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Courts & legal news weekly roundup 

Welcome to the weekly roundup of the latest news from the courts and the legal industry. Each week, we bring you a quick summary of significant developments, new trends, and interesting articles. 

This week’s highlights 

  • This summer’s hottest legal trend? Class action lawsuits against sunscreen manufacturers 
  • Congress proposes legal aid get massive federal funding boost 
  • Morgan Stanley Chief Legal Officer: “I strongly believe firms that return to the office will have an advantage” 
  • O’Melveny Associate helps to unravel $2 billion lawsuit with two-word discovery find 
  • Amazon ends use of arbitration for customer disputes 

This summer’s hottest legal trend? Class action lawsuits against sunscreen manufacturers 

“Johnson & Johnson’s July 14 recall of five sunscreen products found to contain dangerous levels of benzene only scratches the surface, say lawyers, who are preparing for more lawsuits—and more recalls.” (Law.com) 

Following Johnson & Johnson’s recall of several sunscreen products found to contain dangerously high levels of a carcinogenic compound, lawyers are preparing for more recalls and more lawsuits. That’s according to a special report this week on law.com. 

The J&J recall followed an investigation by an independent pharmacy that found high levels of benzene in more than 78 popular sunscreens. Several suits have been filed so far, all focused on consumer fraud, unjust enrichment, and breach-of-warranty claims rather than personal injuries.  

Congress proposes legal aid get massive federal funding boost 

“The Legal Services Corporation could get an additional $135 million in its pockets, the largest single increase in the legal aid organization’s history, following an approval of funding legislation by the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations.” (The Indiana Lawyer) 

A key congressional budget committee has approved legislation that includes $600 million for the Legal Services Corp. The bill includes $135 million more than the LSC’s current appropriation, which would represent the largest single increase in the organization’s history.  

“This funding increase is particularly critical to address the surge in legal needs, such as unemployment claims, evictions, and incidents of domestic violence, arising from the pandemic,” said LSC President Ronald S. Flagg. The bulk of the funding will go to funding grants to local legal aid agencies.  

Morgan Stanley Chief Legal Officer: “I strongly believe firms that return to the office will have an advantage” 

“According to a letter obtained by Law.com, Morgan Stanley’s CLO, Eric Grossman, told lawyers Thursday of the need to be back in the office in order to develop young lawyers’ skills, deliver excellent legal services to the bank and see a ‘performance advantage.’” (Corporate Counsel) 

The head in-house lawyer at global financial giant Morgan Stanley delivered a stark message to lawyers this week: return to the office or face missing out on working with his company. Eric Grossman, Morgan Stanley’s Chief Legal Officer was writing in a letter obtained by Corporate Counsel magazine. 

“I feel the need to sound a warning in light of what I have generally observed about the lack of urgency to return lawyers to the office, and the various statements and policies I have seen about the ability of your lawyers (both partners and associates) to work a significant, and in some cases a majority, of their time remotely,” the letter said. 

O’Melveny Counsel helps to unravel $2 billion lawsuit with two-word discovery find 

“In an inspiring tale for those toiling away in the e-trenches: a discovery sleuth who struck gold, unraveling a billion-dollar case with just two words buried in an innocuous document.” (Reuters) 

A corporate lawyer firm was able to thwart a multi-billion-dollar qui tam case against the Lennar Corp. when she found a California real estate developer’s name on a change-of-counsel form. 

Reuters columnist Jenna Greene has the story on the find by O’Melveny & Myers counsel Megan Smith. Greene described Smith as “a discovery sleuth who struck gold, unraveling a billion-dollar case with just two words buried in an innocuous document.” 

Amazon ends use of arbitration for customer disputes 

“Amazon told customers this week that it would no longer require them to resolve their legal complaints involving the technology giant through arbitration, a significant retreat from a strategy that often helps companies avoid liability.” (New York Times) 

Online retail giant Amazon said this week that anyone using its services would now have to pursue disputes with the company in federal court, rather than going through the sometimes-secretive arbitration process.  

Amazon has been hit with more than 75,000 arbitration claims in recent months alleging that devices such as its Alexa assistant were recording customers without their consent. The claims are part of a new legal tactic aimed at forcing corporations back into the courts by forcing them to engage with, and pay to defend, huge numbers of arbitrations. 

Author

  • Richard Heinrich

    Richard is Vice President of Sales and Marketing at InfoTrack. He has worked with law firms for more than a decade to advise on adapting to regulatory and technological change. He writes about the courts, civil procedure, and developing trends that may affect law firm operations.