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Lawyers Warned They May Pay For Filing Frivolous Suits

Lawyers who defend companies in product liability cases are celebrating an unusual order by a federal judge in Columbus, Georgia. In it, he told attorneys for the other side—the ones who represent injured consumers—that he was going to crack down on frivolous claims, and that the penalty could come from their wallet.

The five-page order appeared last week from Chief U.S. District Judge Clay Land of the Middle District of Georgia. He issued it in connection with hundreds of consolidated cases he oversees concerning a “vaginal mesh” device made by Johnson & Johnson unit Mentor Corp. that’s designed to treat urinary stress incontinence.

Now, it’s true that bashing plaintiff’s lawyers for frivolous litigation is old hat. But the reason company lawyers are excited by Land’s handiwork is that he placed the blame for such dubious claims on the procedures courts use to consolidate cases. Land, appointed to the bench by Republican President George W. Bush, said in his Sept. 7 ruling that he’s “had to waste judicial resources deciding motions in cases that should have been dismissed by plaintiffs’ counsel earlier—cases that probably should never have been brought in the first place. Enough is enough.”

From now on, he warned, he would impose...