This week plaintiffs’ lawyers from across the United States landed on foreign soil – Montreal, Canada, to be precise – to receive their marching orders at the American Association for Justice’s (aka the Trial Lawyers) Annual Conference. The AAJ rallied their troops for four days of galas and fun by night and strategizing and training by day on the latest money-making lawsuits.
For the uninitiated, AAJ’s conference schedule is an eye-opener. The kick-off was a “Mass Torts Boot Camp” on Friday, where those new to the AAJ were given their basic training on how to handle plaintiffs and win mass tort cases. With these new skills in hand, the trial lawyers could pick from a plethora of litigation sessions on the schedule – which reads more like a medical intake form than a legal conference agenda.
If there is a way to score big from a pharmaceutical lawsuit, the AAJ had it on the agenda. Each session was a “how to” for turning a drug or medical device side effect into a cash cow lawsuit. The focus is all about huge payouts the trial lawyers will receive from million dollar settlements – and it’s written all over this conference schedule. The actual plaintiffs appear less of a concern.
On Saturday morning, the attendees could start their day off with a metal hip implant litigation meeting. Or they could get their Continuing Legal Education credits from a testosterone therapy litigation session. The conference continued with litigation sessions on Risperdal, Benzene/leukemia, fungal meningitis, Zimmer Medical Devices, Fosamax, and more.
But the opportunity-seeking does not stop at the pharmaceutical counter. The schedule also included litigation sessions on motor vehicle collisions, traumatic brain injuries, and cell phone radiation. With these depressing topics to cover, it is a wonder that the theme for the conference was not “Doom and Gloom.”
To complete their litigation arsenal, attendees could also join a session on “Presenting and Attacking Expert Testimony” or “Toxic, Environmental, and Pharmaceutical Torts”. After a few full days of this unpleasant training, the plaintiffs’ lawyers head back stateside, with their eyes on the next big payout.
While it might be humorous that AAJ members attend a conference that seems to have been planned by the Addams family, the outcome of all of this litigation has serious consequences. According to a study by NERA Economic Consulting, the U.S. has the developed world’s most costly liability system when measured as a percentage of GDP. It is fifty percent more expensive than the UK system, twice as expensive as the German liability system and five times more costly than the Japanese system. And only about half of all dollars spent on our civil justice system go to the actual victims. Meanwhile, companies such as pharmaceutical makers must factor the cost of mega lawsuits into their prices. In fact, a major manufacturer once reported spending more on defending against lawsuits than on research and development.
Lawsuits can also impact a state’s economy. Research shows that a bad litigation environment can hurt a state’s ability to attract new business and investment.
The AAJ might have justice in their name, but looking at their conference suggests their primary goal is self-enrichment. After this week’s “boot camp” training, the plaintiffs’ lawyers are fired up and ready to head back to America to grab that next lawsuit opportunity.