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  Tort Reform - Legal News


The NHL's motion to dismiss a class-action lawsuit brought by former players over concussion-related injuries was largely rejected Wednesday by a federal judge, allowing the claims to move forward.

The plaintiffs have been seeking unspecified financial damages and medical monitoring for neurological disorders. They've argued the league had the knowledge and resources to better prevent head trauma, failed to properly warn players of such risks and promoted violent play that led to their injuries.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson wrote in her order that the former players "adequately alleged that the NHL negligently or fraudulently omitted information on an ongoing basis."

Attorneys for the NHL have pointed to a pair of primary grounds for dismissal of the lawsuit: pre-emption and statute of limitations. The gist is that the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players should pre-empt the claim, subjecting the dispute to the National Labor Relations Board, and that a tort claim such as this cannot be made past the six-year window for raising them.

Nelson declined to address one of the NHL's arguments but dismissed the others, in her 33-page ruling.


Trial lawyers armed with anti-corporate lawsuits are still a threat despite recent courtroom victories for business, writes a prominent legal commentator.

Recent courtroom results like the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to bounce a punitive-damages case against Philip Morris have spurred optimism in boardrooms and business schools. BusinessWeek recently celebrated with a "How business trounced the trial lawyers" cover.

Yet despite the hubris, class action lawsuits targeting business are still alive and kicking across the country, warned Walter Olson in an editorial in yesterday's Chicago Tribune.

Olson edits the legal blogs Overlawyered.com and PointOfLaw.com and is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

He points out that in Louisiana and Mississippi, damage caused by Hurricane Katrina has sparked a feeding frenzy amongst some citizens and their lawyers. The New Orleans municipal government alone recently claimed $77 billion in losses caused by levee breaks.

Nor can tobacco companies in some states afford to breathe easier, as it were. California and Massachusetts recently made it simpler to bring tobacco-addiction suits while Louisiana left part of a huge punitive damages award stand, Olson pointed out.

States like Texas and Alabama have recently seen a sharp decline in lawsuits, Olson conceded, particularly out-of-state asbestos filings. But the effect has been similar to squeezing a balloon - the suits have popped up again in unreformed states like Illinois.

He warns business that, despite contrary media reports, nightmare class action suits are still kicking. "To call this a high-water mark is going to require more evidence than we've seen so far," he concluded.


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