Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #1-9

Published September 15, 2002

Canadian Hookers to Sue Hollywood for Lost Wages

A group representing Vancouver prostitutes, beggars, and drug addicts is threatening to sue 30 movie and television production companies for interrupting their illicit businesses. The Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users said in a letter to the 30 firms that “Sex trade workers must be compensated for displacement they experience at your hands in the same manner you would compensate a business if you were to use their locale during operating hours.” The Vancouver Sun backs the litigation, saying in an editorial, “we see no reason why any unorthodox entrepreneur should be treated differently from other businesses when it comes to compensation.” From Variety.

Get the Lead (Lawsuit) Out

Not every newspaper is as irresponsible as the Vancouver Sun. A strongly worded editorial in the September 12 issue of The Chicago Tribune took the city of Chicago to task for its recently filed lawsuit against the former lead paint industry. The editorial pointed out the industry “acted responsibly” first by funding medical research on the hazards of flaking lead paint in residential housing and then, in 1955, by voluntarily stopping the marketing of lead paint for interior uses, more than two decades before the U.S. government banned its use. “The solution isn’t litigation,” the editorial stated. “Chicago should mount a campaign of public education, incentives and enforcement to persuade – and force if necessary – owners and landlords to maintain their buildings.”

Will Asbestos Bust the Bank?

New reports confirm that the virus of asbestos litigation is infecting a growing part of corporate America. Between 1,000 and 2,000 American companies are currently being sued. Since 1982, at least 55 U.S. corporations have declared bankruptcy because of overwhelming asbestos-related liability – 40 percent of them in the last year and a half alone. Total liability may reach $200 to $275 billion over the next 20 years. From the Financial Times.

Everybody Loses . . . Well, Not Quite Everybody

The vast majority of asbestos claims being filed today – perhaps 95 percent or more – are on behalf of people who aren’t even sick, but who have merely had some peripheral exposure to an asbestos product in their working careers. The argument is that if they wait to actually become ill before filing, there won’t be any money left to pay them off. Juries are rewarding these so-called “unimpaired” claimants with multi-million dollar awards, prompting calls for Congressional action to establish minimum disease criteria in asbestos cases. The plaintiffs’ bar, which is raking in millions of dollars from these suits, has vowed to fight such legislation to the death. From the Financial Times.

Sex on the Runway

A 36-year-old Florida woman is suing Delta Airlines, saying she was publicly humiliated when she was pulled off an airplane in Dallas and required to take out of her luggage and hold up a sex toy that had begun vibrating. A Delta security agent made her open her luggage on the tarmac and take out the adult toy, which she and her husband had just purchased in Las Vegas. The scene could be viewed by passengers on the plane and nearby Delta ground crew, three of whom “began laughing hysterically.” A spokeswoman for Delta said, “If there’s anything questionable about a bag, we have a responsibility to investigate.” From AP

The Judges of Madison County

Madison County, in southwest Illinois, is the nation’s leader in class-action litigation on a per-capita basis. A legal ethics professor at Boston University attributes the county’s popularity to the local judiciary’s propensity to approve settlements that sometimes benefit plaintiffs’ lawyers and defendants more than the plaintiffs themselves. A recent case illustrates the problem. Settlement of a class-action lawsuit against manufacturers of TVs with fuzzy pictures provided most claimants with $25 or $50 coupons good toward purchases of products costing more than $100. How much did the Madison County court award the lawyers? Try a cool $22 million. From The New York Times.

Who’s Scamming Who in Madison County?

One example of Madison County judges allowing plaintiff’s lawyers to rip off their clients does not a case make. So let’s report another recent Madison County settlement, this one involving a scam artist who, through telemarketing and mass mailings, convinced some 400,000 mostly elderly people to enter contests and buy stakes in foreign lotteries. He is said to have stolen between $120 and $200 million from his victims and spent six months in an Oregon jail for his efforts. A Madison County judge has tentatively approved a settlement that would give all victims combined a mere $5.5 million, assuming they could find canceled checks or credit cards to prove their claims. The scammer still has at least $75 million of his ill-gotten gains and any money not claimed is to go back to him. How much did the attorneys who negotiated what a New York law professor calls “the most abusive class action settlement of the decade” get from the Madison County court? Try $2.2 million. From The New York Times.

Why Didn’t Cesar Chavez Think of This?

Lawyers claiming to represent Washington State farm workers are moving forward with a racketeering lawsuit against two apple growers for intentionally hiring illegal farm workers in an attempt to depress wages. The suit says the companies set up an employment agency as a front to recruit illegal immigrants, mainly from Mexico, and, at the same time, rejected job candidates known to be legal aliens or American citizens. From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Have they Questioned the Pit Bull in the Crate Next Door?

An Ontario couple is suing Air Canada for $5 million for losing their pet cat, Fu, on a flight from Toronto to San Francisco. The 15-year-old tabby and four other family cats were placed in individual airline-approved plastic crates for the flight. When they arrived in San Francisco, Fu’s crate had a hole in a corner, the front door was broken, and the cat was gone. The couple’s case is being handled by the animal rights lawyer who fought to save the dog that attacked and killed a woman in front of her San Francisco apartment. From AP.

State AGs Are Not Above the Law

The Wall Street Journal reports the Connecticut Supreme Court clipped the wings of its free-wheeling State Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, by ruling the AG’s job is to pursue cases specifically authorized by law or by state agencies. Blumenthal files an amazing 23,000 lawsuits a year, according to the WSJ, three times as many as his predecessor. “The Connecticut Supreme Court decision is a step in the right direction,” editorializes the WSJ, “but legislators need to listen up and remember who makes the laws in America.” To which we humbly add, “yes!”

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

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