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New Interface for DRI Expert Witness Database

For DRI members, you should be aware that the DRI website has implemented a new interface for searching the DRI Expert Witness Database. Essentially, it is now possible once again to search the database yourself, rather than fill out a web form and ask the DRI staff to search it for you. However, if you want to view a transcript or CV of an expert, you have to pay $25-50, depending on how you want it delivered.

A couple of years ago, DRI's expert witness database was being offered through a slick interface constructed by an outfit named Juris or something, and you could actually read a transcript before deciding whether to buy a full copy. Unfortunately, Juris did not survive the bust. Now DRI appears to be in the process of building out a usable interface again, which is a good thing.

DRI states it has 60,000 experts in its database -- but I think the large plaintiff-oriented expert witness databases dwarf that figure. TrialSmith says it has 137,000 experts on file, for example. DRI members have to be more diligent in submitting transcripts to DRI. DRI could help by posting clear instructions on how to submit transcripts.

This overview of researching experts on the Internet has other sources, among others another defense-oriented database called Idex. Idex says it has 800,000 "records of expert involvement". It was founded in 1984 by a former St. Paul Ins. Co. Claims Supervisor and is based out of Kansas.

Due Process Argument Trumps Statute of Limitations Defense Under Virginia Law

In a recent opinion letter, Judge Keith of the Circuit Court of Fairfax County, Virginia overruled the defendants plea in bar based on the statute of limitations, on the grounds that plaintiffs' right of action had expired before his cause of action accrued, and to enforce the statute of limitations in that situation would deprive plaintiffs of their property without due process of law. McLean Crest, LLC v. Wickwire Gavin, P.C., 2003 Va. Cir. LEXIS 174 (Aug. 12, 2003).

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4th Circuit Affirms Slip and Fall Negligence Verdict of $647,000

In an unpublished opinion, the Fourth Circuit affirmed a $647,000 verdict in a simple slip-and-fall negligence action. Richardson v. Boddie-Noell Enterprises, No. 03-1011 (4th Cir. Oct. 27, 2003). The Court rejected the argument that the plaintiff, a man, unconstitutionally struck men from the jury panel solely because of their gender. The Court reasoned that assessing the credibility of a litigant's gender-neutral explanations for the use of peremptory strikes is peculiarly within the trial judge's province, and declined to disturb the trial court's discretionary ruling.

The Court also refused to set the verdict aside as being excessive. The Court reasoned that the evidence indicated that the plaintiff had permanently lost some range of motion in his arm, had been in constant, substantial pain since the fall and was planning on having corrective surgery, and is no longer able to work in the tractor business or to raise and break cattle. Citing a decision of the Virginia Supreme Court upholding a jury verdict of $20 million in favor of a burn victim who had incurred no medical expenses (i.e. treated at no charge), the Court found that the verdict in this case was not so great as to indicate its judgment was actuated by partiality or prejudice.

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Suit Against Paint Manufacturers Dismissed

Dee McAree of the National Law Journal reports about the dismissal of an Illinois suit against 12 paint manufacturers seeking damages for the cost of treatment and clean up of lead-based paint.

Meanwhile, starting on Oct. 21, 2003, all paint sold in the U.S. will carry warnings about the dangers of lead-based paint.

By the way, next week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, as I learned on the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning website. The Coalition is a Maryland-based organization. A similar national organization is The Alliance for Healthy Homes.

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Update on proposed Fairness In Asbestos Injury Resolution Act

The Washington Post on Oct. 16 ran this article about the status of the proposal to create a fund to compensate asbestos victims. Among other things, the article notes that:

Under the terms of the agreement, insurers and defendants in asbestos lawsuits would contribute as much as $115 billion over the 20-plus-year life of the trust to pay medical costs and other damages of asbestos sufferers.

In exchange for the creation of this fund, there would be protection from further liability. This proposal appears to be substantially greater than what was previously discussed.

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Lead Shot From Skeet Shooting Range An Environmental Hazard?

An interesting story is here concerning an environmental group's allegation that lead shot from a skeet shooting range falls into the Seneca Creek in Maryland and causes lead pollution. Fox5 ran a story on it on the TV news this weekend, and showed a guy wading into the creek and reaching down and grabbing handfulls of the creek bed -- and when he brought his hands up they were full of lead skeet shot.

[Addendum: Marcia Oddi in the Indiana Law Blog points to EPA publications about best practices for the management of lead at shooting ranges.]

Amicus Curiarum -- Abstracts of Maryland appellate opinions

The Office of the State Reporter puts out an excellent monthly newsletter on Maryland appellate opinions, called Amicus Curiarum. It used to be published, but now my understanding is that they have discontinued the paper newsletter and only publish on the Internet. The Office of the State Reporter is obviously very savvy on Internet matters, and I expect it will only be a matter of time before Amicus Curiarum has an RSS feed so you don't have to surf there to view the abstracts.

Riding Shotgun Not Within Scope of Employment of Armored Car Guard

In Jordan v. Western Distributing Co., the Court dismissed a cause of action against an armored car company for negligence under the doctrine of respondeat superior arising from the conduct of two employees while driving and guarding an armored car on I-95. It was alleged that the two employees, while under the influence of marijuana, repeatedly tried to force plaintiff's car off the road and that one of the employees leaned out of the passenger window and repeatedly aimed a sawed-off shotgun at the plaintiff, threatening to blow off his head. At the time, they were transporting almost $10 million. The employees were arrested by the State Police and received criminal convictions.

The Court dismissed the respondeat superior count against the armored car company on the grounds that the acts of the employees were not within the scope of employment. The Court found that the actions of the employees were not of the kind they were employed to perform and were not actuated at least in part to serve the employer. There was no allegation that the employees took those actions in order to protect the currency in the truck.

The Court denied a motion to dismiss a claim of negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention made against the armored car company.