Lawyer: WikiLeaks ‘gold mine’ for personal injury suits
A former Navy lawyer, now a civil litigator, predicts that the massive WikiLeaks document dump will be “a gold mine” for personal injury suits against war-zone contractors.
“I see this database as a real resource for U.S. plaintiffs’ lawyers who are already trolling for potential clients -- anyone who is named as having been injured, service member families who happen to reside in their state, etcetera,” Tara Lee, a partner at DLA Piper, which represents aerospace and defense contractors.
“To a personal injury plaintiffs lawyer, those are all potential clients in a tort suit against a contractor,” she said. ”So, for the ambulance chasers of the battlefield, the WikiLeaks database is a goldmine.”
The lawyers aren’t necessarily looking to get their clients their day in court, said Lee, a 1991 U.S. Naval Academy graduate. Far from it: Because of litigation costs, most defendants want to settle right away.
“Even for defendants who have done no wrong, what the plaintiffs' lawyers are often hoping for is a quick ‘nuisance value’ settlement,” Lee said.
Two firms specializing in personal injury suits did not respond to a request for comment.
But a third took sharp issue with Lee.
"I resent the implication that this leaked information provides any source of clients for plaintiff lawyers,"Tommy Fibich, founding partner of a Houston law firm that specializes in civil litigation.
"My service member and contractor clients contacted my firm because they needed trial representation. They sought us because of our reputation. Although I represent a number of clients in this area I don’t solicit clients."
"It is not unpatriotic to seek redress against corporations that have put their profits and convenience above their responsibility to our fighting men and women, their civilian contract employees or foreign citizens," the firm says on its Web site.
Arbitration isn’t a cheap alternative either, as the families of four Blackwater contractors who were captured and killed by insurgents in Iraq in 2005 can attest.
In early July the Virginian-Pilot newspaper reported that “in the latest twist in the long-running case, the arbitration proceedings have been terminated over nonpayment of fees and expenses to the arbitrators.”
They are trying to get the case back in court in North Carolina, the paper said.
| July 29, 2010; 6:15 PM ET
Categories: Financial/business, Lawandcourts, Military
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