Category Archives: Local Search Marketing

Litigation Update: Adverse Findings for Pharma Giant Johnson & Johnson in Two Talc Cases

On June 23, in a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District reduced the damages awarded by the jury in a 2018 trial that linked Johnson & Johnson talc products to cancer, by more than half from $4.7 billion to $2.12 billion, even as it upheld the verdict itself. J&J had appealed the massive verdict in favor of 22 women suffering from ovarian cancer and continues to maintain its product is safe and asbestos-free.

In its appeal, J&J offered a number of arguments, including the contention that its due process rights were violated when the circuit court allowed the matter to proceed with 22 plaintiffs instead of breaking them up into individual trials.  The company also attacked the plaintiffs’ scientists, arguing that it was improper to allow out-of-state plaintiffs to pursue the cases in Missouri. On this last issue, the court found that 15 of the 17 out-of-state plaintiffs had proven a connection to Missouri through their use of Shower to Shower Shimmer, a talc product manufactured for J&J Consumer by Missouri corporation Pharma Tech. The court clarified that their claims would be limited to those against the Missouri company; both the compensatory and punitive damage awards were subsequently reduced accordingly.

The court’s findings on several legal issues may present a difficult challenge to J&J in future claims and could make it harder for the company to argue that its rights are violated in multi-plaintiff trials or that punitive damages are improper or unconstitutionally high. In upholding the compensatory to punitive damages ratio allocated by the jury, the judge noted that the award was reasonable given J&J’s “outrageous conduct”. The court also refused to exclude some of the plaintiffs’ experts, noting that the witnesses’ credibility should be an issue for the defendant to raise at trial; this may make it difficult for J&J to argue for their exclusion in future trials.

J&J immediately announced it would appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court.

In another talc trial, this one based in New Jersey state court, the company’s motion to set aside or reduce a $186 million combined punitive damages award made back in February, was denied by Superior Court Judge Ana C. Viscomi.  The original punitive damages amount of $750 million had been reduced subject to the state’s statutory cap.

In the motion, J&J argued, among other things, that it was improper for the plaintiffs to have questioned CEO Alex Gorsky about why he allegedly exercised stock options the same day a damaging Reuter’s article about the company was published.  In response, the judge said that J&J’s conduct had been “reprehensible” and that the company had engaged in a series of misdeeds, including selling baby powder containing talc that it knew was contaminated with asbestos. The judge also denied J&J’s motion for a mistrial which was based on the judge’s striking of J&J attorney Diane Sullivan’s closing argument. Judge Viscomi noted that she had repeatedly admonished Ms. Sullivan regarding her allegations that plaintiffs’ attorneys had created evidence to support their claims.

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Facebook and ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing

A letter to our clients:

The groups – the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Color of Change, Free Press and Common Sense – asked “large Facebook advertisers to show they will not support a company that puts profit over safety, and Facebook’s long history of allowing racist, violent and verifiably false content to run rampant on its platform.”  You can read about that announcement here:  https://techcrunch.com/2020/06/22/facebook-instagram-rei-patagonia-north-face-brands-join-stophateforprofit-boycott/ and for an up to date list of companies that have pulled their advertising on Facebook and Instagram you can read that here:  https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/28/business/facebook-ad-boycott-list/index.html.

ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing and its third-party advertising partners have decided to support this movement.  Although we are not a major advertiser like the ones listed, our combined annual spend on Facebook ads is over $1.5 million.  We believe even small advertisers will have a cumulative effect and ask our friends and competitors who spend money with Facebook to pause their campaigns.

I understand the consequences of this action.  Facebook and Instagram directly and through our influencers, account for a large number of quality leads that funnel into our mass tort and personal injury attorney clients as signed cases allowing us to keep our per signed case fees low.  The result will be a longer period of time for us to complete campaigns and a higher cost of acquisition for us.  We feel the solidarity and message outweigh the cost of potentially lost business and higher cost of advertising on other media.

We also hope that you join our efforts by pausing any of your other Facebook campaigns.  It is time for Facebook to wake up.  Hurting their bottom line may be the only way to do it.

Edward Lott, Ph.D., M.B.A.
President and Managing Partner
ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing, Inc.
Ed can be reached at (or visit his website)
edl@forlawfirmsonly.com
855-943-8736 ext. 101
www.ForLawFirmsOnly.com

https://www.forlawfirmsonly.com/facebook-and-forlawfirmsonly-marketing/

Why Google Ranks Singular and Plural Keywords Differently via @martinibuster

Google explains why the algorithm may rank singular and plural keywords differently.

The post Why Google Ranks Singular and Plural Keywords Differently via @martinibuster appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

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How to Choose the Most Link-Worthy Data Source for Your Content Posted by Domenica

Posted by Domenica

Fractl has produced thousands of content marketing campaigns across every topic, and for the past seven years, we’ve been keeping track of each and every campaign in order to refine and improve the content we produce on behalf of our clients.

In my last post for Moz, I explained how to set realistic digital PR expectations for your content based on your niche. In this topic, I want to dive a little bit deeper into the data and share insights about how the source of your content can be just as important in determining how your content will perform.

In this analysis, I looked at 1,474 client content campaigns across six different data source categories:

  • Client data
  • Social media
  • Participatory methods
  • Publicly available data
  • Survey
  • Germ swab

It’s important to note that there are countless other data sources that we use for content campaigns every day at Fractl that are not mentioned in this article. In this analysis, each category has at least 20 campaigns, while some categories have several hundred campaigns.

It’s also important to note that averages were collected by excluding upper outliers. For campaigns that went “viral” and performed well above the norm, we excluded them in the calculation so as not to skew the averages higher.

In addition to sharing link and press averages, I will also be walking through how to produce pressworthy, sharable content from each data source and providing examples.

Managing expectations across content types

Across the entire sample of 1,474 campaigns, a project on average received 24 dofollow links and 89 press mentions in total.

A press mention is defined as any time the content campaign was mentioned on a publisher’s website.
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There were some individual data source category averages that were on par with the sample average, while other categories deviated greatly from the sample average.

Publicly available data

For almost any niche out there, you can bet there is a publicly available data set available for use. Some examples include data from the CDC, the U.S. Census, colleges and universities, the WHO, and the TSA. The opportunities really are endless when it comes to using publicly available data as a methodology for your content.

While free data sets can be a treasure trove of information for your content, keep in mind that they’re not always the simplest to work with. They do require a lot of analysis to make sense of the massive amount of information in them, and to make the insights digestible for your audience.

Take for example a campaign we produced for a client called Neighborhood Names. The data was free from the US Census, but in order to make any sense of it, our researchers had to use QGIS, Python, text-mining, and phrasemachine (a text analysis API) just to narrow it down to what we were looking for.

And what were we looking for? Looking at neighborhood names across America seems boring at first, until you realize that certain words correspond to wealth.
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I was the outreach specialist for this project, and by using the wealth angle, I was able to secure two notable placements on CNBC as well as a press mention on MSN. The project quickly made its way around the internet after that, earning 76 dofollow links and 202 total press mentions by the end of our reporting period.

Survey

Unlike scouring the internet for free data, using a survey as a methodology can be more costly. That being said, there is one major advantage to using a survey to shape your content: you can find out anything you want.

While publicly available data will tell a story, it’s not always the story you want to tell, and that’s where surveys come in.

Of course, when it comes to surveys, anyone can create one without paying attention to research method best practices. That’s one of the problems we need to address. With “fake news” in the forefront of everyone’s minds in 2020, building trust with journalists and editors is of the utmost importance.

As content creators, we have a responsibility to ensure that content is not only attention-grabbing and entertaining, but also accurate and informative.

Survey campaigns, in particular, require you to analyze responses through a rigorous methodological lens. When collecting data for surveys, be sure to pay close attention to ethical upholdance, data validity, and fair visual representations.

Germ swab

From my own personal experience, germ swab content campaigns are the most fun, and often, the most disturbing. Fractl did some research a while back about the emotions that make content go viral, and oftentimes, germ swab campaigns hit all of the right emotions in the viral equation.

Negative emotions like disgust are often evoked when reviewing the results of germ swab campaigns. Our study found that when negative emotions are paired with emotions like anticipation or surprise, they can still achieve viral success (internet viral, not germ viral). What is more surprising than finding out the airplane tray table is dirtier than a toilet seat?
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Publishers around the world seemed to think the content was surprising, too. This campaign performed above the norm for a typical content campaign earning 38 dofollows and 195 total press mentions — and this was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participatory methods

Participatory methods are campaigns that require active participation for the methodology. These are unique ideas — no two are alike. Some examples of campaigns that fall under the participatory methods category are when we had team members do a 30-day squat challenge, asked respondents to draw brand logos from memory, or when we literally drove from D.C. to NYC with a dash cam to record traffic violations.

These campaigns have a certain level of risk associated with them. They require a lot of upfront effort and planning without the promise of any return — and that’s scary for clients and for our team who put in tremendous effort to pull them off.

As you can see from the chart above, however, these ideas collectively performed right on par with other campaign types, and even better than survey methodologies for both the number of dofollow links and press mentions. In order to reap big benefits, it seems you need to be willing to take a big risk.

Social media

Social medIa as a data source is almost a no-brainer, right up there with survey methodologies and publicly available data sets. Unlike participatory methods campaigns, you don’t have to leave your computer in order to produce a campaign based on social media data.

Through our seven years of content creation, Fractl has produced campaigns based on data scrapes from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, and more. From this experience, we know firsthand what kinds of social campaigns work and which ones fall flat.

The best thing about using social media as a source for content is that it can be applied to all verticals.

The biggest lesson we’ve learned from producing content based on social media data is that the methodology is typically subjective, so you need to keep the project lighthearted in nature in order to earn major coverage.

For example, we produced a campaign for a client in which we looked at Instagram posts with the hashtag #sexy and a geolocation. From this, we were able to glean the “sexiest” countries in the world as well as U.S. states.
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While it would be impossible to learn what the actual sexiest places in the world were, (what does that even mean?) we were able to produce a fun campaign that used geo-bait to appeal to lighthearted publishers, like Glamour, E! Online, Women’s Health, and Elite Daily.

Make sure that no matter the topic, whatever you produce contributes to an ongoing conversation. Statistics that don’t point to anything meaningful won’t be relevant for writers actually trying to add to the conversation.

Client data

Client data is often the most underappreciated data source for content marketers. You may be sitting on a wealth of actionable industry insights and not even know it.

You might think of internal data as only being useful for improving your internal processes at work, but it can also be valuable outside of your organization.

Unlike publicly available data, internal data is never-before-seen and 100% unique. Journalists eat this up because it means that you’re providing completely exclusive resources.

Think of this article, for example. This article is filled with data and insights that Fractl has gleaned after producing thousands of content marketing campaigns.

An added bonus of using internal data to craft your content is that, according to our analysis, it performs on par with surveys. Unlike surveys, though, it’s completely free.

Conclusion

No matter what methodology you’re using or vertical you’re creating content for, it’s important to realize that as content creators, we have an ethical and moral responsibility to create with an audience in mind.

With “fake news” on the forefront of everyone’s minds, building and maintaining trust with writers and editors is of the utmost importance.

All of the content you produce and promote must be assessed through a rigorous methodological lens to ensure that content is accurate and informative as well as eye-grabbing and entertaining.

Regardless of your methodology, if you don’t take the proper steps to make sure your data sources are accurate, you are contributing to the fake news epidemic.

 

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Scandals, compensation programs lead Catholic clergy sex abuse complaints to quadruple in 2019 By Michelle Boorstein 

The number of allegations of Catholic clergy sex abuse of minors more than quadrupled in 2019 compared to the average in the previous five years, U.S. church officials reported this week, in part the result of new church-run compensation programs for victims as well as survivors driven to come forward by several major clerical abuse scandals.

The annual audit of nearly 200 dioceses and church entities across the country has been done since 2002, when reports of clergy abuse and coverups exploded and U.S. bishops approved reforms, including a yearly review of complaints and compliance. The reform package is often called the “Charter.”

The report released Thursday by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the 2019 report — which covered July 2018 through June 2019 — counted 4,434 allegations of clergy sex abuse against minors. That number was 1,451 in 2018, 693 in 2017, 1,318 in 2016 and 903 in 2015.

Of the 4,434 allegations covered in the report, about half — 2,237 — were deemed credible by the church.

Thirty-seven of the 4,434 allegations came from people who were minors during the time period the report covered — eight of which the church-run bodies deemed substantiated, according to the report. In recent years, that’s about average for substantiated, past-year claims. There are about 37,000 diocesan and religious order priests in the country.

The complaints the church deemed credible were analyzed further by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a church-affiliated research center on the Catholic Church. CARA found that of those whose time frame could be determined, 57 percent of credible allegations that came in 2019 happened before 1975, 41 percent between 1975 and 1999, and 2 percent since 2000, the report said.

Church officials said the fact that there remains such a small number of claims of recent abuse shows that their reforms are working and that the jump in reporting of older claims reflects confidence complaints will be taken seriously.

“It reflects the same pattern we’ve been seeing — there hasn’t been a real uptick in cases since the Charter,” said Francesco C. Cesareo, the chairman of the National Review Board, a committee created by the Catholic Church in 2002 to oversee the implementation of the Charter. “I think the data is out there to show that the Church has been the one institution that has really taken an institutional approach to this and put in place policies and protocols that have resulted in a much safer environment within the Church.”

Some survivor advocates saw other things in the report. SNAP, a clergy-abuse survivors’ organization, emphasized the report’s finding that the status of 863 allegations is “unknown” and another 956 are ongoing.

“Church officials pretend they’re reporting on a past problem when in fact thousands of proven, admitted and credibly accused clerics who have committed or concealed child sex crimes remain ‘under the radar,’ living and working among unsuspecting neighbors, friends, co-workers and even relatives,” SNAP wrote. The Church, it said, should be focusing on locating all still-living child abusers to protect from future abuse and “punishing the still-living ‘enabling’ clerics who are ignoring or hiding those criminals.”

Cesareo wrote in a letter attached to the report that the Church needs to allow a more in-depth and truly independent audit. While the report uses the word “independent” six times, the nature and scope of the audit is determined by the bishops, as are the questions. The audit is done by StoneBridge Business Partners, using information given to it by dioceses. The dioceses also determine which allegations are credible.

A more independent process is needed “if the bishops hope to regain the credibility that has been lost among the laity,” Cesareo wrote.

The report says the spike in numbers is in part due to the fact that multiple dioceses around the country created compensation funds for victims whose cases had passed the statute of limitations in their states to sue, as well as lawsuits and diocesan bankruptcies. The report says such cases account for 37 percent of allegations.

Catholic provinces and dioceses that responded to the CARA survey said they had paid out a total of $282 million related to allegations the came in between July 2018 and June 2019.

Chieko Noguchi, a spokeswoman for the USCCB, said researchers believe there are many additional factors, including “the news of high-profile revelations that also prompted people to step forward.”

In June 2018, the Vatican announced the suspension of then-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a popular U.S. church leader who was archbishop in Washington before he retired to serve as a part-time global diplomat for the Vatican. He was accused of child sexual abuse and then, later, of sexually harassing seminarians and young clergy. He was defrocked last year.

Michelle Boorstein is a religion reporter, covering the busy marketplace of American faith. Her career has included a decade of globe-trotting with the Associated Press, covering topics including terrorism in the Arizona desert, debates on male circumcision, Ugandan royalty, and how strapped doctors in Afghanistan decide who lives and who dies.

Originally Published in the Washington Post

https://www.forlawfirmsonly.com/scandals-compensation-programs-lead-catholic-clergy-sex-abuse-complaints-to-quadruple-in-2019-by-michelle-boorstein/

Challenge eyed to class action plan for Bayer Roundup settlement

A plan to delay any new Roundup cancer claims for years and shift the key question of whether or not the weed killer causes cancer from a jury to a hand-picked panel of scientists faces potential opposition from some of the plaintiffs’ attorneys who initiated and led the mass tort claims against Roundup maker Monsanto, sources close to the litigation said.

Several members of the lead law firms who won three out of three trials pitting cancer patients against Monsanto are considering challenging the terms of a proposed “class action” settlement negotiated between Monsanto owner Bayer AG and a small team of  lawyers who have not previously been at the forefront of the Roundup litigation, the sources said.

The class action settlement proposal is an element of the sweeping $10 billion Roundup litigation settlement Bayer announced June 24.

In each of the trials held to date, juries found that the weight of scientific evidence proved that Roundup exposure caused the plaintiffs to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and that Monsanto covered up the risks. But under the proposal that question would go to a five-member “science panel,” not a jury.

“It’s basically depriving a plaintiff of their constitutional right to a jury trial,” said one source close to the litigation.

The proposed class settlement would apply to anyone exposed to Roundup who had not filed a lawsuit or retained a lawyer as of June 24, 2020, regardless of whether or not that person already had been diagnosed with cancer they believe was due to Roundup exposure.

The plan was put together by Bayer and the law firms of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein; Audet & Partners; The Dugan Law Firm; and lawyer Samuel Issacharoff, Reiss Professor of Constitutional Law at New York University School of Law.

The agreement was reached after nearly one year of “unrelenting efforts” of negotiations, lawyer Elizabeth Cabraser said in a declaration to the court supporting the proposed class settlement.

It would set a “standstill period” in which plaintiffs in the class cannot file new litigation related to Roundup. And it calls for class members to release “any claims against Monsanto for punitive damages and for medical monitoring related to Roundup exposure and NHL.”

Notably, the plan states that rather than go forward with another jury trial, a panel of scientists will first be set up to determine the “right answer” to “the threshold question” of whether or not there is a causal link between Roundup and NHL.

The plan calls for Bayer to pay up to $150 million for the fees and costs of the attorneys’ involved and “class representative service awards” up to $25,000 to each or a total of $100,000.

Overall, Bayer said it would set aside $1.25 billion for the arrangement. The money would be used to compensate class members diagnosed with NHL for the “effects of the delay” in litigation, and to fund research into the diagnosis and treatment of NHL, among other things.

A motion seeking preliminary approval of the class settlement was filed Wednesday with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to be handled by Judge Vince Chhabria. Chhabria has been overseeing numerous Roundup lawsuits that have been bundled together as multidistrict litigation. In shepherding a large number of the lawsuits already filed, Chhabria oversaw one of the Roundup trials, as well as what is known as a “Daubert” hearing, in which he heard days of scientific testimony from both sides and then decided there was sufficient scientific evidence of causation for the litigation to proceed.

The class settlement proposal was negotiated separately from the main settlement made with the lead law firms.

In the main settlement, Bayer agreed to provide $8.8 billion to $9.6 billion to resolve roughly 75 percent of the roughly 125,000 filed and unfiled claims brought by plaintiffs who blame exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup for their development of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.  Lawyers representing more than 20,000 additional plaintiffs say they have not agreed to settle with Bayer and those lawsuits are expected to continue to work their way through the court system.

Even though Monsanto lost each of the three trials held to date, Bayer maintain the jury decisions were flawed and based on emotion and not sound science.

Science Panel Selection

Bayer and the lawyers for the proposed class would work together to select the five scientists to sit on what would be a “neutral, independent” panel, according to the plan.  If they cannot agree on the make-up of the panel then each side will choose two members and those four members will choose the fifth.

No scientist who acted as an expert in the federal multidistrict Roundup litigation will be allowed to be on the panel. Notably, neither will anyone who “communicated with any expert” in the litigation about the subject matter.

The panel would have four years to review scientific evidence but can petition for an extension of time if necessary. The determination would be binding on both sides, the plan states. If the panel determines there is a causal link between Roundup and NHL, plaintiffs can go forward to seek trials of their individual claims.

“Knowledge is power and this Settlement empowers class members to hold Monsanto accountable for their injuries if and when the Science Panel determines that general causation is satisfied,” the plan states.

The filing with the federal court requests a preliminary approval hearing within 30 days.

The post Challenge eyed to class action plan for Bayer Roundup settlement appeared first on U.S. Right to Know.

https://www.forlawfirmsonly.com/challenge-eyed-to-class-action-plan-for-bayer-roundup-settlement/

Download the SEO’s Local Search Cheat Sheet! Posted by MiriamEllis

Posted by MiriamEllis

What a juggling feat your SEO agency pulls off every day! On your best days, you’re keeping:

  • Team members and clients
  • All the moving marketing parts

…in constant, useful motion. On your worst days, though, mistakes happen when:

  • Communication breaks down
  • Standard procedures aren’t understood company-wide
  • People feel rushed

No local SEO agency or in-house SEO wants to waste time and resources on a scenario like building a GMB listing for a business model that’s ineligible, pushing out incorrect NAP because it wasn’t vetted by the right department, or having to contact a client multiple times because the onboarding process wasn’t thorough enough to get all the information needed in a single step.

Maybe worse yet, giving the wrong advice to a client is embarrassing and undermines retention. Nobody’s perfect, and the best SEOs will drop a few balls here and there, but it helps build confidence to know you have the answers to marketing FAQs at your fingertips.

Share a sheet — save time and hassle!

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Whether you’ve just made a new hire at your agency, or your team simply wants to save time by having the most common local SEO resources, FAQs, and solutions all in one spot, the SEO’s Local Search Cheat Sheet is free to download and easy to print and share. Maybe your agency is just starting to move into the local search marketing space, and this resource can be a supportive guide for the path ahead.

Tack it up in your workspace, put it on the company fridge, or include it in your training process for incoming employees. It’s amazing how a visible reminder can jog your memory and prevent avoidable mistakes, plus make work faster and easier.

Download the SEO’s Local Search Cheat Sheet

How your team will get value from this sheet

I’ve been working in the local SEO space for more than fifteen years. My head sometimes feels like an overstuffed filing cabinet of marketing protocols. I can’t remember absolutely everything, and the amount of information you have to keep track of to market your local clients is pretty staggering. From Google’s guidelines and their continuous release of new features, to general best practices for listings, websites, and reviews, to managing client to-dos, SEOs have to bring great presence of mind to every team meeting and every client consultation.

What I’ve done in this cheat sheet is create a basic aid that covers the practices and questions that land on my desk with the greatest frequency. Pin this up by your own desk as a handy reference covering:

  • Client onboarding checklist
  • Google My Business eligibility/ineligibility at a glance
  • Top Google support and reporting links
  • Website checklist
  • Reputation and review tips
  • Ranking failure troubleshooting steps
  • Key local SEO concepts, explained
  • And more!

By consolidating all of this information into a single resource, I hope you can reduce vital tasks being overlooked, mishandled, or even just taking longer than they should. Moz knows that organization is key to every agency’s success, and we hope you’ll distribute this cheat sheet widely to make local SEO work simpler and better for everyone on your team.

Download the SEO’s Local Search Cheat Sheet

Love cheat sheets? Check out our updated Web Developer’s SEO Cheat Sheet as well!

 

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2020 Mid Year Update: Mass Tort and Class Action Litigation Outlook

While many courtrooms across the country were closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are several mass torts that continued making significant progress despite the legal hiatus. Two of these were cited in our 2020 forecast:

JUUL

The JUUL MDL (Northern District of California) has continued to move forward since the end of 2019. The judge has appointed plaintiffs’ attorneys to leadership roles, and the steering committee is starting to organize. Key appointments include:

  • Co-lead counsel: Sarah London, Dean Kawamoto, Ellen Relkin, Dena Sharp
  • Plaintiffs’ federal/state court liaison counsel: Khaldoun Baghdadi, Leslie LaMacchia
  • Plaintiffs’ government entity liaison counsel: Thomas Cartmell
  • Plaintiffs’ steering committee: Rachel Abrams, Erin Dickinson, Michelle Drake, Jonathan Gdanski, Adam Gutride, Bradly Honnold, Emily Jeffcott, Kristine Kraft, Esfand Nafisi, Matthew Schultz, Sabita Soneji, Joseph VanZandt, Mikal Watts, Michael Weinkowitz.

Look for this mass tort litigation to gain momentum in the coming months.

Talc

The other newsmaker is the Johnson & Johnson talc case, which recently made headlines when the company pulled its baby powder from the market. Although not an admission of guilt, this permanent discontinuance of the company’s flagship product may prompt the plaintiffs’ bar to seek out more claimants, and we believe J&J will continue to fight what is likely to be a growing number of cases. Other companies, including L’Oreal and Chanel, are also being sued for selling OTC talcum powders allegedly contaminated by asbestos; this may ultimately pull them into the same type of mass tort litigation.

New MDLs

Zantac

A new MDL has been formed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and leadership has been appointed. It is forecast to be one of the largest MDLs in recent history, given the fact that the heartburn drug has been on the market since the early 1980s, with around 20 million prescriptions written every year. The makers have allegedly been aware of the carcinogenic properties of its active compound for decades, with numerous studies linking the chemical to cancer.

Judge Robin Rosenberg has made a strong effort to appoint a more diverse leadership than is typically found in many other MDLs. The diversity issue—across gender, age, ethnicity and race—has long been discussed in legal academic circles. She also created a “leadership development committee” to give younger lawyers an opportunity to immerse themselves in the logistics of a major MDL while learning from experienced mentors.

Evolving Mass Torts

COVID-19 and Nursing Homes

Despite the complexities involved with the potential for multiple defendants, we foresee the lawsuits against nursing homes due to COVID-19 deaths leading to an MDL or consolidated litigation. In addition to the various nursing homes involved, other entities, including healthcare workers, cleaning companies and home health agencies that came into the facilities to provide a service, may also be held accountable and could potentially become defendants or involved in the litigation.  Certain state governments are signaling they may grant immunity for civil and criminal liability to state-run facilities, but it remains to be seen what will happen at the plaintiffs’ bar, given the public and political pressures around these deaths.

Boys Scouts of America

The sexual abuse litigation against the Boy Scouts of America is now permitting tort claimants to submit a claim within a larger bankruptcy proceeding, in which the national organization filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to stay individual lawsuits brought by sexual abuse survivors. The full scope of the liabilities is not yet known, but a bankruptcy court has set a November 2020 deadline by which abuse survivors must file a proof of claim. It is anticipated that any plan of reorganization approved by the court will involve a settlement mechanism resolving claims brought by abuse survivors.

Elmiron

The drug Elmiron, which treats interstitial cystitis, bladder pain and osteoarthritis, is being linked to permanent eyesight damage, including macular degeneration and pigmentary and retinal maculopathy. A number of studies dating to 2018 have revealed risks associated with long-term use of Elmiron. Mass tort law firms are looking for claimants now. Elmiron was developed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals (a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary).

For information on how Verus’ Case Management and Medical Review services can apply specifically to the Mass Tort cases above, click here. To contact us, fill out this form or email us at info@verusllc.com and we will reply immediately.

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The post 2020 Mid Year Update: Mass Tort and Class Action Litigation Outlook appeared first on Verus.

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Roundup cancer attorney pleads guilty to extortion attempt

A Virginia lawyer who helped represent the first Roundup cancer plaintiff to take Monsanto to trial pleaded guilty on Friday to trying to extort $200 million from a chemical compound supplier to Monsanto.

Timothy Litzenburg, 38, admitted to a scheme in which he and another lawyer threatened to inflict substantial “financial and reputational harm” on the supplier unless that company paid the two attorneys $200 million disguised as a “consulting agreement.”

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Litzenburg allegedly told the company that if they paid the money, he was willing to “take a dive” during a deposition, intentionally undermining the prospects for future plaintiffs to try to sue.

Litzenburg was charged with one count each of attempted extortion, conspiracy and transmission of interstate communications with intent to extort. He pleaded guilty to one count of transmitting interstate communications with the intent to extort.

Lawyer Daniel Kincheloe, 41, pleaded guilty to the same charge for participating in the scheme.  The men are scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 18 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia.

“This is a case where two attorneys blew well past the line of aggressive advocacy and crossed deep into the territory of illegal extortion, in a brazen attempt to enrich themselves by extracting millions of dollars from a multinational company,” Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski said in a statement. He said that the plea shows that “when crimes are committed, members of the bar, like all members of the public, will be held accountable for their actions.”

Litzenburg was one of the attorneys for Dewayne “Lee” Johnson leading up to Johnson’s 2018 trial against Monsanto, which resulted in a $289 million jury award in Johnson’s favor. (The judge in the case lowered the verdict and the case is currently under appeal.)

The trial was the first of three that have taken place against Monsanto over allegations that the company’s glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Monsanto, and its German owner Bayer AG, have lost all three trials to date but are appealing the verdicts.

Though Litzenburg had helped prepare Johnson for trial, he was not allowed to participate during the actual event because of concerns about his behavior held by The Miller Firm, which was his employer at the time.

The Miller firm subsequently fired Litzenburg and filed a lawsuit in early 2019 alleging Litzenburg engaged in self-dealing, and “disloyal and erratic conduct.” Litzenburg responded with a counter-claim. The parties  negotiated a confidential settlement.

The criminal complaint against Litzenburg did not name the company Litzenburg tried to extort, but said that he contacted the company in September of  2019 year stating that he was preparing a lawsuit that would allege the company supplied chemical compounds used by Monsanto to create Roundup and that the company knew the ingredients were carcinogenic but had failed to warn the public.

According to the federal charges, Litzenburg told a lawyer for the company he was trying to extort that the company should enter into a “consulting arrangement” with him so as to create a  conflict of interest that would prevent him from filing the threatened litigation.

Litzenburg wrote in the email that the $200 million consulting agreement for himself and an associate was “a very reasonable price,” according to the criminal complaint.

Federal investigators recorded a phone call with Litzenburg discussing the $200 million he was seeking, the complaint states. Litzenburg was allegedly recorded as saying: “The way that I guess you guys will think about it and we’ve thought about it too is savings for your side. I don’t think if this gets filed and turns into mass tort, even if you guys win cases and drive value down… I don’t think there’s any way you get out of it for less than a billion dollars. And so, you know, to me, uh, this is a fire sale price that you guys should consider…”

Litzenburg claimed to be representing roughly 1,000 clients suing Monsanto over Roundup cancer causation allegations at the time of his arrest last year.

The post Roundup cancer attorney pleads guilty to extortion attempt appeared first on U.S. Right to Know.

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New Boys Scouts Lawsuit Shows Longtime Issue

A legal action recently filed in Montana against the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) accusing it of failing to prevent the sexual abuse of scouts. The plaintiff claims he was subjected to sexual abuse at a BSA camp decades ago. In this case, the alleged abuser was criminally charged and plead guilty in the 1970’s, but he served no jail time.

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The defendants include the Montana Council of the Boy Scouts of America and two sponsoring agencies. They were filed in District Court in Great Falls, thanks to a Montana law passed last year that gave a year for plaintiffs missing the statute of limitations to file legal claims, reports the Associated Press.

At least two others have brought legal action against the BSA and the Montana Council. They claim they were sexually abused by scout leaders who were not adequately supervised by the defendants. Plaintiff Christopher Ford stated he told his parents about the abuse he suffered at a Scout outing near Libby in 1974. A year later, assistant Scoutmaster John David McBride plead guilty to 15 felony counts of lewd and lascivious acts upon several boys and deviate sexual conduct without consent.

McBride was given a three-year deferred sentence, according to a 1977 letter from the Lincoln County sheriff that Ford said he obtained from McBride’s “ineligible volunteer” file kept by the BSA. Ford said he learned McBride never served any jail time.

The BSA kept ineligible volunteer files almost since its inception, according to Seattle attorney Michael Pfau, whose firm represents the three victims. BSA files released in other cases estimate 7,800 perpetrators had molested more than 12,000 boys.

Pfau says BSA failed to put in place effective policies and procedures to protect children. These files show the organization was aware of the problem and knew pedophiles used Scouting to get access to children.

Criminal injustice system often leaves convicted pedophiles in the public

Although many child molesters serve jail time, it’s not a uniform punishment. A civil lawsuit may be a way for a victim to force the BSA to accept responsibility after the criminal justice system failed to take their abuse seriously.

Benjamin Lawrence Petty plead guilty to first-degree rape, forcible sodomy, and rape by instrumentation in 2018 after raping a 13-year-old girl at a church-run camp in 2016. Petty worked as a cook at the Falls Creek camp in southern Oklahoma. The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma ran it. The Washington Post reports a plea bargain agreement was agreed to by the victim’s parents and the judge in the case. In it, Petty was sentenced to 15 years of probation, using an ankle monitor for two years, and a lifetime on the sex offender registry. The fact Petty is legally blind was given as a reason he didn’t have to spend time in jail.

Time magazine reports that documents released in 2014 showed that five years earlier, a Delaware judge sentenced a wealthy heir to the DuPont chemical company to probation after he admitted he raped his daughter, who was three at the time, saying he would “not do well” in prison. The daughter of Robert H. Richards IV told her grandmother in 2005 of the abuse. She said her father told her it was their “little secret” but she didn’t want “my daddy touching me anymore.” Richards accepted a plea deal and with good reason. He plead guilty to fourth-degree rape charges, which usually results in more than two years of jail time. Prosecutors sought only probation and Judge Jan Jurden agreed. Richards was sentenced to an eight-year prison sentence but commuted it all to probation.

Jeremy Schwer pleaded guilty in 2016 to felony child molesting after he sexually abused his then six-year-old daughter while she was recovering from a brain tumor in 2013. The deputy prosecutor in the Indiana case wanted Schwer to be imprisoned for at least nine years in prison, reports the New York Daily News. He was sentenced to 12 years of probation. Schwer’s wife, who was divorcing him at the time, asked the court not to sentence him to prison because she needed his financial support for her children. The prosecutor didn’t agree, stating Schwer had been out of jail for a year before pleading guilty and had not financially supported his family during that time.

Does your firm represent sex abuse victims? Want the best way to get more and better cases?

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Edward Lott, Ph.D., M.B.A.
President and Managing Partner
ForLawFirmsOnly Marketing, Inc.
Ed can be reached at (or visit his website)
edl@forlawfirmsonly.com
855-943-8736 ext. 101
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