Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #3-9

Published December 1, 2004

Whatever Happened to Stop, Look, and Listen?

A Pennsylvania woman filed suit against the Norfolk Southern Railway seeking $120,000 in damages after she was struck on the shoulder by a freight train and knocked to the ground. She broke a finger and suffered cuts and scrapes to her hands, arm, and shoulder. The suit contends there were no warning signs cautioning pedestrians not to walk near the tracks. The suit further alleges, “The [engineer] did not stop the train in a timely manner, and failed to yield the right of way to a pedestrian walking along the tracks in plain view.” From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

She Never Left Home Without It

A woman who posed as a Saudi Arabian princess and Victoria’s Secret model and racked up American Express charges of $951,000 is countersuing American Express for $2 million in damages for wrongfully issuing a credit card to her. Antoinette Millard of New York City filed the counterclaim in response to a suit by American Express to recover the unpaid charges. The countersuit alleges Millard “was suffering from anorexia, depression, panic attacks, head tumors and by reason of such illnesses was mentally incompetent and unable of executing or making any agreement” with American Express. The suit further alleges American Express “knew or should have known that (Millard) was acting impulsively and irrationally at the time she entered into contract.” From Associated Press

If You’ve Seen Two, You’ve Seen Them All

There’s nothing unique about Hooters’ “trade dress,” a federal district court judge in Orlando, Florida ruled on December 2. Hooters had filed suit against a Florida competitor, WingHouse, alleging it had copied Hooters’ “unusual and unique merchandising mix consisting of the use of sex appeal in the dining experience,” according to the suit. According to the St. Petersburg Times, “Big bucks are at stake in the battle between what one lawyer termed the ‘breastaurants’ niche.”

WingHouse’s waitresses formerly wore white tank tops and red shorts, but changed the outfits to all black after Hooters complained they were too similar to Hooters’ white tank tops and orange shorts. So the question in the suit was “Do the WingHouse servers, who dress in tight black tops and short black shorts, look confusingly like Hooters Girls with their white tank tops and shiny orange shorts?” The court’s answer was no. From the St. Petersburg Times and the Tampa Tribune.

How Many Blondes Does it Take to …

Almost 100,000 blondes petitioned the Hungarian equal opportunities minister to ban blonde jokes on the grounds they are discriminatory. “Blondes face discrimination in the job market, in the workplace when they get a job, and even on the streets,” said a spokeswoman. “People are banned from discriminating against Jews, or blacks, so why not grant blondes the same protection.” The petition came as blonde protestors picketed outside the equal opportunities ministry with banners bearing the slogans “We’re blonde, not stupid” and “Love us for our minds.” From

The Obesity Bandwagon Overturned?

The drivers of the obesity litigation bandwagon, such as Professor John Banzhaf, a professor at George Washington University School of Law and architect of the tobacco litigation who has now targeted fast food, often say cheeseburgers and French fries are as addictive as heroin. Implicit is the assumption that heroin is very addictive. But Jacob Sullum, writing in Reason Online, questions that assumption. He cites statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2003 survey on drug use showing that most people who use illicit drugs, even heroin and cocaine, do not become addicted. In the survey, 3,744 people said they had used heroin, for example, during their lifetime. But only 314 people reported using heroin in 2003 and only 119 people reported using heroin in the past month. From Reason Online

The Obesity Bandwagon Overturned Again?

An epidemic of obesity is sweeping the nation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control announced in a Spring 2004 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study, which concluded 400,000 deaths in the United States in 2000 were caused by “poor diet and physical inactivity,” marked a new HHS public service campaign with the Ad Council. “Americans need to understand that overweight and obesity are literally killing us,” HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said. The study concluded obesity topped tobacco as the cause of preventable, premature death in America.

But not so fast, the CDC now says. CDC staffers, other than the study’s own authors, were ignored when they critiqued the study’s alleged computational and methodological errors. Those staffers aired their concerns in two public health and science journals. An internal CDC study was launched, and revised numbers are to be published in a subsequent issue of JAMA. Estimates are the obesity-related deaths will not top 100,000. From HHS News Release and the Wall Street Journal

Just What Is a “Happy Cow?”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. has sued the California Milk Advisory Board for false advertising of its “Happy Cows” campaign. At oral argument in December, PETA’s counsel told an appellate court that California’s portrayal of cows who live there as happy violates unfair competition laws because cows actually experience a “harsh, uncomfortable and often painful existence,” according to The television ads show cows in pristine green pastures ringed by white picket fences. The cows profess not to miss cold Midwestern winters. PETA says “the ads have no basis in reality–that California cows live in feces-soaked dirt lots devoid of vegetation and are kept pregnant almost their entire adult lives. The cows suffer from an assortment of diseases caused by intensive rearing, they say, and their calves are packed in veal crates or slaughtered,” reports Attorneys for the state argue the state is exempt from false advertising laws. From

And the Losers Are In … Madison County

For the second year in a row, the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) has named the Madison County court system the worst “Judicial Hellhole” in the United States. “Judicial Hellholes are places where judges systematically apply laws and court procedures in an unfair and unbalanced manner, generally against defendants,” ATRA states in its report. It describes Madison County as a litigation “magnet,” drawing cases from all over the country because it is flagrantly plaintiff-friendly. ATRA quotes the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Madison County’s judges bend over backwards for plaintiffs’ attorneys . … Those lawyers, in turn, fill up judges’ election campaign coffers.” From the American Tort Reform Association

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
Back issues are available online at
Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Editors: Maureen Martin, 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