Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #8-15
The Hooters restaurant chain is being sued by 13 present and past “Hooter Girls” alleging the chain violated federal wage laws by making them pay for the outfits they wear on the job. The Girls pay for their clothing through withholding from their tips.
Hooters denies it has any liability. Hooters Girls get “exposure” that’s “without peer,” a spokesman said, plus benefits, travel, and excellent compensation.
“Every year, thousands of women apply to be Hooters Girls because it is simply the best job in the restaurant industry,” the spokesman said.
Source: Jeff Jeffrey, “Hooters Girls Sue Restaurant Chain for Alleged Wage Violations,” Legaltimes.typepad.com, August 11, 2009
A New York City attorney lost the first round in his $40 million class-action lawsuit against Costco, complaining the one-pound “shrimp tray with cocktail sauce” he bought at the store contains just 13.5 ounces of shrimp, as do all the shrimp trays sold by Costco.
A federal judge in Manhattan called the suit “simply ridiculous,” noting the tray weighed a pound after taking “into account both the shrimp and the sauce, never mind the lemon wedges and lettuce also included in the package.” The judge continued, “A reasonable consumer would understand that purchasing a ready-to-serve, prepackaged convenience item is different than purchasing shrimp at a fish counter.”
Source: Bruce Golding, “Shrimp suit doesn’t hold water,” New York Post, August 11, 2009, via overlawyered.com
A Sacramento, California woman died from water intoxication while participating in a contest sponsored by a local radio station. The contestants were required to swill large amounts of water but not go to the bathroom during a three-hour period.
First prize was a Nintendo Wii game console. The contest was called “Hold Your Wee for a Wii.”
Ten radio station employees were fired by the station for holding the contest, and the deceased woman’s family rightly filed a wrongful death claim against the station. But the “copycat” suits by other contestants are entirely another thing.
One woman alleges she’s now suffering from a fear of water and can’t listen to the radio any more. Another claims she’s gained 60 pounds and is having “irrational mood swings.” A third woman claims she now believes she will “die young, maybe at my own hand.” Thousands of pages of legal claims are now pending.
Source: “Survivors say stunt left them twisted,” Sacramento Bee, August 10, 2009, via abovethelaw.com.
A recent graduate of Monroe College in the Bronx is suing the school because she can’t find a job.
Monroe is a “career-oriented” college, its Web site says, and the student paid $70,000 in tuition before graduating in April with hopes of finding a “great job.” Still without one, she wants her money back.
“They have not tried hard enough to help me,” she wrote in her complaint. The school says the case “is completely without merit.”
Source: Jennifer Millman, “College Grad Can’t Find Job, Wants $$$ Back,” NBC New York.com, August 2, 2009; http://www.monroecollege.edu/
Stain and Suffering
A Michigan lawyer is suing Procter & Gamble, claiming its Crest “Pro-Health” mouthwash turned his teeth brown.
“My wife asked me, ‘What’s on your teeth?’” the man said after filing suit. “I flossed, brushed--it wouldn’t come off.” The class-action suit seeks payment of dental bills for teeth cleaning. “I have a pretty good toothbrush,” he said. “Nothing seems to work.”
Procter & Gamble thinks the suit is without merit. “We stand behind our product,” a spokesman said. “Tooth discoloration is a very complex matter and is influenced by many different things.” Source: Ed White, “Mich. lawyer sues, claims mouthwash stained teeth,” Associated Press, August 6, 2009
An Illinois man is going to jail for yawning in court. His cousin, who pled guilty to a felony drug charge, got off much easier.
Judge Daniel Rozak of Will County Circuit Court in Joliet, Illinois was in the midst of sentencing the cousin to two years’ probation on the drug charge when the man yawned. The judge held the yawner in criminal contempt of court and threw him in jail for six months.
Accounts vary about how disturbing the yawn was. The judge’s written order stated the man “raised his hands while at the same time making a loud yawning sound.” The prosecutor’s office described it as “a loud and boisterous attempt to disrupt the proceedings.”
A Chicago Tribune investigation found Rozak jails people for contempt more than any other judge in the county. Of 30 judges, Rozak has brought more than a third of all contempt charges in the past 10 years, most for cell phones that ring in court, the paper said. Contempt is defined as “acts that embarrass, hinder or obstruct the court in its administration of justice or lessen its authority or dignity.” In one case, Rozak sent a man to jail for 30 days after he called the judge “boss” in a loud voice.
Source: Steve Schmadeke, “Judge sentences man to 6 months in jail for yawning;” Chicago Tribune, August 10, 2009 via Jonathan Turley
Bounty Hunters on Steroids
A provision in current Medicare law allows the government to recover from a secondary source medical costs it paid for a Medicare recipient’s health care even though another payer, typically an insurance company, has the primary duty to pay. Plaintiffs’ trial lawyers have brought more than 60 lawsuits trying to make businesses--such as health care providers, medical device manufacturers, tobacco companies, and others--into “secondary payers.” Courts have uniformly rejected these cases.
But the health care bill now pending in the House contains an amendment that would allow these “bounty hunter” lawsuits--on steroids.
First, the suits could be brought by any person-- even if that person was not injured by the alleged conduct. Second, the suits could be based merely on claimed liability; no proof of actual wrongful conduct would be required. Third, actual damages to an actual Medicare recipient need not be shown. It’s enough if statistical or epidemiological evidence shows a class of Medicare recipients might have been injured.
Businesses expect a massive outbreak of obesity litigation against entities with no preexisting obligation to reimburse Medicare, such as fast food chains, snack makers, and soda manufacturers.
Source: Walter Olson, “Inside the Health Care Bill,” Forbes.com, July 22, 2009.
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: