Thursday, September 11, 2014

I Don't Think Judge Tjoflat Likes These Tobacco Cases That Much.


He seems to think they don't belong in federal court any court:
These consolidated appeals are yet another chapter in the ongoing tobacco litigation that began as a class action in Florida courts more than two decades ago and has since swollen the federal docket with thousands of individual cases. Today we are asked to decide the fate of 588 personal injury cases filed on behalf of purportedly living cigarette smokers who, as it turns out, were dead at the time of filing (a group we shall call the “predeceased plaintiffs”), 160 loss of consortium cases filed on behalf of spouses and children1 of these predeceased plaintiffs, and two wrongful death cases filed more than two years after the decedent-smoker’s death. These cases all suffered from various patent defects. As any lawyer worth his salt knows, a dead person cannot maintain a personal injury claim; under Florida law, a loss of consortium claim is “derivative in nature and wholly dependent on [the injured party’s] ability to recover,” Faulkner v. Allstate Ins. Co., 367 So. 2d 214, 217 (Fla. 1979);2 and claims brought pursuant to the Florida Wrongful Death Act are subject to a two-year limitations period, Fla. Stat. § 95.11(4)(d)....

Despite the thousands of pages of briefing to the District Court and to this court, the root of the problem in all these cases is simple. Back in 2008, when these cases were originally filed, the law firm that brought them didn’t have the time or resources required to fully investigate all the complaints (the firm in question filed claims on behalf of over 4,000 individuals). As a result, problem after problem cropped up once the District Court started going through the inventory of cases: there were personal injury claims filed on behalf of deceased smokers, wrongful death claims filed by “survivors” of smokers who were still living, cases filed as a result of “clerical errors,” multiple cases filed for the same person, cases filed for people the law firm had no contact with, claims that had already been adjudicated by another court, cases filed for people who didn’t want to pursue a lawsuit, and claims filed long after the relevant limitations period had run. Over and over, plaintiffs’ counsel explained that these problems were the result of the unique logistical difficulties involved in managing so many individual lawsuits. And over and over the District Court reminded counsel that a lawyer’s responsibilities to the court are not diluted even by an ocean of claims.
Quite a read -- it goes (way) downhill from there.

7 comments:

  1. I'm no Tjoflat fan but I thought he was pretty restrained in this opinion. I thought he would have blasted the plaintiffs' attorney much worse for all the chaos he spawned by filing hundreds of cases for dead clients, etc.

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  2. Well, 12:16 p.m., strongly suggesting that plaintiffs' counsel isn't "worth his salt" is hardly a ringing endorsement.

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  3. I agree he wasn't exactly complimentary, but I've seen Tjoflat get more angry over shotgun complaints than he did in this case.

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  4. Does anyone know to which lawyer/firm the judge is referring?

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  5. Very effective writing by Tjoflat, IMO. He just laid it out and let the facts speak for themselves. Plain as day for the reader to see what happened.

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  6. Yeah, I am no fan of Judge Tjoflat's temperament but this case cried out for a butt stomping.

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  7. Judge Tjoflat appears to be a mean-spirited judge. Many people are hurt over this. Time need to be allowed to iron out the small errors in these cases. We are not dogs but human being. We as the people will see what rights we have. Many of us but our faith in our lawyer. IRS allow you to amend a return. In some of these cases you need to reconsider and allow the attorney to make correction to these cases. You have not heard the last of this judge Tjoflat. We will see what recourse we have. We are not dogs.

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