook of the Big Tobacco takedown of the 1990s, which ended in a $246 billion settlement with 46 states, a ban on cigarette marketing to young people and the Food and Drug Administration stepping in to regulate.

Full Story.



Debate Resumes Over Shortening Legal Malpractice Suit Time Limits

David Gialanella | New Jersey Law Journal

A renewed effort to chop New Jersey’s legal malpractice statute of limitations down to two years from the current six is underway in the Legislature.


Lawyers debated the issue along familiar battle lines at a meeting of the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday, though no vote was taken.


The bill, A-1254, is the latest push in a legislative effort that began six years ago.


The change would put the legal malpractice time restriction in sync with that of medical malpractice and align New Jersey with other states where aggrieved clients have less time to sue.

Full Story.



NRA Gets Behind NJ Man’s Lawsuit Challenging State’s Gun Carry Restrictions, Group Says

Seth Augenstein | The Star-Ledger

The National Rifle Association is supporting a Sussex County man’s lawsuit seeking a permit to carry his handgun outside of his house, the organization announced this week.


The national lobbying group said it was backing John Drake’s lawsuit with a forthcoming amicus brief, in support of Second-Amendment rights in New Jersey, the organization said. Drake, and other plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit, petitioned last month to have their case heard in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Full Story.



Statute Regulating Step-Down Provisions Does Not Apply Retroactively

Debra McLoughlin | New Jersey Law Journal

In Pinto v. New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co., the N.J. Supreme Court enforced a commercial motor vehicle liability policy’s “step-down” provision, which capped uninsured- or underinsured-motorist coverage (UM/UIM coverage) provided through an employer’s commercial policy to employees and other qualifying insureds at the limits available through their personal automobile insurance coverage.


Two years later, N.J.S.A. 17:28-1.1(f) was enacted, prohibiting in motor vehicle liability policies issued to corporate or business entities the use of step-down provisions to provide less UM/UIM coverage for employees than is provided to the named insureds. Further, if the policy lists only the business entity as the named insured, employees are deemed eligible for maximum available coverage. This new legislation, signed into law on Sept. 10, 2007, specified that it was effective immediately.


This appeal involved the application of N.J.S.A. 17:28-1.1(f) to a policy that was in effect at the time the legislation became effective and contained a step-down provision. The court addressed the statute’s retroactivity, that is whether the step-down provision is enforceable for a UIM claim by an employee concerning an accident that occurred prior to the adoption of N.J.S.A. 17:28-1.1(f).

Full Story.



‘Disparate Impact’ Doctrine Often Hurts Those it’s Intended to Help

Michael Barone | Washington Examiner

Disparate impact. That’s a phrase you don’t hear much in everyday conversation. But it’s the shorthand description of a legal doctrine with important effects on everyday American life — and more if Barack Obama and his political allies get their way.


Consider the Department of Justice and Department of Education policies on school discipline. In a “dear colleague” letter distributed last month, the departments noted that “students of certain racial or ethnic groups tend to be disciplined more than their peers.”

Full Story.



Garlock Ruling Gives Asbestos Defendants Discovery Hammer

Sindhu Sundar | Law360

A bankruptcy judge recently allowed Garlock Sealing Technologies LLC to root out the type of evidence suppression defendants have long suspected of asbestos plaintiffs, handing companies ammunition to probe foul play by their adversaries and persuading other courts to allow the investigations.


For years, defendants have accused asbestos plaintiffs of withholding evidence about claims they’ve filed against other companies. By disingenuously claiming they only have claims against a single company, plaintiffs were able to maximize their recovery, defense attorneys have argued.

Full Story.



Busting the Asbestos Racket

Opinion | Wall Street Journal

The worst public scandals are often those that travel in plain sight, and a prime example is the asbestos litigation racket. We’ve been writing about it for years, and now a judge in North Carolina has issued a remarkable opinion exposing just how rotten it is.

Full Story.



Christie Should Keep Rabner as Supreme Court Chief Justice: Opinion

Ralph J. Lamparello | Star Ledger

Last month, in his State of the State address, Gov. Chris Christie apologized to the people of New Jersey for actions taken regarding lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.


The governor acknowledged that as the leader of the state, he is responsible for its achievements and its missteps. He uttered the phrase so many before him have said: “Mistakes were clearly made.”


While the governor was referring to the Bridge­gate controversy, parallels can be drawn to his actions toward the judicial branch — our third, separate and co-equal branch of government.

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