It is depressing to read about the havoc wreaked in some cases by apparently not credible “blood splatter science,” and some other fringe areas of “expert” testimony in criminal cases. A broad view of a wrongful conviction is set in a December 20, 2018 NYT article. Also see this May 31, 2018 article at Pro Publica. One wonders how many related civil suits for damages have been or will been filed for persons wrongly convicted, when cops and prosecutors should have known better.
The chart and text are from the 2018 Cancer Progress Report from the American Association for Cancer Research. The numbers and projections should attract the attention of all sides of the litigation industry. The entire report is online.
Some recent reading reminded me that the Conversable Economist blog includes an October 23, 2013 post that provides a very useful discussion of some of the issues and data tied up in trying to value a life for purposes of statistics. It begins as follows, and includes much more.
“The costs of regulations can be measured by the money that must be spent for compliance. But many of the benefits of regulation are measured by lives saved or injuries avoided. Thus, comparing costs and benefits requires putting some kind of a monetary value on the reduction of risks to life and limb. For example, the US Department of Transportation estimates the “value of a statistical life” at $9.1 million in 2012. In a memo called “Guidance on Treatment of the Economic Value of a Statistical Life in the U.S. Department of Transportation Analyses,” it explains how this number was reached. I’ll run through the DoT estimates, and then raise some of the broader issues as discussed in a recent paper by Cass Sunstein called “The value of a statistical life: some clarifications and puzzles,” which appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Benefit Cost Analysis (4:2, pp. 237-261).”
Lots of efforts to project asbestos litigation involve efforts to understand and forecast filing patterns, and resolution rates. On that topic, it’s worth remembering that budget cuts in state courts often always lead to fewer judge and case backlogs. A recent example can be found in the efforts to resolve “Libby asbestos cases.” A December 26, 2018 article at Montana NPR illustrates the point, as it recaps statistics on the cases and the appointment of six additional judges to hear the cases.
Montana’s Supreme Court has appointed six more judges to the state’s year-old asbestos claims court.
Court Administrator Beth McLaughlin says some people have had cases pending for more than 15 years, and without the appointment of the additional judges, “It could take decades to get these cases tried.”
Montana’s asbestos claims court has identified more than 2,200 pending cases alleging asbestos exposure against more than 40 individual defendants. The supreme court’s appointment of six more judges this month is a relief to attorneys and claimants in the thick of the battle.
The asbestos claims court was an attempt to meet the demands of both claimants and defendants. District Judge Amy Eddy in Flathead County was the first appointed to it, and she says adding six more judges only scratches the surface of the demand for legal resolutions.
“Well frankly it’s not nearly enough,” Eddy says. “We’ve got hundreds and hundreds of cases to try across primarily northwest Montana.”
Eddy says the Montana judiciary as a whole is understaffed and underfunded. The now seven judges working on the asbestos claims court are doing so voluntarily without additional compensation on top of already hefty workloads. It’s not a light undertaking.
“The Asbestos Claims Court is handling some of the most long-standing and complicated toxic exposure cases that the judiciary has handled in Montana. I’m unaware of any other litigation with this scope of complexity and history in the state courts.”
Montana’s Supreme Court anticipates an additional 200 asbestos exposure cases to crop up each year in the foreseeable future.
A new litigation funder (Ralph Sutton CEO Validity Finance), offered five predictions in a November 27, 2018 article at American Lawyer. His second prediction is below; the same prediction has been made before. Time will tell.
“Defense-side litigation funding will begin to emerge as an important segment of the market. While routine financing of litigation risk by corporate law departments is still a few years away, bold and innovative companies are beginning to see the benefit of risk transfer to leading industry players. Imagine corporate law departments sharing defense fees with law firms and funders to precisely contain their spending on defense cases and complex litigation. Or law firms routinely able to take on fixed-fee defense work—capping defense spending for clients—with the help of funding. In exchange, law firms will reasonably ask for more cases and success fees to further align incentives with these clients. Law firms may also build defense funding into hybrid plaintiff-defense portfolios, to offer clients value in yet a third way.”
More and more molecular data will arrive over the next few years; some of it will be very valuable for more deeply understanding when and how diseases arise. Consider, for example, the fact that genes matter a great deal because they contain the instructions for producing proteins, but we need to know more about actual outputs of proteins coded for by the genes. The proteins, after all, are the actual doers of the work to promote health or fight off disease. Accordingly, it is useful to know which inherited or somatic mutations completely cut off production of a protein (null mutations), while other mutations may have a range of effects, from very little to material.
Today, researchers can answer many questions about the effect of mutations in some genes, and some combinations of genes. However, researchers seek to know more about the protein production results that arise from different combinations of inherited mutations. With that in mind, consider the disease-related knowledge, questions and hypotheses that will arise from the following collaboration, which is described in a December 14, 2018 press release from SomaLogic and deCode.
deCODE Genetics, an Amgen Subsidiary, and SomaLogic Announce Collaboration to Perform Large-Scale Protein Analysis of up to 40,000 Human Samples
Largest-ever Protein Measurement Study Enhances deCODE’s Efforts in Basic Research, Drug Discovery and Novel Protein-based Diagnostics
deCODE genetics, an Amgen subsidiary, and SomaLogic, Inc. today announced a collaboration that brings together SomaLogic’s expertise in human proteins with deCODE’s expertise in human genetics. The collaboration combines deCODE’s rich data sets with SomaLogic’s leading protein measurement capabilities to enhance the understanding of how human disease and health are mediated through proteins to influence health outcomes.
“I am excited to see what deep proteomic analysis will add to what we already know about human health based on our study of genetics,” said Kári Stefánsson, M.D., Dr. Med., founder and chief executive officer of deCODE genetics. “SomaLogic’s ability to measure thousands of proteins brings a whole new dimension to our efforts, and we look forward to seeing the results.”
Under the collaboration agreement, SomaLogic will analyze up to 40,000 deCODE samples with the proprietary SOMAscan® assay, which can rapidly measure the levels of 5,000 proteins in each sample across a wide range of concentrations. deCODE will use the assay data for therapeutic drug discovery and development. SomaLogic will use the assay results and related clinical information to further develop clinical applications of the SOMAscan assay in an effort to improve health management.
“This collaboration with deCODE gives us an exciting opportunity to work with one of the most highly characterized and understood datasets in the world, as well as with world-class genomic and pharmaceutical scientists,” said Stephen Williams, M.D., chief medical officer at SomaLogic. “We are undertaking together the largest protein study ever performed — over 200 million individual protein measurements — to gain substantial new knowledge about normal and disease biology across many common and rare conditions.”
Specific details of the collaboration were not disclosed.
T: +354 664 1905
Laura S. Mizoue, Ph.D.
T: 720 417 7509
About deCODE genetics
Based in Reykjavik, Iceland, deCODE is a global leader in analyzing and understanding the human genome. Using its unique expertise and population resources, deCODE has discovered genetic risk factors for dozens of common diseases. The purpose of understanding the genetics of disease is to use that information to create new means of diagnosing, treating and preventing disease. deCODE is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amgen.
SomaLogic seeks to empower a healthier world by delivering actionable health-management insights for every seeker and enabler of human health. These essential insights, which are provided through a global network of partners and users, are derived from SomaLogic’s unique ability to measure changes in thousands of individual human proteins over time with high precision, sensitivity and throughput. For more information, visit www.somalogic.com and follow @somalogic on Twitter.
Forward Looking Statement
This news release contains forward-looking statements that are based on the current expectations and beliefs of deCODE and its affiliates. All statements, other than statements of historical fact, are statements that could be deemed forward-looking statements, including statements regarding improvements in scientific understanding and drug discovery and development. No forward-looking statement can be guaranteed and actual results may differ materially from those deCODE and its affiliates project. Results may be affected by clinical and regulatory developments and their research, testing and other operations are subject to extensive regulation by domestic and foreign government regulatory authorities. Discovery or identification of new product candidates or development of new indications for existing products cannot be guaranteed and movement from concept to product is uncertain; consequently, there can be no guarantee that any research and testing will lead to the identification of any particular product candidate or new potential indication for an existing product or aid in their development, or that the development of a particular product candidate or development of a new indication for an existing product will be successful and become a commercial product.
Weekend reading led to an interesting, long form story on the private, automated and apparently arbitrary and capricious world of “law” in the Amazon marketplace; see this December 19, 2018 article in the Verge. If one assumes the article is accurate, it seems Amazon is yet another company that disregards existing law (e.g. Uber, Lyft) and just plunges ahead until someone stops it. That conclusion is reinforced by thinking back to Amazon’s many years of refusing to collect sales tax.
Two paragraphs are pasted below to whet the appetite for more:
“Amazon is far from the only tech company that, having annexed a vast sphere of human activity, finds itself in the position of having to govern it. But Amazon is the only platform that has a $175 billion prize pool tempting people to game it, and the company must constantly implement new rules and penalties, which in turn, become tools for new abuses, which require yet more rules to police. The evolution of its moderation system has been hyper-charged. While Mark Zuckerberg mused recently that Facebook might need an analog to the Supreme Court to adjudicate disputes and hear appeals, Amazon already has something like a judicial system — one that is secretive, volatile, and often terrifying.
And what’s a seller to do when they end up in Amazon court? They can turn to someone like Cynthia Stine, who is part of a growing industry of consultants who help sellers navigate the ruthless world of Marketplace and the byzantine rules by which Amazon governs it. They are like lawyers, only their legal code is the Amazon Terms of Service, their court is a secretive and semiautomated corporate bureaucracy, and their jurisdiction is an algorithmically policed global bazaar rife with devious plots to hijack listings for novelty socks and plastic watches. People like Stine are fixers, guides to the cutthroat land of Amazon, who are willing to give their assistance to the desperate — for a price, of course.”
Interesting times ahead. Presumably some group with litigation funding will take on Amazon using due process and antitrust law. Or, maybe not.
An answer to the question, and some good background, is set out in a December 14, 2018 article at StatNews.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce (via its American Tort Reform Foundation) has issued the 2018-19 version of its annual “Judicial Hellholes” report. Of special note this year, the report concludes some hellholes are threatening to appear in “red states,” including Georgia. The entire report is online at this page; pasted below are excerpts about a newly named entrant (the Twin Cities of Minnesota), and the watch list, which includes the Georgia Supreme Court and the Montana Supreme Court.
“#9 TWIN CITIES, MINNESOTA A newcomer to the Judicial Hellholes report, the Twin Cities’ position was solidified after the attorney general mishandled a lawsuit against a large Twin Cities employer and a Hennepin County trial judge stripped a company’s defenses. The lower courts appear to be following the lead of the state’s high court after it subjected property owners to expanded liability in 2018 and rejected a measure intended to remove “junk science” from the state’s courts.
Beyond the Judicial Hellholes, this report calls attention to seven additional jurisdictions that bear watching due to their histories of abusive litigation or troubling developments. Watch List jurisdictions fall on the cusp—they may drop into the Hellholes abyss or rise to the promise of Equal Justice Under Law.
COLORADO SUPREME COURT Liability-expanding decisions and rulemaking by the court coupled with prospects of a pro-plaintiff legislative agenda in 2019 has created an unfair and unbalanced environment for defendants in the Centennial State.
GEORGIA SUPREME COURT Georgia’s Supreme Court in recent years has issued decisions that significantly expanded civil liability, and that troubling trend continued in 2018.
MONTANA SUPREME COURT The Montana Supreme Court’s penchant for expanding liability, judicial activism, and defiance of U.S. Supreme Court precedent once again landed it on the Judicial Hellholes Watch List.
NEWPORT NEWS, VIRGINIA Perhaps most notable in 2018 is the lack of cases to go to trial in Newport News. Plaintiffs and defendants alike have sought to litigate asbestos cases in federal court, as a result, it is hard to know whether problems and inequities that have manifested themselves in the past will persist. Newport News has been known for its evidentiary double standards, unsound legal rulings and lack of transparency in asbestos litigation.
OHIO EIGHTH DISTRICT COURT OF APPEALS–CUYAHOGA COUNTY A newcomer to the Watch List, the district has developed a reputation for handing down large damage awards and being a “haven” for class action lawsuits. It has developed a troublesome pattern of issuing unbalanced plaintiff-friendly decisions, which had to be overturned multiple times by the Ohio Supreme Court.
PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT The high court issued a series of liability expanding decisions and has been selective, at best, in following U.S. Supreme Court precedent, inexplicably opening its doors to out-of-state plaintiffs.
WEST VIRGINIA SUPREME COURT OF APPEALS In an unprecedented move, West Virginia lawmakers voted to recommend the impeachment of all sitting members of the state’s highest court in 2018. Prior to the impeachment chaos, the court also issued a disappointing class certification decision that rejects U.S. Supreme Court precedent and encourages plaintiffs’ lawyers from all over the country to flock to West Virginia courts to file class action lawsuits. The 2018 elections did bring about some encouraging news with the election of U.S Representative Evan Jenkins and former House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead to fill the vacancies on the court.
“Nationwide, 14% of law-school enrollees are pursuing non-J.D. programs, newly released numbers from the American Bar Association show, compared with 8% five years ago.” The chart and the quote are from a December 20, 2018 WSJ article noting the trend.
It is good to see a focus on the evolution of law schools to offer various forms of degrees and specialized learning, rather like like some specialized MBA programs. The article would be more cogent if it focused more attention on law school programs focused multidisciplinary programs. A prime example is the Center for Law Science & Innovation at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law. That program is now 30 years old, and has inspired other similar programs. The LS&I Center is a great success in providing both lawyers to be and science specialists with the legal and non-legal knowledge needed to work in rapidly evolving areas, such as the intersections between genomics and law. See https://law.asu.edu/degree-programs/law-technology.