A Tangled Web

Posted on December 15, 2012. Filed under: KBR | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

25th of 25 in the series The Great Cluster Fu…   A treatise on questionable journalism and pre-litigation practices

Your words for the day:

  • DDLS, Esq. = Dumpster Diving Legal Scavenger, par excellence.  Archaic:  slime bucket (Yep.  I made all that up.)
  • quash = declare in a court of law that something is not valid (MS-XP dictionary)

ONCE UPON A TIME, we had a model court system, a forum of relative fairness that allowed all parties equal time and opportunity to explain their respective sides of a dispute.  That forum had a referee (a judge skilled in court room procedure) with the outcome decided by vote of a panel of citizens (the jury) who should be hearing the details of the case for the very first time in this fair and orderly arena structured by the law of the land…   once upon a time.

Today, you can buy a $1.00 cup of HOT coffee, leave the vendor’s premises and pour it all over yourself, then sue the vendor who subsequently pays you $3,500,000, even though the only thing he did wrong was to sell you that $1.00 cup of coffee exactly the way you ordered it.

Today, you can take up a habit that YOU KNOW is socially objectionable and unhealthy to you AND bystanders, and, when you get the news that YOUR body (cough, cough) is checking out of this world because of your CHOSEN and rigorously ADHERED TO decision, you sue the manufacturer because of your REALLY BAD DECISION to be a cool, smoke blowing crowd follower.  Subsequently, you…   well, your survivors, anyway…   get millions of dollars from the tobacco manufacturer, who has been legally conducting business under the free enterprise system for a couple of centuries.

Today, as a private contractor, you can agree to back up your government in a war effort, with the expectation of receiving the same exclusions from war-zone related loses (by third-party interests) as the government that hired you.  That would be the very same exclusionary treatment enjoyed by every insurance underwriter and every service provider in the world regarding the unpredictable occurrences and results of ACTS OF GOD and ACTS OF WARAnd, your government writes that exclusion into your contract.

But, that government, in CONTRAVENTION of its CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENT TO SHIELD YOU from such liability, allows you to be sued for millions of dollars under non-applicable rules governing private activities in a peace time environment as if war-zone losses/injuries were not the result of, nor under the influence of, combat operations.

The Judiciary (that third branch of GOVERNMENT, in case your civics and history classes are but a dim memory) should have honored the war powers of the Executive and Legislative branches and quashed such lawsuits from the outset as not subject to civil judicial review.

But it did not.  Enter the Doyle Raiznor law firm, and the anti big-contractor blogger, Ms. Sparky.  While the millions awarded by the civil jury (finding against KBR) sounds astronomical, it is probably little more than a bug-bite to that global contractor, who, most certainly, has no need of my services to “defend” it.  But, there is much more to this civil case than ungodly settlement amounts.  There is legal precedent.

A relic of the old fairy tale jury system is the taking of depositions to provide an attorney the means to ensure a fair appraisal of the available facts in a case.  If subpoenaed to provide this out-of-court testimony, an individual must appear or be guilty of contempt of court and subject to court penalties.  It is coerced testimony in the interest of fairness.  It is testimony to be used in case preparation and as a bench-mark for testimony given later in court.  “In court” being the operative term here.

KBR’s antagonist, the Doyle Raiznor law firm, has taken such coerced testimony from KBR employees and altered it to sound like a news documentary or opening/closing statement for the jury.  Had it been kept in-house for case preparation, no foul.

Amazingly, these actors decided on a different course.  Aided and abetted by one Ms. Sparky (a self-described hater of big contractors), that coerced testimony was cut into sound- and video-bytes and woven into a story line concocted by the law firm to bolster their non-existent claim.  Neither evidence supporting their allegations nor context of the questioning was provided, simply 5 minutes (out of 6 hours testimony, according to Ms. Sparky) of cut-and-pasted testimony surrounded by 5 minutes of barrister Doyle giving a monologue interspersed with silent-movie era dialogue cards.  Put up on the anti-KBR blog site (Ms. Sparky.com), this travesty of legal ethics was on display (… and I am guessing…) about 2 years, well ahead of the eventual court date.  The only way to describe this action is “a deliberate smear campaign against the reputation of KBR,” just to be certain the prospective jury pool (the public) leaned in favor of the plaintiffs…  before jury selection even started.

I do not think this action was necessary given the track record of juries in regards to finding against big business — big corporations are always found to be negligent.  When it comes to sticking it to big business, juries have been very accommodating.

The damaging legacy of this pre-trial smear is that no one in the judiciary called Doyle Raiznor on the carpet for what I can only characterize as unethical conduct.  If this is allowed to stand, then everyone called to give depositions in any civil litigation is subject to having their testimonies altered to fit the litigators’ story lines, then subsequently displayed on-line without the opportunity to present opposing or mitigating arguments.  To get to the targeted business’s coffers, the litigator can freely smear the employee in the public eye (just as KBR’s employees were) without contradiction so that the prospective jury will be conditioned against the business well before court time…   and vote appropriately at trial.

Bye-bye fair and equal treatment in a court of law…

…say hello to the NEW ORDER, the litigator controlled Litigation Nation.  (Hey, Doyle!  Feel free to use my made up acronym DDLS, Esq. on your business cards.  I won’t sue for copyright infringement.)

Next up:  Something just a little less strident than this has been.

Series references:  KBR, Mary L. Wade, Qarmat Ali, Doyle Raiznor, Ms. Sparky, deposition, sue, litigator

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Business = C-A-S-H-C-O-W

Posted on June 18, 2012. Filed under: KBR | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

3rd in the series THE GREAT CLUSTER FU…   A treatise on questionable journalism and pre-litigation practices

Your word for the day: 

  • cash cow = A steady source of income.

There are many, many litigation attorneys.  Competition for clients must be fierce.  So fierce, in fact, they can’t simply wait for a mark injured party to walk in and drop a big suit on the desk.  They gotta sound the drums and beat the bushes trying to scare up prey business.  In the old days, they used to chase ambulances…   literally.  Sign up that client while he’s still woozy and bleeding.  Frowned upon by government, so, that was deemed unethical practice.  (Irony?  Politicians deeming another profession “unethical”?)

What’s a starving litigator to do?  You and your buds get together and urge the politicos (how many of them graduated from the same law school and would be practicing law again after being voted out of office?} to make it legal to advertise for business…   you know, chase all the ambulances at the same time in a virtual environment.  So, now, any time a story breaks about some study showing that a popular drug MAY have bad side effects (death is always an eye-catcher),  the clarion call-to-arms goes out, “IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE (that means a dead relative) HAVE EVER USED (insert brand name) OR BEEN WITHIN 500 FEET OF SOMEONE WHO DID. YOU MAY BE ENTITLED TO MONEY.”  There are a lot of “entitled” individuals out there, and recruitment operations will get lots of sign-ups.  Out of that, there will be enough that can be squeezed into the case parameters to promise a big payday for the litigator.  Now, the litigator doesn’t give a rat about your dead relatives, no matter how soothing his bedside manner.  It’s a big share of the expected settlement M-O-N-E-Y that he’s after.

It doesn’t matter whether the plaintiff really has a good claim.  So many frivolous claims get filed against businesses that they even have a name:  nuisance lawsuits.  It is often cheaper for the business to settle out-of-court (whether merited or not) than to spend thousands more at trial (win or lose); after all, you might as well use that liability insurance you’ve been paying for.  Attorneys specializing in this have found their spot at the milk farm and make a living tugging on the mere threat to file nuisance claims much like a farmer works a cow’s udder…   and associated parts.

Big business = Holy Cow!  There are those who aspire to the heights.  They are not content to milk those compliant domesticated cows, no sir-ree.  Here, we got your bona fide supermen, fearless milkers/litigators who brashly march that milking stool toward the business end of a Cape Buffalo, our metaphorical equivalent of BIG BUSINESS — the big ones that don’t keep a lawyer on retainer…   they have legal DEPARTMENTS at their beck and call.  True, there is the risk of some heavy-duty trampling, but, if you work it right…   lordy, lordy what a payday.

Next up:  No safety in numbers

Series references:  KBR, Mary L. Wade, Qarmat Ali, Doyle Raiznor, Ms. Sparky, litigation, sued, cluster, deposition, hexavalent chromium

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