Lien manual published by Chris Nichols
Liens and Workers' Compensation

Corporate and Insurance Company Propaganda and Lies

Looks like AOL (America On Line) is attempting to pass off urban legend as news. 

This post is very important, and I hope that anyone coming to this webpage reads the whole post!

The America Online (AOL) website titled "Most Outrageous Lawsuits." Appears in the money and finance section of AOL and is also prominently displayed on the AOL home page.   The "most outrageous lawsuits" section contains mistruths and has been consistently debunked by web sites like www.snopes.com   Snopes is the leading website that actually does research into "urban legends" and provides the truth behind the distortions.  It you have ever heard of the "Stella awards" (fake awards for "outrageous lawsuits"), here is the specific post from Snopes that proves the Stella awards are lies, or distortions:  http://www.snopes.com/legal/lawsuits.asp

The public has seen this propaganda before.  The "crazy lawsuits" they describe come directly from groups like Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) and the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), groups whose sole mission is to dismantle the civil justice system and eliminate accountability for corporate negligence.  In the past, when such front groups have provided examples of "cases," they haven't even been real.

AOL is preying on an unsuspecting public that assumes what is posted on its site is news, all to make the case that they, and other negligent corporations, should not be held accountable for wrongdoing in our courts.

There is good reason for AOL to invest its resources in the misinformation campaign to eliminate the right of Americans to seek justice.  In the past few years, it is the civil justice system that has been the last resort for shareholders and investors to hold AOL accountable for their negligence. The following are just a few examples of the trouble AOL has gotten in:

  • Just this week AOL agreed to pay $246 million to compensate the

    University

    of

    California

    for losses to their pension and endowment funds after the company's stock prices plunged in 2001-2002. The University alleged that AOL inflated it stock price prior to its merger with Time-Warner by misrepresenting its sales, revenues and subscriber numbers.
  • On February 26, 2007, Time Warner reached agreements to pay $405 million to settle lawsuits related to past accounting problems at AOL.
  • On February 7, 2007, AOL reached a $105 million settlement with the California State Teachers' Retirement System that claimed that AOL executives and bankers had artificially boosted the value of its stocks prior to buying Time Warner.
  • In December, 2006, AOL settled a securities fraud case for $50 million with the state of

    Alaska

    .
  • In 2005, Time Warner settled a $2.4 billion securities fraud lawsuit stemming from their misstatement of advertising revenue on the eve of its merger with AOL.

The American Association for Justice has made several attempts to get this propaganda pulled from the website but AOL has refused.  You can help, so consider taking the following steps:

If you are a member of AOL tell them to stop running this feature on their website by posting a comment;

Call the Chairman and CEO of AOL, Randy Falco, at (703) 265-1000 and ask him to take down the information;

Circulate this information to others who will take action; and

Send to any legal and political blogs you frequent.

Insurance Companies would like the public to think that all lawsuits are "frivolous".  "Frivolous" lawsuits get weeded out of the system by judges and lawyers (who refuse to bring them) LONG before they get to court.  In NC, every case that gets filed goes through multiple levels of independent review, from the moment the law suit is filed.

The most important of those levels of review is the "motion for summary judgment" or "motion to dismiss."  In every case, the lawyer for the defense can come into the court room, and tell the judge "this case is crazy, please dismiss it."  And Judges dismiss cases all the time.  Only cases where the Judge believes there is a reasonable argument survive.

After the motions to dismiss, in NC, in every lawsuit with a value over $10,000 ALL parties are required to attend a mediation.  At mediation, an experienced lawyer or judge makes the parties face reality and encourages settlement. 

Here is what NC's Judicial Website says about mediation:

Most citizens think of cases filed in our courts as coming to a close only after long and bitterly fought trials. After all, that is what they read in newspapers and see on television. However, the truth is that most cases filed in our State’s civil Superior Courts are never actually heard by a judge or jury. Instead, they settle on the parties’ own terms. Too frequently, that settlement occurs on the courthouse steps -- just before the trial is set to begin and the plaintiff and defendant have endured a long, sleepless night or nights. The Mediated Settlement Conference Program is designed to offer parties, with the help of their attorneys and a mediator, an opportunity and the support they need to settle their cases earlier

In my experience, 99% of cases that do not settle, do not settle because the Insurance Company, who hires the lawyers to defend the defendant, takes an unreasonable position on settlement.  That position is usually "we won't pay a dime because we didn't do it', or "we will only offer you a very small amount, but we will NEVER apologize for what we did."

Most lawsuits would go away with an apology.  That may be hard to believe, but in many cases it is true.

Chris Nichols

www.NicholsTrialLaw.com

www.NicholsTrialLaw.com 1.800.906.5984

Comments

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Watching You

You rail about how the "Stella Awards" are fake -- and completely ignore that the True Stella Awards was specifically founded as a way to rail against the fake cases -- right here!

And you completely ignore the TRUE cases they have come up with, hoping that the ignorant people who come here will think they're ALL fake. The TRUE case write-ups from 2002 and 2003 and 2004 and 2005 and 2006 are all there for people to see*, and I find it VERY hard to believe that something in YOUR FIELD that is THAT VISIBLE has escaped your attention for FIVE YEARS!

So let's all see if YOU are honest enough to let this post be seen!

* http://www.StellaAwards.com/2002.html
http://www.StellaAwards.com/2003.html
http://www.StellaAwards.com/2004.html
http://www.StellaAwards.com/2005.html
http://www.StellaAwards.com/2006.html

Nate

In my experience, 99% of cases that do not settle, do not settle because the Insurance Company, who hires the lawyers to defend the defendant, takes an unreasonable position on settlement. That position is usually "we won't pay a dime because we didn't do it', or "we will only offer you a very small amount, but we will NEVER apologize for what we did."

Most lawsuits would go away with an apology. That may be hard to believe, but in many cases it is true.


Chris,

I think your estimates need to be reworked. There may be certain oft-repeated scenarios, such as low-impact collisions and denied WC cases, where insurers take an aggressive approach that makes early settlement impossible. When you consider a broader spectrum of cases, including med mal, slip-and-falls, and myriad other case exemplars, you will find a wider gulf between the claimant's expectations and a reasonable calculation of the insurer's risk.

Additionally, it is not incumbent upon the insurer to offer an apology. The insurer did not commit any wrongful act. Although animosity may arise between the parties, there is very little an attorney or insurer can do to mitigate. Further, once a claimant has retained counsel, any apology is simply a dead letter.

I have no opinion on the Stella awards and would not be surprised to learn that they are fueled by exaggeration. Your post, however, feeds hysteria from the other POV.

Chris Nichols

Watching You,

Well, you are right that the insurance company should not be apologizing for the negligence of their insured. What I meant, and should have said more "artfully" is that insurers often "wall off" their insured from the settlement and negotiation process, and by doing that, the injured party and the negligent (ok, allegedly negligent) party do not have the opportunity to "resolve" the underlying issue in the case. You even see this legislatively, as some states are passing "Apology Laws" that allow a doctor to apologize for a mistake, and the apology to be inadmissible at trial.

In most personal injury cases (slips and falls, medical malpractice, and car wrecks) there is usually a lot of opportunity for the insurance company to allow their insured to "apologize" before evryone gets "lawyered up." In fact, I find that many people who come to me, come to me only as a result of beng treated rudely by adjusters.

Of course, this is not to say that everyone who is injured has "reasonable" expectations. Some don't, or at least don't until they talk with a lawyer.

And of course, "reasonable" is a vague term, and for some insurance companies, "reasonable" is simply a mathmatical calculation of risk, based upon the legal market conditions. In other words, if a certain type of case does not do well at trial, in general terms, then the offer is lower, if there is one at all. Medical Malpractice cases are a great example. Even in cases where the insurer knows there has been some breach of the standard of care, I see no offer being made, simply because the economics of the case (the high costs for the Plaintiff and the Plaintiff's lawyer, usually over $50,000 or more before you even get to a trial) mean that a number of "negligent acts with lower damages" (say, dmages fairly valued at less than $250,000) make it economically impossible to bring the case forward.

That is probably free market "fairness" or "justice", but in the grander scheme of justice, it is unjust. Not, I suppose, if you are a stock holder in the insurance company, but for the injured person, the result in not just. It is more economic blackmail, in my mind.

And don't get me wrong, I think that Insurance Defense lawyers are doing their job. Most every one I've worked with is trying to get to a just result, even if we disagree over the amount. In fact, most Insurance Defense lawyers I know are equally frustrated with their insurance company clients for hamstringing them on the cases, by either limiting the legal work that occurs, or not allowing reasonable settlement offers to be made.

And as to the guy who posted before you, the Stella Awards are simply an insurance industry attempt to change jurors minds before they become jurors.

You'll note that the essence of the original post is that jurors (i.e. regular people) can not be trusted to determine the truth of a legal case. As one of the guys in the trenches, trying the cases, there is a lot more inherent prejudice AGAINST the Plaintiff, then there is against the Defendant.

Jurors routinely cite "frivolous" cases that are either fictionalized, or were dismissed by a judge after they hit the papers.

There is no "ultimate truth" to law suits, but as a lawyer who has won and lost cases, I think that the overall results are generally fair and if they skew one direction or the other, it is FOR the insurance industry, not against.

My opinion, by the way, applies only to North Carolina, as I don't have enough personal experience in other states to say what their juries are like.

Chris Nichols
www.NCTrialLawBlog.com

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