Lamps Plus Inc. v. Varela

On April 30, 2018 in Lamps Plus Inc. v. Varela, the U.S. Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari in a class arbitration case coming out of the Ninth Circuit.  The issue in Varela is whether the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) precludes an interpretation of an arbitration agreement that may authorize class arbitration based solely on general language commonly used in arbitration agreements.  The Ninth Circuit held that even though the arbitration clause did not mention “class arbitration”, mutual assent to class arbitration could be inferred from the language that “arbitration shall be in lieu of any and all lawsuits or other civil legal proceedings” and a description of the substantive arbitral claims.  This issue is important to consumers nationwide because if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses the Ninth Circuit and disallows class arbitration in Varela, consumers subject to many other arbitration clauses from which class arbitration may be more readily inferred than the one in Varela could be precluded from seeking class arbitration and leveling the playing field against companies committing rampant consumer fraud.

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Trump’s EPA Hands Chemical Industry Big Win

Recently obtained documents from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by the New York Times reveal that the EPA is drastically reducing the ways that it monitors and assesses potential health and safety risks related to the use of scores of chemicals, especially those most dangerous. Perchloroethylene, as well as multiple other known human carcinogens* that are used in consumer products and come in contact with workers in various industries, will now be less monitored and assessed for safety risks as this document shows.  The change in procedure, a boon to the chemical industry, came as a result of intense lobbying from industry groups like the American Chemistry Council.  

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Supreme Court Ruling Paves the Way for Nationwide Legalized Sports Betting

On Monday, in Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, the United States Supreme Court struck down a federal law that effectively banned sports betting in most states. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, passed in 1992, prohibited states from authorizing sports gambling. Senator Bill Bradley (D) of New Jersey, a former college and professional basketball star, was one of the sponsors of the bill. The rationale for the law was the purported need to safeguard the integrity of sports. In a 6-3 decision (Justice Alito wrote the majority opinion; Justice Breyer agreed with much of it; Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented), the Court ruled that the law violated the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which states that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. In other words, the Court found that the law violated state sovereignty and opened the door for individual states to pass statutes that would legalize gambling within their borders.

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Empathy Yields Compassion…And Knowledge

As I watch my younger sister being brought into a nursing home/long term care facility, weeks after having portions of her body amputated, I truly can empathize with so many family members as they deliver their loved ones into such facilities.  

A few years ago, I spoke on a radio show about nursing homes and one of the last questions posed was “which nursing home would you recommend?”  I thought for a brief moment and the answer came swiftly: NONE. I wasn’t trying to be cute or unduly harsh. Rather, I explained that there were too many variables and everyone who was faced with a situation such as my sister needed to do their own research into each facility.  Of course, sometimes families don’t have the luxury of choice, whether because of time-constraints or because of financial situations. But regardless, even if the decision is made because of finances or medical urgency, do your homework…and be THE watchdog for your loved one.

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Mental Health Awareness Month Part 2 - Attorneys and Stress

In recent years, there has been a lot of news about mental health issues plaguing the legal profession, including dangerously high rates of stress, anxiety, depression, and even substance abuse among lawyers.

A 2016 article published in The Journal of Addiction Medicine, detailed a collaborative study by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, which showed that in a sample of 12,825 licensed attorneys, 20.6% screened positive for hazardous, harmful and potentially alcohol dependency.  Furthermore, 28% of the attorneys surveyed in the study were experiencing symptoms of depression, 19% were experiencing symptoms of anxiety and 23% were experiencing stress. Last summer, the New York Times published the alarming article, "The Lawyer, the Addict", detailing the hidden drug abuse of a practicing attorney who ultimately died, likely due to a drug overdose.  More recently, in March 2018, the Harvard Business Review even reported that legal practice is the "loneliest" profession.  Many lawyers also report suffering from burnout, which can be avoidable and is not necessarily inevitable.

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This Monday we celebrate Memorial Day

This Monday we celebrate Memorial Day.  For most, it is a time of barbeques, get-togethers, and car trips to visit family or to experience a long weekend getaway.  The official start of summer! Ahhh…

But I’d suggest that all of us must take some time to solemnly reflect on our Nation’s history, and on the sacrifices many were called to make so that we can kick back this weekend without the fear of dictators, guns and the devastation of war.

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Pennsylvania Asbestos Litigation Update

More on the “Bare Metal” Defense

Since the time I posted about the Third Circuit's favorable decision in Devries rejecting the “bare metal” defense for asbestos claims under maritime law, Defendants, CBS Corporation (Westinghouse), Air & Liquid Systems Corp. (successor by merger to Buffalo Pumps, Inc.), Foster Wheeler, LLC and Ingersoll Rand, Inc., sought review of the Third Circuit’s decision by the United States Supreme Court.  The specific question Defendants presented for review was: “Can products-liability defendants be held liable under maritime law for injuries caused by products that they did not make, sell, or distribute?”  

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Mental Health Awareness Month - Part 1: Dealing with Loss and Grief during Litigation

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to highlight the importance of dealing with loss and grief—issues that affect many plaintiffs and their loved ones throughout the course of litigation.  

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Earlier this month a groundbreaking settlement on behalf of South African gold miners in a historic class action as a result of occupational lung disease was finalized. We are overjoyed and extremely proud that we were able to be part of the team working to get them the reparations they so greatly deserve.  


"May 3, 2018 (Washington D.C.) - Hausfeld is proud to announce a groundbreaking settlement on behalf of Southern African gold miners suffering from occupational lung disease that was finalized today in Johannesburg, South Africa. This historic class action settlement, the first ever of its kind in South Africa, reflects more than a decade of preparation and litigation aimed at providing compensation to the goldminers who suffered from silicosis and tuberculosis over the last 50 years.

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Self Driving Cars

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be stopped at a traffic light, look over to your side, and see a car with no driver, you may not have to wait much longer to find out. Although we will initially see these self-driving vehicles with a human driver behind the wheel as a “failsafe,” self-driving cars are going to be the new norm, and there will be many safety and legal questions involved that will still have to be answered.

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