In Animal Crackers, Groucho Marx asks two women, simultaneously, to marry him.
“But that’s bigamy!” one objects.
“Yes, and that’s big o’ me, too,” Groucho retorts. “It’s big of all of us. Let’s be big for a change.”
It’s a funny scene. In real life, however, bigamy’s not amusing to the woman deceived. Discovering that one’s husband has another wife – perhaps, another family – must be shattering.
For those not personally affected, the rest of us who just happen to hear or read about it, it’s still perplexing. What was that guy thinking? we wonder. One wife wasn’t enough? Did he not know that bigamy’s illegal? Wasn’t it confusing trying to keep details of two married lives from intruding on each other? What made him think he could get away with it? How did he get away with it for so long?
We have much the same reaction when we hear about plaintiffs attorneys double-dipping with claims made against (sometimes multiple) asbestos trusts and suits filed against going concerns for the same alleged grievances.
We wonder what’s going on in their heads, why they’re not content with one comprehensive settlement, how they as lawyers can fail to recognize the injustice of their actions, how they can keep their stories straight, what makes them think they can pull it off, and how they often succeed in doing so for as long as they do.
In a recent issue of the American Journal of Trial Advocacy, retired Delaware Judge Peggy Ableman recalled a case she presided over in which a Florida firm recommended by Beaumont’s Brent Coon represented a woman and her son seeking damages from an asbestos company. Coon, meantime, had made claims for them against several bankruptcy trusts.
Judge Ableman called the case “a quintessential example of the abusive practices” that need to be curbed.
The best way to curb such practices is to penalize and make “a quintessential example” of attorneys engaging in them.