AAJ convention coming to Miami

By Justin Anderson | Feb 1, 2011

MIAMI (Legal Newsline) - Trial lawyers from across the country will be descending on Miami for five days as part of the American Association for Justice Winter Convention.

The convention runs from Feb. 5-9 at the luxurious Loews Miami Beach Hotel and includes more than 200 events, ten "cutting edge" Continuing Legal Education programs, a night at the theater, various social events ' some going until 2 a.m. -- and special appearances by two politicians, according to the plaintiffs' bar group.

On its Web site, the association bills the convention as a way to "Build powerful connections, increase your knowledge, and stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the latest developments ' and the best experts ' in your practice area."

Anyone who has watched late-night television has seen ads seeking clients in class action suits targeting the products that make up a large portion of the convention's schedule of sessions.

Lawyers will be discussing ongoing cases and strategies for winning lawsuits related to controversial drugs like the antibiotic Levaquin; the smoking-cessation drug Chantix; Fosamax, an osteoporosis drug; the weight-loss supplement Hydroxycut; the anti-coagulant Heparin; denture cream; and the contraceptive Yaz, or Yasmin.

Sessions also will be devoted to controversial medical products like automated external defibrillators, hernia patches, pain pumps, insulin pumps and focusing on the recall of hip implants made by DePuy.

Cell phone radiation, the Gulf Coast oil spill, hormone therapy, interstate trucking, tobacco, Chinese drywall, burns caused by overheated tap water, asbestos and nursing homes also are hot topics of sessions at the convention.

Darren McKinney, spokesman for the American Tort Reform Association, singled out one session called "Proving Your Client's Injuries in Connective Tissue/Whiplash/Slip and Fall Cases."

McKinney noted a story that appeared recently in the Naples Daily News that speculated whether Florida was first in the nation in "staged" auto accidents.

"Not coincidentally, Florida is ground zero for auto accident injury fraud as lawmakers ponder reform measures to rein in the racketeers," McKinney said. "But if you're the trial lawyers, what better place to teach auto accident fraud than sunny Miami, huh?"

Registration for the convention isn't cheap ' up to $945. And registrants have to sign a confidentiality agreement. The agreement stipulates that registrants "understand that (they) may have access to confidential, privileged, or proprietary information, including information concerning AAJ's legislative and/or regulatory advocacy." Any member that discloses any such information publicly, without written consent of the association is subject to possible revocation of membership, the agreement says.

It's not clear whether this agreement is something new. Numerous queries sent by Legal Newsline to scheduled presenters, possible attendees from West Virginia and Illinois and the association's press office seeking comment were ignored.

Interestingly, lawyers attending the convention will have the opportunity to attend two training workshops focusing on dealing with and minimizing public exposure of litigation.

One training, titled "Managing the Media," is "designed to help you be as effective as possible when advocating for your clients, your cases and, most importantly, the civil justice system" when talking to the media.

Another training on social media ' like Facebook ' includes a session called "Is Your Client an Online Social Butterfly? How to Prevent Your Client from Sabotaging the Case ... and What to Do if It Happens."

Though the association expressly states in the schedule these are not sanctioned by the group, two Democratic lawmakers are slated to make appearances at the convention.

A campaign event for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is scheduled for Saturday afternoon and a reception for U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, will take place on Sunday afternoon.

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