Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #5-10

Published September 1, 2006

A Squirrelly Lawsuit

A lawsuit was filed in August against the owner of a shopping mall north of Chicago because the owner allegedly failed to remove a squirrel from the mall, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The suit was filed by a woman who had been shopping at the Tiffany & Co. jewelry store at the mall. As she exited the store, the Sun-Times reported, she alleges a squirrel jumped up and attached itself to her leg. As she attempted to detach it, she alleges, she fell and suffered “severe injuries.”

Rather than sue the squirrel, which presumably couldn’t pay damages, the woman sued the deep- pocketed mall owner because it allegedly knew the squirrel had previously “attacked and harassed” other mall shoppers but nevertheless “allowed the squirrel to remain on the premises.” From the Chicago Sun-Times

A Real Nut Case

The city of Milford, Connecticut decided recently to cut down three hickory trees because they tower over a property owner’s swimming pool, the New York Times reported. According to the Times, the homeowner’s three-year-old grandson is allergic to nuts from the trees, she cares for the child three days a week, and the child would enjoy the pool but for the nuts.

The mayor told the newspaper the city wanted to avoid the risk that hickory nuts from trees on city- controlled property could make the child sick or even cause his death.

Neighbors objected, telling the newspaper the property owner’s assertions about possible risk to her grandson were a ruse. Her real motivation, they said, was to eliminate the shade cast by the trees over her swimming pool. “There are hickory trees all around the house, and it’s just the three trees over the pool she wants out,” one neighbor reportedly said at a public hearing. They noted, and the owner acknowledged, that she previously asked the city to remove one of the three hickory trees because it “interfered” with her swimming pool, the Times said.

But the owner called the issue of getting rid of the trees “a matter of life and death,” the Times reported. She said she hoped “something pretty” could be planted in place of the trees. “I’m all for beautification,” the Times quoted her as saying. She denied her previous membership on the city’s Board of Aldermen and the Pension and Retirement Board provided her with the clout to get the city to remove the trees.

Hickory trees are “ubiquitous” in Milford, according to the president of Milford Trees Inc., a local not-for- profit civic group. “I don’t know how you’re going to protect them from everything,” she said. From the New York Times

A Dummy Lawsuit

A California woman sued J.C. Penney Company in July after she was allegedly attacked by a store mannequin, according to the Los Angeles Times. Hers is not the first such suit.

The woman alleges she was shopping in the store and wanted to buy a blouse, but the only one in her size was on a mannequin. As the clerk attempted to remove the item, the dummy’s arm allegedly flew off and hit the customer on the head, causing a scalp injury, a cracked tooth, persistent shoulder pain, and numbness in her fingers.

Many such lawsuits have previously been brought, according to Barry Rosenberg, a mannequin manufacturer. The Los Angeles Times and Overlawyered report one suit was filed by an Indiana woman who claimed she caught herpes from a dummy used in an American Red Cross training course on CPR. She dropped the suit after it was found in further testing that she did not have herpes.

In other cases, a Florida woman recovered $175,000 from Macy’s after a dummy “tackled her,” according to the Los Angeles Times, which also reported a Vancouver woman recovered $330,000 after a Gap mannequin “drop-kicked her head.”

The California woman’s lawyer conceded the lawsuit might sound trivial but that she suffered lasting damage. J.C. Penney had no comment. From the Los Angeles Times and

A Lesson in Frivolous Lawsuits

The case of a missing iPod has led to litigation between two 14-year-old girls, Shannon and Stephanie, freshmen at Waubonsie Valley High School in Aurora, Illinois. Until the suit was filed by Shannon’s mother, the two were friends.

Shannon had saved up Christmas and birthday money to purchase the iPod while she and Stephanie were students at Still Middle School, also in Aurora.

Shannon loaned the iPod to Stephanie and Shannon then left to visit the ladies’ room. When she returned, the iPod was gone. Stephanie said she left the iPod on Shannon’s desk, but the iPod was missing.

Shannon’s mother filed suit against Stephanie, seeking $350 in damages plus $125 in court costs. She said she does not believe Stephanie stole the iPod but that she is nevertheless responsible for its disappearance.

Stephanie’s father told the Aurora Beacon News he offered to split the cost of a new iPod or otherwise compromise the claim, but his offers were rejected. He told the newspaper he was “stunned that a neighbor and community member would sue a minor over a missing iPod,” he said. “I do not think that our court judges should be resolving disputes between teenagers over iPods.”

The complaint was dismissed on August 21 because the judge found it incomprehensible. She said it did not clearly state who was responsible for the disappearance of the iPod. But the judge allowed a new complaint to be filed; that complaint will be heard on September 21.

The newspaper reports the girls’ friendship, not surprisingly, is over. From the Aurora Beacon News

Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly

Published by The Heartland Institute (312/377-4000), a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1984.
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