Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #4-4

Published May 26, 2005

Judge, There’s a Fly in My Bottled Water!

A Canadian judge awarded a Windsor, Ontario hair stylist $340,000 for emotional damage he allegedly suffered when he spotted a dead fly in a container of bottled water he was putting in his shop’s water cooler. The stylist claimed “nervous shock, emotional distress and resulting anxiety, depression and physical and psychological conditions.” He also lost his sense of humor, could no longer drink water, and could only shower wearing a bathing suit. A psychiatrist hired by the bottled water company examined the man for 10 minutes and deemed his claims bogus, an assertion the judge rejected. From the Windsor Star

Frozen Drunk Collects Big from Police

A New Jersey jury awarded $850,000 to a man who got drunk after a New Year’s Eve party and passed out in a snow bank, suffering severe frostbite to his right hand as a result. The culprits? Why, two local police departments who responded to a 911 call about a drunk who had been hit by a car and knocked into a snowdrift. The police searched for the man but could not find him. He was discovered some nine hours later by a passer-by.

The jury originally awarded the man $1 million but reduced it by 15 percent, saying he was partially to blame because of his intoxication. From Newsday and WNBC TV

Fall During Attempted Break-in Leads to Life of Crime. Huh?

In a similar vein, an 18-year-old English lad was awarded £567,000 for injuries he suffered while criminally trespassing on the roof of a private warehouse in 1995. The young man, who has subsequent convictions for robbery, burglary, and assault, fell through the roof some 40 feet, suffering serious head injuries, which he claims led him to the life of crime he took up after getting out of the hospital. He claimed none of this would have happened if the warehouse fence had been in better shape and he had not been able to break in so easily.

The fact that his mother and her live-in boyfriend ran a heroin and crack cocaine business from their home was not considered a significant influence on his chosen career path. Crime victims groups were outraged at the award. From the Daily Telegraph

The Truth Spoken in Movie Leads to Lawsuit

We’ve been following for some time the off-again, on-again saga of obesity lawsuits against McDonald’s (last time we checked they’re on-again).

In a curious twist, Samuel Hirsch, plaintiffs’ lawyer in the New York McDonald’s case, is suing the director of the Oscar-nominated documentary film “Super Size Me,” which attacks McDonald’s for the unhealthiness of its fare. You’d think they’d be bosom buddies, right? Not so. Seems lawyer Hirsch feels he’s been defamed by a brief cameo in the film in which, when asked his motivation for the litigation, Hirsch replies: “You mean, besides monetary compensation?” and then quickly adds, “You want to hear a noble cause?”

And we always thought telling the truth wasn’t actionable. From the New York Observer

Happy Hour Ban Turns Sour

Under pressure from city officials, 24 bars in the college town (and state capital) of Madison, Wisconsin agreed to voluntarily ban “happy hour” specials on weekend nights. They were promptly sued by a Minneapolis lawyer on behalf of all University of Wisconsin-Madison students. He accused the bar owners of illegally conspiring to fix drink prices, thus costing his clients tens of millions of extra dollars.

After spending more than $250,000 to defend themselves in court, the tavern owners were exonerated by a state circuit court judge. From AP

Church Held Liable for Volunteer’s Accident

A Milwaukee jury awarded $17 million to an 84-year-old man who was paralyzed in a car accident caused by a volunteer for the Legion of Mary–a Catholic lay organization that meets on church property of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

The jury somehow concluded that the volunteer– who was delivering a statue of the Virgin Mary to an invalid at the time of the accident–should be considered for legal purposes an employee of the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese was therefore handed the entire tab for the jury award.

Numerous publications, including the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and Wall Street Journal, decried the verdict, saying it would put an immediate chill on charitable and volunteer activities.

California Lawyer Branches Out

When he left the San Francisco city attorney’s office in 2001 for a partnership in a local plaintiffs’ law firm, attorney Matthew Davis began searching for a specialty he could sink roots into. He found it in the beauty of nature–more specifically, in falling tree limbs that kill or seriously injure people.

Since 2001, Davis has filed four falling limb suits, settling the first two for a total of $3.5 million. He filed his fifth this year on, appropriately, Arbor Day. Davis says he has nothing against trees, just the people and municipalities who own and fail to maintain them. From Law.Com

California Cows Are Allowed to be Happy

The California Milk Producers Advisory Board, a state agency, ran a series of print advertisements showing cows grazing in green pastures with the slogan, “Great cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from California.” Harmless enough, right?

Wrong! Or so thought People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an animal rights group. PETA alleged in a lawsuit against the advisory board that California cows are anything but happy, spending most of their lives in dirt and mud, being repeatedly impregnated and milked throughout their pregnancies, and then slaughtered when they cannot produce enough milk. The ads, therefore, were deceptive and misleading to the citizens of California. Two courts disagreed, throwing the suit out on summary judgment, ruling state agencies cannot be sued. From the San Francisco Chronicle

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: Maureen Martin, Diane Carol Bast

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