Tuesday, May 24, 2016

N.F.L. Tried to Influence Concussion Research, Congressional Study Finds - The New York Times

Bubba Smith (78) playing for the Baltimore Colts against Joe Namath and the Jets in the Super Bowl in 1969. Smith died in 2011 at age 66.

Bubba Smith (78) died at 66.  He is the 90th NFL player

to be diagnosed  Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

N.F.L. Tried to Influence Concussion Research, Congressional Study Finds - The New York Times

When the N.F.L. agreed in 2012 to donate tens of millions of dollars to concussion research overseen by theNational Institutes of Health, it was widely seen as a positive turning point in football’s long history of playing down the long-term effects of brain injuries on players. At the time, the league said that it would have no influence over how the money was used.
But the league and its head, neck and spine committee worked to improperly influence the government research, trying to steer the study toward a doctor with ties to the league, according to a study conducted by a congressional committee and released on Monday.
“Our investigation has shown that while the N.F.L. had been publicly proclaiming its role as funder and accelerator of important research, it was privately attempting to influence that research,” the study concluded. “The N.F.L. attempted to use its ‘unrestricted gift’ as leverage to steer funding away from one of its critics.”
The N.F.L., in a statement, said it rejected the accusations laid out in the study, which was conducted by Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. “There is no dispute that there were concerns raised about both the nature of the study in question and possible conflicts of interest,” the league said. “These concerns were raised for review and consideration through the appropriate channels.”

Monday, May 23, 2016

Claims for Governmental Abuse Strengthened by China Supreme Court and Top Prosecutor

State Compensation Paid in Guangdong 1998-2009
Inline image 2
Guangdong High Court Yearbook - various years

The Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procurator (Prosecutor) have announced increases in the rate of compensation for persons whose rights are violated by Government.  As the Guangdong Province graph above shows citizens can have success in claims against government for rights violations. The new rates became effective in May 2016.  Courts are instructed to award compensation per day of deprivation of liberty, etc.  Violation of personal rights, bodily injury, emotional harm, and property damage are recognized.
Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to police or other official misconduct.  Although the old reeducation system "劳教" has been repealed Chinese law still permits detention for investigation.

Unlike the U.S. where complete prosecutorial immunity is the rule, in China a tort remedy is provided by the State Compensation Law.  Originally passed in 1994 it was strengthened by the 2010 Amendments.
In December 2015 the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procurator (Prosecutor) issued an " Explanation regarding several questions regarding the handling of cases of compensation for criminal injustice".  The joint document announces its purpose in Article 1:
Article 1 Explanation of the regulations setting the limits of compensation for a one who claims compensation because of a criminal  investigation, prosecution,  trial , detention, or imprisonment  by government which violated the personal rights, property rights for which application is made under the State Compensation Law , under the circumstances stated in Articles 17 and 18 of the State Compensation Law.
The regulations - as is common in Chinese law - advise courts to award compensation for disability and detention not on an individualized basis but rather on the average wage in the region, as well as other factors.
- George Conk 教授 and 刘达奇, LLM

h/t Susan Finder - Supreme Peoples Court Monitor

Friday, May 20, 2016

RJ Reynolds Hit With $11.5M Verdict In Nurse's Death - Law360

 More good news. I wish everyplace were Florida. - gwc

RJ Reynolds Hit With $11.5M Verdict In Nurse's Death - Law360

By Brandon Lowrey

Law360, New York (May 20, 2016, 5:27 PM ET) -- A Florida jury on Friday slammed R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. with $6.5 million in punitive damages in a lawsuit brought by relatives of a chain-smoking registered nurse and addiction counselor who died of lung cancer, adding to the $5 million compensatory verdict it awarded the plaintiffs a day earlier.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April 25, 2014: Switch to Flint River Water Supply, Flint, MI; 1926: New York Harbor a Menace | This Day in Water History

0425 Flint uses Flint River

April 25, 2014: Switch to Flint River Water Supply, Flint, MI; 1926: New York Harbor a Menace | This Day in Water History

April 25, 2014: Switch to Flint River Water Supply, Flint, MI. An article published onlinememorialized the change earlier that day from treated water from Detroit, Michigan, to the raw water supply of the Flint River and the activation of the Flint Water Plant. The photo from that article reproduced above shows local and state officials toasting each other with water from the Flint plant. I am certain that most of them would be happy to have their images removed from that and similar photographs.
About a month after the change, residents of Flint began to complain about discolored water and odors from the new water supply. The water coming out of city taps was orange, red, yellow and brown. City and State officials tried to assure Flint citizens that the water was safe to drink even after repeated failures of primary drinking water regulations: Total Coliform Rule and the trihalomethane regulation. But the worst was yet to come.
Once the water from the Flint River was demonstrated to be more corrosive to iron and steel than water from Detroit, someone in the water department, treatment plant staff, City administration or Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ, drinking water regulatory agency) should have asked the question, “What about corrosion of the 15,000 lead service lines serving water to homes in the City?”
Some stories about what happened in Flint state that the USEPA asked MDEQ if optimized treatment was being applied to prevent corrosion of lead service lines (LSLs). The MDEQ representative assured the USEPA that everything was just fine.
What we now know is that the treated Flint River water was highly corrosive to lead and levels greater than 10,000 ug/L have been found in some home samples. Hundreds of samples have been found to contain lead above the 15 ug/L State and federal action level. Young children who are most susceptible to the toxic effects of lead were exposed at high concentrations, which ultimately showed up as elevated blood lead levels in thousands of children.
It took the persistence of one mother in town, a smart, courageous doctor and an activist engineering professor to blow the whistle and get everyone to start paying attention to a public health emergency. Citizens of Flint owe a great deal to LeeAnne Walters, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and Marc Edwards. Miguel Del Toral of the USEPA did everything that he could to ring alarm bells once he understood what was happening. Later reporting by Rachel Maddow of MSNBC brought the crisis to national attention and helped start a national discussion of the solutions needed.

Friday, April 22, 2016

RJ Reynolds Hit With $13M Verdict In Smoker Death Trial - Law360

RJ Reynolds Hit With $13M Verdict In Smoker Death Trial - Law360

Law360, Los Angeles (April 22, 2016, 1:47 PM ET) -- A Florida jury on Friday awarded $13 million against R.J. Reynolds to the children of a heavy smoker who died of lung disease, saying the tobacco company hid the dangers of cigarettes from her until she was hopelessly addicted.

The case against R.J. Reynolds centered on the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease death of smoker Virginia Wilkinson. (Credit: AP)
The verdict included $10 million in punitive damages awarded Friday morning, and $3 million in compensatory damages awarded a day earlier.

The case centered on the chronic obstructive pulmonary disease death of smoker Virginia Wilkinson. She smoked at least one pack every day for more than 40 years, beginning at age 14, according to her attorney, Eric Rosen of Kelley Uustal.

Rosen told jurors Friday morning that $8.8 million would be an appropriate award in this case.

"They [R.J. Reynolds] need to feel it," Rosen told jurors during the punitive damages phase of the trial. "That will get their attention. They will feel that."

R.J. Reynolds attorney Cory Hohnbaum of King & Spalding LLP told jurors that amount was extreme.

The tobacco giant has changed dramatically since it famously denied that cigarettes caused cancer in previous decades.

"A punitive damages award anywhere near the excessive amount Mr. Rosen suggested to you is simply not warranted under the facts of this case," Hohnbaum said. "Considering how the world has change[d] and how R.J. Reynolds has changed, you do have the discretion here not to award punitive damages."

The lawsuit was filed by Wilkinson's children, Vivian Turner and Eugene Wilkinson, alleging that her decades-long habit of smoking caused her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and, eventually, her death.

They alleged she tried to quit numerous times, even throwing out her cigarettes, lighters and ash trays, only to resume smoking just a couple of days later.

She cried when she talked about quitting, and she continued smoking even after she was diagnosed with COPD in 1993, they said.

R.J. Reynolds, however, argued that there was no evidence of which brand she smoked prior to the 1960s, and that there was evidence she had COPD as early as the 1980s. If she did have COPD in the 1980s and should have known, the son and daughter would be barred by the statute of limitations from pursuing their claims.

Jurors on Friday awarded Vivian Turner and Eugene Wilkinson each $1.5 million in non-economic compensatory damages.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

NYC~segregation obstacle for DeBlasio Affordable Housing Plans

Segregation Issue Complicates de Blasio’s Housing Push http://nyti.ms/1WtaIgd

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Louisiana ready to move forward with restoration now that BP oil spill is settled | Louisiana Record

Louisiana ready to move forward with restoration now that BP oil spill is settled | Louisiana Record

Louisiana ready to move forward with restoration now that BP oil spill is settled | Louisiana Record

by Karen Kidd

BATON ROUGE – With the $20 billion BP oil spill settlement now a 

by Karen Kiddreality, Louisiana can move forward with long-expected restoration plans, a state spokeswoman said during a recent interview. 

"Next steps for funds associated with natural resource damages include drafting the first in a series of project-specific restoration plans for public review and approval," Outreach and Engagement Director Jenny Kurz, of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority of Louisiana, said in an email interview with the Louisiana Record. "Similarly, projects to be funded with dollars subject to the RESTORE Act will be identified and publicly vetted."

Kurz said plans for the funds have been in the works since long before the settlement agreement was reached.

"Discussions with the public and partner agencies regarding potential projects for inclusion in oil spill restoration have been underway since 2013 and have continued to be refined as additional information was received," she said. "We ar

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Court Confirms BP Settlement with U.S, States in $20.8 billion Deal

With the filing this week of final judgment adopting the consent decree the litigation between BP Exploration and the United States, and the States of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas has come to an end.

Some, like the Providence Journal lament the $20.8 billion settlement find treatment of BP to be too mild.  But those sums are aside from the massive Deepwater Horizon Settlement Program - a separate class action by private parties.

The governmental settlements sums consist of civil penalties and natural resource damages suffered by the States and the United States.  They include

without limitation: (i) the costs of assessing injury, destruction, loss
of, or loss of use of Natural Resources and the resulting damages; (ii) the costs of restoration,
rehabilitation, or replacement of injured, destroyed, or lost Natural Resources and natural
resource services or of acquisition of equivalent resources; (iii) the costs of planning and
monitoring such restoration activities; and (iv) any other compensation for diminution in value or
loss of use or non-use values of Natural Resources. 
The $5.5 billion civil penalties payable to the U.S. in equal installments over fifteen years - as are the natural resource damages totaling $7.1 billion. Both accrue interest at market rate on 2-3 year government securities.  There is a five year $350 million nine year payment schedule for past due natural resource damage. $250 million additional payments are to be made in annual instalments over eight years.

It is easy to imagine a tougher result but thoughts of criminal prosecution have mostly been put to rest by the difficulty of finding criminal intent.


Editorial: Billions from BP - Opinion - providencejournal.com - Providence, RI

  Roughly six years after it was physically stanched, the BP oil spill came to a quiet official conclusion last week. On Monday, a federal judge in New Orleans gave final approval to a settlement estimated at $20.8 billion. Of that amount, $5.5 billion consists of penalties under the Clean Water Act. Much of the rest will be spent on compensation and repairs for environmental damage. Some will go toward reimbursing government costs.
In 2010, millions of gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico following a drilling-rig explosion that killed 11 workers. Under the settlement with BP, five Gulf states and numerous local governments will receive payments over the next dozen years. The funds will enable them to ramp up vital restoration work in coastal areas.
The Justice Department has described the agreement, initially announced last July, as the largest environmental settlement in U.S. history.
For a long-suffering region of the country, the settlement’s clearing of the way for environmental repairs is certainly a great step forward. Many Americans well recall scenes of soiled beaches, damaged fisheries and injured wildlife. Hotels, restaurants and related businesses suffered as tourists stayed away for months. Under a separate but uncapped 2012 agreement, BP continues to settle claims from business owners and residents who say they were harmed.
Yet only a handful of BP employees were criminally charged in the spill; they were either acquitted or received light punishment. The company itself paid $4 billion in criminal penalties tied to the rig workers’ deaths. But for the most part, individuals were not held accountable.