Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #7-24
Get rid of lawyers altogether, urges Philip Howard, chairman of the legal reform organization Common Good, in his new book, Life Without Lawyers: Liberating Americans From Too Much Law.
“We will never fix our schools, or make health care affordable, or re-energize democracy, or revive the can-do spirit that made America great,” he writes, “unless American law is rebuilt to protect freedom in our daily choices.”
Because litigation means “letting anyone sue for almost anything,” school and health care officials are often paralyzed by the fear of incurring substantial legal fees, he notes. This creates a “tyranny of the angry individual” in which suing to defend rights actually “turns our rights upside down,” he observes. “The lawyers pretend that they’re Robin Hood, with the modern twist that they keep much of the money for themselves.”
Howard advocates the creation of special health courts to handle medical malpractice cases, “risk commissions” to identify activities for immunization from lawsuits, and a public outcry for less law. In 1995 Howard wrote The Death of Common Sense, which described abusive litigation and government overregulation.
Source: Stuart Taylor Jr., “Too Much Law Guarantees Unfairness, Those who run our schools and health care systems are paralyzed by fear of being hauled into court,” National Journal, December 20, 2008
Seeking Gravy in Giblets
A prime ingredient in the endangered art of making homemade giblet gravy is the subject of a class-action lawsuit. Perdue Farms is being sued for allegedly getting rid of “an enormous quantity of extra giblet parts” by sticking them in the chicken cavity.
The complaint alleges the giblets--heart, liver, and gizzard--would otherwise be waste and the “secret practice” of putting them inside the bird allows Perdue to avoid disposal costs and sell the giblets for $1.29 per pound. Perdue Farms had no comment on the suit except to say most customer complaints actually concern missing giblets.
Source: Dan Slater, “Class Action? Perdue Accused of Secreting Giblets in Chickens,” Wall Street Journal Law Blog, December 18, 2008
Airing of Grievances
The “whooshing” and “screeching” coming from a wind farm in Pennsylvania have driven a doctor and his wife to court over lost sleep. The complaint alleges the wind farm is a nuisance.
The suit says the defendants, Gamesa Energy and its subsidiary, Allegheny Ridge Wind Farm LLC, promised local regulators the wind farm would be quiet, so they also sued for fraudulent misrepresentation. The judge suggested the complaint might also support a claim for anxiety and emotional distress, but he threw out a claim for punitive damages.
Source: Phil Ray, “Couple files lawsuit against wind company,” Altoona Mirror, December 8, 2008
Secret Police Brutality
A Connecticut high school student was expelled for cheating on a test and other school rule infractions, but she says the school’s student version of sixteenth century Russian secret police made her do it. She’s suing the school, asking for reinstatement, an order banning disclosure of the incident to colleges where she’s applying, and $75,000 in damages.
She alleges in the suit her classmates harassed her after she planned a multischool prom, calling her stupid and retarded. She alleges this was done by a group called the Oprichniki, secret police to Ivan the Terrible.
Source: Vanessa De La Torre, “Miss Porter’s School Sued Over Expulsion,” The Hartford Courant, December 10, 2008, via overlawyered.com
Law for Sale
It costs more than $1,556 for a digital copy of the California Code of Regulations and $2,315 for a hard copy, so one man has scanned it--all 33,000 pages--and published it on his Web site, http://www.public.resource.org. The state copyrights its law, however, so it cannot be freely reproduced. California makes $880,000 each year by selling the law code.
The man, Carl Malamud, previously succeeded in convincing the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the State of Oregon to post its filings and laws on line.
Source: Katherine Mango-Ward, “Man to state: Regulate This! Making Laws Free,” Reason, December 2008
United Airlines has been sued for serving a passenger who became so inebriated he hit his wife six times as they went through customs and got arrested for disorderly conduct and battery. The man alleges he was served wine every 20 minutes on a flight from Japan to San Francisco.
The law typically holds bars liable for injuries caused by drunken patrons, so the question is whether that also applies to airplanes over international territory.
The suit claims United “knows or should have known that over-serving a passenger alcohol on an international flight would have negative consequences” and that United’s conduct was “deliberate, reckless, intentional and done with disregard for plaintiffs and all passengers.” The plaintiff wants to recover $100,000 in bail, legal fees, other court costs, pain, suffering, lost income, and “any other relief that is just and proper.” United said the claim was “without any merit whatsoever.”
Source: Julie Johnsson, “Couple accuse United Airlines of overserving husband, causing him to beat wife, Conflicting laws complicate case, legal experts say,” Chicago Tribune, December 17, 2008
Squashed Camera Bug
An Iowa woman recovered $22,500 because her husband secretly videotaped her in their bedroom, in a verdict upheld by the Iowa Supreme Court. The woman claimed the hidden video camera was an invasion of her privacy, and the court agreed.
The court said the wife had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” and that her husband’s taping of her “intentionally intruded” and “was highly offensive to a reasonable person.”
Source: Melanie S. Welte, “Court upholds damages in hidden videotaping case,” Associated Press, December 19, 2008
A Michigan judge has disqualified a physician from diagnosing lung disease in asbestos plaintiffs after his opinions were shown to likely be phony.
The physician is not a radiologist or pulmonologist, and he flunked the certification test for reading X-rays to detect lung disease. He found disease in 60 of 68 plaintiffs while an outside radiological panel found abnormalities in just six of the same 68 plaintiffs.
“[T]he only conclusion in the face of such overwhelming medical evidence is that the opinions of Dr. Kelly are not reliable,” Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Robert Colombo Jr. wrote. All but one of the suits was then withdrawn by plaintiffs’ lawyers. Judge Colombo presides over 95 percent of the asbestos cases filed in Michigan.
Source: Opinion Journal, “Colombo the Asbestos Sleuth, A judge exposes more phony claims,” Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2008
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