A selection of the need-to-know civil justice news for the week of January 18-24, 2014.


How to Sue Over the Christie Bridge Scandal and Win

John Culhane | Slate

As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tries to recover from the fallout for his administration’s participation in the vindictive decision to close lanes and snarl traffic on the George Washington Bridge for five days, he will get no help from lawsuits brought by angry citizens stuck in the mess. The first suit has already dropped. These claims will surely breed others. They could keep the story alive for years. And they could even result, unusually, in personal liability for the officials involved, including, perhaps, the governor himself.

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BP Seeks Rehearing in Oil Spill Settlement Dispute

Michael Kunzelman | Associated Press

BP on Tuesday asked an appeals court to review a ruling upholding a multibillion-dollar settlement to compensate victims of the company’s 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.


In a filing with the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, BP argued that a divided three-judge panel from the court erred earlier this month when it affirmed a U.S. district judge’s approval of the company’s settlement with a team of private plaintiffs’ lawyers. The New Orleans-based appeals court has 14 active judges and eight senior judges who also hear cases.

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A Rare Chance to Lower Litigation Costs: A federal committee wants to hear your ideas on the subject. Speak up.

Jon Kyl | Wall Street Journal

Nothing provokes as much dread in the mind of a CEO or general counsel as the words, “We’ve been sued in federal court.” Once they hear an estimate of the litigation costs, many executives say, “I don’t care if we’re right, settle the case.”

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Little League Home-Plate Helmet Toss Leads to Lawsuit

Sam Gardner | Fox Sports

A baseball player discarding his helmet as he approached home plate following a walk-off hit is a tradition as old as the helmet, itself. But in California, one Little Leaguer is being sued for more than a half-million dollars for his celebratory helmet toss — and the plaintiff is his coach.

Full Story.



Casino Dealer Wins Workers’ Comp Fight by a Foot

Jim Walsh | The Courier-Post

An appellate court has determined Harrah’s Atlantic City is liable for a September 2012 traffic accident that injured one of its employees when she turned into the path of an oncoming car on an Atlantic City street.


The two-judge panel said the casino must cover the cost of the casino worker’s injuries under a workers’ compensation claim because the one foot of the rear of her vehicle had not yet left a casino driveway.

Full Story.



N.J. Court to Review Process for Invoking Civil Reservation of Rights

Mary Pat Gallagher | New Jersey Law Journal

The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a defendant pleading guilty to a municipal court offense must ask on the record to obtain a civil reservation — which prevents the conviction from being used as evidence of liability in a related civil litigation.

Full Story.



State of the Law on Class Arbitration Mires Suit Over Title Company Fees

David Gialanella | New Jersey Law Journal

Ongoing questions about the viability of class arbitration have stalled mass litigation against title insurers in a New Jersey federal court over allegedly excessive closing fees.


Lacking clear guidance on whether the decision to arbitrate matters on a class or individual basis is up the court or the arbitrator, U.S. District Judge Peter Sheridan said on Jan. 17 in Chassen v. Fidelity National Financial Inc. that the “issue of class-wide arbitration is a gateway issue” to be decided by the court.

Full Story.



Gov. Christie breaks record for most bills vetoed in N.J.

Matt Friedman | The Star-Ledger

Without fanfare, Gov. Chris Christie today signed 100 bills into law and rejected another 44. In total, Christie has vetoed more bills than any governor in a least a quarter of a century.

Full Story.



SCOTUS Invites New Wave of ‘Pay-to-Play’ Lawsuits

American Tort Reform Association

A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court yesterday overturned an appellate court decision that had been heralded as a needed check on so-called “pay-to-play” litigation, wherein state attorneys general hire their political supporters among the plaintiffs’ bar on a contingency-fee basis to prosecute often speculative lawsuits, using consumer-protection and anti-trust laws to target deep-pocket corporate defendants in plaintiff-friendly state courts.

Full Story.



Mich. Chair Exec Sues After Falling Out of Chair

Associated Press | Ventura County Start

The founder of a Michigan chair company is suing another furniture company after falling out of a chair and hurting his back.

Full Story.