Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #10-9

Published May 2, 2011

Taco Bell was sued for allegedly not having enough beef in its beef tacos, but the law firm that filed the suit dropped it. Taco Bell responded with a nationwide advertising campaign in which it asked, “Would it kill you to say you’re sorry?”

The firm claimed Taco Bell changed its meat formula after the suit was filed, but Taco Bell says this is not true. “We launched this campaign to make sure that consumers know that we didn’t change our marketing or products because we’ve always been completely transparent,” Taco Bell said.

Source: Bruce Schreiner, “Taco Bell Ads Take Parting Shot at Law Firm,” Associated Press, April 20, 2011 via

Attention, Shoppers …

Two victims of a stabbing by a mental patient in a Maryland Nordstrom’s department store have recovered about $1.6 million from the store.

The victims had sued Nordstrom’s, alleging it allowed a woman with paranoid schizophrenia, armed with four butcher’s knives, to enter the store and didn’t warn shoppers about her quickly enough.

The woman chased shoppers and had just been released from prison, having served 16 months for malicious destruction of property.

She stabbed the two victims multiple times during the eight minutes that elapsed between when she entered the store and her apprehension by an off-duty FBI agent. “Hopefully, Nordstrom and other stores will take their internal safety procedures more seriously,” the woman’s attorney said.

Source: Dan Morse, “Jury orders Nordstrom to pay $1.6 million to Bethesda stabbing victims,” Washington Post, April 18, 2011

Sight Suing

A possible new law in Hawaii would impose personal liability on travel writers if tourists die or are injured at attractions they recommend.

“I do believe we are endangering our visitors, and it is our responsibility to keep them safe,” said the bill’s sponsor. “Authors or publishers of visitor-guide publications describing attractions have a duty to warn the public of dangerous conditions.”

Travel writers are angry. “The trouble is we’re not at Disneyland,” one said. “It’s real out here.” And another said, “What if someone says, “Don’t write about the Grand Canyon because people are getting hurt?”

Source: Jim Carlton, “Guidebooks to Risky Attractions Stir Up Trouble in Paradise; Hawaiian Lawmakers Take Aim at Writers Over Mishaps Readers Had at Remote Sites,” Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2011

A Dog’s Worst Friend

The city of Seattle is going to pay $60,000 in damages to the owner of a dog accidentally electrocuted, and a local lawyer is calling it a terrible legal precedent.

The dog was electrocuted when he stepped on a metal plate connected to a city streetlight. The owner sued for pain and suffering, but the law typically limits recovery to the cost of the dog, in this case $200.

“It is well established that a pet owner has no right to emotional distress damages or damages for loss of human-animal bond based on the negligent death or injury to a pet,” a Washington appellate court held recently, but that’s not stopping the city’s settlement.

Seattle lawyer John W. Schedler says the deal will have unintended consequences. Litigation over dead pets will grow dramatically, causing increased car and homeowner insurance premiums. Pet-related service industries–pet boarders, dog walkers, groomers–will have to carry liability insurance, increasing their prices. Veterinary costs will increase as vets are sued for malpractice, thus reducing available medical care for pets, Schedler argues.

“For those of us who want to do everything possible to protect our pets, paying pet owners big pain-and-suffering awards is the wrong answer. Pets do not get the money and have no use for it if they did,” he wrote.

Source: John W. Schedler, “Seattle should not set bad precedent in pet case,” Seattle Times, April 4, 2011

Hard to Stomach

A woman impaled in the stomach by a tree branch falling into her car during a thunderstorm is suing the tree owner for allegedly failing to properly maintain it. There may be a slight problem with the lawsuit, though.

The woman’s husband told medical personnel the woman wanted to keep the branch to use in an art project, but she reportedly can’t because the branch is evidence.

Source: Associated Press, “Woman impaled by branch sues owner of tree,” April 22, 2011

He Alleges/She Alleges

A transsexual inmate in California is suing the state because it refused to pay for his sex-change surgery.

The inmate was convicted in 2002 of murder over a $400 clothing debt. While incarcerated, the state removed a brain tumor that may have increased his estrogen levels. He’s now claiming the sex-change surgery is necessary for rehabilitation from the brain operation.

Source: “Vacaville Inmate Sues State For Sex Change Surgery,” CBS 5 (Vacaville, CA), April 15, 2011

Job Action

The police chief in Scranton, Pennsylvania arrested a man who allegedly possessed marijuana, but now the police union has filed a grievance over it.

The union alleges the chief engaged in an unfair labor practice because the chief is not a union member and was off duty at the time he made the arrest. The complaint against the city alleges “the work of apprehending and arresting individuals has been the sole and exclusive province of members of the bargaining unit.”

But the chief has no plans to stop making arrests. “I think it’s absurd. I’m not going to turn my head on crime that takes place,” Chief Duffy said. “I took the same oath [as a police officer] that everyone else took,” he said. “I will continue to do this. I’m a public servant.”

Source: Steve McConnell, “Scranton police file grievance after chief makes off-duty arrest,” Scranton Times Tribune, April 19, 2011

Time Bandit

An objection has been filed by Ted Frank, founder of the Center for Class Action Fairness, against a lawyer who claims he billed 48,772 hours on a class-action case–about 9.5 hours per day, every day, with no days off–between November 4, 1995, and December 6, 2009, at the hourly rate of $925.

“As anyone who has had to keep billing records knows, it is rare for ten hours of billing to take only ten hours: There are bathroom breaks, coffee breaks, meal breaks, interruptions, and so forth,” said Frank.

Source: David Lat, “Quote of the Day: And you thought you billed a lot of hours …,” April 20, 2011 via

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:

The Heartland Institute
19 South La Salle Street #903
Chicago, Illinois 60603