Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #1-3

Published June 3, 2002

Acne Medication Made Al Qaeda Wannabe Do It

The family of the 15-year-old boy who crashed a single-engine plane into a Tampa high-rise, Al Qaeda style, has filed a $70 million lawsuit against the maker of an acne medication that had been prescribed for the youngster. While the county medical examiner’s office found no trace of the medication in the boy’s bloodstream, the teenager’s parents claim nothing else could explain his suicidal flight, despite the fact that he left behind a suicide note praising Osama bin Laden. In 1984, before the boy was born, his mother and father failed in a bloody joint suicide pact, which the parents’ lawyer called “completely irrelevant” to the teenager’s action. From The New York Times, USA Today, and, among others.

A Rare Victory for Common Sense

In a sparsely publicized decision, a jury in West Virginia late last year struck a note for common sense by rejecting plaintiffs’ demands that the four major U.S. tobacco companies establish a “medical monitoring” program for the approximately 250,000 current smokers in the state. This would have entailed periodic medical tests of all healthy smokers in the state to identify the onset of smoking-related illness. What struck the jury as particularly idiotic about the concept was that smokers would not have to quit smoking in order to qualify for the program, nor would they even have to consider quitting. From the Web site of the Washington Legal Foundation.

Not So Fast on That Common Sense Thing

The Florida 4th District Court of Appeals reinstated a wrongful death suit involving a mechanic who was killed when a 16-inch tire he had just mounted on a 16.5-inch wheel exploded when he tried to inflate it. A lower court had granted summary judgment to the defendant rim and tire manufacturers, ruling the instructions printed on the tire stated 16-inch tires should be mounted on 16-inch rims and the mechanic knew of the dangers and caused the accident through his own negligence. The appeals court found, however, that while the tire warning gave instructions to use matching tire and rims, it gave no hint a mismatch could cause death or a serious injury. From the National Law Journal.

Get the Lead Out … Of Our Schools

Plaintiff’s attorneys have convinced a number of school districts in Texas and Mississippi to sue the former lead paint industry for the cost of removing decades-old lead-based paint from their school buildings. According to industry filings, though, school-age children are typically over the age of concern for lead poisoning and to the best of the industry’s knowledge, no public health report has ever attributed an elevated level of lead in a child’s blood to lead-based paint in schools or public buildings. In sworn depositions, school officials from one Texas district admitted there is currently no health risk from lead paint in their schools; they had never spent a penny for lead paint testing, inspection, or abatement; and they currently had no intention of doing so. The sole reason they gave for initiating the suit was because the lawyers convinced them EPA might, at some indeterminate time in the future, require abatement of all lead paint in schools, notwithstanding the fact EPA has said repeatedly that intact lead paint is typically not a hazard and does not need to be abated. From The National Law Journal and industry filings.

Get the Lead Out … Of Our Snickers Bar?

In early May, an advocacy group calling itself The American Environmental Safety Institute filed suit in California for unspecified damages claiming U.S. chocolate manufacturers were exposing their customers to potentially dangerous levels of lead and cadmium in their sweets. The institute said the manufacturers are violating a 1986 California law requiring companies to disclose chemicals that may cause cancer or birth defects. A spokesman for the chocolate companies called the lawsuit a “shameless attempt to exploit a well-intentioned law for financial gain.” Despite the institute’s claim that the metals are introduced into chocolate during the cocoa production process, California’s attorney general had determined previously that the metals are “naturally occurring chemicals” in the chocolate due to the prevalence of lead and cadmium in water, air, and soil. From Bloomberg.

New York City Lawsuit Abuse Makes Strange Bedfellows

Sit down and apply a cold compress to your brow! The editors of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal actually agreed on something related to the plaintiffs’ bar, to wit, that something needs to be done to reduce the half-billion-dollar-plus in awards that New York City pays out each year to settle lawsuits against it, much of it for slips and falls on city streets and pavements. Two decades ago the city passed a law making it liable for slip-and-fall cases only if it had prior notice of specific defects. The New York State Trial Lawyers Association hired a mapping company to annually survey all city sidewalks and submit maps of defects to the city. Last year’s submission ran some 5,700 pages, mostly maps covered with squiggles meant to represent defects significant enough to justify lawsuits. While The Times‘ suggestions for reform were predictably modest, it must nonetheless have sent the editorial board of The Journal into gales of laughter to see their liberal uptown cousin finally recognize that the plaintiffs’ bar is a menace, not just to American business but to American cities as well.

Lawsuit Abusers Team Up with Drug Abusers

“It’s hard to tell who are the bigger drug abusers,” writes Ian Zack for Forbes, “addicts or their lawyers.” He tells the story of how trial lawyers have filed at least 60 lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, a Stamford, Connecticut-based drug manufacturer whose prescription painkiller, Oxycontin, became the drug-of-choice for addicts looking for a cheap high. The problem is, as one Kentucky judge ruled, “the plaintiffs have failed to produce any evidence showing that the defendant’s marketing, promotional or distribution practices have ever caused even one tablet of Oxycontin to be inappropriately prescribed or diverted.” Much to its credit, Purdue Pharma has taken a hard line against the lawsuits. Ian Zack, “Oxy Morons,” Forbes, April 29, 2002.

The Devil Made Me Do It

A man who cut off his hand with a power saw because he thought it was possessed by the devil, and then refused permission for a surgeon to reattach the hand because doing so was “against his religion,” nonetheless sued both the surgeon and the hospital for not performing the surgery. He said the hospital should have known he was psychotic and not capable of making a rational decision. From the Web site of the American Tort Reform Association.

More of the Same Nonsense

According to The New York Times, a murder suspect who hanged herself in a Florida jail cell left a note asking her lawyers to sue the jail for failing to prevent her death. The woman, who was accused of killing her husband, admitted to the murder in her suicide note and directed that any money from the suit go to her teenage son and daughter.

Published bi-weekly by The Heartland Institute, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1984. The full text of this two-page newsletter is also available in Adobe Acrobat’s PDF format; click here.
Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Editors: Diane Carol Bast, Paul Fisher, Dan Hales

Information on lawsuit abuse can be found on these Web sites: