Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #5-9
Fast Food Police Gang Can't Shoot Straight
In 1988, the Center for Science in the Public Interest demanded McDonald's cease using beef tallow to cook its French fries and instead substitute partially hydrogenated cooking oils that contain trans fat. CSPI contended partially hydrogenated oils are relatively innocent compared to beef tallow. CSPI's Web site still claims this as one of its food police victories ... but it turns out they were wrong.
On the same Web site, CSPI now simultaneously touts a class-action lawsuit it has filed against KFC demanding it stop using oil containing trans fat, which it alleges kills 50,000 Americans a year. CSPI seeks damages of $74,000 per class member, plus punitive damages and attorney fees.
The complaint alleges that in 2003, a panel of the National Academy of Health's Institute of Medicine concluded the only safe level of trans fat in the diet is zero, and in 2004 a Food & Drug Administration advisory panel concluded trans fat is even more harmful to humans than saturated fat.
The CSPI complaint alleges KFC's use of these oils is "outrageous and performed with evil motive, intent to injure, ill will" and that KFC is acting "without regard for the health and well being" of its customers. From the Chicago Tribune, www.AmericanHeart.org, and the CSPI complaint at http://www.cspinet.org/new/pdf/final_complaint.pdf
Robbers Have Rights, Right?
A robber who unsuccessfully tried to hold up a Rochester, New York auto parts store is now suing the store and two of its employees, who foiled the robbery by striking the robber-wannabe with a metal pipe. The suit claims the employees committed assault and battery and intentionally inflicted emotional distress.
The robber pled guilty to charges and is serving an 18-year prison term because he is a repeat violent offender. No criminal charges were brought against the two employees. Although the county district attorney who prosecuted the case declined to speculate on the outcome of the robber's civil suit, he said the employees' actions "appeared to be lawful." From the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
1,400 Lawsuits = Big Headache
If anyone doubts tort claims are a burden on American drugmakers, consider the fees for Purdue Pharma L.P.'s defense of 1,400 lawsuits in 32 states, alleging that OxyContin, its prescription painkiller, is addictive.
Some 40 law firms were retained to defend Purdue, including 322 partners, 849 associates, and 1,023 paralegals, according to Purdue's insurer, Steadfast Insurance Co., part of Zurich Insurance Co. of Switzerland, which contested the $400 million claim. The firms billed the company for more than 1.2 million hours of work, Steadfast alleges. The Wall Street Journal reports the claim was settled for $200 million.
Such disputes will become increasingly common as pharmaceutical suits, such as the Vioxx claims against Merck, proliferate, The Wall Street Journal notes. "With their reputations on the line, many drug makers are eager to fight every lawsuit regarding their products, tapping the best lawyers to lead their efforts," the newspaper reports, but "How much control do insurers have over how their clients' litigation is handled?" From The Wall Street Journal
What Would PETA Say?
An arbitration panel has held that a cat cannot register a domain name. "Meow" registered the domain name mymorganstanleyplatinum.com with Tucows, Inc., which provides accredited domain name registration services, through a Mr. Woods, according to the panel's opinion. The opinion states that Meow allows Mr. Woods to use this domain name to promote classes he teaches on the failure of companies to register domain names.
Morgan Stanley, an investment banking and financial firm, has several registered domain names, including www.morganstanley.com. It also markets credit cards called "platinum" cards, according to the opinion. Morgan Stanley asserted that Meow's domain name is "confusingly similar" to its domain name and sought to have Meow's domain name transferred to Morgan Stanley.
The arbitrator agreed. "Respondent maintains that it is a cat, that is, a well-known carnivorous quadruped which has long been domesticated. However, it is equally well-known that the common cat, whose scientific name is Felis domesticus, cannot speak or read or write. Thus, a common cat could not have submitted the Response (or even have registered the disputed domain name)." From Morgan Stanley v. Meow, Claim Number FA0604000671304, National Arbitration Forum
Don't You Hate it When That Happens?
A Madison County, Illinois couple who together weigh more than 600 pounds have filed suit against the county after the bench in the county courtroom on which they were sitting collapsed. The wife claims to have injured her left side, shoulder, and ankle, while the husband claims to have suffered back injuries. The suit seeks damages in excess of $100,000, based on pain and suffering, medical expenses, loss of wages, and disability.
True to the well-documented pro-plaintiff atmosphere in Madison County, the county filed a third-party action blaming the couple's obesity on fast food purveyors. From the Madison County Record
Zoning Out Personal Responsibility
The New York Post reports a New York City councilman may introduce what it terms the "McZoning Law," which would limit the number of fast food restaurants that could be located in areas where childhood obesity is "epidemic." The measure also would ban fast food chains from locating near schools.
Councilman Joel Rivera said, "in low-income areas, you find more fast-food restaurants. In more affluent areas, you find more mom-and-pop restaurants." Rivera said he will also consider making it easier to locate healthier food sources, such as farmers' markets, in low-income neighborhoods.
Not everyone favors such measures. One New York teacher encouraged personal responsibility instead, including teaching better exercise and eating habits. And Mike Long, head of the state Conservative Party, said: "This is what you call the 'Nanny State' at its absolute worst." From the New York Post
Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly
Published by The Heartland Institute (312/377-4000), a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1984.
Phone 312/377-4000, fax 312/377-5000
Back issues are available online at http://www.heartland.org
Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Editors: Maureen Martin, Diane Carol Bast
Information on lawsuit abuse can be found on these Web sites:
The Heartland Institute
19 South La Salle Street #903
Chicago, Illinois 60603