Friday, November 1, 2013

Is it misconduct for a lawyer to ignore rule against including a claim for a specific dollar amount in a complaint?

Eearlier this week the New York Daily News reported on a recently filed claim alleging that energy drink Red Bull contributed to the death of a 33 year old man.  The story's headline read: “Brooklyn man killed by drinking Red Bull, $85 million lawsuit alleges.”    Claims that energy drinks can contribute to someone's death have been circulating for some time now, so the allegation is not new.  (For more on that go here.)
What is interesting (for the purposes of this blog) is the fact that the complaint specifically asks for $85 million in compensation.  This is interesting because the practice of asking for a specific dollar amount in a complaint has been banned in New York (where the case was filed) for 23 years.  And yet, as NY blogger Eric Turkewitz adds, "some lawyers still put that clause in. Why? There are only two possible reasons . . . : Either the lawyer is ignorant of the law or the lawyer is deliberately violating it in the hunt for headlines. It’s your call as to which is worse, ignorance or a potential ethics issue." 

Eric's post is worth reading here.  He goes one to argue, correctly in my view, that the emphasis on the amount of the claim detracts from the seriousness of the issue.  The story now becomes one about how much money the plaintiff's lawyer wants instead of one about whether a product is in fact dangerous or whether the defendant should change the way it markets the product.