Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #3-3

Published April 30, 2004

Lottery Lunacy

For years a Cleveland man purchased between 40 and 55 lottery tickets four times a week at the same convenience store trying to win the Ohio Buckeye Five lottery. He played the same five numbers on each and every ticket he bought. Finally, in October 2001, he hit it big, and believed he had won $5.2 million, $100,000 for each winning ticket times the 52 tickets he bought. Not so fast, buddy, the state informed him.

The lottery rules, printed on the back of each ticket, clearly state the game pays only a maximum of $1 million to be divided by each winning ticket. Since there was another winning ticket, he was entitled to only $981,000. Incensed, he sued the convenience store owner for not explaining the rules to him.

A jury agreed he had been deceived and awarded him an additional $1.3 million. The store owner’s lawyer said he believes “people have an obligation not to be damn idiots.” Clearly, in Cleveland courts they don’t. From AP and The Plain Dealer

Lead Paint End-Run Fails

The state of Rhode Island was mightily upset when its public nuisance suit against the former lead paint industry ended in a hung jury, with four of six jurors supporting the industry.

Clearly the good citizens of the state could not be trusted to do what the state wanted, so the state and its hired-gun outside law firm Motley Rice tried an end-run. They approached the judge in the case, who had consistently ruled in the state’s favor on procedural issues, and offered to drop certain charges against the industry if the judge would try the case himself without a jury. The ploy failed. The judge turned them down and the state immediately asked for a year’s delay in the start of the re-trial. From AP and The Providence Journal

Trial Lawyers Target Booze in California

First it was Big Tobacco and then the fast food industry–could booze be far behind? Nope, it’s here and now.

A group of California citizens is suing Miller Brewing and Anheuser-Busch, claiming the brewers purposely target teenagers with advertising and entice them with newly created drinks that look, taste, and smell like flavored soda. The plaintiffs want the companies to cough up all profits made from the promotion of underage drinking in the state over the past four years plus a buck or two for their lawyers. The companies deny the claims and say they work to prevent underage drinking. From Corporate Legal Times

One for the Plaintiffs, Ten for the Lawyers; One for the Plaintiffs . . .

Stirred up by plaintiffs’ attorneys like Johnnie Cochran and others of his ilk, some 18,500 citizens of Anniston, Alabama became convinced they were doomed to an inevitable early death from cancer and other vile illnesses due to decades of PCB contamination from a nearby Monsanto chemical plant. Regardless of the merits of the claims, Monsanto settled the resulting lawsuit for some $300 million.

The residents were naturally overjoyed, only to find out after doing the math that each of the plaintiffs would receive about $7,725–while 27 lawyers from eight law firms that worked on the case would receive a whopping $120 million, or about $4 million per lawyer. Cochran’s firm alone picked up $29 million. The firm of a former lieutenant governor of Alabama came away with the biggest pile of loot: $34 million. From AP, Anniston Star, and Washington Times

Take Your Free Tube of Lipstick and Shut Up

To settle nine California lawsuits alleging they had violated state and federal anti-trust law by conspiring to prevent discounting and limit promotions, major U.S. department store chains and cosmetics companies agreed to distribute on a first-come-first-served basis some $175 million worth of free fragrances and cosmetics nationwide in January 2005. Each item to be given away would have a retail value of between $18 and $25. The lawyers who brought the suit are scheduled to walk away with $24 million (not in lipstick).

Now, however, the attorneys general of 11 states have intervened to challenge the settlement, saying individual consumers are getting almost nothing out of the deal and that the whole thing amounts to little more than a “promotional windfall” for the stores and cosmetic companies. From The New York Sun

Loony Warning Label of the Month

On a five-inch fishing lure with three stainless steel barbed hooks: “Harmful if swallowed.” Too bad fish can’t read. From Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch

Take That, Custer … Again

Following in the moccasin steps of the Delaware American Indian tribe, which recently offered to drop its land claims in Pennsylvania if the state legislature allowed it to build a gambling casino there, the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Oklahoma in mid-April filed a claim for 27 million acres in Colorado. That amounts to about 40 percent of the state. Like their cousins back east, the Oklahoma tribes say they are willing to give up their claims if the state gives them 500 acres to build a $100 million casino, cultural center, and travel facility. Since the land claim could possibly tie up land and water rights sales in the state for years, Colorado’s governor said he wasn’t totally opposed to the idea. From The Rocky Mountain News

Candid Comments Draw Madison County Judge’s Wrath

Appearing at a forum on asbestos litigation at Washington University law school in St. Louis, former U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell said asbestos-related lawsuits have gotten totally out of control in nearby plaintiff-friendly Madison County, Illinois. He pointed out that roughly one of four mesothelioma cases nationwide are filed in Madison Country, even though the majority of cases are filed by plaintiffs who do not live in Madison County, were not exposed to asbestos in the county and, in fact, have no ties to the county whatsoever. Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer linked almost exclusively to asbestos exposure. For his candor, one Madison County judge banned Bell and his law firm from ever appearing in his courtroom again. From The St. Louis Business Journal, Kansas City Star, and

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.
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Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Editors: Diane Carol Bast, Paul Fisher, Dan Hales

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