Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #5-13

Published October 27, 2006

We Report, You Decide

It’s difficult to know who deserves the “stupid” award: the Class A baseball team that fired a masseuse because she was allegedly “too touchy,” or the masseuse herself, who sued for defamation because of the comment.

An Illinois trial court ruled in September that the comment did not amount to defamation, but the court declined to call the suit frivolous and impose penalties.

The masseuse originally alleged team personnel told her massage school she was fired because her massages were too erotic and amounted to sexual harassment. Those comments were uncorroborated by witnesses and thus inadmissible, the judge ruled.

The remaining “too touchy” comment was confirmed by other witnesses but did not rise to defamation, the judge said. “I think a reasonable listener doesn’t automatically infer sexual [meaning],” the judge said. From the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

A Pox on the Pod Case

The case of the missing iPod just keeps getting stranger.

Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly reported in September on litigation pending in an Illinois trial court between two 14-year-old students over an iPod. According to the suit, the girl who owned the device, Shannon, left it with her friend Stephanie at school. Stephanie said she left it on Shannon’s desk, but the iPod went missing and apparently was stolen.

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.

Shannon’s family later was in touch with producers of the “Judge Judy” and Chicago’s “Judge Mathis” television courtroom shows about possible appearances, the Naperville Sun reported. Because it was not clear which show had first “dibs” on the dispute participants, neither show will feature the case, the paper reported.

Shannon’s mother was “disappointed,” the paper reported, by the Judge Judy program cancellation. “I had taken the time off from work for it,” she said, and the show had already pre-paid her travel and hotel costs and other expenses. From the Naperville Sun

Why Medicare Costs Are Out of Control

Two senior citizen groups are suing the federal government because it is trying to recoup refunds of erroneous Medicare payments, averaging about $215, from some 230,000 Medicare recipients who received them due to a computer error, Associated Press reported.

The suit has been filed by the Gray Panthers and Action Alliance of Senior Citizens, which are being represented by the Center for Medicare Advocacy (CMA). According to CMA, the government must by law waive its right to refunds when the overpayment is not the fault of the Medicare recipient.

Some recipients have already returned the payments to Medicare; the CMA wants the government to give those payments back. In response, the government has said it believes the waiver law does not apply; it will elaborate on its position in court filings. From Associated Press

You Always Suspected It Was an Act

A new courtroom training technique is being used by plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyers to increase their take in contingent fee personal injury cases, according to

It’s called “psychodrama,” which the Web site report describes as a blend of “theater, group therapy and spiritual exploration” that assists the lawyers in conveying the emotional aspects of their clients’ injuries.

“You have to walk a mile in another person’s shoes if you are going to understand their story,” according to one California attorney quoted in the report. Another attorney spoke of being criticized because he was too “emotionally attached” to his clients, but he believes in psychodrama’s ability to encourage exactly that. “That’s what makes me a good lawyer. That actually is my strength,” he told

Not all plaintiffs’ lawyers are fans of the technique, though. One told that techniques that work for one lawyer may not work for another. “There’s a danger in coming across as a phony,” he said. From

Divorce a Thing of Beauty

It’s not uncommon for women to confide in their hairdressers about personal matters such as marital woes, but a British law firm is taking advantage of this propensity to get new divorce clients, according to The (U.K.) Times.

The firm recently offered some UK beauticians a £75 fee for referrals who use its services to get divorces or separations, the paper reported. Though one hairdresser professed to be shocked, the firm defended its practice. “This is an ethical and legal way of trying to improve the profile of our family law team locally,” a firm spokesman told the Times. “We can appreciate that it’s not suitable for everybody, but it’s just a different sort of advertising.” From The (U.K.) Times

A Holistic Approach to Litigation

The U.K.’s Department of Education and Skills is about to come out with new guidelines for the role of schools in improving the overall health of their students, which seems like a harmless-enough endeavor. But English headmasters fear the guidelines could become primers for holding schools liable in court for failing to control their students’ weight, sex lives, drug use, and drinking habits.

“We are not clear at all yet who is going to be held to account,” one educator told The (U.K.) Guardian.

“You cannot set targets for things you cannot control: alcohol consumption, for example, among young people. We really think it is going to be very dangerous and difficult if schools are held to account for all these things.” Others added that making the schools responsible for such behaviors could distract them from their primary educational roles. From The (U.K.) Guardian

Ever in Search of a Deep Pocket

family of victims of a teenager’s shooting rampage at a New Mexico ranch have sued the makers of the “Grand Theft Auto” video game, which the family alleges inspired the shooting.

The $600 million suit alleges the teen was obsessed with the game, which the Associated Press describes as involving police shootings and violent acts and otherwise serving as a “virtual reality murder simulator.” The suit alleged the game maker should have known the game “would spawn such copycat violence.” The game maker told AP the suit lacked merit and would be strongly defended. From Associated Press

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

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