Fraud – Court Finds Defendants & Defense Law Firm Hid Evidence

September 17, 2014

This is epic! There are often times when I suspect a defense firm of playing not entirely by the rules, but those suspicions always remain at the suspicion stage and do not end up translating themselves into actual proof of malfeasance–although it is not the result of a lack of trying, it is just that either we are overly suspicious or those who do this sort off the rules acts are just very good at it. This finding however, makes me feel that perhaps I am not overly suspicious… Read on!

Last week, an extraordinary decision was issued by the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals in an asbestos case, which really should rock the corporate defense bar. In the case, Kimberlee Williams, et al. v. BASF Catalysts LLC, et al., asbestos victims provided evidence to the court that “that BASF and [‘the New York law firm that defended it for years in asbestos cases, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP’] systematically collected and destroyed or hid evidence of asbestos-contaminated products produced by a BASF predecessor, Engelhard, in order to evade liability and forge quick settlements.” See more here. It was enough evidence to revive a fraud case against BASF and its law firm for “lying about the toxic material, then depriving those injured by it of their day in court.”

This federal decision comes in the wake of fraud allegations made against a company called Garlock Sealing Technologies, which makes asbestos-containing gaskets. In that case, victims’ lawyers were initially accused of withholding certain information from Garlock – an absurd claim because, as I wrote in an earlier post, the supposedly “withheld” information was already in the company’s possession. If I were accused of committing fraud when I did no such thing, I’d start looking into it. And that’s exactly what happened, leading to a brief filed in June by Caplin & Drysdale, finding a ton of evidence proving the exact opposite to be true; that Garlock was the party that “violated [the judges’] discovery orders, hid evidence from the bankruptcy court and presented false testimony …. ‘Garlock has committed a fraud upon the court,’ the accompanying memo said in its first sentence.'” It’s a brutal brief, which you can read here.

via Corporate Lawyers Breaking Bad | Joanne Doroshow.

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Personal Injury Trial – Court Orders Defendant to Show Why Records Should Remain Sealed

September 15, 2014

secret

Secret

They say Democracy dies in secrecy and transparency helps promote it. Unless we are talking about protection of trade secrets (an am trying to be as lenient as possible) I see no reason why the Public should not have access to the documents that have been filed in Court and should presumably be open for the public’s scrutiny.

In United States ex rel. Harman v. Trinity, a federal whistleblower case involving dangerously defective highway guardrails, the court has ordered Trinity Industries, Inc. to show why records in the case should remain sealed from public view after the trial. Over the course of the case, dozens of key briefs and pleadings were filed under seal without any showing that secrecy was warranted, in violation of the public’s presumptive right of access to court records. The secret documents may contain important information on the safety of Trinity’s guardrails, which have been linked to numerous deaths and serious injuries.

The court’s order was issued in response to a motion to intervene and unseal filed by Public Justice on behalf of two non-profit safety groups, the Center for Auto Safety and The Safety Institute. The nonprofits are seeking to open the records because of the serious safety risks posed by hundreds of thousands of guardrails that have been installed in all fifty states – with federal financial assistance – to protect people in highway crashes. U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap denied the motion to intervene on Sept. 4, but at the same time he affirmed the groups’ contention that Trinity must justify why these important records are shielded from public view.

Judge Gilstrap wrote: “the Court takes seriously the public’s right of access regarding trials and evidence presented in judicial proceedings, as well as the Court’s role in enforcing such access. Accordingly, following the trial and return of a verdict in this case, the Court will enter an Order requiring the parties to show good cause why previously sealed testimony, evidence or other material should remain under seal.”

via Court Orders Defendant in Guardrail Whistleblower Case to Show Why Records Should Remain Sealed | Public Justice.

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Supreme Court: Phones Can’t Be Searched Without a Warrant

June 26, 2014

United States Supreme Court

United States Supreme Court

In a sweeping victory for privacy rights in the digital age, the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest.

While the decision will offer protection to the 12 million people arrested every year, many for minor crimes, its impact will most likely be much broader. The ruling almost certainly also applies to searches of tablet and laptop computers, and its reasoning may apply to searches of homes and businesses and of information held by third parties like phone companies.

“This is a bold opinion,” said Orin S. Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University. “It is the first computer-search case, and it says we are in a new digital age. You can’t apply the old rules anymore.”

via Supreme Court Says Phones Can’t Be Searched Without a Warrant – NYTimes.com.

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Facebook and Rules of Discovery – Trend Is Toward Full Disclosure

April 10, 2014

Facebook

Facebook

A New Jersey Facebook ruling means online posts may be used as evidence against a party. During before and after a personal injury cause of action is commenced, it is important to remember that anything you say and/or do may be used against you. It is important that you mind what you put in the public. While Illinois Courts have not yet had the opportunity to digest the issues represented by Facebook, it would not be surprising if a Court allows, at the very least, a limited inquiry about specific posts a plaintiff and/or defendant has made that may be used as an admission against interest. Best practice, of course, is not to mention anything about any ongoing litigation in any post whatsoever.

“Parents warn their teenagers about Internet dangers, from cyber bullying to potential predators, but may not realize the personal legal risks they face themselves when using social media such as Facebook and Twitter. A recent federal court in New Jersey has ruled online posts may be discoverable as evidence in some legal cases…

The ruling by a Magistrate Judge with the United States District Court in the District of New Jersey has taken a big step toward the forced disclosure of online social media postings as possible evidence in court cases and lawsuits. Specifically, content posted to social media websites may be considered evidence and is subject to the same laws against evidence tampering as physical documents.

In the case of Gatto v. United Airlines and Allied Aviation Services, Frank Gatto, a former baggage handler at John F. Kennedy Airport, sued United Airlines and Allied Aviation Services for damages following a workplace-related injury which he claimed left him permanently disabled, impairing his ability to work or engage in social activities.” The defendants “sought authorization to access Gatto’s Facebook data,” and a judge authorized the access directly through Gatto’s login. “Gatto had deactivated his Facebook account and it’s contents were automatically deleted after 14 days.” A judge “ruled that deletion of data in Gatto’s Facebook account constituted ‘spoliation of evidence,’” which “resulted in an adverse inference against Gatto.”

http://www.ereleases.com/pr/jersey-federal-court-rules-facebook-posts-evidence-144429

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