Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #1-6

Published July 29, 2002

He’s Demanding a Lifetime Subscription to Penthouse

A man who uses a wheelchair has sued a Florida strip club because an area where private lap dances are performed is up a flight of stairs and inaccessible to him. The suit also contends the club, the Wildside Adult Sports Cabaret in West Palm Beach, violated the Americans With Disabilities Act because the plaintiff could not enjoy a good view of the strippers from his wheelchair. A spokesman for the club said it has excellent accommodations for patrons in wheelchairs, who he adds are among the club’s best customers. From the July 18 New York Times

Next Year They’re Going to Spend it on Raising Rabid Raccoons

According to a Charlotte Observer investigation, the state of North Carolina has spent 73 percent of the $59 million it has received so far from the massive national tobacco settlement on programs to grow and market more tobacco. The money from the settlement was supposed to be used to indemnify states for the costs of treating illnesses caused by smoking.

My, My, Grandma, What Deep Pockets You Have

A Missouri jury awarded $500,000 to a 13-month-old child who was burned over 30 percent of his body when he pulled on the cord of a multi-cooker deep fryer and the appliance fell off a counter and spilled hot oil on him. His parents filed a products liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the deep fryer and a negligent supervision claim against his grandmother, who was babysitting at the time. The jury found the appliance manufacturer free of liability but assessed the grandmother the full $500,000. From the July 8 National Law Journal

Lawyers Battle Mold, Destroy Homes

One of the fastest growing areas of litigation is “toxic mold” lawsuits. Texas has been especially hard hit, with more than 13,000 new cases filed last year alone, primarily against insurance companies. In 2001, Farmers Insurance lost a Texas suit to the tune of $32.1 million for improperly handling a water claim, which allegedly allowed mold to form and take over the plaintiff’s $3 million home. Responding to the crisis, the three major national homeowners insurers have stopped writing new business in Texas covering water-related damage, and Farmers refused to renew 600,000 comprehensive Texas homeowners policies at the end of last year. From Best’s Insurance News

One Small Step for You, One Giant Lawsuit for Him

A supervisor for the New York City sanitation department won almost $5 million from the city for injuries he suffered when he tripped and fell into a three-inch-deep hole in a Brooklyn parking lot. The city argued the supervisor was merely clumsy and that it was, in fact, part of his job to notify the maintenance department when he discovered city property needing repairs, such as the shallow hole he fell into. From The National Law Journal

There’s More Wrong with Their Heads Than Just a Tattoo

Two men who had the logo of a Davenport, Iowa, radio station tattooed on their foreheads in order to win $150,000 are suing the station because they found out it was all a practical joke made up by a disc jockey. The two allege they heard disc jockey Ben Stone announce on the air that anyone who had a “93 Rock” logo permanently tattooed on their forehead would receive $30,000 a year for five years. In their complaint, the two men claim they have been unable to get work since obtaining the tattoos and that anyone who responded to the offer was to be “publicly scorned and ridiculed for their greed and lack of common sense.” From The National Law Journal

You’ve Got a Problem With $2,500 a Minute?

According to a major article on the prospects for federal tort reform — not too promising, unfortunately — the July issue of Corporate Legal Times points out that plaintiffs’ attorneys are often the real winners in national class action cases, and cites the example of Blockbuster, which “agreed last year to provide $450 million in free movie rental coupons to customers charged unfair late-return fees by the company. Fewer than 10 percent of the coupons have actually been used since the ruling, but the trial lawyers did cash in, netting a cool $9.2 million in fees.” The article also notes that “in the end plaintiffs’ attorneys in the 1998 tobacco settlement will receive an estimated $11 billion in fees. For some of the lawyers involved, that will translate to a $150,000-per-hour fee.”

Lawsuit Abuse by the Numbers

The same article in Corporate Legal Times points out that “the tort system cost American businesses and consumers at least $165 billion in 1999 alone. More than 50 cents on every dollar paid in an average tort case goes to lawyers, experts and transaction costs, not to the injured parties named in the suit . . . federal class-action cases grew more than 300 percent between 1990 and 2000, while state filings grew more than 1,000 percent during that same period.”

Your Doctor’s Not In . . . But Maybe Your Lawyer Can Help You?

In a frightening preview of things to come, Nevada’s only top-level trauma center was closed for 10 days because of soaring malpractice insurance rates. The county-run trauma center, which serves a 10,000-square-mile area including parts of southern Nevada and parts of California, Utah, and Arizona, was closed on July 3 because all but one of the center’s 58 orthopedic doctors resigned because they said they couldn’t afford rising malpractice insurance premiums. “If we do not fix the problem, . . . there will be a mass exodus, a lot of doctors leaving this community,” said Dr. Michael Daubs, one of the doctors. Associated Press, July 14

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: