Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #6-7
Beating Up on Taxpayers
It's a classic rite of passage into manhood. Schoolyard bully beats up boy. Boy develops muscle and courage. Boy beats up bully. Justice triumphs.
But in 2007, it's the school, and ultimately taxpayers, who get beat up.
That's what happened in Australia, where a court awarded a bullied teenager an estimated $1 million, including $220,000 for his pain and suffering, plus income for life, because school officials failed to prevent a case of bullying on the playground. As a result of being "throttled" by a schoolmate, the teenager received little education, couldn't work, didn't like teachers, and was scared of the school toilets, his mother said. "He just locks himself in his room playing PlayStation games," she claimed.
When the mother complained to the school, she was told "bullying builds character." And now the taxpayers are taking a beating for it.
Source: Leonie Lamant, "Bullied teen awarded income for life," Sydney Morning Herald, May 14, 2007
Don't Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out ...
An Edwardsville, Illinois woman was awarded $311,700 in damages by a Madison County, Illinois judge after she was hit in the shoulder by the door of a Pizza Hut restaurant as she left. Her suit alleged the restaurant was negligent in installing a door that didn't work properly. She also alleged another customer was negligent in grabbing the door as she held it for him, causing it to move sharply and strike her. She says the shoulder injury caused her to injure her hand and wrist when she later fell on her icy, snow-covered driveway.
The judge who made the damage award to the woman is Nicholas Byron, who helped Madison County earn its reputation as one of the nation's "Judicial Hellholes" according to the American Tort Reform Association's rankings. Judge Byron is known for formerly presiding over the Madison County asbestos case docket, in which about 75 percent of the 5,000 cases pending there in the past few years were brought by plaintiffs from out of state.
Byron is also known for accepting some 80 percent of his campaign contributions from plaintiffs' trial lawyers in 2002. Dickie Scruggs, the profiteer tobacco litigator, called Madison County the "magic jurisdiction" where "it's almost impossible to get a fair trial if you're a defendant." Just ask the owners of the local Pizza Hut.
Sources: Steve Gonzalez, "Byron awards $311,700 to Pizza Hut door victim," The Madison County Record, May 16, 2007, http://www.triallawyersinc.com/IL/il05.html, http://www.triallawyersinc.com/IL/il07.html; American Tort Reform Association, "Judicial Hellholes 2006," http://www.atra.org/reports/hellholes/
Once Bitten, Not Shy About Suing
Some wise person once said never to put anything in writing unless you're prepared to read it in the newspaper. A Fort Lauderdale lawyer who wrote up and filed a complaint for a dog-bite he allegedly suffered might now be wishing he'd heeded that advice. On the other hand, maybe not.
The attorney sued the owners of a Jack Russell terrier, alleging the dog bit his left nipple. That led to this headline in the local paper: "Nipped on nipple, man sues." But that small amount of embarrassment may be worth the cool $1 million in damages he's claiming as compensation for medical treatment, pain, suffering, physical disfigurement, lost income, and "loss of sexual comfort and desire." No word yet on whether the dog survived after biting a lawyer.
Source: Chrystian Tejedor, "Nipped on nipple, man sues; Dog's owners slapped with $1 million suit," South Florida Sun-Sentinel, May 26, 2007
Thirty-Three Million Points of Light
A New York City law firm is being sued for $33 million for firing a secretary who refused to work because her desk was not close enough to a window. The secretary allegedly suffers from "seasonal affective disorder" and becomes depressed during fall and winter when natural light is often dim.
She was assigned to a desk three feet from a window, her law firm supervisor said, but she said this wasn't close enough to alleviate her symptoms. Her supervisor asked her to give the desk a try. "'Why don't you give it a few days? If you're not comfortable, I'll do my best to accommodate you,'" the supervisor recalls telling her. "She just refused to take her work station. ... What was I going to do? Workers have to work." And fired workers have to sue, it seems.
Source: Mike Jaccarino, "No window desk? That'll cost you $33M, she says in suit," New York Daily News, May 26, 2007
We Report, You Sue, Worldwide
In March 2007, Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly reported on a $49,000 (£25,000) defamation verdict handed down against an Irish newspaper whose restaurant critic was, well, critical of a restaurant. Now the trend has spread to this side of the pond.
A suit was filed in Port St. Lucie, Florida as a result of a review saying the restaurant was cold, dim, and dark and the food "had not been reheated properly." A case is now pending in Pennsylvania, and one in Dallas was dropped after the newspaper provided a second review of the restaurant, this one presumably favorable.
Just goes to show you can't believe everything you read in the newspaper.
Source: BBC News, "£25K for food critic's poison pen," February 8, 2007; Kim Cotton, "Restaurant files lawsuit over review," Hometown News (Fort Pierce, Florida), May 25, 2007
A Million Little Lawsuits
In May, a New York judge tentatively approved a $2.35 million settlement of class-action litigation brought by persons who bought James Frey's fabricated memoir, A Million Little Pieces, about his recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Frey and his publisher, Random House Inc., will reimburse the disgruntled readers, having conceded last year that parts of the book were untrue.
Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam sees what's ahead. He notes the cover copy for The South Beach Diet calls the book a "foolproof plan for fast and healthy weight loss." Persons who don't lose weight could sue, he writes. And what about Bible publisher Thomas Nelson, which says that in the Good Book, "God Himself speaks to humankind." "Suppose I read their Bible," Beam writes, "and God, contrary to their assertion, fails to speak to me?"
To take it a step further, what about a reader who buys a book, reads it, and doesn't like it? All kinds of store-bought items get returned because the shopper doesn't "like" them when they get home. Why not books? You can almost hear the plaintiffs' bar thinking: "Ka-ching, ka-ching!"
Source: Associated Press, "New York Judge Tentatively Approves Refunds for Buyers of James Frey's Fabricated Memoir," May 18, 2007; Alex Beam, "A million little lawsuits," Boston Globe, May 28, 2007
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