Honda Hybrid Settlement – Only the Lawyers Like It

I filed my second objection to the Honda Civic Hybrid Settlement this year, and they were nice enough to send me a CD of all the other letters that were submitted to the court.


  • There were 3 letters in favor of the settlement
  • There were 45 letters opposing the settlement

The Supporting Letters Were From

  • The lawyers, Jonathan Cuneo and Nicholas Chimicles (who also filed for fee reimbursement of $2.332M and $2.995M, respectively).
  • The mediator of the original settlement, Howard Wiener.
  • Rust Consulting, paid for by American Honda Motor.


  • The lawyers who are getting paid millions love it.
  • Not a single member of the settlement class wrote in favor of the settlement.
  • Honda just wants to pay this ransom and move on.

I’m under no illusion that my letter will have any effect.

It is a measurable fact that Cuneo and Chimicles are poor negotiators. Although damages are in the thousands of dollars per individual, they could only negotiate a $100 settlement for us. This is in spite of the fact that another member of the class, Heather Peters, was able to successfully negotiate $9,867 for herself – nearly 100 times more than Cuneo and Chimicles.

Sadly, Cuneo and Chimicles will not be fired for their lackluster performance. Instead, for this one case, they will each be paid a multi-million dollar sum greater than the average American will earn in his entire lifetime (median salary * 45 years).

H.264 – Who Holds the Patents?

H.264 is in the news because Google Chrome won’t support it natively and instead will use WebM, an allegedly open and free video alternative.

Who gets paid when you license H.264?  It’s managed by MPEG-LA.  They have a 70-page list of patents which allegedly contribute to H.264.  If you hear a complaint about Google, Mozilla, and Opera’s stance on not supporting H.264, consult this list to see if the complainer has a conflict of interest.

H.264 Patent Holders

Apple Inc.
Cisco Systems Canada IP Holdings Company†
The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York
DAEWOO Electronics Corporation
Dolby Laboratories Licensing Corporation
Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute
France Télécom, société anonyme
Fraunhofer‐Gesellschaft zur Foerderung der angewandten Forschung e.V.
Fujitsu Limited
Hewlett‐Packard Company
Hitachi, Ltd.
Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.
LG Electronics Inc.
Microsoft Corporation
Mitsubishi Electric Corporation
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation
Panasonic Corporation†
Polycom, Inc.
Robert Bosch GmbH
Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.
Sedna Patent Services, LLC
Sharp Corporation
Siemens AG
Sony Corporation
Tandberg Telecom AS
Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson
Toshiba Corporation
Victor Company of Japan, Limited

Sigh. Lawyers Are The Problem

sign Every day I enter my workplace which proudly displays this sign.  But I see the same sign pretty much everywhere.  If you wish to put one at your own house, you can buy it at Amazon here.

But why do Californians pay to put the same worthless sign on every building?  How much does this useless warning cost us?  Has one of these signs ever helped anyone?  Has it deterred anyone from entering the building?  I see pregnant women walk right past these signs all the time.  Surely it is exaggerated?

Doing some research we find that this sign stems out of Proposition 65, passed in 1986.

25249.6. Required Warning Before Exposure To Chemicals Known to Cause Cancer Or Reproductive Toxicity. No person in the course of doing business shall knowingly and intentionally expose any individual to a chemical known to the state to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity without first giving clear and reasonable warning to such individual, except as provided in Section 25249.10.

So why do businesses post the signs?  Because if you don’t, and some squirrelly lawyer finds that there is a bad chemical in your building, they can sue you for $2500 per day!

Of course, the law intended to make sure that building owners disclose real hazards.  But, in practice this has just become a cover-your-ass sign.  Building owners don’t know what toilet cleaner might be considered hazardous now or in the future (the official list of hazardous chemicals is maintained by the Attorney General and contains over 850 chemicals), so to protect themselves from suits, they just post the disclosure.  So now we’ve plastered the same sign on every single building, regardless of whether or not there is any real risk.  And by putting it on every building, we’ve completely neutered any chance that the sign could ever have value.

But lawyers are making money on it.  Read here.  Or read about how they hire bounty hunters here

I used to only despise lawyers collectively, but not individually.  These days, however, I blame the individuals too.  If you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.  And lawyers are not working to make our lives better.  If you are a practicing lawyer, and I ever meet you, know that in my core, I think you’re a bad person. You’re a cockroach and I want to step on you and watch your guts ooze on the sidewalk under my shoe.  Holding a law degree is shameful.

Free Markets and Lawyers

lawyers I watched the Arrington/Reback interview last week.  It was quite interesting.  Reback claims (and I agree) that competition is what ensures a fair marketplace.  Without competition, consumers ultimately get burned.

I was thinking about how this applies to lawyers in America.  Does competition keep the legal industry in check?

Consider what would happen if tomorrow, the population of Accountants in the United States doubled.  Suddenly there would be too many accountants.  The price for accounting work would drop instantly due to over supply.

Now consider what would happen if tomorrow, the population of lawyers doubled.  Unfortunately, there would be no such drop.  A lawyer’s job is to make an argument (lawsuit).  And we’ve created a government which has infinite capacity for new lawsuits.   If there were twice as many lawyers filing claims, our government is *required by law* to expand to meet the needs of all those lawyers.  Is this right?

According to this study, we can see the number of lawyers in America has sharply increased between 1970 and 2000.  Was this growth due to increased demand for lawyers?  Or do we have a supply/demand chain in the legal profession which is out of whack?  Could it be that the same claims which Reback makes about businesses needing competitive pressure to remain balanced applies to lawyers?  And if so, when we’ve got a government willing to accept any lawsuit, from any lawyer at unbounded capacity, how do we enforce competition in the legal industry?

The problem boils down to “frivolous”.  Currently it is virtually impossible to get a case thrown out as frivolous.  “Frivolous” is a specific legal term which has to do with making an grossly wasteful case.  Generally, lawyers can make most any claim and sue anyone without being frivolous.  This process can potentially cost the defendant hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend; and because it is so costly, defendants usually find it easier to settle, even for moderatly large amounts of $25,000 to $100,000.  Even if the defendant is ultimately right and wins in court, the plaintiff owes the defendant nothing for all that wasted time.  Further, the taxpayers were left with the bill for all the court costs.  Why is this so?  When bringing forth a lawsuit where you ultimately lose, why doesn’t the loser pay court costs and defendant costs?  What other checks-and-balances can we put in place to provide the equivalent of “competition” in a legal system which inherently has no bounds on growth?

Unfortunately, our legal system is the pinnacle of the conflict of interest.  Lawyers are one of the highest paid professions in the United States.  Laws which regulate lawsuits will bring down lawyer wages.  How can we expect politicians (largely lawyers themselves), judges, and lawyers to accept legislation which limits their livelihood?  We cannot.

Katrina Was a Long Time Ago

Hurricane Katrina struck the US in August 2005.  That’s 2.5 years ago.  Today, FEMA is finally kicking people out of 35,000 trailers from that event.  Occupants of those trailers are mad at FEMA.  They’ve been living in the trailers for 2.5 years while simultaneously claiming that they want to sue as a result of their health problems from living in the trailers.   If they know of the health problems, they should, uh, maybe leave?

This raises several questions.

First, why are these people getting free housing for 2.5 years?  Free housing is not a federal responsibility.  2-3 months should have been the limit for people to find new housing.

Second, why should we provide housing even for temporary relief?  If you provide victims with nothing, they can’t sue.  If you provide them with trailers that they claim are unhealthy, they can sue you for being negligent.  These people are whiners and users.  No matter what you give them, it’s never enough.  Fine, give no federal aid anymore for this type of tragedy.  It’s better than dealing with the ungrateful.

Of course, the lawyers are to blame; the American Bar Association even set up a whole website to help the “victims” sue somebody.  Not sure who to blame?  Ask the ABA!

If the victims had any money, I’m sure a smart lawyer would help me sue the victims.  After all, why did I have to spend billions of tax money just because these people were too dumb to move out of a flood plain which nature clearly wants to cover with water?  Don’t spend money on the levy; this will happen again.

Idea – Let’s Make Patents Defensive.

Patents always start out well-intentioned.  Companies tell their employees, “We just need a few good patents for defensive purposes.  If someone sues us, we need leverage.”  Sadly, there is truth to this.

But patents last for seventeen years and the average start-up does not.  So, once the company gets into financial trouble, those innocent ‘defensive’ patents can turn into funding to keep the company afloat for a short while longer, or worse, fall into a lawyer’s hands after the fire sale.  A classic example of this is Visto, a once exciting Silicon Valley startup that never managed to quite make it ‘over the hump’.  In 2005, the company sold equity to NTP (the lawyer group that sued RIM) and agreed to allow NTP access to Visto’s “defensive” patent portfolio aggressively.  Visto/NTP have been filing lawsuits ever since.

If patents are indeed meant to be defensive when they are created, and all employers claim that they are, then we should create a contract which codifies this. 

What if we could draft a contract, between the inventor(s) and the employer.  The contract would give the company rights to the patent so long as the patent is only used for “defensive” purposes only.  The patent would not be transferable to other companies.  We could distribute this contract freely on the net, and encourage inventors to get their employers to sign them.    Over time, hopefully the world would have a lot of “defensive” patents, but not aggressive ones.  Of course, the legal definition of “defensive” is pretty tricky.  Perhaps a non-transferable patent is the only feasible contract.  I don’t know; I’m not a legal expert.

If you are a corporate attorney, and think this is a good idea, drop me a note.

OJ Simpson & Lawyers

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gavel I’m not a fan of OJ Simpson’s by any definition.  But, I do feel that our legal system put him into double jeopardy.  That is, he was acquitted of murder, and yet later retried for the same crime.  How is it that he was found not guilty for having murdered two people, and yet fined $33M for their wrongful death?   How does this happen?

It turns out that wrongful death is much easier to prove than murder.  “Wrongful death” only requires a “preponderance of evidence”.   Although a “shadow of a doubt” may exist, you can conclude guilty anyway.  Further, a wrongful death jury need to only have 75% of the jurors agree (9 of 12).  Lastly, you can’t “plea the 5th” in a civil case.  You have to respond on the stand.  I don’t understand why we have the 5th amendment for criminal cases and not for civil ones.  Either it’s unfair to make someone testify in ways that might hurt them or it’s not.  We can’t have it both ways.

Unfortunately, wrongful death lawsuits have nothing to do with justice and everything to do with money.  This entire branch of our legal system has been carefully carved and sculpted by lawyers for the benefit of lawyers.  Justice would have the murderer behind bars, and the public safe.  But we don’t have that.  Does Fred Goldman and his lawyers getting rich give us justice?

What boggles my mind most is why more people don’t stand up for OJ against our completely broken legal system.  He was legally acquitted.  Even if we think he is guilty, we need to let him go – that issue was concluded long ago.  If you think our system is broken for not finding him guilty, then fight for that.  But if you aren’t fighting for that, because you think our system usually works, and you think that “beyond a shadow of a doubt” is a good idea, then you absolutely must support OJ now.  This is double jeopardy, plain and simple, because everyone hates him.

I want our legal system to be about truth and justice, rather than money and appeasing public sentiment.  By allowing both a criminal and civil trial on the same issue, conducted under different rules, we are accepting hypocrisy in our system.  Stop thinking, “Oh good – OJ is getting what he deserves”, and instead think about what it means to be “innocent until proven guilty”.  OJ was not proven guilty.  Yet we treat him as though he is guilty anyway.  This pisses me off far more than whether he got away with murder or not.

After writing this, I found a few other smart people saying the same thing: Joelle Blackstarr, Miranda Tempest, etc