Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #3-2

Published April 16, 2004

“Binding Arbitration” Brings Down Soft-Core Film-Maker

The female star of such cinematic bondage masterpieces as “Asses in the Air” successfully sued her employer, Slave Labor Productions, for injuries she suffered while bound and hanging from ropes several feet off the ground during a filming. Since she also was gagged at the time, she could not tell the camera crew her left arm, wrist, and hand were not supported properly by the ropes. An arbitrator agreed she was entitled to damages–giving, as The National Law Journal pointed out, a whole new meaning to the term binding arbitration.

How Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth …

A five-year-old boy successfully sued a Kansas City, Missouri church for $1.2 million for injuries he suffered when a church employee ran over the boy with a riding lawnmower. Lawyers for the boy claimed the church was responsible because its employee–who also happened to be the lad’s father–failed to exercise adequate care in mowing the church’s lawn. The church argued, unsuccessfully, that the accident occurred because the father failed to properly supervise his son. From The National Law Journal

Farmer Gains Windfall from Sick Cows

An Idaho power company was ordered to pay $14.9 million to a farmer and his wife who claimed voltage escaping from the utility’s underground distribution lines made their cows sick, give less milk, and, in some cases, die. The power company argued, to no avail, that the couple had wired the dairy incorrectly and that the cows got sick because of a rampant staph infection. From The National Law Journal

Faux Fan Fire Fuels Texas Jury

A Texas jury awarded $18.5 million to the family of a man who died of carbon monoxide poisoning resulting from a fire in his home. The family claimed the fire was started by a short circuit in a box fan the victim reportedly turned on as a matter of habit each evening when he returned from work. The fan manufacturer, which was hit with the award, argued there was no evidence the fan was even on when the fire started. No problem, the plaintiff’s attorneys countered–even if the fan was off it could still have started the fire! The jury somehow agreed. From The National Law Journal

Missed Opportunity

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has refused to weigh in on the side of reason, vetoing in mid-March two reform measures aimed at fending off obesity litigation. One would have immunized food manufacturers and others from civil liability for weight gain or obesity “caused by the consumption of the food, or for a health condition related to weight gain or obesity.” Under the other, expert testimony would have been admissible in court only if found by the judge to be “reliable.” The food industry in Wisconsin remains exposed to frivolous obesity claims based on junk science. From The Heartland Institute

Breakout Pays

A person involuntarily confined to a mental institution escaped during a cigarette break outside the hospital walls. When he was recaptured two days later, he had severe frostbite on both legs, requiring amputation. His court-appointed guardian sued the mental hospital for medical malpractice in allowing the patient to escape. The case was settled for $1.5 million. From The National Law Journal

Happy Hour Turns Ugly

A bouncer forcefully ejected an unruly patron from a New York City bar. The man claimed the bouncer hit him in the face with a flashlight during the scuffle, causing multiple facial fractures and lacerations. The bouncer said he acted totally in self-defense. Nonetheless, a jury awarded the patron $1.4 million, including $100,000 in punitive damages against the bar. From The National Law Journal

But Seriously, Folks

The annual State Liability Systems Ranking Study issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform found a wide gap between the best and worst states in legal fairness–a difference that underscores the need for both federal and state-based legal reform. “Opportunistic trial lawyers are flocking to courts in a handful of out-of-the-way places that are stacked in favor of plaintiffs’ attorneys and that have shown a willingness to dole out huge awards in frivolous cases,” said Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the Chamber. For more information, visit the Web site of the Institute for Legal Reform at

Asbestos Mess Revealed

The recent asbestos symposium issue of the Pepperdine Law Review is a must-read. Among the articles are contributions by The Honorable Griffin B. Bell, “Asbestos and the Sleeping Constitution”; George Mason University’s David E. Bernstein, “Keeping Junk Science out of Asbestos Litigation”; and Cornell University Law School’s Roger C. Cramton, “Lawyer Ethics on the Lunar Landscape of Asbestos Litigation.” Yeshiva University law professor Lester Brickman describes unethical activity and widespread fraud among plaintiffs attorneys operating in the asbestos litigation arena. Brickman contends that in some cases, attorneys pay tens of millions of dollars a year to a pool of doctors who knowingly misrepresent the medical evidence. Some 730,000 asbestos claims have been filed … most by healthy, unimpaired individuals. From Pepperdine University School of Law

Make Trial Lawyers Drive Without Brakes … Good Start!

The latest targets of the asbestos litigation monster are the major automobile manufacturers. Having forced into Chapter 11 nearly every company with even the slightest hint of a link to asbestos, the plaintiffs bar is now going after the likes of Ford, General Motors, and other car and truck makers. The claim is that mechanics who clean and replace asbestos brake linings and clutch facings are exposed to the killer fibers in their work.

Trial lawyers claim the car industry knew about studies from the 1930s linking this occupation to asbestos-related disease. Only problem is no such studies exist and, in fact, the high heat created when brakes are applied reduces 99+ percent of the asbestos in brake linings to a non-fibrous and hence non-hazardous material called fosterite. From The National Law Journal

Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly

Published by The Heartland Institute (312/377-4000), a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1984. The full text of this newsletter is also available in Adobe Acrobat’s PDF format; click here.
Phone 312/377-4000, fax 312/377-5000
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Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Editors: Diane Carol Bast, Paul Fisher, Dan Hales

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

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