Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #2-3

Published March 15, 2003

Send the Disability Checks c/o Leavenworth

A Los Angeles jury has ordered two insurance companies to pay a 66-year-old Beverly Hills lawyer $371,000 for stopping the man’s $8,200-a-month disability payments in 1999. The insurance companies believed he was faking his ailments. One of the companies will have to continue paying him $4,700 a month in disability until he dies. It’s a bit of a hollow victory, however. The lawyer is serving seven-and-a-half years in federal prison for sinking his 76-foot yacht off the Italian coast to collect on a $3.5 million insurance policy; the entire jury award in his disability case must be put toward the $2.8 million he must pay in restitution for his insurance fraud sentence. From the Associated Press

Crime Pays … Sort Of

The family of a man who was electrocuted by a homemade booby trap when he tried to break into a Chicago-area bar after hours was awarded $75,000 in a wrongful-death jury trial. The bar owner installed the anti-theft electronic device around a window after his establishment had been burglarized three times in a month. Warning signs were placed outside the building, including near the booby-trapped window. Jurors were not allowed to be told the victim was drunk and on cocaine, nor that he had served time for two previous burglary convictions. From the Chicago Sun-Times

Sorry for Your Loss, Here’s My Card

Relatives of people trampled to death during the tragic stampede at the E2 nightclub in Chicago have ben besieged by offers of “help” from funeral homes, the clergy, and, of course, lawyers. The Chicago Sun-Times reported two lawyers actually showed up at the morgue where the bodies were laid out for identification and began passing out business cards. Another has offered to pay for funeral services if a family signs up with him, and a funeral home director has offered free services to any family that retains the lawyer he recommends.

Like We Really Needed a Poll to Discover this?

A national poll commissioned by the American Tort Reform Association found 83 percent of Americans think there are far too many lawsuits filed in the United States and that greedy personal injury lawyers are to blame. Seventy-five percent think health care costs have gone up in the past year due to excessive malpractice litigation, and 76 percent believe their access to quality health care is being threatened as a result. Tort reform is favored by 42 percent of those surveyed; only 6 percent oppose reform. Even Democrats favor tort reform by a ratio of four to one (39 percent vs. 10 percent). From a press release posted on the website of the American Tort Reform Association (

Cerebral Palsy Claims Drive Malpractice Insurance

The Top Ten Jury Awards of 2002, a list compiled annually by Lawyers Weekly USA, was dominated by awards against three traditional targets of the plaintiffs’ bar: tobacco companies, car makers, and doctors. Three of the awards–for $94.5 million, $91 million, and $80 million–were for children who developed cerebral palsy as the alleged consequence of oxygen deprivation during a botched delivery. It has been estimated that such cerebral palsy claims are the single greatest factor in the huge recent increase in malpractice insurance rates for obstetricians.

Never Let Facts Get in the Way of a Lawsuit

While we’re on the subject of cerebral palsy-related lawsuits, a recent widely publicized study by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics found less than 10 percent of cerebral palsy cases result from so-called birth asphyxia; most cases, therefore, are not the result of a doctor’s malpractice. Reacting with their normal restraint, one Boston plaintiffs’ attorney called the report “dangerous, intellectually indefensible, and morally irresponsible.” From a variety of sources, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal

Catch an Airline by the Toe

A federal judge in Kansas City is allowing a discrimination case over a nursery rhyme to go to trial. In February 2001, in an effort to get passengers to take their seats on a crowded Southwest Airlines flight boarding in Las Vegas, a 22-year-old white flight attendant said over the intercom, “Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; pick a seat, we gotta go.” Two African-American women standing in the aisle at the time said the rhyme immediately struck them as racist and felt it was directed solely at them. The attendant said she had never heard the racist version of the rhyme and had used the phrase on several flights as a humorous way of getting passengers to take their seats. Southwest is denying any discrimination and has not asked the attendant to stop using the phrase, although she no longer does so because of the incident. From The Kansas City Star

Next Time We’ll Just Let Them Mug You

A recently hired desk clerk at a Comfort Inn in Cross Lanes, West Virginia was appalled to discover the motel had installed audio and video surveillance equipment in the front desk and lounge areas. He sued his employer under the state’s wiretapping act and was awarded $500,000 in a jury trial. The defense argued, unsuccess-fully, it is common practice for motels to install suc monitoring devices to provide security for employees and guests. From The National Law Journal

If You’re Sick, Don’t Call Us in the Morning

A federal court ruled in February that Pennsylvania Medicaid patients who suffer from various smoking-related diseases are not entitled to share in the loot the commonwealth is collecting from tobacco companies as part of the 1998 $200+ billion national settlement. The court found the 1999 amendments to the Medicaid Act give states the right to dispose of the settlement funds for whatever purposes they deem appropriate. At least in the Keystone State, helping sick smokers is not one of those purposes. From The National Law Journal

An Apology

A number of our loyal readers have wondered why we haven’t used the item about a Montana resident named Bob Craft who changed his name to “Jack Ass” five years ago as part of an anti-drunk driving campaign (don’t ask for the details). Seems Mr. Ass recently stumbled across the MTV show “Jackass” and has decided to sue the network for “plagiarizing” and “defaming” his name. The reason we haven’t used the item is because we find the whole matter jack-asinine. From The New Yorker, among others

Published 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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