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Nuclear Verdicts: Leveraging Data-Driven Insights and Transparent Technology to Mitigate Risks

Source: Litify

Nuclear Verdicts, cases in which the jury rewards a significantly disproportionate amount to what was expected, have seen an exponential increase over the last few years thanks to plaintiffs' counsel implementation of tactics like reptile theory and social inflation. How can defense counsel fight back? What strategies and approaches can be taken to combat the rise of nuclear verdicts? 

At LitiQuest Insurance hosted by Litify, Themis's own Howard Klar joined like-minded professionals from Acceptance Insurance, Tyson & Mendes, and National General Insurance/ ClaimsTech to discuss a more analytical path forward for defense counsel. 

Catch the full session here, and check out the LitiQuest Insurance website for more engaging content from the summit. 


Habitual Drunkards in Legal Cases

Author: Robert J. Marcello, Ph.D., LCP, CCHP – Behavioral Health Expert

Source: Exigent Forensic Consulting

A Habitual Drunkard has been defined as: “A person given to ebriety or the excessive use of intoxicating drink, who has lost the power or the will, by frequent indulgence, to control his appetite for it” (1).  And similarly: “One who has the habit of indulging in intoxicating liquors so firmly fixed that he becomes intoxicated as often as the temptation is presented by his being in the vicinity where liquors are sold” (2).

Per the American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), a diagnosis of Alcohol Use Disorder includes criteria such as: “A problematic pattern of alcohol use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress”; consumption of alcohol “in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended”; a “persistent desire” for alcohol; craving to use alcohol; recurrent and/or continued use of alcohol resulting in impairment of social, occupational, or interpersonal functioning; tolerance; and withdrawal (3).

While the DSM-5 does not specifically use the term habitual drunkard among the diagnostic criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder, an individual who can be described as a habitual drunkard according to the above definitions, would also meet the criteria for a DSM-5 diagnosis of Alcohol Use Disorder.  It is important to note, however, that Alcohol Use Disorder criteria that are consistent with addiction to alcohol must be met in order for an individual to be considered a habitual drunkard. Examples of these criteria are craving, tolerance, and withdrawal.

The concepts of Habitual Drunkard and Alcohol Use Disorder can be significant factors in a variety of legal cases including, but not limited to Dram Shop, Driving Under the Influence (DUI), wrongful death, and personnel matters.  Such cases routinely involve forensic consultants with expertise in areas such as Dram Shop and Toxicology, however, Clinical Psychologists can also play a significant role in these cases.

For example, in a hypothetical case involving a visibly intoxicated individual leaving a bar, operating a motor vehicle, and causing a motor vehicle accident resulting in the death or injury of a second individual, a Dram Shop Expert may be retained address elements such as staff training and over service.  In addition, a Toxicology Expert can address elements such as alcohol intoxication and impairment, blood and urine levels of alcohol, and alcohol abuse and misuse.  A clinical psychologist could also be involved in such a case in that a clinical psychologist could formally determine whether the driver who caused the accident met the diagnostic criteria of Alcohol Use Disorder, including criteria consistent with addiction to alcohol, thereby also meeting the standard of habitual drunkard.  Such diagnostic information could then be used to support and strengthen the opinions of the Dram Shop and Toxicology Experts.

Exigent Forensic Consulting has experts in the areas of Dram Shop, Toxicology, and Clinical Psychology, and we are prepared to assist you with cases requiring expertise in any or all of these areas.  If you’d like to discuss your exact needs and learn more about how Exigent can help, reach out to our Business Development expert (Larry Wolf: 312-972-050, [email protected]).


  1. Definition of HABITUAL DRUNKARD • Law Dictionary •
  2. Definition of HABITUAL DRUNKARD • Law Dictionary •
  3. American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA, American Psychiatric Association, 2013, pgs. 490-491



SJC Clarifies the Proper Measure of Damages for Wage Act Violations

Source: Melick & Porter, LLP

The SJC recently issued an opinion in Reuter v. City of Methuen regarding the proper measure of damages for violations under the Commonwealth’s Wage Act. The Plaintiff had worked as a custodian for the City of Methuen’s school department for 25 years when she was convicted of larceny in 2013. The City formally terminated her on March 7, 2013. The Plaintiff had accrued $8,952.15 in unused vacation time at the time of her termination. The City sent to the Plaintiff payment for her unused vacation time on March 28, 2013. The Plaintiff unsuccessfully challenged her termination before the Civil Service Commission and appealed to the Superior Court. While the appeal was pending, Plaintiff’s counsel sent to the City a demand for $23,872.40 representing a trebling of late vacation pay, plus $5,986.10 for attorney’s fees. The City sent the Plaintiff a check for $185.42, representing a trebling of the twelve percent annual interest on the Plaintiff’s vacation pay accrued during the three weeks between her termination on March 7 and payment by the City on March 28. The Plaintiff sued to recover the difference between her $23,872.40 demand and the City’s $185.42 payment. The trial court found that the Plaintiff was entitled only to treble twelve percent interest for the three-week delay in receiving her vacation pay, which she had already received. The trial court also found that the Plaintiff was entitled to attorney’s fees totaling over $88,000. The City appealed from the award of attorney’s fees and the Plaintiff cross-appealed the determination that she was not entitled to recover treble lost wages. The SJC transferred the appeals on its own motion.

The Massachusetts Wage Act, M.G.L. c. 149, § 148, requires that employees who are terminated are paid in full on the day of their discharge, and includes within its definition of “wages” any holiday or vacation payments. The SJC commented that the statute “leaves no wiggle room” and that prompt payment is necessary regardless of whether the failure to make prompt payment is intentional or not. M.G.L. c. 149, § 150 permits employees who are not paid in full and on time to bring a private action for injunctive relief, damages incurred, and any lost wages and other benefits. The SJC held that “lost wages” encompasses all late payments under the Wage Act, including unpaid accrued vacation pay. The statute permitting the private cause of action further provides that the employee “shall be awarded treble damages, as liquidated damages, for any lost wages and benefits.”

The SJC rejected the trial court’s finding that the Plaintiff was entitled to treble twelve percent interest for the delay in receiving her vacation pay because such an interpretation was not supported by the language of the Wage Act and was incongruent with its purpose. The SJC noted that there is no language in § 150 suggesting that the payment of interest is the proper remedy for a violation of the act and that the statute demands prompt payment of wages to employees who rely on such payments to pay for rent and other necessities. Therefore, the SJC found that “much more is therefore at stake than the loss of the time value and depreciation of sums owed” and that the remedy for late payment is not the trebling of the interest on those wages but the trebling of the wages themselves. The SJC remanded to the trial court the question of whether the Plaintiff could be compensated for some or all of her attorney’s fees, a portion of which was incurred in unsuccessful class certification.


The SJC’s Reuter decision serves as an important reminder to employers that plan to terminate employees to prepare for disbursement of all final wage payments before terminating the employee. Employers must also keep in mind that the term “wages” under the Wage Act is broad and includes accrued holiday and vacation payments. Employers should also note that the strict payment requirements under the Act for employees who are terminated are relaxed for employees who voluntarily resign their employment. In those instances, the Wage Act requires that employees are paid in full on the following regular payday or, in the absence of a regular payday, on the following Saturday.

If you have any questions regarding the SJC’s Reuters decision, the Wage Act, or any other employment-related inquiry, please contact our firm’s Employment Law Practices Group at (617) 523-6200.



Holly Rogers named to Ladder Down Class of 2022!

Source: Melick & Porter, LLP

Melick & Porter is pleased to announce its Diamond Level sponsorship of Ladder Down, a program that empowers women lawyers to excel through leadership, business development, and mentoring opportunities.

M&P’s very own Holly Rogers has been selected to participate in this valuable career enrichment program. Holly is one of just 24 talented women lawyers in the Ladder Down Class of 2022.

Ladder Down is a phenomenal program founded by two female attorneys, and we encourage law firms committed to the support of women lawyers everywhere to consider supporting its efforts.


Envista Forensics White Paper

Designed to Fail Controlling How Machinery and Systems React When Failure Happens

Author: Melissa Simpson, P.E., Project Engineer, Envista Forensics

Although the phrase “failure is not an option” may be a common philosophy, the prudent engineer will consider the effects of failure and the preferred outcome in order to mitigate dangerous or undesirable results. Though the future cannot be predicted with certainty, the certainty of failure is assured. When it comes to the design of machinery or systems, there is a reasonable expectation for engineers to render a design with careful consideration to operation in both ideal and less-than ideal circumstances. Following industry standards and best practices are implicit in responsible engineering. Read the full article

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