Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #8-13
Whom Would Jesus Sue?
Putting the letters “WWJD” on a debt collection letter was “offensive” to a Minnesota couple, so they’ve filed a class-action lawsuit against the debt collection agency sending the letter.
The couple understood the four letters to be short for “What Would Jesus Do?” and to be communicating they are “going to go to hell” if they don’t pay the debt. The suit alleges abuse and harassment in violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
The debt collection firm has filed a countersuit alleging the male half of the couple is president of a rival debt collection firm trying to drive a competitor out of business with the suit.
Source: Adrienne S. Gaines, “Couple Calls ‘WWJD’ Offensive in Class-Action Suit,” Charisma magazine, June 17, 2009, via FacesOfLawsuitAbuse.org, a project of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform
Lawyers $800,000, Clients $0
A Los Angeles judge has approved a class-action lawsuit settlement of about $100,000 but is hesitating to approve legal fees for the plaintiffs’ lawyers of about eight times that amount.
American Enterprise Institute Resident Fellow and lawyer Ted Frank filed objections to the settlement and attorney fees on behalf of the Center for Class Action Fairness., a group he formed this year to file objections in this case and other class-action suits in the future.
The suit was brought against Motorola Inc., Plantronics Inc., and GN Netcom Inc., alleging the companies failed to warn owners of Motorola’s Bluetooth headsets of potential hearing loss. Under the proposed settlement, members of the class will receive nothing. The companies will donate $100,000 to four charities dealing with hearing loss. The representative plaintiffs will receive $12,000.
Frank objected to the attorney fees and the charitable contribution, calling the latter a “bad settlement” even though the defendants agreed to it. “Where parties used to use coupons to exaggerate the value of the settlement, now they’re using charitable donations.”
Source: Amanda Bronstad, “Judge approves Bluetooth settlement, but balks at attorneys’ fees award,” National Law Journal, July 9, 2009
A Palm Beach, Florida judge has denied the motion of a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer to forbid his defense lawyer opponent from wearing shoes with holes in their soles during an ongoing jury trial.
The plaintiff’s lawyer called the shoes “a ruse to impress the jury” into believing the defense lawyer is “humble and simple, without sophistication.” He asked the judge to force the defense lawyer “to wear shoes without holes in the soles at trial to avoid the unfair prejudice suggested by this conduct.”
The defense lawyer objected. “They’re my trial shoes,” he said. “I’ve had pretty good luck with these shoes. They’re comfortable, and I wear them.”
Source: Frank Cerabino, “Does lawyer who bares sole have an ace in the hole?” Palm Beach Post, June 27, 2009, via Jonathan Turley
File and Forget
A ruling finally came down in a Montana case alleging swindling charges over the lease of a natural gas field--more than 25 years after the case was filed. The case between two former business partners was filed March 31, 1983. The case file disappeared from the court clerk’s office sometime after 1985. It potentially involved millions of dollars.
The presiding judge retired in 1994. His former administrative assistant said she thought he found the file in an old briefcase recently. He brought it to court and the state supreme court was consulted about what to do. The high court advised the retired judge to go ahead and rule, so the judge dismissed the case.
Source: Associated Press, “Mont. Judge rules on case--24 years later,” July 1, 2009
A student who flunked out of the New England School of Law may proceed with his discrimination lawsuit against the school, a federal judge ruled recently.
The suit was brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act and other federal and state laws banning discrimination. The student alleges he has “memory and organizational deficits” that may have resulted from an accident about 25 years ago.
The court found the allegations were enough to state a claim but said the plaintiff faces “a substantial obstacle” in proving the case at trial.
Source: Sheri Qualters, “Expelled Student’s ADA Claim Against Law School Can Proceed, Additional claims are based on the Massachusetts Equal Rights Act and the federal Rehabilitation Act,” The National Law Journal, May 5, 2009
A’s in the Hole
A judge has tentatively approved a $510,000 settlement in a class-action case brought against the Oakland A’s Major League Baseball team for discriminating against men during a Mother’s Day giveaway.
On Mother’s Day 2004, the A’s sponsored several women-only events to fight breast cancer, including a 5K run, free mammograms, and free floppy plaid sun hats to the first 7,500 women to arrive for the game. One attendee--a lawyer, of course--objected and filed the class-action suit. In the past he has sued more than 40 other entities for alleged anti-male discrimination, including Club Med, the Los Angeles Angels, restaurants, nightclubs, and theaters.
In the A’s case, the settlement is to go 50-50 to the lawyers and the plaintiffs. Persons can recover about $100 in coupons and cash if they swear they are male and got to the game early and show some kind of receipt for the game ticket. The firm handling claims hasn’t gotten any calls so far.
Source: Rick Reilly, “Make $100 the sleazy way,” ESPN The Magazine, June 10, 2009
Lawyers are often blamed for filing frivolous lawsuits, but increasingly they are finding themselves on the receiving end of baseless claims, according to a New York judge.
The judge dismissed a claim brought by the buyer of a house against the seller’s attorney, claiming the attorney should reimburse him for the $2,250 cost of replacing a furnace in the house. The buyer was unable to sue the seller because he had moved out of state.
“This is another case of what appears to be a disturbing trend of litigation being brought by persons suing attorneys who did not represent them for that attorney’s proper representation of his or her client,” the judge wrote. “This suit is completely baseless.”
Source: Mark Fass, “Judge Calls Frivolous Suits Against Attorneys a ‘Disturbing Trend,’” New York Law Journal, June 29, 2009 via overlawyered.com
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: