Round-up: How to Stop Mass Tort Fraud
Roundup is Still Running Strong by Attorney Jeff Keiser.
Roundup is a mature tort that has seen a resurgence of interest in the past few months.
It is a well tested tort with a high potential payout, and some settlements have already been awarded. However, since past settlements are well-known, many people think that they might be able to qualify if they just say the right things. Therefore, it’s important to rigorously screen out people who aren’t really qualified.
Here are some best practices we use to stop Roundup fraud cold without turning away legitimate claimants.
- One of the most important things to ensure high quality is to make sure your intake agents are paid a decent hourly wage and not incentivised/commissioned based on how many people sign up. If you’re using a third party call center or a case acquisition service, be sure to ask them if they pay agents on commission. Most intake departments pay their agents low hourly wages and then make up for it with commissions that are paid based on how many signed retainers they produce. While this makes sense economically for the company, it produces very high levels of unqualified claimants. This is one of the things that sets Legal Calls apart from the competition.
- A key step that is often overlooked is simply to interview the claimant thoroughly and understand the details of their story. If parts of the story aren’t clear, ask clarifying questions. The intake agent needs to be more like an interviewer or journalist looking for the truth, rather than just a note-taker.
- A key part of qualification is asking follow up questions based on information received from the caller to extend the story and make certain it is clear and complete. Talk to them in depth about the location they purchased the product, how often they used it, for how many years they used it and for what purpose.
- Decline people who can’t give a clear location where they purchased and used the product. Also grounds for DQ is a usage story that misunderstands what Roundup is and what it is used for. For example, characterization of the product as a “fertilizer” is suspicious. If they purchase it from a chain store, ask them to specify the location of the store where they bought it. It’s not necessary for them to show receipts, however.
- Roundup wasn’t available until 1974, so use before that would be a clue to fraud.
- Understand the story of their exposure to Roundup by asking open-ended non-leading questions and following up until their story is complete and consistent. Quality claimants have a consistent story that makes sense to anyone & we routinely disqualify potential claimants whose story is incomplete or does not pass the common sense test. It’s not enough to just say the right things. Our trained agents know how to get past the superficial and confirm with detailed questions and follow up.
- Verify their medical situation by getting the story behind how they went from symptoms to diagnosis to treatment. Ask what the current status of their treatment is. Cancer is a lifelong condition, even if it is in remission. Legitimate claimants will know this. If someone claims their cancer has been gone for 20 years and they don’t get any check ups for it, this would not be credible. NHL is a treatable disease and it is possible to find people alive decades after diagnosis, but it is a serious disease and you should expect that they’ve received treatment and are likely either still receiving treatment or at the very least they will be receiving regular followup screenings.
- Oftentimes, we will ask for documentation of their Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis and their treatment. While it is not reasonable to expect them to have full medical records on hand, they should be able to show something that backs up their story: a prescription bottle, insurance paperwork, medical bills, etc. People who have been through a serious illness nearly always can show something like this.
- Verify their identity using a service such as Been Verified or Transunion. It’s remarkable how few intake companies complete a simple instant verification of the social security number and date of birth. It’s easy to do and will make pulling medical records that much easier for the law firm.
- Make sure they’re not a TCPA serial litigator. TCPA litigators may fill out your lead form and even though they give permission to be contacted they may sue you anyway, knowing it will cost you more to defend your case than to settle. Simply being compliant is not enough; you need to screen out these bad actors. In addition to screening with the national Do Not Call list, it’s a good idea to use a service like Blacklist Alliance to screen out serial litigators.
- Finally, you can simply ask them if they’re being truthful or if they might have exaggerated anything and if they’re confident in the information provided. While this can be awkward, honest claimants do not mind.
Comments From Our Fulfillment Department
We’ve been signing up Roundup claimants for several years now, so we asked our fulfillment department for some comments:
- The disease list has been tightened by most law firms- now only Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and its various sub-types are qualifying.
- The required amount of exposure to Roundup has also been tightened. Previously, law firms were not requiring a minimum number of uses to meet the exposure requirement, but in 2022 most law firms began requiring at least 10 individual exposures within 2 years.
- Early cases didn’t have latency requirements, but for the last few years most firms are requiring at least a 1 year latency between diagnosis and first exposure.
- Compared to Paraquat, Roundup claimants are more likely to have been exposed to the product for personal use, i.e., on home gardens, than for large commercial properties. Roundup is also highly available at many stores and is sold without the need of a pesticide license, making exposure easier to prove. Eligible claimants must still report where they purchased Roundup, store name and address. Pursuing the actual store and its physical location, rather than just a type of store, helps ensure a valid claim.
- The gender breakdown of signed Roundup cases handled by our team is roughly 60% men and 40% women. This could correlate with the fact that men have a slightly higher risk of developing NHL than do women, or it may be that men are being exposed more through their activities.
The primary qualifying diagnosis for Roundup claims is Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, along with many subtypes of this cancer. A list of the subtypes is below. Notably, the subtype Multiple Myeloma is a DISQUALIFYING diagnosis.
A thorough and well defined screening process is the key to weeding out those who do not qualify or are just looking for a payout from a highly publicized case.
Craig H. Alinder, Vice President