Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #5-11
Addicted to "Crackberries"
Almost anything nowadays can be the stuff of addiction--drugs, alcohol, gambling. One can even be addicted to love. But addicted to PDAs and cell phones? Absolutely, according to a study by a Rutgers business school professor. The professor contends lawsuits resulting from addiction to these devices may cost corporate employers "hundreds of millions of dollars."
"If companies develop a culture in which people are expected to be available 24 hours a day, then they should be prepared for the physical and psychological consequences," the professor told the New York Sun. "Addicts exhibit extreme behavior and have no control over themselves. So a corporation handing someone a BlackBerry on his first day of work could be seen as enabling, even accelerating, a serious addiction to technology."
The employee thinks someone should be held to blame, the professor said. "He can't sue his BlackBerry, so he sues the company that he thinks caused his dependency on it," she explained.
A Dallas lawyer isn't laughing--or, if he is, he's laughing all the way to the bank. "There is a lot of truth to the crackberry term. I know a lot of people who can't sustain a conversation because they're always checking that gadget," he said. From the New York Sun
Homework Case Gets an "F" for "Frivolous"
Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly reported in February 2005 that a Wisconsin high school student and his father had filed suit against the student's math teacher and the school district that employs him, alleging it was unconstitutional to deprive the student of a "homework-free summer."
The trial judge quickly tossed the case out of court and the father and son appealed. Now the Wisconsin Court of Appeals has likewise tossed the case. What's more, the court is requiring the father and son to pay the defendants' attorney fees and costs as punishment for filing frivolous litigation.
The son had enrolled in an advanced placement calculus course, not a required class. The teacher required a homework assignment to be completed over the summer. The father/son lawsuit alleged this assignment amounted to an unconstitutional "seizure" of 10 percent of their summer vacation and deprived them of their right to "liberty" from homework during the summer. They also alleged the assignment interfered with the son's summer job as a Cub Scout camp counselor, causing him to suffer "a fair amount of distress."
"We are not convinced," the appellate court stated in its opinion.
Students are prohibited from taking advantage of an advanced placement class, the court stated, while at the same time deciding whether or not to do the required homework. The court awarded costs and attorney fees because the pair persisted in the case despite warnings they risked sanctions if they continued to pursue the frivolous litigation.
Left unanswered, though, is how the Cub Scout campers felt about being counseled by this student about "Scout's honor." From Larson v. Burmaster, Appeal No. 2005AP1433
He Didn't Wanna Be Like Mike
An Oregon man filed suit in July against Michael Jordan alleging he has suffered defamation and emotional pain and suffering because he resembles the famous Chicago Bulls basketball player and is often mistaken for him. The man also sued Nike because its advertising campaign added to Jordan's fame. He claimed $823 million in damages.
Asked why he sued, the man said, "don't get me wrong--it's definitely a positive thing, because Michael, like I say, is one of the best ball players that I've known to play the game. But then again, that's Michael and I'm me. So I want to be recognized as me--just like Michael's being recognized as Michael." A few weeks later, the man dropped the suit without explanation. From Overlawyered.com and television station KGW's Web site, KGW.com
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
At least two hundred New Orleans residents, including an elderly man in need of dialysis and hospital evacuees, owe their lives to a New Orleans man who borrowed a boat to rescue them from structures flooded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Good Samaritan is now being sued by the boat owner.
The rescuer, a lawyer, desperately tried to find a boat to rescue neighbors screaming for help. He saw a boat behind a gate and commandeered it. In addition to saving his neighbors, he helped evacuate patients from a nearby hospital where waters were rising. When he returned to his neighborhood a month or so later, he explained to the boat owner why he had taken the boat, and he thought the owner understood.
When the Good Samaritan failed to respond to a $12,000 demand letter, which he thought was a joke, the boat owner sued. The lawsuit alleges the boat owner suffered "grief, mental anguish, embarrassment and suffering ... due to the removal of the boat." It also alleges the lawyer took the boat "solely to promote himself and his law practice." The boat owner told the Times-Picayune the lawyer had been irresponsible in taking the boat. "If I felt I had to take the boat I would have at least left a note," the owner said. The rescuer responded: "Next time there's a major storm or natural disaster and I'm called to save lives, I'll try to remember to bring a pen and paper." From the Times-Picayune
Don't Kill All the Lawyers
While there are plenty of unscrupulous lawyers and judges around, a recent Kentucky supreme court decision shows there are some ethical ones as well.
The court suspended three lawyers who kept for themselves 78 percent of a $200 million class-action settlement, leaving just $45 million for their clients. The suit was against Wyeth, alleging the fenfluramine half of Wyeth's fen-phen drug caused heart valve damage and life-threatening lung conditions in some users.
The lawyers' suspensions were recommended by the state attorney disciplinary commission. "This is a case of absolute, unbridled greed," the commission's lawyer told the court. From The Associated Press
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
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Chicago, Illinois 60603