The Intersection Among Torts, Science, Corporate Law, Insurance & Bankruptcy

Cancer: “The Emperor of All Maladies” – Do Not Miss This Week’s 6 hour PBS Miniseries

Posted in Asbestos, Cancer, Litigation Industry, Mass Tort Issues, Policy Issues

More will die from cancer over the next two years than died in combat in all the wars the United States has ever fought, combined.”

In the US, more people die of cancer every 2 days than died in the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001.

“For 2014, the American Cancer Society estimated 15,780 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed and 1,960 deaths will occur among children and adolescents aged birth to 19 years. Approximately, 1 in 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer before age 20 and about 1 in 530 young adults between the ages of 20 and 39 is a childhood cancer survivor.”

Per ACS, 1.6 million new cancers are diagnosed each year in the US, and 575,000 Americans will die of cancer.

In the next decade, well over 16 million Americans will receive a new cancer diagnosis. 16 million is a number that exceeds the populations of the cities (not suburbs) of our nation’s three largest cities:  Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.

Per IARC:  “In 2012, the worldwide burden of cancer rose to an estimated 14 million new cases per year, a figure expected to rise to 22 million annually within … two decades. Over the same period, cancer deaths are predicted to rise from an estimated 8.2 million annually to 13 million per year.”

Per MD Anderson researchers:  “From 2010 to 2030, the total projected cancer incidence will increase by approximately 45%, from 1.6 million in 2010 to 2.3 million in 2030. This increase is driven by cancer diagnosed in older adults and minorities. A 67% increase in cancer incidence is anticipated for older adults, compared with an 11% increase for younger adults. A 99% increase is anticipated for minorities, compared with a 31% increase for whites. From 2010 to 2030, the percentage of all cancers diagnosed in older adults will increase from 61% to 70%, and the percentage of all cancers diagnosed in minorities will increase from 21% to 28%.”


The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer was a New York Times best seller in 2011-12, and received extensive review and commentary at the time e.g. here, here and here.   Emperor very deservedly won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction:  “the jury called it “an elegant inquiry, at once clinical and personal.

The author of Emperor is a young oncologist who is both a researcher and a treating physician, Siddhartha Mukherjee.  He also is a gifted writer; the book truly is incredible in making cancer science comprehensible. In his biography of cancer, “Mukherjee recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths, told through the eyes of his predecessors and peers, training their wits against an infinitely resourceful adversary that, just three decades ago, was thought to be easily vanquished in an all-out “war against cancer.” The book reads like a literary thriller with cancer as the protagonist.”

Why was Emperor written? According to Dr. Mukherjee, “it was because of a patient  … I was having a conversation with a patient who had stomach cancer,” he recalled, “and she said, ‘I’m willing to go on fighting, but I need to know what it is that I’m battling.’ It was an embarrassing moment. I couldn’t answer her, and I couldn’t point her to a book that would. Answering her question — that was the urgency that drove me, really. The book was written because it wasn’t there.”

Now, PBS, Katie Couric and Ken Burns are presenting Emperor as a 6 hour PBS television mini-series.

Emperor – the movie – already is on some display through a wide range of web sites hosted by PBS, Ken Burns, and

If you are really listening, the stories and scenes from Emperor will rip your heart and sear your mind. And, you will ask more questions about “why” we have not yet successfully attacked this global terrorist with all the money, people and time we invest in stopping other terrorists. In the US, we annually spend $50 billion on “homeland security,” but only $5 billion for the National Cancer Institute.

Most every major and minor cancer advocacy group is in some way supporting promoting Emperor as part of the national conversation about cancer. Just Google “Emperor and cancer” See the sites for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,  Susan Komen’s CEO, the ACS, and  Stand Up to Cancer. And,  “meso help” web sites are joining too; e.g. here.

Your local PBS network will air the series this week from Monday – Wednesday  at 9:00 eastern.

As Americans age in record numbers, cancers are increasing. Yes, there are far too many tragic cancers in children and young adults, especially cancers of the blood and lymph systems. But most of all, cancers arise in older persons as our immune systems become less effective, and as “hits” and “mutations” have more time to work.

Various cancers already drive significant portions of the litigation industry.  Litigation about cancer will accelerate as more people age, more cancers strike, and as there are more national and local conversation about cancer.

This major presentation of Emperor will go global. Already, over 9 million hits are returned upon running a Google search for “Emperor and cancer.”   Emperor will drive hundreds of millions or billions of conversations about cancer. And, every day events also will drive addition tens of millions of  conversations about cancer. Indeed, conversations about cancer are driven by every new cancer diagnosis, by every cancer death, and by every treatment for cancer. Even more conversations are driven by every walk, run or other form of fund raising or memorial to honor each and every child, parent, spouse or lover stricken by cancer.

Are you really listening to the conversations, and considering the implications? Are you an advocate for and/or contributor to more investment in research to slow or stop the most lethal terrorist of all time?



Tobacco Suits Rising

Posted in Asbestos, Cancer, Litigation Industry, Tobacco

More and more suits are aimed at big tobacco. Set out below is a press release on two new suits, with more suits said to be on the way.

Boston Non-profit Takes Cigarette Companies to Court

March 26th, 2015
For Immediate Release
Contact: Mark Gottlieb – 617-373-2026

The Public Health Advocacy Institute (“PHAI”) announced today that its newly formed Center for Public Health Litigation has filed lawsuits against two major tobacco companies and several local distributors on behalf of the families of two former smokers who suffered devastating disease from smoking cigarettes.

“This is the first time a non-profit organization has directly taken on the tobacco industry in court,” said Richard Daynard, University Distinguished Professor at Northeastern University School of Law and the President of PHAI. “Big Tobacco kills more than 50% of the people who buy its products, and it has for years tried to deny its legal responsibility for this public health calamity. The Center for Public Health Litigation is going to ask the Massachusetts courts to hold the tobacco companies accountable in these two cases, and in more cases to be filed soon.”

The two cases were filed yesterday afternoon in the Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn. The first was brought for the family of James E. Flavin, Jr., a former executive of Filene’s and Staples, who died of lung cancer in 2012 after smoking Newport cigarettes for over 40 years. Mr. Flavin had tried repeatedly to quit smoking, using almost every method he could find, including nicotine patches, hypnosis, and numerous other cessation products. The companies named as defendants in Mr. Flavin’s case are Lorillard Tobacco Company, manufacturer of Newport cigarettes, and two local distributors, Garber Bros, Inc. of Stoughton and Albert H. Notini & Sons, Inc. of Lowell.

The second case was brought for Patricia Greene, a Newton realtor, who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013, even though she had stopped smoking 25 years earlier. Ms. Greene, like many others, had begun smoking as a result of being given free Marlboro cigarettes in downtown Boston when she was a teenager. The companies named as defendants in Ms. Greene’s case are Philip Morris USA, Inc., manufacturer of Marlboro, and Star Markets Company, Inc. of West Bridgewater, owner of the store where Ms. Greene bought her cigarettes for years.

According to Andrew Rainer, the Director of the Center for Public Health Litigation, “Massachusetts is now the best state in the country in which to bring suit against the manufacturers and sellers of cigarettes, because of a 2013 ruling by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.” In that 2013 case, Evans v. Lorillard Tobacco Co., the Court ruled that a manufacturer of cigarettes could be held responsible for the death of one of its customers, because it could have manufactured a cigarette that was safer and less addictive, but chose not to. The high Court’s decision also upheld an award of damages to the deceased customer’s family of $35 million plus interest. The case was later settled for $79 million.


“Civil Justice” – A Federal Magsitrate Judge Appoints Counsel for a Destitute Civil Defendant in Ill Health

Posted in Litigation Industry

It’s hidden behind a paywall, but an interesting March 17, 2015 article from the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (by Patricia Manson) notes the following:  “In a rare move, a federal judge appointed a lawyer to defend an ill and “nearly destitute” man against a lawsuit filed in a business dispute.” According to the judge, the defendant  had not asked for appointment of counsel but was trying to represent himself. Based on the court’s observation, the defendant “is facing a plaintiff, Seaga Manufacturing Inc., that apparently is attempting to “squeeze blood from a stone.” ….“   In its discretion, the court believes the stone should be able to fairly defend itself during that attempt. ”  The case is Seaga Manufacturing Inc. v. Intermatic Manufacturing Ltd., No. 13 C 50041 (N.D. Ill.).


More Intersections Between Professionals from Divergent Fields – “U. of I., Carle moving forward with the first engineering-based college of medicine”

Posted in Cancer, Offtopic, Science

As an alum and a former Champaign-Urbana”townie,” I am delighted to see the University  of Illinois at the front of this new intersection point through a medical school that brings together medical and engineering professionals across multiple disciplines. Bioinformatic engineers, for example,  are a key part of multi-disciplinary teams that are rocking the world these days as part of teams making new discoveries in molecular biology in general and cancer in particular. Indeed, the U of I’s Bluewaters supercomputing system is world-class. Here’s a key quote from the press release pasted in full below:  “This ground-breaking approach will integrate the university’s unparalleled assets in engineering, technology and supercomputing with Carle’s nationally recognized, comprehensive health care system.”

My father was an engineering professor at the U of I, and opened our eyes to all kinds of possibilities as to science. So did a long-time fellow bartender and college friend who pursued a biomedical engineering education and career. Both are no longer in this world, but no doubt would be proud today.


“U. of I., Carle moving forward with the first engineering-based college of medicine

CONTACTS: Robin Kaler, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 217-333-5010, Jennifer Hendricks Kaufmann, Carle Health System, 217-326-8501, CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —

Partners in a first-of-its-kind medical college on the University of Illinois’s Urbana-Champaign campus are advancing to the next phase of development, having completed a key administrative step today. The University of Illinois Board of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday to establish the nation’s first college of medicine focused, from the beginning, on the intersection of engineering and medicine. This will be the first new college created at Urbana in 60 years. The college will be a partnership between the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign and Carle Health System that is specifically designed to train a new kind of doctor. This ground-breaking approach will integrate the university’s unparalleled assets in engineering, technology and supercomputing with Carle’s nationally recognized, comprehensive health care system. More information about the college is available at”

Looking for Causation by Seeking Patterns in Somatic Mutations in Tumors

Posted in Cancer, Causation - Cancer

Researchers continue to seek out “fingerprint” patterns in tumor mutation patterns in order to look back towards causation and source of disease. A recent study in France looked at somatic mutation patterns in lung cancers in never smokers who may have been exposed to “passive” tobacco smoke.   See No impact of passive smoke on the somatic profile of lung cancers in never-smokers, published online before print March 5, 2015, doi:10.1183/09031936.00097314ERJ March 5, 2015 ERJ-00973-201 (2014). 

The abstract states:


EGFR and HER2 mutations and ALK rearrangement are known to be related to lung cancer in never-smokers, while KRAS, BRAF andPIK3CA mutations are typically observed among smokers. There is still debate surrounding whether never-smokers exposed to passive smoke exhibit a “smoker-like” somatic profile compared with unexposed never-smokers.

Passive smoke exposure was assessed in the French BioCAST/IFCT-1002 never-smoker lung cancer cohort and routine molecular profiles analyses were compiled.

Of the 384 patients recruited into BioCAST, 319 were tested for at least one biomarker and provided data relating to passive smoking. Overall, 219 (66%) reported having been exposed to passive smoking. No significant difference was observed between mutation frequency and passive smoke exposure (EGFR mutation: 46% in never exposed versus 41% in ever exposed; KRAS: 7%versus 7%; ALK: 13% versus 11%; HER2: 4% versus 5%; BRAF: 6%versus 5%; PIK3CA: 4% versus 2%). We observed a nonsignificant trend for a negative association between EGFR mutation and cumulative duration of passive smoke exposure. No association was found for other biomarkers.

There is no clear association between passive smoke exposure and somatic profile in lifelong, never-smoker lung cancer.”

Whistleblowing and the Litigation Industry – A Review of Costs and Benefits

Posted in Litigation Industry

What costs and benefits does whistleblowing create for the litigation industry?  Some detailed data and thoughts on the subject are reviewed in a March 9, 2015 post at D&O Diary. That post is a review and summary of a larger post/article:

“As discussed in a March 4, 2015 post on the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation entitled “The Impact of Whistleblowers on Financial Misrepresentation Enforcement Actions” (here), which in turn described their longer academic paper of the same title (here), four academics have examined the impact of whistleblowing activity on the outcome of regulatory enforcement actions for financial misrepresentation. The four authors are Andrew Call of the Arizona State University School of Accountancy, Gerald Martin of American University Business School, Nathan Sharp of Texas A&M University Accountancy Department, and Jaron Wilde of the University of Iowa Business School.”

Labels and SCOTUS

Posted in Constitutional Law/Mass Tort Law

Here is a cogent article on why broad use of labels for judges often fails to provide much help in understanding decisions from SCOTUS, and other courts. The article is by Professor Tim O’Neill and appeared in the March 4, 2015 issue of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin. The article is in part a commentary/book review for “Overruled: The Long War for Control of the U.S. Supreme Court,” by Damon Root.

Legacy Liability and “Skeletons in the Closet” – the Uber Bank Version

Posted in Fraud, Litigation Industry

Uber banks in Europe (e.g. HSBC) are under increasing scrutiny for creating or aiding and abetting various forms of tax fraud and other financial frauds.  As one result, the litigation industry will continue to grow and thrive.  Another result is increasing use of the term “legacy liability” with respect to financial houses. For example, consider this reference from a February 18, 2015  Financial Times article about a dawn raid to seize computers and paper records from HSBC:

Guenther Dobrauz, head of legal and regulatory services at the Zurich office of PwC, the consultancy, said he expected further scandals and investigations of this nature at other Swiss institutions in the coming months.

“There are still a lot of legacy issues from historical business models that will increasingly come to the fore,” said Mr Dobrauz. “I am expecting [a development in this area] every other day as cleaning up history usually takes a bit of time. I expect there are still quite a few of those skeletons around, but just because one thing pops up, I would not say the whole [system] is bad.”