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ANTHONY SEBOK

Anthony Sebok specializes in tort law and tort theory. He has a Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University and a law degree from Yale. After graduation from law school, he clerked for a federal judge in Philadelphia and in 1992, he began teaching at Brooklyn Law School. His current research interests concern the way in which tort law is used to resolve and remedy social problems, such as smoking and corporate wrongdoing.

Prof. Sebok has written about handgun litigation, punitive damages, and the differences between European and American tort systems. In 1999 Prof. Sebok was a Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin and in 2001 he will be a DAAD Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Freie Universitat in Berlin, where he will teach American tort law. Prof. Sebok's other interests include legal philosophy, an area in which he has published many law review articles as well as a book entitled "Legal Positivism and American Jurisprudence" (Cambridge University Press, 1998).

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The Day after Levine: Analyzing the Supreme Court's Recent Ruling that FDA Approval of Label Warnings Does Not Preempt State Tort Law
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the recent, highly significant Supreme Court decision in Wyeth v. Levine. In Levine, a Vermont jury awarded high damages to a woman who had to have her arm amputated after a certain kind of injection ("IV push") of a pharmaceutical company's drug. The company, however, argued that the legal claims that led to the jury award were effectively extinguished by the fact that the FDA-approved warning label for the drug did not prohibit the type of injection at issue. The Supreme Court held for the woman, and against the pharmaceutical company. Was it right to do so? And what are the implications of, and possible future limits of, the holding? Sebok explains the different kinds of arguments offered in favor of federal preemption, comments on the Court majority's reasoning, and describes an important decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit that may now need to be altered.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Recent, Eight-Million-Dollar Verdict Against Philip Morris and in Favor of A Smoker's Family: Why It Will Likely Be Reversed as Unconstitutional
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok explains a potentially very serious defect in a large recent verdict against Philip Morris -- a defect that, if Sebok is correct, would also be shared by the planned proceedings in thousands of parallel cases. As Sebok explained, the problem is related to the Florida Supreme Court's decision to allow the plaintiffs in these cases to rely upon fact findings that had occurred in the earlier, class action stage of the case. These fact findings, Sebok notes, failed to include findings regarding particular fraudulent statements or omissions by Philip Morris. Given the lack of such particularity, Sebok predicts, judgments in the individual cases that rely on these fact findings will ultimately be deemed invalid.
Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009

When President Obama Turns His Attention to Health Care Reform, To What Extent Should He Focus on Medical Malpractice Liability? Part One in a Two-Part Series of Columns
In a two-part series of columns, FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok will discuss the considerations that President Obama may want to take into account when he eventually turns his focus to health care reform. In this column, Part One in the series, Sebok -- citing a Harvard Medical School study -- debunks several myths concerning our medical malpractice liability system. One is the claim that medical malpractice liability costs are largely to blame for the increase in health care costs generally; another is the claim that our tort system does a poor job of figuring out whether malpractice has occurred, and, if it did occur, valuing the damages that the victim of the malpractice has suffered. Putting these myths aside, Sebok offers an overview of the true state of the medical malpractice liability system.
Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009

The District Court Decision in the Remaining 9/11 Litigation: Why Judge Hellerstein Was Wise to Dismiss Some of the Property Damage Claims
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses an interesting ruling, issued last week by federal judge Alvin Hellerstein, in cases arising from the 9/11 attacks. As Sebok explains, the judge's decision concerns certain claims for property damage incurred on 9/11 by the owner of the World Trade Center. These claims were based on the theory that if American Airlines had more rapidly reported the hijacking of its own plane, which hit Tower One, then it might have allowed the government to shoot down United Airlines' plane before that plane hit Tower Two. However, there was only a six-minute delay from when American learned of its own hijacking, and when the FAA learned of it. Judge Hellerstein thus declined to send the causation issue to a jury, and alternatively, held that on 9/11, it was not foreseeable that a series of planes would be hijacked by terrorists on the same day.
Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2009

The California Supreme Court Holds that Good Samaritans Providing Nonmedical Aid Can Be Held Liable If They Act Negligently
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a recent, significant decision by the California Supreme Court holding that, despite the state's Good Samaritan law, a person who provides nonmedical aid -- such as pulling someone out of a car -- at the scene of an accident can still be held liable for injuries that result from that aid. Sebok explains the points of view of both the majority and the dissenters, and considers from a societal perspective what the ideal rule should be in Good Samaritan situations: Should that rule protect the provision by Good Samaritans of medical aid, nonmedical aid, both, or neither?
Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2009

The Supreme Court's Latest Decision on Federal Preemption of State Law: Why it Is Significant, and What it Hints About the Likely Outcome of the Upcoming Major Preemption Decision
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok analyzes the Supreme Court's recent federal-preemption decision. Sebok looks both backward -- to the major precedent with which the Court had to contend -- and forward, to how this ruling may affect or help predict the way the Court will rule in another major preemption case, still to be decided this Term. Sebok also considers the evolving views of the Justices on the preemption issue, and their possible motivations for changing their views on preemption over time. Finally, he considers the controversial "presumption against preemption," and the role it is playing here.
Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2008

The Unusual Story of Williams v. Philip Morris, and Its Third Trip to the Supreme Court Including Some Predictions about What the Court Will Do This Time
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the fascinating case of Williams v. Philip Morris -- which has ping-ponged back and forth between the Oregon Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, where it is now being heard for the third time. The case concerns a $79.5-million punitive damages awarded rendered by an Oregon jury to a smoker's widow. The controversy over the case involves the judge's decision to instruct the jury that it was permitted to take into account harms caused by the same tobacco-company conduct to other smokers who were not parties to the case. Sebok explains why the case now involves two powerful, clashing arguments -- and notes that, based on oral argument, Chief Justice Roberts may favor a disposition that would re-examine possible due process limits on damages awards in personal-injury cases like this one.
Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008

Chevron Wins an Alien Tort Statute Case - But the Victory May Be Less Important than It Might Seem
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a recent defense verdict in a case brought against Chevron under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The plaintiffs argued that Chevron should be liable, under both the ATS and California tort law, for a brutal attack by the Nigerian military and police against protesters on Chevron's oil platform. They pointed out that Chevron had invited the military and police in, and even brought them there with company helicopters. In response, Chevron argued that it could not have foreseen that the military and police would use lethal force and later, torture. While the jury sided with Chevron, Sebok cautions that it is dangerous to generalize, on the basis of this particular defense victory, regarding the chances of success for other ATS cases in the future because there were aspects of the Chevron case that made it unusual and unique.
Tuesday, Dec. 02, 2008

The Obama Administration's Likely Effect on Tort Law and the Civil Justice System Generally
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok predicts the possible effect of the new Obama Administration and the influx of Democrats into Congress upon the civil justice system in general, and the tort system in particular. In considering President-elect Obama's views, Sebok points to both his support for the Class Action Fairness Act, which some other Democrats opposed, and the article Obama co-authored with fellow Senator Hillary Clinton on an alternative dispute resolution mechanism for medical malpractice claims. Yet overall, Sebok advises readers to look for more action from Congress than the incoming president on such matters.
Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2008

Judge Jack Weinstein's Ruling Barring the Use of Race in Calculating the Expected Lifespan of a Man Seeking Tort Damages: An Isolated Decision, or the Beginning of a Legal Revolution?
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok comments on an interesting and potentially very significant decision by Judge Jack Weinstein of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The case involved a man whose legs were paralyzed in the horrific 2003 Staten Island ferry crash. Judge Weinstein held that the City of New York could not argue, based on actuarial tables, that the man's expected lifespan would be shorter because he was black and blacks statistically have shorter lifespans than whites. Sebok analyzes and critiques the three arguments Weinstein made to support his ruling. He also discusses whether the ruling's principles might also apply to differences in expected future earnings based on race, and differences in either expected future earnings or expected lifespan based on gender.
Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008

More on the Upcoming Supreme Court Case of Wyeth v. Levine and the Preemption Temptation: Part Two of a Two-Part Series
In the second of a two-part series of columns, FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok and FindLaw guest columnist and Fordham law professor Benjamin Zipursky continue their discussion of Wyeth v. Levine, a tort case the Supreme Court will tackle this Term. In this column, Sebok and Zipursky consider whether the Supreme Court should rule that, in this case, federal law regarding pharmaceutical warnings preempted Vermont tort law on the same topic -- a ruling that would require the reversal of the large jury verdict in the plaintiff's favor. Sebok and Zipursky also explain how the controversy over the insufficient federal warnings on the now-withdrawn drug Vioxx fits into this picture.
Tuesday, Oct. 07, 2008

The Upcoming Supreme Court Case of Wyeth v. Levine and the Preemption Temptation: Part One in a Two-Part Series
In Part One of a two-part series of columns, FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok and FindLaw guest columnist and Fordham law professor Benjamin Zipursky comment on a tort case the Supreme Court will decide during this coming Term. The case involves the doctrine of federal preemption (concerning when federal law overrides state law) and asks the Court to decide whether the FDA has the last word on drug warnings, or whether a State may add additional requirements. Sebok and Zipursky contend that the case has the potential to result in a major ruling curtailing pharmaceutical companies' liability, if the Roberts Court so chooses -- but that it should opt for a narrower approach.
Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008

The Ohio Legislature Wisely Enacts a Law to Supersede an Ohio Supreme Court Decision that Had Limited How Litigation Could Be Funded
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok praises a new Ohio statute that supersedes a prior state Supreme Court decision that had rejected non-recourse funding for litigation. As Sebok explains, such funding allows a plaintiff to receive an advance on his expected recovery in a lawsuit, in exchange for giving up his right to the amount of the eventual settlement or jury verdict; the plaintiff keeps the advance even if the verdict is zero. Sebok contends that the concerns about such funding that led the Ohio Supreme Court to reject it were exaggerated, and argues that Ohio should expand its new law to allow non-recourse funding to be used outside the torts context as well.
Tuesday, Sept. 09, 2008

Could the United States Profit from a Loser-Pays-Winner's-Costs Civil Litigation System? An Online Debate Sheds Light on the Subject
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the proposal that the United States should move to a civil litigation system under which the loser pays the winner's expenses -- a system that is commonplace in many other countries. Sebok describes the phenomenon of negative-value suits, the total costs of which greatly exceed the amount at stake, and the arguments as to whether our system should strongly discourage such suits with rules such as "loser pays." Drawing upon a recent online panel discussion in which he participated, Sebok contends that the lack of empirical evidence is a major factor preventing those who oppose and support tort reform, respectively, from reaching any consensus on the merits of a possible move to a "loser pays" system.
Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2008

Should State Attorneys General Use Private Law Firms to Pursue Civil Suits? An Appeal to the California Supreme Court Raises This Hot-Button Issue
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a very interesting appeal that the California Supreme Court has opted to hear. The appeal raises the question whether California cities may retain private firms on a contingency-fee basis to sue on their behalf in litigation against the lead paint industry -- as opposed to relying on the services of city attorneys or private firms paid on an hourly basis. Sebok explains the key California Supreme Court precedent in this area, and explains why the court might, and might not, choose to follow that precedent under these circumstances.
Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008

Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court Embraces the "Loss of a Chance" Doctrine: Why This Key Torts Decision May Convince Other State Supreme Courts to Follow Suit
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a recent decision by the highest court in Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), adopting the "loss of a chance" doctrine. As Sebok explains, the "loss of a chance" doctrine, in this context, means that a plaintiff may recover damages if a doctor's malpractice leads him to lose the chance of surviving cancer, even when it is far from certain he would have survived even had he received the proper diagnosis and treatment. Sebok explains why legal academia embraced the "loss of a chance" doctrine, from both the perspective of deterrence and that of corrective justice, and why the SJC and the highest courts of a number of other states have followed suit. However, Sebok also points out some troubling inconsistencies in tort law regarding causation and the recovery of damages that still remain after the SJC's decision.
Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008

How and Why the Supreme Court of Rhode Island Made the Right Decision in the Multi-Billion-Dollar Rhode Island Lead Paint Case: Part Three in a Three Part Series on the Case
In Part Three in a three-part series of columns, FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a major recent decision by the Rhode Island Supreme Court that, he contends, is significant not only for the amount of money at stake, but also for the Court's opting to make clear that judges are not politicians, tasked with solving social problems regardless of what the law may say. As Sebok explains, the plaintiffs contended that the defendant companies' lead paint created a public nuisance much like toxic pollution. Sebok argues, however, that a unanimous Court was absolutely correct to distinguish this case from cases regarding pollution, and to decline to apply the public nuisance theory.
Monday, Jul. 7, 2008

The Lessons of the Supreme Court's Recent Decision Granting a Huge Victory to Exxon in the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Case
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the recent, major, end-of-Term Supreme Court decision regarding the punitive damages award against Exxon that arose out of the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill. Sebok covers the history of the case before it reached the Court, the key issue upon which the Court's ruling turned, and possible reasons why the case split the Court's Justices into two highly unusual voting coalitions. Sebok also places the case in the broader context of other decisions the Court has reached regarding how high punitive damages may be in a given case, compared to the compensatory damages awarded in that case.
Tuesday, Jul. 1, 2008

The "Responsibility Project": When an Insurance Company Promotes "Responsibility," What Is Its Ulterior Motive?
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok comments on an unusual advertising project by the insurance company Liberty Mutual, consisting of a series of videos that raise moral issues, posed in the context of particular situations, and ask viewers how they might address them. As an expert on tort law, Sebok carefully considers how the insurance company might be using its "Responsibility Project" to promote its bottom line, but he finds, upon closer examination, that the situation is more complex. Sebok concludes that the project is not encouraging a "blame the victim" mentality that would lead to fewer insurance claims being submitted, but rather encouraging viewers to make their safety and the safety of others a high priority -- a message that is worth sending.
Tuesday, Jun. 17, 2008

The Historic Lead Paint Argument Before the Rhode Island Supreme Court: Part Two in a Two-Part Series of Columns
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok continues his two-part series on a recent, highly significant oral argument before the Rhode Island Supreme Court. At oral argument, the State of Rhode Island's attorney contended that the legal theory of public nuisance provided a valid basis for its massive suit seeking the removal of lead paint from numerous homes within the state. Sebok critiques both sides' strategies at oral argument; explains the significance of the distinction between tort and public nuisance here; and predicts that, in the end, the defendants are likely to win -- though, ironically, due more to the arguments presented by the plaintiffs' attorneys, than to the arguments presented by their own.
Tuesday, Jun. 3, 2008

The Key Legal Issue in Rhode Island's Massive Lead Paint Tort Case: Part One in a Two-Part Series of Columns
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses how the legal theory of public nuisance was invoked in an innovative way in the massive lead paint litigation in Rhode Island, which last week culminated in an oral argument before the Rhode Island Supreme Court. As Sebok explains, the doctrine of public nuisance is unusual in that negligence need not be proven, and the remedy the court issues is an order directing the defendant to act, rather than a judgment for money damages. However, in this case, because the order at issue would force the lead paint industry to pay for lead paint removal in numerous houses, it would still be vastly costly.
Tuesday, May. 20, 2008

A New York Appeals Court Allows Victims of the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing to Recover Massive Damages from the Port Authority: Should The Bombers' Culpability Have Lessened the Damages Award?
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok comments on an interesting and important decision recently issued by the First Department of New York's Appellate Division. As Sebok explains, unless the Court of Appeals -- New York's highest court -- rules otherwise, this decision will mean that the Port Authority will have to pay 100 percent of the damages suffered by a group of victims of the 1993 Word Trade Center bombing, even though a jury ruled that the bombers themselves also were significantly at fault. Sebok explains how the appellate decision reached this result, and considers the argument that the Port Authority made on appeal: that the jury was "manifestly unreasonable" to find that the Point Authority was 68% at fault (and thus 100% responsible for damages) and the terrorists 32% at fault for the attack.
Tuesday, May. 06, 2008

The European Union's New Antitrust Law Reforms

Tuesday, Apr. 29, 2008

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Deals a Severe Blow to the Plaintiffs in a Class Action Involving Allegations of Fraud Relating to "Lights" Cigarettes
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok explains why, last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled against the plaintiffs in a class action alleging that consumers were defrauded by advertising that falsely claimed that "lights" cigarettes were safer than regular cigarettes. As Sebok notes, the sticking point for the Second Circuit panel was the issue of various class members' potentially individualized reliance on the allegedly fraudulent statements. Moreover, Sebok contends that an argumentative gambit by the plaintiffs' attorney may well have backfired with the court.
Tuesday, Apr. 08, 2008

A Remarkable New Jersey Decision Holds a Bar Broadly Responsible For Protecting Passengers of Drunk Drivers Whom the Bar Never Served, and Who Did Not Seem Drunk
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a New Jersey appellate court's decision interpreting the state's Dram Shop Law. (The Dram Shop Law states that a licensed bar shall be deemed negligent only when it serves alcohol to someone it knew, or should have known, to be a minor, or to someone who is visibly intoxicated.) As Sebok explains, the case was unusual in that it involved a fatal car accident in which the bar had not served the driver alcohol -- yet the court still found the bar liable, because it had served the passenger alcohol. Sebok discusses whether the court's broad interpretation of the Dram Shop Law is defensible.
Tuesday, Mar. 25, 2008

The Oregon Supreme Court's Recent Decision on Punitive Damages: Why It Took the Wrong Approach
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok contrasts two recent Oregon Supreme Court decisions relating to the proper ratio between punitive and compensatory damages, and the requirements of the U.S. Constitution's Due Process Clause. In last month's decision, Sebok explains, the Oregon Supreme Court had seemed to defy the U.S. Supreme Court's guidance. In this month's decision, Sebok argues, the Oregon Supreme Court may well be acting more like a legislature than it should.
Tuesday, Mar. 11, 2008

When Does Federal Law Preempt State Law In Tort Cases? Last Week's Supreme Court Decision Offers Some Guidance
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a significant new Supreme Court decision that held that the federal Medical Devices Amendments (MDA) of 1976 completely preempted the New York tort claims brought by a man who suffered severe injuries during his coronary angioplasty when his doctor overinflated a medical device called the Evergreen Balloon Catheter, causing it to burst. Sebok explains why a prior MDA case reached a different result regarding preemption, and describes the general trend of the Court's recent preemption cases.
Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008

The Oregon Supreme Court Once Again Affirms a Blockbuster Punitive Damages Award Against Philip Morris - Even in the Face of a U.S. Supreme Court Decision Seemingly to the Contrary
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a surprising recent decision from the Oregon Supreme Court. The case was brought by the widow of an Oregon smoker who died from lung cancer. She alleged, and a jury found, that her husband was defrauded by the tobacco company Philip Morris and that the fraud led to his death. The jury therefore awarded her $79.5 million in punitive damages against Philip Morris. Philip Morris then challenged the jury instructions, and the U.S. Supreme Court struck them down as unconstitutional. Nevertheless, the Oregon Supreme Court let the original punitive damages award stand. Sebok critiques its reasoning.
Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2008

Is It Constitutional for the Senate to Retroactively Immunize From Civil Liability the Telecoms That Provided the Government with Information About Customers' Communications?
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a possible Takings Clause problem that will arise if the Senate goes through with its plan to provide immunity to telecommunications companies that illegally provided information about customers' communications to the government. Sebok notes that in other contexts, such as that of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, the government would never consider taking away rights to sue without affording compensation, in part because there would be a Takings Clause barrier to doing so. Is this case different? Sebok considers precedent as to whether the customer privacy rights that were allegedly compromised by the telephone companies count as property rights that have properly vested and accrued.
Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2008

The Major Verdict in a Recent Identify Theft Case: How It Underlines the Risk for Financial Reporting Companies, and the Difficulty of Calculating Accurate Damages in This Area
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a jury's decision to award a sizable verdict to a plaintiff who properly reported to credit-rating services that her identity had been stolen, yet found it impossible to get one of the services to promptly correct the errors the identity theft had introduced into her credit history. Sebok explains the legal basis of the suit, and considers why the jury was so angered by the facts of this case, as the whopping "mental anguish" component of its verdict reflected.
Monday, Jan. 07, 2008

The Suicide Reportedly Resulting from a MySpace Friendship that Turned Abusive: Could It Provide the Basis for a Successful Tort Lawsuit?
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the possible legal implications of a widely-reported incident in Missouri in which a thirteen-year-old girl named Megan killed herself after her MySpace friend "Josh" harshly turned against her. "Josh" turned out to be the assumed MySpace name of the mother of a former friend of Megan's. Recently, authorities decided not to charge the neighbor with a crime; Sebok considers, however, whether Megan's parents could successfully bring a tort suit against the neighbor.
Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2007

Getting With the Program: The Vioxx Settlement Agreement
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok and FindLaw guest columnist and Fordham law professor Benjamin Zipursky comment on the agreement that settles a large number of cases arising from the dangerous side effects of Vioxx, which caused the drug to be pulled off the market. Sebok and Zipursky explain why plaintiffs deciding whether to join the agreement are in a difficult position, for several reasons-- including uncertainty as to how much each plaintiff will receive, and the problems such a settlement inherently raises by potentially interfering with attorneys' traditional duties to their clients. They also explain the significance, here, of the fact that this set of cases is not certified as a class action, as many mass tort cases are.
Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2007

More on The Second Circuit's Recent, Significant Decision Regarding Two Suits Involving the Alien Tort Claims Act: Part Two in a Two-Part Series
In Part Two of a two-part series of columns, FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok offers additional commentary on a recent, interesting decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, involving the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA). As Sebok explains, the decision raises the question whether the test for ATCA "aiding and abetting" liability should be derived from the Restatement of Torts, or the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Sebok describes what is at stake, what methods may be used to answer this key question, what is likely to happen upon remand to the district court, and why this issue may ultimately interest the U.S. Supreme Court.
Tuesday, Nov. 06, 2007

The Second Circuit's Stunning Reversal, in Two Suits Involving the Alien Tort Claims Act: Part One in a Two-Part Series on the Decision
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a recent, interesting decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, regarding "aiding and abetting" liability under the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA). As Sebok explains, a key issue was whether the test as to whether such liability has been established should come from the Restatement of Torts or the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007

Does Texas Really Have More Doctors as a Result of Medical Malpractice Reform? Why a New York Times Article Making that Claim Is Seriously Misleading
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok questions the validity of a recent New York Times article suggesting that medical malpractice reform in Texas caused more doctors to move to that State. Sebok provides evidence and analysis showing that issues of causation here are much more complex than the Times article implied.
Tuesday, Oct. 09, 2007

When Is A Class Action Superior to Multiple Individual Lawsuits?: Part Two in a Two-Part Series on the New Jersey Supreme Court's Decertification of a Nationwide Vioxx Class Action
In the second in a two-part series of columns, FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses another aspect of a New Jersey Supreme Court decision that removed class action status from a set of lawsuits relating to the drug Vioxx. The putative class action was composed of a set of suits by healthcare plans that allege they paid too much to purchase Vioxx for their clients in light of the company's failure to disclose its dangerous potential side effects. In this column, Sebok inquires whether the court was right to hold that the statutory requirement that the class action form be "superior" to individual adjudication was not satisfied here, because the plans could each easily have proceeded on their own with individual lawsuits.
Wednesday, Sep. 26, 2007

The New Jersey Supreme Court Decertifies a Vioxx Class Action: Part One in a Two-Part Series
In the first in a two-part series of columns, FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the recent decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court refusing to certify, as a class action, a suit by a group of insurers. The insurers claim they paid too much to buy the drug Vioxx for their customers as a result of Merck's failure to disclose Vioxx's risks. Sebok explains why financial injury cases like this one often arise out of personal injury cases, and why financial injury cases have in the past often gained class action status.
Tuesday, Sep. 11, 2007

The Political Role Played by a Recent Ruling On Gun Torts: How Former Senator Thompson Used the Decision Against Presidential Candidate Giuliani
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein, allowing a suit by New York City against fifteen out-of-state gun dealers to go forward. Former Senator Fred Thompson, who seems likely to become a Presidential candidate, used the ruling to criticize Presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani's stance on Second Amendment gun control issues. Sebok contends that the gun control issues with which Giuliani, as a former New York mayor, was involved actually should triggered more Fourth Amendment than Second Amendment concerns. However, Sebok also notes that Thompson brings up a valid general point regarding guns and the liberty/security tradeoff.
Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2007

The Israeli Suit By the Children of Holocaust Victims Against the German Government: Can It Succeed?
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a suit recently filed in Israel seeking compensation on behalf of the children of Holocaust victims. Sebok isolates two aspects of the case: Its reliance on psychological injury, and its attempt to recover for long-past torts. Drawing on cases regarding the drug DES and lead paint, Sebok points out that there is significant precedent for plaintiffs recovering for the consequences of torts that preceded their birth. The more difficult aspect of the case, he notes, concerns the solely psychological injury -- post-traumatic stress disorder -- that the plaintiffs allege they suffer. Sebok also notes that the suit's progress and outcome may be relevant to U.S. cases seeking compensation for the slavery of African-Americans.
Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2007

The U.K.'s "Corporate Manslaughter" Statute: British Versus American Approaches to Making Firms Responsible for Deaths Resulting from Gross Negligence
FindLaw columnist and Cardozo law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the U.K.'s new corporate manslaughter statute, which is designed to hold corporations criminally accountable when their gross negligence results in death. Sebok describes the statute's penalties, considers the high-profile U.K. torts that may have prompted its passage, and contrasts the British and American tort and criminal justice systems with respect to the ways in which they each address corporate responsibility.
Tuesday, Jul. 31, 2007

One of America's Top Plaintiffs' Lawyers Makes a Key Tactical Error During Oral Argument in a Case Against Big Tobacco: When Bad Things Happen to Smart Lawyers
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok comments on the appellate oral argument in a case arguing that Big Tobacco violated federal anti-racketeering laws when it allegedly marketed "lights" cigarettes claiming they were safer than regular cigarettes but knowing that, in real-world tests, they were not. Sebok discusses why an innovative theory of damages was necessary to make this case winnable; why a class action was certified by District Court Judge Jack Weinstein; and why a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit may well reverse Weinstein's ruling. Part of Sebok's reason for expecting an unfavorable decision from plantiffs' perspective is a decision by counsel that he deems a serious tactical error.
Tuesday, Jul. 17, 2007

The Resolution of the Famous Multimillion-Dollar "Pant Suit," Filed by a Judge: Why the Drycleaner Defendants Defeated the Plaintiff
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the recent decision by a D.C. Superior Court judge dismissing a conversion and consumer fraud suit against a drycleaner's. The lawsuit, Pearson v. Chung, (nicknamed the "pants suit" since a pair of the customer's pants was at issue) has widely been held up as an example of frivolous litigation. Sebok uses the case as a vehicle to explore questions such as: Are we in the midst of an epidemic of suits brought to coerce "nuisance value" settlements? Do suits brought by lawyers (the plaintiff in the D.C. suit was not only a lawyer, but himself a judge) pose a special threat of being frivolous, since lawyers may be able to very effectively represent themselves? And why isn't Rule 11 -- designed specifically to allow judges to sanction frivolous suits -- effective?
Tuesday, Jul. 03, 2007

Judges Behaving Badly: Their Ill-Considered Suits Against a Dry Cleaner, and Against the Yale Club
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok considers two recent, high-profile suits. One, filed by an administrative judge, asks for huge damages against dry cleaners who are alleged to have lost the judge's expensive suit pants, and then substituted a cheap pair of pants in their place, while claiming that the substitutes were the genuine article. The other, filed by former judge and former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, alleges that because the Yale club negligently failed to provide a step for him to access its lectern, Bork suffered $1 million in damages. Sebok contends that while there is a genuine dispute at the heart of each of these cases, the judges should have set a good example by paring their claims and damages down to their true core, to encourage rapid settlement.
Tuesday, Jun. 19, 2007

The Attorney Who Boarded Planes After a Tuberculosis Diagnosis: Why the Other Passengers Are Likely to Be Able to Recover Damages for Fear of Infection
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the legal claims that may potentially be brought against Andrew Speaker, the Georgia attorney who disregarded CDC instructions and returned to the U.S. via plane and then car for medical treatment for his tuberculosis, thereby potentially exposing fellow plane passengers to the disease. Sebok covers two important questions regarding potential suits against Speaker: Can passengers sue Speaker even if they didn't contract TB, but suffered fear as a result of learning about their exposure? And, could passengers' lawsuits successfully include the kind of allegations of intentional torts that could lead to the award of punitive damages agaisnt Speaker?
Wednesday, Jun. 13, 2007

A Bid to Litigate the Legality of U.S.-Sponsored Torture in Federal Court: Will It Succeed?
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok evaluates a creative legal strategy employed by the ACLU on behalf of three men who allege that they were tortured after being sent, under the CIA's direction, to foreign prisons. Rather than suing the U.S. government, the men are suing Jeppesen Dataplan, a private company owned by Boeing that they claim arranged the flights that led to their "extraordinary rendition" and torture. The men are invoking the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), rather than proceeding under the Federal Tort Claims Act, and Sebok explains the probable reasoning behind this litigation choice. Sebok also compares and contrasts this case with an earlier ATS case resolved by the Supreme Court -- explaining why this case raises a question left open by the Court in its prior precedent.
Tuesday, Jun. 05, 2007

Philip Morris's Argument to the Supreme Court in Watson v. Philip Morris, About Where a Case about Cigarettes Sold As "Lights" Should Be Tried: Lots of Chutzpah, But Little Support
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok takes strong issue with Philip Morris's argument, recently made before the U.S. Supreme Court, that the company should come within the federal statute that allows suits against "federal officers" to be removed from state court to federal court. Philip Morris says it acted as a federal officer when required to use the Cambridge test on its "lights" cigarettes, and that therefore suits challenging its "light" labelling as fraudulent belong in federal court. Sebok disagrees, and predicts the Court will, too -- in part because a ruling in the tobacco companies' favor would allow virtually any company subject to federal testing regulations to remove suits against it to federal court.
Tuesday, May. 08, 2007

Could Virginia Tech Be Held Liable for Cho Seung Hui's Shootings,If An Investigation Were to Reveal It Had Been Negligent? The Unfortunate Answer
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses Virginia Tech's potential liability -- depending on the results of the ongoing investigation -- in the shootings by Cho Seung Hui on April 16. Sebok focuses on the claims the wounded victims and the deceased victims' families might attempt to bring against Virginia Tech, and on the limitations of these approaches, imposed by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.
Tuesday, Apr. 24, 2007

More On The Issues Raised by the Recent Proposal to Reopen the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund: Part Two in a Two-Part Series of Columns
In Part Two of a two-part series, FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses whether the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund (VCF) should be reopened to compensate New York City workers who are suing because they allege that they have incurred respiratory damage as a result of 9/11 cleanup. Sebok explains why the relevant federal statute -- though constitutional as applied to 9/11 victims and their families -- might not be constitutional with respect to 9/11 recovery workers unless they, too, are covered by an extension of the VCF. He also contrasts two issues of fairness: First, is it fair if 9/11 cleanup workers receive greater awards than other similarly-situated injured New York City employees? Second, is it fair if 9/11 cleanup workers are left out of the VCF, even though their injuries, too, were ultimately caused by the attacks?
Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2007

The Issues Raised by the Recent Proposal to Reopen the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund: Part One in a Two-Part Series of Columns
With over eight thousand firemen, police officers, rescue workers, sanitation workers, and construction workers having filed lawsuits claiming respiratory damages from their post 9/11 response efforts in the World Trade Center attack's area, should Congress reopen the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund (VCF) to cover these suits? FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok addresses that question in a two-part series of columns. In this column, Part One in the series, Sebok reviews the terms of the VCF legislation and the two key court decisions that have been issued so far regarding the respiratory damage cases.
Tuesday, Mar. 27, 2007

How an Important German Constitutional Court Decision May Change the Nature of Law Practice in Germany
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses an important German Constitutional Court decisoin, regarding the constitutionality of the statutory limits on the contingency fees that can be promised by clients to their attorneys, if the attorneys prevail in court. Along the way, Sebok discusses the role played, in this controversy, by several German legal rules that are the opposite of the rules in the U.S.: In Germany, nonlawyers, including corporations, are allowed to fund lawsuits; losers pay winners' attorneys' fees; and contingency-fee attorneys must not only fund suits, but also must be the ones to pay the winner's fees if they lose their cases.
Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2007

The Supreme Court's Decision to Overturn a $79.5 Million Punitive Damages Verdict Against Philip Morris: A Big Win, But One With Implications That May Trouble Corporate America
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok explains why what may seem to be a huge Supreme Court victory for Big Tobacco, may not be very momentous, after all. Last week, as Sebok notes, the Court overturned a tremendous punitive damages verdict against Philip Morris -- almost certainly necessitating a new trial in a case brought by the estate of a deceased smoker, alleging fraud by the company. Yet, as Sebok explains, when the jury instructions are revised in a way that reflects the Court's recent opinion, an equally large verdict may well be rendered. Ultimately, Sebok concludes, the true blockbuster punitive damages questions -- whether the Court will impose a strict limit on such damages in personal injury or death cases, as it has in financial injury cases -- has yet to be definitively answered.
Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2007

The Federal Appellate Decision for the Plaintiffs in the Sex Discrimination Class Action Against Wal-Mart: What Will Wal-Mart Do Next?
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a recent, important sex discrimination class action decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In the decision, a two-judge majority of the panel -- over a strong dissent -- allowed a class action to go forward based on allegations by female Wal-Mart employees of promotion and pay discrimination. Sebok explains what has made the case special, difficult, and interesting -- including an allegation that discrimination occurred as a result of a passive "hands off" policy by corporate management, rather than an active blanket corporate policy. He also suggests what steps Wal-Mart is likely to take next.
Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2007

How Will the Roberts Court Deal with Cases Affecting Corporate America?
A Recent Decision Regarding the Federal Employer Liability Statute Provides Insight

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok explains the significance of a Supreme Court decision issued this month regarding the Federal Employer's Liability Act (FELA). In particular, Sebok considers what the case may show about how Chief Justice Roberts, himself a former corporate lawyer, is likely to vote and reason in cases involving corporate defendants. Sebok explain how, in this month's FELA decision, Roberts reached a pro-corporate-defendant result, but eschewed adopting broader-pro-corporate-defendant reasoning.
Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2007

The Federal Appeals Court Decision Setting the Final Damages Amount for the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok weighs in on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that represents the last word on the damages Exxon will pay as a result of the 1989 Exxon Valdez catastrophic oil spill off Alaska's coast. Sebok explain the case's long history, and discusses the two key Supreme Court punitive damages precedents that informed the Ninth Circuit's recent decision.
Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007

A Federal Court of Appeals Revives a Class Action Seeking Compensation for Slavery in America
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses an ironic federal appeals decision in which well-known conservative jurist Richard Posner saved part of a case pressing a pet cause for many liberals -- slavery reparations -- by invoking consumer fraud statutes. Sebok tracks the way the case has morphed from being about, first, human rights violations; second, the lost inheritances of the descendants of slaves; and third, consumers' claims that they were defrauded by companies' failure to disclose their alleged connections to slavery.
Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2006

Can a Federal Court Tell A Tobacco Company Not to Spin Off Its Subsidiary, In Order to Protect Smokers' Ability to Successfully Sue the Company for Damages?
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a provocative legal question: Does a federal district court have the power to enjoin a company (here, Altria) from spinning off a subsidiary (here, Kraft Foods) when the spin-off may, to some extent, defeat plaintiffs in a lawsuit from recovering money damages for injuries the company (Altria) may have caused them? As Sebok explains, a key Supreme Court precedent suggests that this kind of remedy against a corporation is too invasive -- but it's possible that precedent could be persuasively distinguished.
Tuesday, Dec. 05, 2006

The Indictment Against Law Firm Milberg Weiss and Two of Its Partners: What's Really at Stake, and Why the Media Is Missing the Point
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the indictment against the plaintiffs' class action law firm Milberg Weiss, and two of its partners. Sebok notes that the indictment alleges facts supporting a charge of inducement of perjury -- alleging that the firm induced lead plaintiffs in class actions who had received kickbacks to lie on the stand when asked if they received anything of value for the their testimony. But he also notes that claims that Milberg Weiss committed other harms -- besides the harm of the perjury -- may not stand up in the end. Sebok also takes issue with the claim that Milberg and its paid plaintiffs were violating the law against champerty by stirring up unnecessary litigation.
Tuesday, Nov. 07, 2006

The Upcoming Supreme Court Argument Involving Punitive Damages Awards and Big Tobacco: Can These Awards Be Based on Injury to Persons Other than the Plaintiff?
Part Two in a Two-Part Series

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the two key questions raised by the case of Williams v. Philip Morris -- in which the Supreme Court will soon hear oral argument -- and the answers the Court ought to give, and likely will give. Sebok focuses in particular on the question of whether, in a case that is not a class action, a punitive damages award may be based on the defendant's conduct toward possible plaintiffs who are not before the court.
Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2006

The Upcoming Supreme Court Tobacco Case That Will Test Punitive Damages Rules:
Part One in a Two-Part Series

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok explains the issues in, and implications of, the case of Williams v. Philip Morris -- in which the Supreme Court will soon hear oral argument. As Sebok explains, the case raises the question of how to interpret two earlier Supreme Court rulings regarding limitations on punitive damages awards that are large compared to their companion compensatory damages awards. Sebok notes why corporate America -- and, especially, Big Tobacco -- will be watching this case closely.
Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2006

A New York Federal Judge Certifies a Nationwide RICO Class Action Against Big Tobacco: An Aggressive Decision that Pushed Legal Limits
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the recent decision by U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein of the Eastern District of New York certifying a nationwide class action based on allegations of fraud relating to claims that "light" cigarettes were more healthful. Sebok notes three key issues that could make Judge Weinstein's decision vulnerable on appeal. He also notes why the monetary stakes here are dramatically higher than in the recent D.C. Circuit case also relating to Big Tobacco and RICO.
Wednesday, Sep. 27, 2006

A Judge Accepts a Claim Paralleling the Mafia and the Tobacco Industry
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the district court's recent decision finding a civil violation by the tobacco industry of the Racketeering-Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. As Sebok explains, an appeals decision constrained in the judge in her choice of remedies -- forbidding her from requiring Big Tobacco to disgorge past profits. And a subsequent appeals decision, he suggests, may curtail her remedy still further. Nevertheless, he notes, the decision is a scathing indictment of Big Tobacco's conduct.
Tuesday, Sep. 12, 2006

The Florida Supreme Court's Big Tobacco Decision: Why Neither Side Can Be Very Happy
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the complex posture of the litigation by Florida smokers against Big Tobacco, in light of the state Supreme Court decision voiding the $145 billion punitive damages decision the smokers had previously received. Sebok discusses, among other key issues, what will happen to the large amount of money in escrow for the smoker plaintiffs.
Wednesday, Jul. 19, 2006

Senator Feinstein's Now-Withdrawn Statute Limiting Non-Citizens' Tort Claims:
How Would It Have Affected Abu-Ghraib-Related Civil Suits and Other Similar Civil Actions?

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok tracks several important recent developments in a particular area of tort law, involving suits for human rights violations brought in America by non-citizens. Sebok discusses a bill sponsored -- but now withdrawn -- by Senator Feinstein that would have limited such suits. He also considers a recent district court ruling in a suit against private contractors for Abu Ghraib abuses, and assesses how Senator Feinstein's statute, if enacted, might affect cases like that one.
Monday, Oct. 31, 2005

If Harriet Miers is Confirmed to the Supreme Court, How Is She Likely To Rule on the Tort Law Questions that Affect Both Big Business and Ordinary Citizens?
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok points out that, in focusing on Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers's constitutional views, Senators may not have devoted sufficient attention to other subject areas on which she would vote, as a Justice. In particular, Sebok focuses on tort law -- asking, for instance, Does Miers's record as a litigator mean she would be pro-business as a Justice? And does Miers's strong alliance with several tort reform proponents mean that she would, as a Justice, look kindly upon tort reform statutes? Sebok argues that to answer questions like these, Senators ought to be able to see advice on related issues that Miers has given to the Bush Administration.
Monday, Oct. 17, 2005

Can Oregon Constitutionally Punish Uninsured Motorists By Curtailing their Rights to Car Accident Damages?
The State Supreme Court Say Yes, But the Right Answer is No

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok takes strong issue with a recent Oregon Supreme Court decision on tort law. In the decision, the Court upheld a 1999 state statute's ability to take away an uninsured motorist's right to pain-and-suffering damages. Sebok argues that -- contrary to the Court's claim -- this decision clashed with a state constitutional provision providing an absolute guarantee that common law damage claims like this one would be preserved.
Monday, Oct. 03, 2005

The Response to the Disaster In New Orleans: Will There Be a Compensation Program Similar to the 9/11 Victims' Fund?
With so many of the people of New Orleans dead, dying, or hurt, and allegations flying that the government could have done more to help them, FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok asks, Will -- and should -- there be a Hurricane Katrina victims' fund, similar to the fund Congress created for 9/11 victims and their families? Sebok predicts there won't be such a fund, and gives several reasons why, deriving both from the contrast between Katrina and 9/11 and the background legal and political landscape. But he notes that from a moral perspective, some Katrina victims may have claims to compensation just as strong as those of some 9/11 victims.
Monday, Sep. 05, 2005

The Response to the Disaster In New Orleans: Will There Be a Compensation Program Similar to the 9/11 Victims' Fund?
With so many of the people of New Orleans dead, dying, or hurt, and allegations flying that the government could have done more to help them, FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok asks, Will -- and should -- there be a Hurricane Katrina victims' fund, similar to the fund Congress created for 9/11 victims and their families? Sebok predicts there won't be such a fund, and gives several reasons why, deriving both from the contrast between Katrina and 9/11 and the background legal and political landscape. But he notes that from a moral perspective, some Katrina victims may have claims to compensation just as strong as those of some 9/11 victims.
Monday, Sep. 05, 2005

The Lawsuit Brought by African-Americans Seeking Compensation from Corporations for The Wrongs of Slavery:
Why the Opinion Dismissing the Suit Is Unpersuasive

Is it too late for African-Americans to sue for compensation for corporations' role in the wrongs that slavery wrought? A group of plaintiffs -- speaking for themselves, or for deceased relatives and others whom they legally represent -- says they are not too late. But in the Northern District of Illinois, a federal district judge recently dismissed their case. FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor takes issue with the reasons for the dismissal, but notes that the statute of limitations argument may nonetheless be difficult to overcome.
Monday, Aug. 08, 2005

If Karl Rove is the White House Leaker, But He Broke No Criminal Laws, Could Valerie Plame Still Sue Him for Revealing Her Identity?:
Part Two in a Two-Part Series

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok continues his two-part series of columns considering whether Valerie Plame could sue the White House official or officials who leaked her name to the press. In this part, Sebok considers what claims Plame could bring that would come within the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) -- and would not fall into its "discretionary function" exemptions. He also considers whether Plame should sue now, or wait until later.
Tuesday, Jul. 26, 2005

Could Valerie Plame Sue Karl Rove?
Part One of a Two-Part Series

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok raises an interesting question: Could Valerie Plame -- the CIA agent whose identity was leaked, resulting in the current Special Counsel investigation -- sue Karl Rove, if he was the leaker? Sebok considers both the Supreme Court decisions regarding immunity for federal officials, and the various kinds of civil claims that might be available to Plame.
Monday, Jul. 18, 2005

The California Supreme Court's Ruling on the "Indiana Jones" Ride: Was the Court Mistaken When It Treated the Ride Like a City Bus?
FindLaw columnist Anthony Sebok takes issue with a recent, significant California Supreme Court decision interpreting the state's "common carrier" statutes to apply to the "Indiana Jones" ride at Disneyland. Sebok argues that the dissenters had the better of the argument here -- for a jeep driven on the street, he argues, has a very different function from a jeep that serves as part of an amusement park ride.
Monday, Jun. 27, 2005

The Federal Government's Reversal In Its Suit Against the Tobacco Industry:
Why There May Actually Be a Good Reason For The Justice Department's Last-Minute About-Face

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a strategic move by the Department of Justice that has surprised many observers: In the government's civil RICO case against the tobacco industry, at the close of trial, the government dramatically and voluntarily scaled down its remedy requests. Why? Conspiracy theorists postulate that Big Tobacco lobbyists had a hand in changing the government's mind, but Sebok suggests the example is far more innocent: The government realized its broader remedies wouldn't fly, and is trying to quit while it is ahead -- resting on its proof of liability.
Monday, Jun. 13, 2005

The Bipartisan Asbestos Reform Bill: Why It Ought to Be Enacted Into Law
With attacks on the bipartisan Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2005 (FAIR) now coming from both the left and the right, FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok contends that these attacks lack merit, and that the bill should be enacted into law. Sebok explains how asbestos claims would be treated if FAIR were to become law, and argues that the proper test for the legislation is whether it will make victims better off than they current are -- a test, he says, which FAIR definitely passes.
Tuesday, Jun. 07, 2005

A Surprising New York Holding Says a Doctor Has No Duty to a Mother Not to Injure Her Fetus
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a recent decision by New York's highest court holding that a mother who alleges that her baby suffered deformities in utero as a result of medical malpractice, cannot sue the doctors for negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED). Sebok explains the recent evolution of NIED law in New York, and argues that a better result would have allowed the mother to sue for emotional distress that she no doubt suffered.
Monday, May. 16, 2005

Florida's New "Stand Your Ground" Law: Why It's More Extreme than Other States' Self-Defense Measures, And How It Got that Way
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses -- and criticizes -- the way Florida has changed its law with respect to self-defense. As Sebok explains, now it's not only the case that one's home is one's castle -- which one can defend -- but also the case that cars and boats count as castles, too. Moreover, Sebok notes, the law has been altered to require only a forcible, illegal break-in before the homeowner can use deadly force -- even if the person entering is plainly unarmed and harmless. When it comes to self-defense outside the home, Sebok notes, Florida has simply brought its law into line with that of other states. But when it comes to self-defense inside the home (or car or boat), Sebok argues, Florida's law is now radical, unusual, and dangerous.
Monday, May. 02, 2005

A New York Decision That May Imperil Plaintiffs' Ability to Finance Their Lawsuits:
Why It Should Be Repudiated, Or Limited to Its Facts

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses an interesting recent New York state court decision that, if followed by other courts, could put in jeopardy tort plaintiffs' ability to finance their lawsuits. As Sebok explains, the judge suggested that an agreement between the plaintiff and a litigation financing company violated the laws against usury, on the ground that the company -- while betting on what was, in the judge's view, a sure thing -- charged a very high rate of interest. Sebok contends that the suit was no sure thing, that the usury law should not have been applied, and that other courts should not follow this decision.
Monday, Apr. 18, 2005

A Brooklyn Federal Court Dismisses a Class Action Suit By Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses an important decision by U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein involving the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA). As Sebok explains, the ruling dismissed a suit brought by Vietnamese citizens who alleged they had been poisoned by defendant corporations' Agent Orange. While Judge Weinstein rejected a number of theories that would have granted the defendants immunity, he also held that this type of poisoning, if proven, would not be the kind of war crime or crime against humanity that comes under the scope of the ATCA.
Monday, Mar. 21, 2005

The Class Action Fairness Act of 2005:
A Reasonable Law, But One That Should Not Be A Wedge For Wide Tort Reform

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok weighs in on the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 (CAFA). Sebok argues that CAFA is a reasonable law but that the problems it purports to address are minor, if they exist at all. Sebok stresses that CAFA ought not to open the door to wider tort reform, which would have many more drawbacks, he urges, than CAFA itself.
Monday, Feb. 21, 2005

A Big Win for Big Tobacco:
Why It Essentially Moots the Ongoing RICO Trial in D.C.

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses an extremely significant recent decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The decision reversed a district court ruling that had opened the way for a $280 billion civil RICO disgorgement remedy, sought by the Department of Justice in a suit against the tobacco industry. Now, that remedy is impossible -- and it seems futile for the civil RICO trial to even go forward, as Sebok explains.
Monday, Feb. 07, 2005

A State Supreme Court Opinion Allows a Clergy Child Sex Abuse Case to Go Forward, But Makes a Mess of Tort Law in the Process
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a recent Tennessee Supreme Court case involving civil claims based on child sexual abuse by a former priest. Sebok argues that while the plaintiff abuse victims are obviously very sympathetic, the Court's ruling that the victims can sue the Diocese, despite the fact that the priest had already left when they were abused, was contrary to clear law.
Monday, Jan. 24, 2005

Unocal Announces It Will Settle A Human Rights Suit:
What Is the Real Story Behind Its Decision?

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor discusses Unocal's announcement that it will settle two cases brought against it -- in federal and California state court, respectively -- that allege that it should be held responsible for allegedly "aiding and abetting" human rights abuses in Myanmar. Sebok argues that, while the settlement has frequently been reported as Unocal's "caving in," it is important to remember that the plaintiffs and their lawyers, too, might have had something to lose if the cases continued. Sebok points out, in particular that it is far from certain that the Supreme Court will accept a theory of "aiding and abetting" liability in this context.
Monday, Jan. 10, 2005

The Post-September 11 Compensation of Different Victim Groups:
Comparing the RAND Corporation Study with the Special Master's Report

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony J. Sebok discusses a recent, RAND Corporation study that offers a comprehensive look at where 9/11 compensation money came from, and where it went. Sebok contrasts this report with the recently-released Special Master's report on the distribution of money from Congress's Fund for 9/11 victims and their families -- but stresses that as the RAND Study notes, the Fund was not the only source of 9/11 compensation. Sebok asks: What can we learn from the RAND study about who should be compensated in future attacks, and how much? Also, does Congress's Fund-style compensation destroy incentives for high earners to buy life insurance that would encompass a terrorist attack?
Monday, Dec. 27, 2004

The Special Master's Report on the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund:
Is He Right That Victims' Families' Awards Should Have Been Equal?

Now that the final report from the Special Master of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund is in, FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok assesses its recommendations and conclusions. Special Master Kenneth Feinberg, in the report, concludes, among other points, that Congress should have mandated a "one size fits all" award for victims -- rather than, for instance, differentiating between those who were high and low earners. In Feinberg's view, a fireman's family should have gotten the same award as a stockbroker's family from the Fund. Is he right? Sebok considers this argument, and the report as a whole.
Monday, Dec. 13, 2004

A Defeat In Illinois for Suits Asking the Gun Industry to Better Screen Customers
Why It Was the Right Decision

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses two related, recent Illinois Supreme Court decisions that dealt a blow to attempts to use the law of "public nuisance" to hold legal manufacturers, sellers, and distributors of guns liable for gun-related deaths and injuries resulting from subsequent "straw market" resale. Sebok argues that the court was right to see the Nineteenth Century public nuisance doctrine as inapplicable to the modern gun-control controversy -- but also to make a plea to the state legislature to intervene.
Monday, Nov. 29, 2004

Tort Law's Unprecedented Role in the 2004 Election:
What's Likely to Happen in a Republican-Dominated Congress, And What Already Occurred In States That Passed Referenda

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok analyzes the role of tort law in the recent election -- noting that medical malpractice litigation, in particular, was a focus. Sebok argues that Senator Edwards failed to effectively showcase the advantages of his past as a plaintiffs' lawyer, and that a Republican-controlled Congress is apt to make a bid for national tort reform. He also surveys the changes that state referenda -- including an especially important proposition changing California's Unfair Competition Law -- will effect at the state level.
Monday, Nov. 15, 2004

The New York Attorney General's Controversial Suit Against the Insurance Industry:
Why Claims Eliot Spitzer Is Overreaching Are Wrong

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok weighs in on New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's controversial decision to go after not only criminal behavior in the insurance industry, but also the entire "contingent commissions" system, which Spitzer believes fosters crime and corruption. The Wall Street Journal has deemed this overreaching but is it? Sebok argues the answer is no.
Monday, Nov. 01, 2004

The Massive Racketeering Suit Against Big Tobacco:
The District Judge's RICO Ruling, and Why It Is Likely to Be Reversed

In part two of a two-part series on the Justice Department's $280 million civil suit against the tobacco companies, FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok comments on a district judge's recent ruling allowing the suit to go forward. Sebok contends that when the ruling goes to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit -- which will soon happen -- the Court of Appeals ought to reverse the district judge, and hold that the government has stretched the bounds of civil RICO to their limit.
Monday, Oct. 18, 2004

The Federal Government's RICO Suit Against Big Tobacco:
An Unprecedented Case Begun by the Clinton DOJ, And Continued by the Bush DOJ

In Part One of a two-part series of columns, FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a civil case that he notes is probably the biggest ever in the United States -- and possibly the world. In the suit, brought under the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), the Bush Department of Justice is suing tobacco companies, seeking an order from the judge that would force the companies to disgorge $280 billion of profits from past sales. Sebok explains the radical legal theory behind the suit, why it was a brilliant Clinton DOJ tactic, and why the Bush DOJ may be continuing the suit.
Monday, Oct. 04, 2004

The Supreme Court and Employee Health Insurance:
How the Court Is Making this Area of Law National, Not Local

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a trend on the Supreme Court -- toward making federal remedies the only ones employees can use to sue their HMOs. Sebok also explains an interesting, recent conflict between the views of a federal district court judge, and the views of the federal appellate judges who have reversed his decision, on what the relevant Supreme Court precedents mean. The district judge held that, despite the existence of a relevant federal law, the Employee Retirement Income and Security Act (ERISA), Pennsylvania could still create a way for an insured person to sue his HMO.
Monday, Sep. 20, 2004

Why Did Kobe Bryant's Accuser Stop Cooperating with Prosecutors?
Some Possible Explanations For This Peculiar Turn in the Case

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok offers a lawyer's perspective on a subject of much recent speculation: What's going on in the Kobe Bryant case? Sebok considers such questions as: Why might the accuser have refused to continue cooperating with prosecutors? Why did prosecutors drop the case as a result? Why did Bryant issue a statement expressing regret for bad behavior, and acknowledging the accuser's point of view? And what does all this bode for the future of the civil case the accuser has brought against Bryant?
Monday, Sep. 06, 2004

The Kobe Bryant Accuser's Civil Suit:
Why It Isn't Redundant With the Trial or the Victims' Fund, And Why One of Its Claims Is Very Unusual

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok takes a close look at the civil tort suit filed by the woman who has accused Kobe Bryant of raping her. Sebok argues that the woman should not be criticized -- as has frequently occurred -- for filing her suit now, or for filing at all. He explains how a criminal trial, and a victims' compensation fund award, differ in their purposes and effects from a tort suit. He also explains the accuser's unusual claim that Bryant is responsible not only for her distress deriving from his allegedly attacking her, but for her distress deriving from the public scorn she has endured in connection with the case.
Monday, Aug. 23, 2004

The Huge Class Action Sex Discrimination Suit Against Wal-Mart:
Should It Proceed as a Class Action, or Be Decertified?

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the arguments for and against class certification (that is, allowing the suit to proceed as a class action) in a recent sex discrimination case against Wal-Mart. So far, a class has been certified, but Wal-Mart is arguing for decertification -- pointing to the sheer size of the 1.5 million member class action, and to its corporate culture of allowing stores to be run autonomously, which it says makes class action treatment inappropriate.
Monday, Aug. 09, 2004

Should Doctors Vote Against John Edwards?
The Reasons Why Critiques of His Medical Malpractice Litigation Record Are Wrong

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok takes on those who have criticized Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards for his record on medical malpractice litigation. Sebok argues that neither Edwards's opposition to caps on pain and suffering damages for such litigation, nor his own career as a medical malpractice plaintiffs' lawyer, is a reason for medical professionals, or anyone else, to oppose him -- and that, indeed, Edwards's career, with its emphasis on personal responsibility, is befitting of the office for which he is a candidate.
Monday, Jul. 26, 2004

The Alien Tort Claims Act: How Powerful a Human Rights Weapon Is It?
The Supreme Court Gives Some Guidance, But Not Much

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the recent, unanimous Supreme Court decision in the case of Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain. The case tested the ability of noncitizens to bring tort suits, pursuant to the Alien Tort Claims Act, in U.S. federal courts based on actions in violation of the law of nations or U.S. treaty obligations. Sebok argues that while the decision has been claimed as a victory for human rights activists, if so it is only a modest one, for it is still not clear how broadly the Court will interpret the right to sue under the ATCA in the future.
Monday, Jul. 12, 2004

The Supreme Court Rejects State Law Suits Challenging Health Coverage:
Why the Ruling May Spawn an Election Issue

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok explains the import of, and comments upon, the Supreme Court's recent decision barring state law suits against HMOs that deny coverage to these patients. Sebok notes that the decision raises a key issue that could become an election issue this Fall: If states cannot, under the law, regulate HMO decisions, then should Congress amend the relevant federal law, ERISA, to allow more generous remedies when HMOs err? Sebok explains why this issue is relevant to a Bush 2000 campaign promise -- and notes that the law the Court struck down was a Bush-supported Texas law.
Monday, Jun. 28, 2004

Could Suits Against the U.S. Government By Iraqis Subject to Abuse In Abu Ghraib Prison Succeed?
In Part Two of a two-part series on possible tort claims arising from abuses alleged -- and in some case, documented -- in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Tony Sebok considers possible claims by abused prisoners against the U.S. government. Sebok finds that in the end, such claims ought to succeed -- but they may face a difficult path through the courts in light of various different types of immunity the government may raise.
Monday, May. 31, 2004

What Tort Claims, If Any, Can Be Brought
By the Inmates Who Were Tortured in Iraq?

In Part One of a two-part series of columns on potential tort liability with respect to the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professory Anthony Sebok examines whether victims of abuse by private contractors could sue the contractors in U.S. courts. He concludes that the Alien Tort Claims Act may provide a basis for suit, but that it is possible -- though the law is uncertain -- that a "government contractor defense" might apply.
Monday, May. 17, 2004

The Suit Against Coors Brewing for a Drunk Driving Accident:
Is There a Basis for It?

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the prospects of a Nevada suit against beer manufacturer Coors Brewery by a mother whose son died in a drunk driving accident. Sebok explains why a suit against an alcohol manufacturer -- as opposed to a negligent server or seller -- has a slim chance of success. He also explains why it may be more difficult to peg a suit on beer advertising, than on tobacco advertising.
Tuesday, Apr. 20, 2004

What Gay Couples Lack -- Besides Marriage:
The Crucial Rights Under Tort Law That Only Spouses Can Assert

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses an often-overlooked but very important piece of the legal puzzle surrounding gay couples. Straight couples -- sometimes, even if they are unmarried -- benefit from the tort law in ways that gay couples do not. Sebok explains the ways in which gay couples are disadvantaged, and why there is not only a material and financial, but also an emotional and symbolic, side to the differences.
Friday, Apr. 09, 2004

The Supreme Court Confronts the Alien Tort Claims Act:
Should the Court Gut the Law, as the Administration Suggests?

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a controversial law, the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA), which will be the subject of a Supreme Court oral argument later this month. As Sebok explains, the ATCA has been interpreted, for over 200 years, to allow aliens to bring tort suits in U.S. federal courts. But now, the Bush Administration is arguing that this interpretation was wrong, and that, in any event, the statute must be narrowed by the Court because it raises separation-of-powers issues.
Monday, Mar. 22, 2004

A Recent Illinois Supreme Court Decision May Have Nationwide Importance For Consumer Litigation,
And Thus May Limit The Plaintiffs' Bar's Power

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok evaluates a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision that may have repercussions, as well, for the many other states that have consumer fraud statutes similar to Illinois's. The decision, in a case in which plaintiffs claim a company lied about its wood siding, raises legal concepts of reliance and proximate cause; Sebok adeptly explains how the two intersect.
Monday, Feb. 09, 2004

Issues of Civil Justice and Tort Reform:
What Role Will They Play in the Democratic Primaries?

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok compares and contrasts the leading Democratic primary candidates' views on tort reform and civil justice. Have they aligned themselves with the views of the American Trial Lawyers' Association? What kind of reforms have they supported, and how helpful would these reforms be? Sebok's analysis offers a clear, helpful guide for primary voters and other interested readers.
Monday, Jan. 26, 2004

The Amadou Diallo Case
Was New York City's $3 Million Settlement Too Low, Too High, or a Just Amount?

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok weighs in on the controversial recent settlement in the case of Amadou Diallo -- the West African man who was gunned down by police officers who say they mistook the wallet in his hand for a gun. Diallo's lawyer has said the settlement was too low, and was necessitated by "archaic" New York law. But Sebok argues that the gap between the $3 million Diallo case and the $9 millon settlement in the Louima police-torture case makes sense, in light of the fact that the two involved different kinds of tort claims.
Monday, Jan. 12, 2004

A Recent California Appellate Decision Underlines the Importance of the Supreme Court's 2003 Pronouncements on Punitive Damages
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the debate over, and consequences of, the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 2003 opinion on punitive damages. In particular, Sebok focuses on a California appellate court's decision to reverse a prior punitive damages ruling, and greatly reduce a punitive damages verdict, in light of State Farm.
Monday, Dec. 29, 2003

The Corrosive Effect of the Politicization of Tort Reform
What Newsweek's "Lawsuit Hell" Didn't Tell You

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok takes Newsweek to task for what he argues is an inaccurate portrayal of the realities of the modern American tort reform system, and the problems that plague it. Sebok argues that both pro-plaintiff and pro-defendant forces often give misleading accounts of what is wrong with the system, and that the prevalence of settlement is the true reason the tort system is troubled.
Monday, Dec. 15, 2003

The SAFETY Act of 2002
Does Its Decision to Protect Antiterrorism Technologies From Tort Lawsuits Make Sense?

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses an important part of the Homeland Security Act -- the "Support Antiterrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002," otherwise known as the "SAFETY Act." As Sebok explains, the SAFETY Act restricts the liability of manufacturers of certain anti-terrorism technologies in the event of a terrorist attack. Sebok recognizes the SAFETY Act's laudable goal, but questions some of its specific provisions.
Monday, Dec. 08, 2003

Why The Latest Chapter In the Napster Saga Raises Issues About U.S./European Judicial Cooperation
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses an unusual -- and, he argues, troubling -- recent ruling by Germany's highest court. The ruling means that Bertelsmann's German office cannot be properly served with the complaint in a U.S. class action suit brought by various music copyright holders against Bertelsmann. The suit arises from Bertelsmann's provision of tens of millions of loans to Napster, which the plaintiffs say aided and abetted Napster's copyright infringement.
Monday, Nov. 17, 2003

A New Jersey Case on Drunk Driving and Tort Law
Can Stadiums and Even Football Teams Be Liable for Accidents?

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a New Jersey suit that tests the boundary of liability for drunk driving. On the plaintiff's side is the family of a New Jersey girl who was paralyzed when she became the victim of a drunk driving accident. On the defendants' side are not only the driver, who had drunk 14 beers at a football game, but also a host of others -- including the NFL; the stadium's owner; the New York Giants, who were playing; and the stadium's concessionaire. Might they be held liable? Sebok explains why, and why not.
Monday, Oct. 20, 2003

Judge Hellerstein's Ruling on the September 11 Suits:
Is It Right About New York Tort Law?

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the New York tort law background for the recent opinion by Judge Alvin Hellerstein declining to dismiss a number of suits by September 11 victims' families against airlines and other defendants. Sebok contends that, in light of some discouraging decisions from New York's highest court, Judge Hellerstein's opinion may have given families false hope -- and urges that families think seriously about opting for the Victims Compensation Fund, not the risky litigation option.
Monday, Oct. 06, 2003

The Hardest Job in the Law:
The Judge Who Hears September 11 Suits, and His Recent Decision to Let The Suits Go Forward

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the context for, and impact of, the recent ruling by New York federal judge Alvin Hellerstein to allow a set of 9/11-related tort suits against airlines and other defendants to proceed. As Sebok explains, the judge's ruling may affect a decision some victims' families still must make: Whether to accept the government's offer of victims' fund compensation, or to continue to sue. Sebok contends that the Fund is still the better choice.
Monday, Sep. 22, 2003

Libya, Lockerbie, and the Long-Delayed Settlement
Relating to Pan Am Flight 103

FindLaw columnist Anthony Sebok details, and comments on, recent and past events relating to damages sought from Libya by the families of the victims of the 1988 Pam Am Flight 103 crash in Lockerbie, Scotland. Sebok explains why the settlement has been so long delayed, why it was successful now, why France has demanded that it be amended, and whether, in his view, France's position is correct.
Monday, Sep. 08, 2003

The Controversy Over Alabama's Ten Commandments Statue, And the Nature of Justified Civil Disobedience
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok comments on the controversial recent case in which the Alabama Supreme Court's chief justice -- who has now been suspended from his position -- refused to comply with a federal court order. The order commanded him to remove a large "Ten Commandments" statute from the courthouse; the justice refused. Drawing on Dr. Martin Luther King's criteria for justified civil disobedience, Sebok argues that the justice's argument for failing to comply with the federal court order is weak.
Monday, Aug. 25, 2003

A Recent Ruling By Judge Weinstein Suggests that In the Future, Lawsuits Against the Gun Industry May Succeed
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok analyzes a recent ruling by federal district judge Jack Weinstein dismissing a lawsuit by the NAACP against the gun industry. As Sebok explains, while the case may seem to be a loss for plaintiffs in gun tort suits, appearances can be deceiving, for the judge's ruling outlines ways plaintiffs might win in the future, and the evidence the suit unearthed may prove useful to future plaintiff.
Monday, Aug. 18, 2003

The New Asbestos Bill, Part Two:
Why This Crucial Legislation Is Facing Huge Obstacles

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses he Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2003 (FAIR). FAIR is a bill that, if enacted, would attempt to comprehensively address the asbestos litigation crisis. Sebok explains why FAIR seems likely to fail, and why he strongly believes that, despite the concerns that have been raised, it should definitely become law.
Monday, Aug. 04, 2003

The New Asbestos Bill, Part One:
Why It Is Imperative That It Pass

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the new bill that, if enacted, would attempt to comprehensively address the asbestos litigation crisis: the Fairness in Asbestos Injury Resolution Act of 2003 ("FAIR"). Sebok describes the crisis in the courts with respect to asbestos tort suits; explains how FAIR would change the way asbestos claims are treated; and argues that the bill should be enacted with bipartisan support.
Monday, Jul. 14, 2003

The Bill to Immunize the Gun Industry From Liability:
Why Every Senator, Pro- or Anti-Gun Control, Should Oppose It

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the bill -- passed by the House, and currently being considered by the Senate -- that would extend broad immunity to manufacturers, dealers, and distributors of weapons or ammunition. The immunity would protect them from suit on a variety of tort theories -- including negligence, products liability, and nuisance. Sebok explains why -- from the perspective of federalism, in particular -- he believes it's a bad idea.
Wednesday, Jul. 02, 2003

The Continuing Struggle Over Litigation Funding:
The Ohio Supreme Court Voids A Sale of An Interest In a Lawsuit

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a recent ruling involving the age-old concept of champerty -- the sale of an interest in a lawsuit. Sebok reviews both the case in favor of champerty, and the case the Ohio Supreme Court recently made against it, when it struck down a concert relating to a tort lawsuit.
Monday, Jun. 16, 2003

A Florida Appeals Decision That Zeroed Out the Largest Tort Judgment Ever:
Why It Was Rendered, and What It Means

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok explains the history and reasoning of last week's historic decision in a Florida class action litigation against Big Tobacco. In 2000, a Miami jury had awarded over 700,000 Florida smokers a total of $145 billion in punitive damages -- the largest tort verdict ever. Last week, an appeals court zeroed out that verdict. Sebok explains why.
Tuesday, May. 27, 2003

The Coming Tort Reform Juggernaut:
Are There Constitutional Limits on How Much the President and Congress Can Do In This Area?

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok, and FindLaw guest columnist and Vanderbilt law professor John Goldberg, discuss the constitutional issues raised by the numerous tort reform proposals currently being considered by Congress. The proposals address litigation on topic areas ranging from medical malpractice, to handgun manufacture, to asbestos, and more. As Sebok and Goldberg note, however, some may raise serious Due Process issues.
Monday, May. 19, 2003

A Recent Hearing on September 11 Tort Cases Raises Difficult Questions of Who Owed a Duty to Whom
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a recent set of oral arguments before federal district judge Alvin Hellerstein, which will be of great interest not only to attorneys, but also to families of 9/11 victims and those who have followed their stories. Judge Hellerstein is presiding over a set of consolidated cases that all raise the same question: Should anyone other than the terrorists and those who aided them be held liable for the attacks of September 11? The airlines and other defendants argue the legal answer is no.
Monday, May. 05, 2003

The Supreme Court's Recent Bombshell Punitive Damages Decision:
Its Important Holdings and Implications

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses several important facets of the influential punitive damages decision the Supreme Court issued earlier this month. The decision has gained fame for its strict instruction to judges to control ratios between punitive and compensatory damages awards; Sebok notes that it is also significant for another reason as well.
Monday, Apr. 21, 2003

The German Debate Over The War on Iraq:
Why Opposition Is So Deep and Widespread

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses why opposition to the war in Iraq is so great -- with polls showing opposition at close to 80%, and opposition coming from both the left and the right. Sebok explains how the war issue played out in the recent elections, and how Germans' tendency to stress the rule of law has made them especially concerned about U.N. approval or lack thereof.
Monday, Apr. 07, 2003

Why the Huge Recent Jury Verdict in a Tobacco Case May Be Unappealable
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a recent, $12 billion verdict against Philip Morris in an Illinois state court consumer fraud case. Sebok explains both why the verdict was on shaky ground, legally, and why -- due to the difficulty of posting so large an appeal bond -- Philip Morris may not be able to appeal it.
Monday, Mar. 31, 2003

How A New and Potentially Successful Lawsuit Relating to a 1921 Race Riot In Tulsa May Change the Debate Over Reparations for African-Americans
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a new African-American reparations lawsuit, brought against the State of Oklahoma and the city of Tulsa. In the suit, about 100 elderly plaintiffs seek compensation for losses relating to the infamous 1921 race riot in Tulsa. Will they win? And if they do, will that help other reparations suits, and the reparations movement in general? Sebok discusses the issues.
Monday, Mar. 10, 2003

Can an HMO Be Sued For Medical Malpractice Based on Its Coverage Decisions?
A Recent Federal Appeals Case Says Yes

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses an issue that has become all the more pressing in this era of HMOs: Can an HMO ever be sued for medical malpractice on the theory that it acted like a doctor when it made a particular coverage decision? Sebok dissects the logic of a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that addressed this very question.
Thursday, Feb. 27, 2003

The Enron Shareholders' Suit:
A Tale of Two Law Firms, One Dismissed and One Still A Defendant

In Part Two of a two-part series, FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok delves deeper into the district court opinion discussing accountants' and lawyers' liability in the Enron shareholders' suit. The opinion resulted in the dismissal of one law firm, while the other remained in the case. Sebok discusses the difference the judge pinpointed between the two firms, the judge's interpretation of a key Supreme Court precedent, and whether the distinction really makes sense.
Monday, Feb. 10, 2003

WITH MEDICAL MALPRACTICE ON THE PRESIDENT'S AGENDA, WHAT KIND OF BILL SHOULD CONGRESS PASS?
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses the reasons that may have prompted President Bush to recently make medical malpractice tort reform a priority; evaluates a popular proposal that would impose damage caps for "pain and suffering" awards; and suggests some systemic problems current reform efforts tend to ignore.
Monday, Jan. 27, 2003

THE RECENT OPINION IN THE ENRON SHAREHOLDERS' SUIT:
WILL IT REDEFINE LAWYERS' DUTIES WHEN IT COMES TO SECURITIES FRAUD?

In Part One of a two-part series, Brooklyn law professor and FindLaw columnist Anthony Sebok analyzes the complex, crucial issues raised by, and resolved in, federal district judge Melinda Harmon's recent opinion in the Enron shareholders' suit. The opinion deals, in particular, with the difficult issue of when law firms can be held liable for aiding in their clients' securities fraud; Judge Harmon dismissed claims against one firm that worked for Enron and allegedly committed fraud, but not another.
Monday, Jan. 13, 2003

WHY THE FUTURE OF PUNITIVE DAMAGES MAY ONLY GROW BRIGHTER:
COURTS MAY DISLIKE THEM, AS A STRIKING OHIO SUPREME COURT RULING SHOWS, BUT JURIES FEEL VERY DIFFERENTLY

Will President Bush and the Republican Congress kill off punitive damages for good? Don't hold your breath, warns FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok. Sebok explains why a recent Ohio Supreme Court decision indicates that while courts are uncomfortable with juries using punitive damages to "send a message," that phenomenon may only be growing.
Tuesday, Jan. 07, 2003

WHY KISSINGER WAS RIGHT TO RESIGN FROM THE 9/11 COMMISSION:
HIS SERVICE WAS NOT A GOOD IDEA EITHER FROM HIS OWN, OR THE FAMILIES', PERSPECTIVE

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok offers a new and original perspective on Henry Kissinger's reasons for resigning his position as head of the 9/11 Commission. Sebok focuses on the inevitable intersection between the Commission's investigation, and the discovery plaintiffs will seek in civil suits based on the events of 9/11 -- in which defendants may either be Kissinger's clients, or be similarly positioned to Kissinger's clients.
Monday, Dec. 16, 2002

WHEN A HOSPITAL IGNORES PARENTS' REQUEST TO LET THEIR NEWBORN DIE, IS IT A TORT?
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses an unusual Texas case, in which parents and a hospital clashed over the fate of a newborn. The parents' wish was for the hospital not to take extraordinary measures to continue the baby's life, since she would suffer from severe birth defects. However, the hospital (without going to court first) did so anyway. Who was right?
Monday, Dec. 02, 2002

NOW THAT REPUBLICANS HOLD POWER IN CONGRESS, WHAT TORT REFORMS WILL THEY ENACT?
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok argues that predictions of sweeping tort reform by the Republican Congress, after its success in mid-term elections, may be exaggerated. Sebok surveys the political landscape, and the risks of such reform, with respect to issues ranging from medical malpractice, to suits against HMOs, to the asbestos litigation crisis, and more.
Monday, Nov. 18, 2002

AN UPCOMING SUPREME COURT PUNITIVE DAMAGES CASE WILL DETERMINE HOW MUCH AN INDIVIDUAL STATE'S COURTS CAN AFFECT COMPANIES' NATIONWIDE CONDUCT
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses a punitive damages case that the Supreme Court will soon consider. The case, which will likely be very influential, poses the following question: May a state court use evidence of other bad acts by the defendant, in other cases and in other states, when calculating punitive damages? Sebok explains how the Court will likely analyze the case.
Monday, Oct. 28, 2002

THE U.S. SUPREME COURT DECIDES TO REVIEW AN ASBESTOS CASE, YET TO OBSERVERS, THE CORRECT RESULT SEEMS LIKE A NO BRAINER
FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony J. Sebok discusses a recent Supreme Court puzzle: why did the Supreme Court take a case that seems to raise an issue it already decided just a few years ago? The case is Norfolk & Western Railways Co. v. Ayers et. al., and the issue is whether, under federal common law, an already-injured asbestos plaintiff can sue for fear of getting cancer in the future.
Monday, Oct. 21, 2002

THE $28 BILLION VERDICT AGAINST PHILIP MORRIS:
ARE MULTIPLE PUNITIVE DAMAGES VERDICTS OVERPUNISHING BIG TOBACCO?

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses an important issue raised by the recent, record-setting punitive damages verdict against Philip Morris: Should courts intervene when a set of juries, in a set of cases against a particular industry, renders multiple, huge, redundant punitive damages verdicts -- and if so, how?
Monday, Oct. 07, 2002

KEN FEINBERG'S 9/11 VICTIMS' FUND RULES VERSUS CANTOR FITZGERALD'S CRITIQUE OF THE RULES:
WHAT DID CONGRESS INTEND TO BE "FULL COMPENSATION"?

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses Cantor Fitzgerald's criticisms of Special Master Ken Feinberg's plan for compensating 9/11 victims' families, pursuant to the Fund statute Congress enacted. Sebok addresses questions such as: Is Cantor Fitzgerald right that, in changing the compensation formula for the very highest-earning victims, Feinberg is acting contrary to law? What, exactly, was Congress's intent when it sought to offer "full compensation" to victims?
Monday, Sep. 23, 2002

DEALING WITH A POLITICAL ISSUE THROUGH THE TORT SYSTEM:
THE MAJOR NEW LAWSUIT REGARDING CHILDREN AND LEAD PAINT

First we had the lawsuits against Big Tobacco, and then the suit against Big Fat -- the fast-food industry. Now, as FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses, we have a Rhode Island lawsuit against "Big Paint" -- the corporations that manufactured lead paint that still exists in some houses today. Sebok compares and contrasts the Big Paint lawsuit with other similar suits, and explains the "public nuisance" theory under which the Rhode Island Attorney General is proceeding. Along the way, Sebok identifies some important trends in recent large-scale tort litigations invoking novel legal theories.
Thursday, Sep. 12, 2002

THE "BIG FAT" CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT AGAINST FAST FOOD COMPANIES:
CAN THE COMPARISON WITH ADDICTIVE DRUGS SUCH AS NICOTINE WORK?

In Part Two of a two-part series on the "big fat" class action suit against fast food companies, FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok explores in depth the possible parallels with the litigation against Big Tobacco. Can the argument that fast food is addictive win out? What about an argument that the fast food companies may have been less than honest about the health risks of fast food? Reserving ultimate judgment until all the facts are in, Sebok ventures a preliminary view of which arguments are likely to succeed, and which to fail, in the fast food suit.
Monday, Aug. 26, 2002

THE "BIG FAT" CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT AGAINST FAST FOOD COMPANIES:
IS IT MORE THAN JUST A STUNT?

In Part One of a two-part series, FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok weighs in on the much-derided lawsuit against the fast food companies. Sebok examines how each of the plaintiffs' possible claims might fare under applicable tort law -- moving from design defect claims, to failure to warn claims, to an additional ingenious theory the plaintiffs might use. Throughout, Sebok compares the "Big Fat" lawsuit to the "Big Tobacco" suits that preceded it, and explains why the comparison may, and may not, work.
Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2002

SHOULD AMERICAN COURTS PUNISH MULTINATIONAL COMPANIES FOR THEIR ACTIONS OVERSEAS?
MORE ON INDIRECT INJURIES AND THE ALIEN TORT CLAIMS ACT

In Part Two of a two-part series, FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses an extraordinary statute that has led to a number of controversial recent cases -- the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA). Using the recent ATCA case attempting to hold Swiss banks responsible for acts committed during apartheid in South Africa, Sebok mulls the important question of when, if ever, a private company can be held responsible for the torts of a government whose activities its loans funded.
Monday, Jul. 29, 2002

ENFORCING HUMAN RIGHTS IN AMERICAN COURTS WHEN THE INJURY IS INDIRECT:
WILL THE LAWSUIT BASED ON SOUTH AFRICAN APARTHEID PREVAIL?

In Part One of a two-part series on the Alien Tort Claims Act, FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses whether the ATCA can be used to address indirect injuries. As an example, he discusses the recent suit brought in American federal court under the ATCA alleging that three multinational companies should pay damages for the wrongs of South African apartheid, due to their dealings with or in the country during the apartheid era.
Monday, Jul. 15, 2002

TAGGING TORT REFORM ONTO A TERRORISM BILL:
WHY THE TERRORISM RISK INSURANCE ACT OF 2002 IS STILL STALLED IN CONGRESS, LIMITING OUR NATIONAL PREPAREDNESS

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Tony Sebok offers an interesting answer to a nagging question: Why hasn't Congress yet acted to address the problem of terrorism insurance's becoming prohibitively expensive for, or simply unavailable to, many after the September 11 attacks? Sebok's answer is that legislation that would address this question has been stalled in the House by Republicans' attempts to tack onto it certain tort reform provision. Sebok contends that these provisions are unfair to terrorism victims and, in any case, that they have nothing to do with the basic purpose of the legislation and therefore should be dropped.
Thursday, Jul. 04, 2002

LIBYA, LOCKERBIE, AND THE LAWYERS:
WHAT PRECEDENT WILL BE SET BY A POSSIBLE PAN AM FLIGHT 103 SETTLEMENT THAT ALSO INVOLVES LIFTING SANCTIONS?

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Anthony Sebok discusses an extremely unusual proposed settlement between the Libyan government and the families who are suing Libya for the deaths of their loved ones on Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. The settlement proposed by Libya, Sebok explains, would pay out in stages, contingent upon U.S. and U.N. sanctions being lifted, and upon the removal of Libya from the U.S.'s list of countries sponsoring terrorism. Sebok answers important questions such as: Why is Libya proposing a settlement, when any judgment against it would probably be unenforceable anyway?
Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2002

DOES A STATE HAVE A DUTY TO PROTECT A WOMAN FROM AN EX-HUSBAND WITH A VIOLENT HISTORY, WHEN THEY MEET IN COURT?
THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE LACK OF A DUTY TO RESCUE

FindLaw columnist and Brooklyn law professor Tony Sebok follows up his column regarding whether the government can be sued for pre-9/11 inaction, with another column about a different duty -- or non-duty -- to protect citizens. This week, Sebok discusses a California decision that held, in essence, that L.A. County had no duty to implement sufficient security systems in its courthouse, even if their absence led to the death of a woman whose ex-husband shot her there. Sebok discusses the claims the woman's daughter tried to make against the county, and why they failed.
Monday, Jun. 03, 2002

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