Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/22/18: The All Fark Edition!

GOOD MORNING!

On a day when Ethics Alarms finally passed its high-water mark for followers, I thought it appropriate to plug Fark, one of the legion of sources I check every day to find ethics topics. It’s a facetious news aggregation site that links to both serious and obscure stories with gag intros, like this week’s header on a story about a recent study on Alzheimers: “The number of Americans with Alzheimers is expected to double in the next 40 years. That’s horrible, but did you hear that the number of Americans with Alzheimers is expected to double in the next 40 years?”

My dad loved that joke, and the older he got, the more often he told it, and the more ticked off my mother would be. An all-Fark Warm-Up is a good way to avoid (mostly) politics for a while.

1. I have no sympathy for this guy. Is that unethical? This is Mark Cropp:

He has “Devast8” tattooed on his face. He says that his brother did it when they both were very drunk, as if he was a non-participant.  “Once it was started, I thought, I can’t go back on it now,” he has said. “I wish I had stopped while the outline was there to be quite honest.” Good, Mark. This is progress.

Cropp has been complaining for a year that his face tattoo has kept him from being hired. Would you hire him? I wouldn’t. Such high-profile self-mutilation is signature significance for a person with terrible judgment and life skills, or, to be brief, an idiot. Would you hire someone with “I am an idiot” tattooed on his forehead? Same thing.

Apparently he has been arrested and is facing charges in New Zealand, where he lives. Psst! Mark! Don’t have “I am guilty!” tattooed on your face while you are awaiting trial.

2. No sympathy, Part 2. I also have almost no sympathy for Beverley Dodds, who once looked like this…

…until decades of slathering herself  in Coca Cola and baby oil while sunbathing and broiling herself on tanning beds caused her to have to  battlethe effects of skin cancer for two decades, and has the skin of a reptile. (You don’t want me to post a photo of her skin. Trust me.) Like Mark above, this is self-inflicted mutilation. How sorry should we feel for someone who hits themselves in the head with a hammer every day who complains of headaches? Few public health issues have been so thoroughly publicized as warnings about long-term skin damage from excessive exposure to the sun and tanning beds.

3. No sympathy, Part 3.  24-year-old Michael Vigeant of Hudson, New Hampshire, a Red Sox fan on his way home via subway from Yankee Stadium after the Sox had lost to the Yankees (they won the next night though, thus clinching the division, and eliminating New York. Go Red Sox!)  died when he tried to climb on top of a moving Metro-North train and was electrocuted by overhead wires. The resulting chaos trapped hundreds of riders more than two hours. His brother did it too, but was luckier, and train personnel got him down. Michael touched a catenary wire and was electrocuted, said MTA officials.

Now watch his family try to sue the city.  I put “Don’t try to subway surf on moving trains,” “Don’t get huge tattoos on your face” and “Don’t repeatedly broil your skin” in the same category: lessons an adult should learn and has an obligation to observe. Not doing so suggests a general responsibility and commons sense deficit that is a menace to everyone, not just them. Continue reading

Ethics Musings I : The Dark Side Of Personal Injury Lawyers

better-call-saul

I’ve been reflecting, since yesterday, on the bizarrely angry and intellectually dishonest protests registered here and on his own blog by trial lawyer Eric Turkewitz regarding the aunt who sued her 12-year-old nephew. His arguments, if you can call them that, consisted of constantly shifting the issue from ethics (what the aunt should have done) to law (what the aunt had a legal right to do), denying the core problem (Why would anyone assume that a child is harmed by dragging him into court, subjecting him to examination in front of strangers, and focusing on him as a wrongdoer and responsible for his aunt’s alleges misery, all mandated by the aunt who supposedly loves him?), and appealing to a dizzying list of rationalization and fallacies. He then made his exit by accusing me, a lawyer, of “knowing nothing about the law” (I made no assertions about the law at all—this is not a legal issue) making everyone stupid, and being a narcissist, a full-bore ad hominem attack ending in an ominous “May God have mercy on your soul!” Why would he act like that?

The reason, I realize, is that my posts challenge the basic belief system of the plaintiff’s bar, which I know very, very well having worked in an executive position and run such diverse programs as the research data base, conventions, sections, litigation groups and more over seven years with the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. Now ATLA is called “The American Association for Justice,” a name chosen purposefully to disguise the fact that it is a plaintiff’s lawyer’s lobby by keeping “trial lawyers” out of the name because it had a negative response in marketing studies. (I kid you not.)

Trial lawyers have done a lot of good and important things and continue to, but the profession is corrupting. There is a lot of money to be made, and ATLA–excuse me, AAJ, is devoted to eliminating any limits on their members’ ability to sue anyone for any amount, no matter what harm it does to the economy, the nation, the cost of health care, the bonds of trust in society, personal liberty, or public respect for the civil justice system. Individually, members of AAJ are among the top donors to the Democratic Party, in part to make sure that they can block all Republican efforts to limit jury awards, spurious lawsuits, and damages that have to be paid by negligent corporations when they destroy lives through shoddy products, conspiracies, and other conduct. The other reason is that Democrats support the redistribution of wealth, and trial lawyers profit by it.

In the matter of keeping corporations accountable, the AAJ is, as they will constantly remind us, on the side of the angels. But like other interest groups (the NRA, the ACLU, NOW, and may more) that stake out  extreme, self-serving and unethical positions in defense of legitimate rights, trial lawyers often feel that they must take the position that every injury and misfortune deserves compensation by someone else. Eventually, they believe it. Justice is taken out of the equation for all but the plaintiffs bar’s clients. Justice means that someone else is always at fault. Continue reading

A Reminder: Why “User Pays” Is Unethical

The View

[Back in 2007, a ridiculous lawsuit spawned an even more ridiculous pronouncement from “The View’s” Rosie O’Donnell, which prompted the following post (originally titled “The Pants, the Judge, and Rosie’s Mouth”)  on this blog’s predecessor,  The Ethics Scoreboard.The two law-related issues that the public has the most difficult time grasping are why lawyers defend guilty people, and this one: the contingent fee system for civil plaintiffs.  While I was pre-occupied the last couple of days by two challenging ethics programs and 10 hours of driving back and forth into West Virginia to deliver one of them, I missed the outbreak of another “loser pays” discussion in one of the comment threads. It’s clearly time to run this one again (I last put it on Ethics Alarms in 2010), with a few tweaks.]

The tale of Roy Pearson, the infamous Washington, DC administrative law judge who is suing his dry cleaner for damages of $65.5 million for a lost pair of pants, would normally warrant scant comment beyond this obvious one: Pierson is a bully, his lawsuit is unreasonable and unethical, and he deserves whatever sanctions the legal system can devise. A Washington Post editorial suggested that the lawsuit, which Pierson says is justified by his inconvenience, court costs, and the mental anguish caused by the loss of his beloved pants, is proof enough of bad character and terrible judgement that he should not be reappointed to another ten-year term.  [ Update: He wasn’t.] That would normally end the issue, freeing me to move on to more important matters, like global warming and American Idol.

And then Rosie O’Donnell opened her big mouth. Continue reading

Law, Ethics, and the One-legged Baby Who Never Should Have Lived But Is Glad He Did

It's a wonderful, wrongful, life. Wait..what?

A Palm Beach County jury has awarded $4.5 million to couple Ana Mejia and Rodolfo Santana in an unusual “wrongful life” lawsuit.  Their child Bryan was born with only one limb, a leg, and their lawsuit on his behalf alleged that Dr. Marie Morel and OB/GYN Specialists of the Palm Beaches Hospital botched an ultra-sound procedure that should have detected the abnormality.If it had accurately told them what Bryan would be like, they argued, they would have had him aborted.

The jury-awarded damages will cover prostheses, wheelchairs, operations, attendants and other needs it is assumed that Bryan will have during his estimated 70-year life.  “It will give piece of mind to these people that no matter what happens to them, their son will be all right,” Mejia’s attorney told the jury.

The legal issues are interesting; the ethical issues  more so. Continue reading

FLASHBACK: What’s Wrong With “Loser Pays” (and Rosie O’Donnell)

[Back in 2007, a ridiculous lawsuit spawned an even more ridiculous pronouncement from Rosie O’Donnell, which prompted the following post (originally titled “The Pants, the Judge, and Rosie’s Mouth”)  on The Ethics Scoreboard. I had forgotten about it, but the issue of “loser pays” still comes up, and Rosie (and Joy Behar) continue to require periodic slapdowns, so here it is again—Jack]

The tale of Roy Pearson, the infamous Washington, DC administrative law judge who is suing his dry cleaner for damages of $65.5 million for a lost pair of pants, would normally warrant scant comment beyond this obvious one: Pierson is a bully, his lawsuit is unreasonable and unethical, and he deserves whatever sanctions the legal system can devise. A Washington Post editorial suggested that the lawsuit, which Pierson says is justified by his inconvenience, court costs, and the mental anguish caused by the loss of his beloved pants, is proof enough of bad character and terrible judgement that he should not be reappointed to another ten-year term.  [ Update: He wasn’t.] That would normally end the issue, freeing me to move on to more important matters, like global warming and American Idol.

And then Rosie O’Donnell opened her big mouth. Continue reading

Obama’s Unethical Gift to the Trial Lawyers

After January 1, 2011, when you begin to process all the new taxes coming your way and all the deductions you can no longer take, think about this:

The nation’s largest trial lawyer trade group, the American Association for Justice, has announced it was informed by Obama Administration officials that the U.S. Department of Treasury will give its members (and all tort lawyers) a tax break on contingency fee lawsuits. The new provision is expected to mirror proposed legislation by Sen. Arlen Specter, himself a lawyer, that was previously rejected by Congress last year. That bill would have allowed attorneys to deduct up-front costs in contingency fee lawsuits. Continue reading

Roshomon Ethics: Capping Jury Damages for Malpractice

Critics of the Democratic health care reform proposals routinely raise capping  jury awards for medical negligence and malpractice as a missing ingredient that would lower health care costs by making doctors’ malpractice liability insurance premiums less costly. It’s a legitimate issue worth debating, but cap advocates typically cite jury awards of outrageous damages in cases where the doctor’s conduct was defensible, while ignoring cases like this one. Continue reading

The Savage Saga: Wrong Embryo Ethics Unresolved

The disturbing story of Carolyn and Sean Savage’s pregnancy was a hot topic in September, but it is barely remembered now. I am hoping that bioethicists and legal specialists are still cogitating over it, however, because the ethical and legal issues aren’t going away. They are probably just around the corner. Continue reading