Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #10-3

Published February 7, 2011

A Maryland attorney is becoming known as the “bedbug barrister” after filing eight lawsuits for bedbug bite victims in Maryland, seeking a total of $7 million in damages. He’s also got five more cases almost ready to file and 21 other possible cases. “I’m very aware of the derogatory comments people make about me being a bloodsucker seeking large sums of money,” he said. “It’s nonsense. These people need help.”

Bedbugs are indeed a big problem with 12,000 cases reported in 2009 in New York City alone. Numerous lawsuits are also pending there, including the Waldorf-Astoria as the defendant in one.

Bedbug litigation is fast becoming a niche industry. There are specialized publications, including “The Bed Bug Handbook: The Complete Guide to Bed Bugs and Their Control,” and legal research articles such as “The Prosecution and Defense of Bed Bug Lawsuits.” There are also conferences such as the Congressional Bed Bug Forum and the Federal Bed Bug Working Group. And there’s a group called BedBug Central, which has supplied expert witnesses in numerous cases.

Some lawyers won’t take bedbug cases, though, because they don’t see much payoff. Though the Maryland lawyer is suing for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, other lawyers say the cases aren’t worth that much. The bites look “grotesque,” one said, but they generally heal without scarring. That lawyer handled two cases. One settled for $4,000 and the other for $10,000. With lawyers collecting about a third in legal fees, the cases don’t warrant the lawyer time involved.

Source: J. Freedom duLac, “Md. lawyer helps bedbug victims bite back,” Washington Post, November 28, 2010 via; “Council Urges Feds To Study Bed Bug Problem,” NY 1 News, February 1, 2011

Birthday Suit

A Queens, New York woman is suing her boss for sexual harassment after he gave her an unwelcome gift for her birthday: a vibrating dildo.

“Usually, I get a cake for my employees,” the woman said. “When I opened it [the gift from her boss], I saw this thing. I was like, what is this? … I went outside and took the bag and threw it in the garbage.” She then complained to her boss and says he told her: “‘Come on, girl. You don’t know how to enjoy your life.'”

Her lawyer says the boss “abused his position of power to force unwilling employees to appease his deviant sexual behavior.” The man denies any wrongdoing. “She is trying to blackmail me,” he said. “There is [sic] no grounds for this suit.”

Source: Jamie Schram, “Birthday suit: Gal miffed over vibrator gift,” New York Post, February 2, 2011

Veggie Tale

Even though Florida federal district court Judge Roger Vinson had just declared Obamacare unconstitutional because it requires all Americans to buy health insurance, Harvard Law School professor Charles Fried told Congress it can still constitutionally force Americans to buy vegetables. What it cannot do, Fried said, is force Americans to eat them.

Heartland Institute Policy Advisor Avik Roy reported on his Forbes blog on Fried’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It would be a violation of the 5th and the 14th Amendment, to force you to eat something. But to force you to pay for something? I don’t see why not. It may not be a good idea, but I don’t see why it’s unconstitutional,” Fried said. “Even if the regulation of inactivity–if that is what it is–is a novelty, its novelty does not count against it. Many–maybe most–regulations of commerce have some aspect of novelty about them.”

Source: Avik Roy, “Harvard Law’s Fried: A Broccoli Mandate is Constitutional,”, February 2, 2011

Eviction Convictions

An attorney in California has been helping clients evicted from their homes in foreclosure cases by breaking into them–or advising his clients to do this–so they can live there while he resolves their cases in court.

Attorney Michael Pines admits having done this six times already. He’s been fined, arrested, and threatened with contempt of court and a jail term. But that didn’t stop him from vowing to the judge in a seventh case to hire a locksmith to gain entry for his clients into a seventh home. “I’m going back there,” he said in court. “And I hope I get arrested.”

One California lawyer says he and other lawyers secretly admire Pines’ convictions. “I certainly don’t have the courage to do what he’s doing,” that lawyer said. “I’m afraid of getting arrested.” But other lawyers are critical. “This attorney violates the canons of professional ethics in advising clients to break the law,” said a real estate law professor at USC.

Pines claims to be a victim of unethical lending practices himself. At least six of his properties are in foreclosure, and he owes banks, which he claims made unethical loans, more than $2 million. He says his personal experiences inspired him to help his clients.

But his help is not free, and he expects to be paid his usual hourly rate of $650 an hour. “I tell my clients that if you’re living in a house for free, you should be able to afford to pay a lawyer,” he said.

Source: Nate Jackson, “Lawyer advises foreclosed clients to break back into their homes,” Los Angeles Times, January 14, 2011 via

Cheep Solution

A Taiwanese man complained to police his neighbors’ parrots were too loud, and the neighbors retaliated by teaching the birds to curse at him. So now the man is suing the neighbors.

The birds call him “Clueless, big-mouthed idiot,” the man alleges. This caused him emotional distress, which caused him to lose concentration at work, which caused him to suffer burns on the job. The police had declined to get involved, claiming lack of evidence.

Source: AFP, “Man sues neighbours over rude bird,” January 11, 2011 via lowering the bar

Hard Bargaining

The Milwaukee Public Schools system faces millions of dollars in budget deficits and will be laying off hundreds of teachers this year, but that isn’t stopping the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association. This group, the teachers’ union, is taking the school district to court to force it to put Viagra and other erectile dysfunction drugs on the list of pharmaceuticals covered by teachers’ health insurance plans.

Source: “Brickbats,” Reason magazine, December 2010

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
Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Author: Maureen Martin
Editors: S.T. Karnick, Diane Carol Bast

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

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