New York Asbestos Court Goes from Worst to Second Worst in U.S. in Latest ‘Judicial Hellholes’ Report



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 17, 2015
Contact: Phoebe Stonbely

New York Asbestos Court Goes from Worst to Second Worst in U.S. in Latest ‘Judicial Hellholes’ Report

National Group Cites the Conviction of Speaker Silver as a ‘Reason for Hope,’ Slides NY Court to #2 Spot

ALBANY – In their annual “Judicial Hellholes” report, the American Tort Reform Foundation has named the New York City Asbestos Litigation court (NYCAL) as the second worst Judicial Hellhole in the nation. Noting the recent arrest and conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the report moved the NYCAL from worst to second worst. “With Silver perhaps headed to prison and the pro-plaintiff judge who headed New York City’s asbestos docket retired and replaced, the Big Apple may begin to bob up from the bottom of the barrel,” said the report.

Local lawsuit reform advocate Tom Stebbins, from the Albany-based Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, says the incremental improvement is nothing to crow about. “Look, it took the entire state of California to knock a single New York court off the perch as the worst in the nation,” said Stebbins. “That’s nothing to be proud of.”

Observing the corruption conviction of Sheldon Silver, Stebbins urged that although some faces have changed, others have not, and key decisions are still pending. “At the request of Weitz and Luxenberg, the previous head judge consolidated cases, ended a long-standing agreement, and considered reintroducing punitive damages. Until we have resolution on those issues, it is hard for anyone to say if the court has truly improved.”

A copy of the report can be found here:

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The Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York (LRANY) is a nonpartisan not-for-profit association of businesses, professionals, healthcare providers, membership organizations, taxpayers, and concerned citizens committed to changing New York’s legal system to help create jobs and energize our economy.


Legal Newsline – With Sheldon Silver Convicted, N.Y. Legal Reform Sees Chance at More Success

S1000050Today, Legal Newline published a story on the hope for true legal reform in New York post Sheldon Silver’s conviction, titled: ‘With Sheldon Silver Convicted, N.Y. Legal Reform Sees Chance at More Success’. This article quoted LRANY’s Executive Director, Tom Stebbins, on the issue multiple times – finishing the piece with: “This is a call to action”.

An excerpt:

 “The conviction of former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver could help legal reform efforts in the state.

Silver was found guilty of corruption by a federal jury on Nov. 30 for a scheme in which he steered state research funds to a Columbia University doctor studying mesothelioma in exchange for referrals to the doctor’s patients.

Silver could then refer those patients to the asbestos firm Weitz & Luxenberg, where he was also employed.

According to Tom Stebbins, the executive director of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, Silver’s conviction marks a ‘new day in Albany.’

‘Over the course of decades, legal reform has been a nonstarter in Albany… We can finally achieve some of the legal reforms that will put New York back in line with the rest of the country,’ Stebbins told Legal Newsline.”

Read Full Article



The Most Outrageous Lawsuit of 2015 – Vote Today!

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LRANY Letter, The Journal News – Fight Corruption, Reform Scaffold Law

tom speaking lobby day scaffoldToday, The Journal News published a letter written by LRANY’s Executive Director, Thomas B. Stebbins. This letter focused on the opportunity for Scaffold Law reform to become a reality in the wake of the Sheldon Silver conviction.

An excerpt:

“If Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature are serious about expunging the corruption of the Sheldon Silver-era, they must look to reform the ridiculous trial lawyer-giveaway known as the ‘Scaffold Law.’

The Scaffold Law exists only in New York state and, confusingly, does not necessarily have anything to do with scaffolds. What it does is hold contractors and property owners automatically liable in a lawsuit, even if, in the words of the high court, ‘they had nothing to do with the plaintiff’s accident.'”

Read Full Letter


LRANY Letter, The Buffalo News – Common-Sense Legal Reforms Are Long Overdue in New York

ps bw picThe Buffalo News recently published an article written by LRANY’s Phoebe Stonbely highlighting the opportunity for common sense changes following the
conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

An excerpt:

“Though justice has been served with the corruption conviction of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the injustices from his decades in power in Albany remain.

New York is left in shambles from lawsuits and litigation. Silver let the trial lawyer agenda control New York government for years. After decades of trial lawyer control, New York is home to the highest medical liability payouts, the highest construction insurance costs, an asbestos court dubbed the No. 1 ‘judicial hellhole’ in the country, and the state is rated highest for ‘litigation risk.'”

Read Full Letter Here

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LRANY Letter, The Poughkeepsie Journal – Silver Conviction Should Further Push Albany to Reform Policies

LRANY 400PortraitsThe Poughkeepsie Journal recently published a letter written by LRANY Executive Director, Thomas Stebbins, outlining the necessary steps our legislature must take in the wake of the Sheldon Silver conviction to enact common sense in Albany.

An excerpt:

“After decades of Albany servicing the trial lawyer special interests, the Sheldon Silver era ended this week with his conviction on corruption charges.

Sadly, we are left with a state ravaged by lawsuits and litigation. New York has the highest medical insurance costs in the nation, the highest construction insurance costs and an asbestos court which was recently named America’s worst.”

Read Full Letter


LRANY Letter, Albany Times Union – Cleanse Agenda of Trial Lawyers

Lawsuit_1-6236The Albany Times Union recently published a letter to the editor written by LRANY’s Thomas Stebbins highlighting the opportunity for common sense reforms in the wake of Sheldon Silver’s conviction.

An excerpt:

“For years, it has been an open secret in Albany that the trial lawyers controlled the Assembly. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was known to work as “of counsel” for powerhouse tort law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, and many in Albany, including other legislators, believed Mr. Silver would not buck the interests of his employer.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo himself publicly stated that the trial lawyers were the ‘single most powerful political force in Albany.'”

Read Full Letter Here


Most Outrageous Lawsuit of the Month, November 2015 – Taylor Swift Sued for $42 Million

This month, Phoebe Stonbely discusses a lawsuit that centers around one of America’s most loved pop stars, Taylor Swift.

Musician, Jesse Braham, filed a $42 million copyright suit in California district court claiming the lyrics to Swift’s hit song “Shake it Off” were stolen from a song he wrote titled “haters gonna hate,” claiming the songs had a 92% similarity.

The judge in this case did not agree, quickly dismissing the lawsuit and even quoting some TaySwift in her dismissal.



Gotham Gazette Op-Ed – After Silver: Legal Reform is Ethics Reform

The Gotham Gazette published an Op-Ed today written by LRANY’s Execuitve Director, Thomas Stebbins. The Op-Ed focuses on the recent conviction of Sheldon Silver and the necessary reforms which must now be advanced now that his influence is no longer ruling Albany.

An excerpt:

“For decades it was an open secret in Albany that the New York Assembly was functionally controlled by the trial lawyers. Sheldon Silver, the former Assembly Speaker, was known to have a lucrative “of counsel” position with the powerhouse trial lawyer firm Weitz & Luxenberg, and most Albany insiders believed that Mr. Silver would not do anything to jeopardize that income. Governor Cuomo himself stated that the trial lawyers were the “single most powerful political force in Albany,” no doubt in partial reference to Mr. Silver’s position as an employee at a trial lawyer firm.

With the trial and subsequent conviction of Mr. Silver on corruption charges, we now know that the former speaker did virtually no real legal work to earn his “of counsel” income. What he did do was carry the legislative water for the trial lawyers, and we as New Yorkers are left with a state ravaged by lawsuits and litigation.”

Read Full Op-Ed


CBS 6 TV Interview: Lawmakers, Government Watchdogs Push for Reform after Silver Verdict

Watch Tom Stebbins discuss Silver’s conviction and opportunity for reform with Albany’s CBS 6 Kimberly Howard:

See Full Story Here