Posts Tagged ‘Litigation’

Wal-mart lawsuit: $2 million for back pain

January 16, 2009

During those crazy Wal-mart holiday sales the trampling deaths and subsequent lawsuits flowing from them got significant media play.  Lost in the shuffle, both in terms of the crowd and the media, were a father and son waiting patiently for the 5am opening of the Long Island Wal-mart, who filed suit because of the neck and back pain caused by surging crowds.  And yes they are claiming these injuries amount to two million dollars.  In America, at Wal-mart, dream big.


PACER at 20: Accessing Federal Courts

December 23, 2008

PACER stands for, “Public Access to Court Electronic Records” and allows a citizen to set up an account with the system to access every Federal court in the country.

Pluses:  Nearly all recent (last couple years) complaints are electronically available on Pacer.  The docket information is thorough and well presented with much the documentary information about amended complaints, responsive pleadings and court orders made available.  If you have a docket number and the name of the court, its fairly easy to find the docket.   All the information, no matter which court, is provided in the same format.  The costs to access the service are relatively small (in comparison to commercial online services).

Minuses:  Searching, searching, searching.  First, they don’t normalize entity names so if you search on “Federal Express” you won’t get all the filings that are “Fedex”.  Second, if you search by Court, you will get links with variations and then you need to click each of them to see what filings they include.  Despite all the advances made to search engine technology, none of that is reflected in PACER.  There are no suggested terms provided, or suggested spellings and the search results aren’t presented in a helpful way.  Finally, you have to pay to use the service.  Up in the pluses I state that its not expensive but I do have a question about charging for public information.  Isn’t that unfair to those without the financial resources?  PACER has its critics and one of them has established a website where he is encouraging attorneys to donate court filings that he posts for free.

News release about PACER’s twenty years.

Sunday Special: Researching defective products

November 30, 2008

I have featured a few product liability lawsuits.  These are good sources for dark side of a company’s product information but its not easy to find them.   While many courts provide access to their electronic court dockets there are hundreds of them to search and many don’t allow you to search easily by company name.  The SEC filings could be useful but they often mask the true nature of the suits or don’t mention them at all.  For example, earlier I featured a lawsuit against Hewlett Packard involving a faulty video card but if you look at the SEC filings none of those kinds of suits are listed.

This is where the Consumer Product Safety Commission comes in.  Frequently, products are subject to warnings or recalls before major litigation occurs and you can find out about a company’s less successful product offerings.  In the case of Hewlett Packard, you can use the cumbersome search feature (HERE) to look for the products with major safety and health issues.  The most recent HP recalls have all involved products that have caught fire.

Note that the lawsuit involving the video card has no precedent at the commission.  This is because the commission doesn’t recall faulty products unless they cause a health and safety problem.  So if you buy a lemon and you want justice, you’ll have to go to court.  Best to find others in a like position and a class action attorney ready to take the case.  Otherwise, your damages won’t get you into superior court.

Sunday Special: Learning about a company through lawsuits

November 23, 2008

I’ve talked about using SEC reports, specifically 10-Ks and 10-Qs as guides to understanding a company’s litigation profile.  What kinds of suits?  How big a deal are they?

Today I’m focusing on what this litigation says about the company itself.   Numbers may tell stories about profits and successes and the website and news generally tell you what the company wants you to know  but lawsuits against a company tell you what they DON’T want you to know.

Here are four things to think about when looking at a company’s legal proceedings:

o   Does the company carry litigation costs associated with asbestos claims or other large scale mass tort actions?


o   Are they hit with lots of class action claims based on faulty products and/or services?


o   Are they subject to lots of suits claiming shoddy or unfair business practices?


o   Have they been subjected to significant securities litigation because shareholders are claiming the company knew about material facts that depressed their stock price and failed to disclose them?

Disclosing Litigation to the SEC

November 1, 2008

This has long been a pet-peeve of mine.  Why are companies allowed so much latitude about this kind of reporting?   Some companies decide none of their litigation rises to the level of disclosing.  Says who?  Other companies give detailed and useful information about their litigation (see Walmart’s latest 10-Q) in the section labeled “legal proceedings,” other companies bury this information in a footnote (see McKesson which include this info under “note 12 other Commitments and Contigent Liabilities in its latest 10-Q), still other companies spin the nature of the litigation to make them appear in a good light: (see previous post on Arthocare)  Since litigation is public information, fairly easy to verify, does the SEC do that?  And why do they allow companies to hide their litigation in miscellaneous footnotes?  If someone has an answer please post.

9 Million May End Up with No TV in 2009

October 21, 2008

According to this Nielsen report, more than 9 million Americans aren’t ready for the new, HD age.  They are gonna die!!  Perhaps they don’t really care.  Maybe they just watch dvds or stream tv over the Internet or even more freaky, they DON’T INPUT ANY VISUAL MEDIA.  Don’t let this notion get around, maybe it will spread.