Retainer lawyers, who represent people who have received faulty or defective products, are increasingly appealing to courts to stop frivolous litigation.
“If you’re an employee and you receive an injury, you should be able to get compensation for it, and if you have a defective product, you’re going to have to pay it,” says Marc D. Paretsky, who teaches law at Columbia Law School.
Parellec, for example, claims that his lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, which he claims caused his neck to break, is “absolutely ridiculous”.
In August, Parelletc won a settlement with Johnson &s; Johnson that included a $1.8m payout.
The case was brought by a disgruntled former Johnson employee who said Parellets retainer did not cover his injury.
According to the settlement agreement, the Johnson & amp; Johnson “failed to provide the retainer” in time.
Johnson &: Johnson &amm;s response to Parelles lawsuit included a clause allowing Parelleck to “submit a claim to a third party or an independent third party” for damages.
P&:s retainer includes a clause that requires Parellett to pay “any reasonable damages to P & s attorney”.
Parelleck says he is not “worried about the company paying me any money” because “I have been a very good lawyer”.
But the company also paid him $9,800 in attorney’s fees and court costs.
In his suit, Pears says he believes Johnson &am;s retainers should be cancelled and he should not have to deal with Johnson&s legal team to defend himself against the claims of others.
He says he has been able to pay for a car repair and a home improvement through his retainer.
“The retainer has helped me out tremendously,” he says.
Pears, a former corporate marketing manager for Johnson &ing; Johnson and his wife have also hired a lawyer, John H. Fisk, to represent them.
His lawsuit is not the first time a disgruntled employee has used retainer law to win a case.
Fisk, a partner at the law firm DLA Piper, won a case against Johnson&am; Johnson for failing to pay an injured employee for medical care.
While the case involved a lawsuit against the company, Fisk says his retainers are not related.
For example, the law states that a retainer should not be a contract or a contractually binding agreement, Fisskopf says.
It should be a statement of facts and a legal document.
That is a way of saying, I will pay you whatever you want.
Instead, he says, “it’s a way to bully your way out of a contract, a contractual obligation, a legal obligation”.
“There is no need for a lawyer to get involved in these disputes,” Fisk adds.
Retainer lawyers are increasingly seeking to stop lawsuits and settle cases without having to seek permission from courts or pay any damages.
They argue that if a court approves a settlement agreement that doesn’t specify a specific amount, they should be allowed to proceed with the case.
The lawyer can then go ahead and file a complaint.
DLA Piper has filed more than 50 such cases against Johnson’s products.
One of those cases, against the manufacturer, J&ers, was settled out of court.
It was awarded $10.2m.
Last year, the firm settled another case with Johnson for $7.5m, although the company is still seeking to collect an additional $5m.
“A company can’t be a victim of a wrongful death claim unless it has taken action to prevent that claim from becoming a wrongful claim,” Fisskowski says.
“There’s no way you can do that if you’re a company that has not taken any steps to prevent wrongful death.”
Johnson&&’s response to the Pears case did not include a clause barring a claim from being filed.
But Fisk points out that Johnson &ames response to his lawsuit was to “notify us that you will file a claim in a timely manner and that you are prepared to defend this claim”.
Johnson’s lawyers, he adds, “will be prepared to respond to your claim”.
Parellez’s case is not over yet, however.
This week, a federal judge in Florida rejected Johnson&ams response to a request to dismiss the case, which is why he is seeking an appeal.
As part of his decision, the judge also dismissed the claim by Parelleeck.
However, the appeals court is expected to decide in the coming days if Parelletteck should be granted an extension on his settlement.
(Reporting by Emily L. Oates