Monday, March 3, 2008

Blog Relocation

If you've been looking for the updates on this blog, my bad! While it's not yet completely done, the David v. Goliath blog has moved to our web page, Here's the url:

We're still tweaking it a bit as of today, Monday, March 3. But it's functional and up and full of continuing coverage of the issues that matter to consumers.

So I won't be posting here anymore. But I've continued at and look forward to seeing you there.

David F. Sugerman

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Comcast Gets Popped Right Here in River City

Goodness, what with all the Western Culinary Institute back and forth, I've missed a favorite sleeper story about Comcast. Last week, metropolitan Multnomah County's Mt. Hood Cable Commission announced that it was fining Comcast $43,899 for failing to notify Oregon subscribers about changes in their cable service.

Here's the url to the press release:

Comcast has roughly 150,000 subscribers in Multnomah County. In October 2007, Comcast unilaterally moved five popular basic cable channels to a more expensive digital tier. You want to continue MSNBC? You get to pay at least a dollar more per month. According to the Cable Commission, Comcast made the changes without giving 30-days notice to subscribers. Subscribers apparently received notice 10 to 20 days late.

Full disclosure: the author represents consumers in a case against Comcast over what the consumers claim were illegally charged late fees. One of the allegations in the case is that Comcast failed to provide timely notice before levying late fees.

Interestingly, the Cable Commission prefers that Comcast provide a credit to affected subscribers. But in the alternative, Comcast can pay the fine of $43,899 to the Cable Commission.

Should be interesting to see what happens next on this one.

David F. Sugerman
Paul & Sugerman, PC

Monday, February 11, 2008

CEC/Western Culinary-Consumers Taking Action

Wow, here's something cool about how the internet is providing consumers with new tools to fight corporate abuses.

I stumbled on a Facebook group devoted to consumers' concerns over CEC, the owner of many private trade schools, including Portland's Western Culinary Institute. The man behind the group is Charles Hobbs. I'm in awe of his energy and organizing ability. While I don't know his story directly, I'm guessing that he got burned by one of the CEC programs and decided to take action.

Here's his IADT Truth Advocates facebook page:

And if that's not enough, the page reports that CBS is coming out with a news piece on CEC and some of the claims made by consumers.

It's refreshing to see Mr. Hobbs and others using the internet in a constructive way to provide information to consumers. The networking process provides a great tool in fighting those businesses that seem committed to doing things the wrong way. Nothing like good old fashioned information to help consumers make smart choices.

David F. Sugerman
Paul & Sugerman, PC

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Looking for Western Culinary Institute Witnesses

I have been retained to investigate possible consumer fraud and breach of contract claims against Western Culinary Institute. Along with my friend and colleague, Portland attorney Brian Campf, I am interested in talking to students (current and past) of WCI about their experiences there.

Feel free to contact me:

David F. Sugerman
Paul & Sugerman, PC

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Oregon Supreme Court Affirms Verdict Against Philip Morris-Again

Today, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed for a second time the verdict rendered by a Portland jury in 1999 in favor of the family of Jesse Williams. Full disclosure: the author of this blog represented on a pro bono basis the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association, one of the amicus curiae in the case.

Nine years after a jury found that Philip Morris had acted with wanton disregard for Jesse Williams, the Oregon Supreme Court had to re-visit the case a second time because the U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case.

In the nuts and bolts department, the case came down to a simple rule in Oregon. A party's request for a jury instruction must accurately summarize the law in all respects or it should not be given.

At trial, Philip Morris requested a jury instruction on punitive damages that was not given. It was not given because it misstated the law. Every Oregon lawyer knows that's the end of the game. Yet Philip Morris still insisted that it was entitled to some sort of special treatment.

The bigger news is that this was a large punitive damage verdict. Juries assess punitive damages only when a defendant has engaged in outrageous misconduct. There was plenty of that in this case--destroyed documents, falsified and hidden research, junk science used to create a controversy about whether smoking was harmful. All of it undertaken by Philip Morris. So it should come as no surprise that the jury did the right thing.

The story that rarely gets told is that 60 percent of punitive damages assessed in Oregon cases go a crime victims' assistance fund. Punitive damages are assessed based upon the misconduct at issue. They also have to be significant enough to teach the bad actor a lesson. It's a little bit like parenting. A little child gets told no when she misbehaves. The teenager that takes the car on an alcohol-fueled joy ride needs to suffer far greater consequences. That's because a wayward toddler needs gentle correction, and a wayward teen needs a big stick.

In much the same way, Philip Morris only pays heed if the assessed amount crosses into the tens or hundreds of millions. Everything else is just noise.

In a perfect world, Philip Morris would pay the judgment and get on with its legal business in a way that is acceptable to society. I don't think anyone expects Philip Morris to do anything other than to try once again to get its friends on the Supreme Court to bail it out. Let's hope that the Supreme Court stays with the rule of law instead of applying the perverse version of the golden rule. Say it with me now: The guy with the gold makes the rule. If the U.S. Supreme Court reads the Oregon court's opinion and follows the existing rules, the Williams family will see justice.

David F. Sugerman
Paul & Sugerman, PC

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Vytorin-More Details on Consumer Claims

For consumers who have taken Vytorin, here's a good summary of the problem from the New York Times:

Interestingly, the companies have apparently known since April 2006 that their higher-priced drugs were not more effective than generics. But they sat on that information until Congress pressured them to release their study this month. In the meantime, the manufacturers continued to sell the higher-priced less effective drugs.

I don't routinely pay close attention to such things, but I have to wonder whether the companies ran some of those glossy TV ads for Vytorin. Sure would be interesting to see what they said. I suppose that will be part of the discussion as the various consumer class actions move forward.

One other thing. A google search also turned up a fairly hostile editorial in Wall Street Journal. According to the writer, these cases are inappropriate because no one has been injured. I guess the Journal is bound to side with its friends on Wall Street and not consumers. But you would think that even the Journal's editorial writers could appreciate the obvious point.

Taking money from consumers by way of deceptive trade practices IS an injury. Sure, it's not a big deal to the well-heeled at the Journal. But of course, if we're talking about $30 per month per person, and you're selling this thing everyday to consumers across the nation, that's a lot of money. Maybe it looks too much like business as usual to the Journal?

David F. Sugerman
Paul & Sugerman, PC

Saturday, January 26, 2008

FDA Investigating Vytorin

Coming on the revelations that Vytorin is no more effective than generics, the FDA announced that it would investigate the drug and its manufacturers,Merck & Co Inc. and and Schering-Plough Corp.

Here is the url for more information on FDA action:

The press accounts don't specify the scope of the investigation, but based upon an earlier study released this month, it appears that the companies knew that Vytorin was no more effective than generic drugs in treating cholesterol issues.

Consumer laws, like Oregon's Unlawful Trade Practices Act give consumers a way to obtain refunds when a drug manufacturer falsely represents that its new drug is more effective than a less expensive generic. While there is certainly more to this story, it looks as if consumers are filing class actions in multiple states.

David F. Sugerman
Paul & Sugerman, PC