Keep your finger on the legal world's pulse
COVID-19 liability: California Supreme Court gives employers a pass
Employers in California are not legally responsible for preventing the spread of COVID-19 from their employees to the employees' family members, according to a ruling by the California Supreme Court. The court found that workers' compensation laws do not preclude such claims, but companies cannot be held legally responsible for preventing such infections due to the burden it would place on them, the courts, and society as a whole. The ruling came in response to a federal lawsuit brought by a woman who alleged that her husband's employer was responsible for her hospitalization after he brought the virus home. The decision is seen as a major win for employers and business organizations in the state, who argued that allowing such claims would lead to an unmanageable flow of COVID-19 lawsuits. The ruling will inform the decision of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case.
High-stakes SEO battle: Law firms bet millions on Google searches
National law firms are investing $10m to $12m annually each to direct Google searches to websites that they control in an effort to find new clients to file lawsuits against insurance companies, according to 4Warn, a New Hampshire-based data analytics company. Joseph Petrelli, co-founder of 4Warn, said that the surge in new litigation created by search-engine optimization techniques led directly to the insolvency of several Florida insurance carriers. His company provides consulting services to insurers to mitigate against what Petrelli calls "technology enabled claims instigation." Petrelli refused to identify the law firms that are spending on Google search returns. He presented his findings to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Market Regulation and Consumer Affairs Committee in March. He said regulators were interested, but most told him that there was little they can do because there was no evidence that anyone was violating the law. Lex Machina reported last month that there was a 30% increase in the number of lawsuits involving insurers in federal court since last year. The number of federal insurance lawsuits has been rising steadily since 2017, Lex Machina said.
California bar leaders seek $107 fee increase to protect services
California bar leaders have requested a $107 licensing fee increase to protect services. The proposed status quo charge of $390 for active lawyers and $97.40 for inactive licensees is a blow to state bar leadership, who had pressed for the fee hike to cover salary increases, staff vacancies, reserves, and lease costs. However, state Sen. Tom Umberg has stated that he and his colleagues are not interested in raising fees in 2024 due to the bar's failure to act on disciplinary complaints against lawyer Tom Girardi. The latest version of the annual funding bill, SB 40, includes provisions such as the state bar recommending changes to the bar exam and admissions process, allowing applicants to access their test results electronically, and changes to the bar's process for revealing disciplinary investigations. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee next week.

Disney accused of 'systematically' paying women less than men in California
Walt Disney is accused in a lawsuit of systematically underpaying women in California. The court filing claims the company's female employees in the state earned $150m less than their male peers over a period of eight years. Analysis of the company’s human resource data from April 2015 through December 2022 has found that female Disney employees were paid roughly 2% less than male counterparts, the filing said. "The plaintiffs' assertions about an alleged pay gap between women and men are simply false, which we will demonstrate through the litigation," said Shawna M. Swanson, associate general counsel and head of the employment law function for Disney. Lower pay for women in California would breach the state's Equal Pay Act and the Fair Employment & Housing Act.
Volkswagen trial: Plaintiffs' lawyers' strategy backfires
Plaintiffs' lawyers who opted out of a $15bn settlement with Volkswagen AG over the "dirty diesel" scandal have faced a costly defeat in trial. The group mostly lost their cases and now have to pay VW's costs for the trial. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer criticized the lawyers for requesting nearly $625,000 in fees despite the "abysmal" results. The lawyers' strategy of seeking a "huge payday" through punitive damages backfired, as they ignored the true value of the cases. The judge ruled that the lawyers should be paid significantly less than their request and instructed them to propose new fees.
Casify AI: The defense attorney's time-saver
Casify AI, a new feature within the Casify case management system, uses ChatGPT to rapidly search and find information in various case evidence, such as police reports, videos, and audio recordings. The tool saves attorneys hours of manual review and provides instant access to the information they need. Casify AI streamlines case analysis, allowing defense attorneys to focus on crucial elements of their client's defense. With its advanced AI capabilities, Casify AI can answer specific questions about charges, sentencing, and the nature of offenses.

Kirkland & Ellis tops M&A advisers list
Kirkland & Ellis emerged as the top M&A adviser in the first half of the year, with a market share of 17.8%. The firm advised on 282 global deals worth $149bn, expanding its dominance in the M&A market. Deal activity reached $1.6tn through June, down almost 40% from last year. High interest rates and regulatory pressure have dampened dealmaking. However, Kirkland's success can be attributed to its work in the health and energy sectors. Private equity deals have also declined, with sponsors being more cautious due to the reset in valuations and high interest rates. Despite this, Kirkland continues to work on large private equity deals. The FTC is closely scrutinising private equity deals to understand their impact on market consolidation.
Texas law firms see 8.9% growth in lawyer head count in 2022
The 100 firms with the most lawyers in Texas experienced an overall growth of 8.9% in 2022, with midsize homegrown Texas firms and out-of-state firms contributing to the increase. Vinson & Elkins topped the Texas Top 100 chart, closely followed by Jackson Walker. The growth in Texas occurred despite a slowdown in some transactional practices. Wade Cooper, managing partner of Jackson Walker, attributed the firm's growth to lateral partners and associates. Other out-of-state firms, such as O'Melveny & Myers, Kirkland & Ellis, and Sidley Austin, also saw double-digit growth in lawyer head count. Texas-founded firms, including Mayer LLP and Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, also experienced significant increases. Overall, 74% of the 100 firms saw growth in lawyer head count.

Sharp rise in 'climate washing' litigation that challenges corporate green claims
There has been a sharp rise in "climate washing" litigation in the past two years, according to a report by London's Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. The term refers to cases that challenge companies over misinformation or misleading green claims. In the last year, 26 climate washing cases were filed globally against companies, indicating a significant increase from previous years. Lawyers, representing activists and others concerned about greenhouse gas emissions, have filed a total of 2,341 climate litigation cases worldwide, with the majority of cases filed in the United States. The report highlights that many of these cases challenge the truthfulness of corporate climate commitments. While the total number of climate litigation cases dipped in the past year, the diversity of cases is growing. The report also notes a rise in "ESG backlash" litigation in the United States. Republican politicians in the U.S. are campaigning against businesses incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, arguing that this breaches fiduciary duty. However, businesses and investors argue that their commitment to reaching net-zero emissions goals is the best approach for delivering investment returns and reducing risk.


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