Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #5-14

Published November 27, 2006

Two Frat Boys Sue over 15 Minutes of Fame

Two South Carolina fraternity members are suing the studio that produced the hit comedic movie “Borat,” saying the movie “made plaintiffs the object of ridicule, humiliation, mental anguish and emotional and physical distress, loss of reputation, goodwill and standing in the community,” according to Associated Press.

The premise of the movie, the Chicago Tribune writes, is that Borat comes to the United States from Kazakhstan to make a movie and ridicules every possible American in the process.

“Borat assumes every woman on the street is a prostitute (‘Very nice. How much?’) and greets every man with kisses on both cheeks, no matter how hostile the recipient. Reveling in the joys of hotel life–he first assumes the hotel elevator is his room–Borat falls in love with Pamela Anderson while watching a ‘Baywatch’ rerun. He must have her. And there’s your plot,” according to the Tribune.

The college students allege they were induced to appear in the movie in a drunken state and to make sexually and racially insensitive remarks they otherwise would not have made. Though they signed releases authorizing their appearance in the film, they said they didn’t understand them. From Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune

Eat Two Bites of Dog Food, Win $2.7 Million

It sounds like something out of “Survivor.”

The Los Angeles city council recently approved the payment of $2.7 million in damages to a black firefighter who ate two bites of spaghetti with canned dog food in it, according to the Los Angeles Times. The firefighter claimed he was the victim of a racially motivated incident. But the lawyer for the firefighters who instigated the incident called it “a good-natured prank–[not] in any way motivated by race.” The Times said the payout is believed to be the largest in history for a racial claim against the fire department.

Firefighters asserted the incident stemmed from the black fireman’s team’s volleyball victory in a station game. But an expert for the firefighter, a University of California-Santa Cruz professor, said that serving dog food to a black man was intended to “humiliate and dehumanize” him. “The association of a black man and dog food resonates with the deep historical roots of slavery and the corresponding dehumanization,” said the fireman’s expert.

One city councilman voted against the settlement, calling it “outrageous for something that caused no serious injury, no permanent harm. That’s not to say it was right, not to justify what they did. But $2.7 million? I don’t think it was a racial deal. It was a prank that turned sour, but did it go bad to the point that he’s harmed for life? That it should cost the taxpayers $2.7 million?” From the Los Angeles Times

Self-Esteem Runs Amok Down Under

Australian education officials have warned teachers to avoid characterizing students as “lazy,” “grumpy,” or “moody,” or even urging students to “try harder,” when evaluating students’ educational performance. “It is very important when referring to young people that their self-esteem is not damaged,” said the president of the parents and citizens’ association. Education officials are concerned negative comments about students could lead to defamation litigation.

A teachers’ union official said threats of litigation mean Australia is “importing the worst of American culture. It reflects, regrettably, that we do live in an increasingly litigious society and that is sad,” he said.

Further advancing the self-esteem message, some parents and teachers have expressed anger over a new student grading system that rates academic performance on a scale from a high of “A” to a low of “E.” Some teachers say an E grade “labels the student as a failure.” From the Australia Daily Telegraph

Voters Oppose Frivolous Litigation

According to a survey of voters in the November 7 mid-term elections, 85 percent of them believe the number of frivolous lawsuits is a serious problem, the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced. Of those respondents, 48 percent called frivolous lawsuits a “very serious problem.” Lawyers benefit most from the current legal system, 74 percent of those surveyed said, while only 5 percent said the victims on whose behalf suits are brought benefit.

“Voters across the political spectrum expect their elected officials to curb frivolous lawsuits and abusive practices like fraudulent medical screenings and excessive discovery,” said Lisa Rickard, ILR president. “In an increasingly polarized electorate, very few issues command this much bipartisan support,” said Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies, which conducted the poll. From the Institute for Legal Reform

Here Comes Da Judge

A New York judge was censured after he physically threatened a defendant appearing before him and engaged in another “injudicious” incident. The New York Commission on Judicial Conduct opted for censure, although a dissenting opinion urged the judge be removed from office.

In the first incident, the judge became enraged when the defendant, representing himself, objected to one of the charges against him. The judge “abruptly removed his glasses, got up from the bench, removed his judicial robe and dropped it to the floor and proceeded rapidly in the direction of the defendant,” the majority said in its opinion. “You want a piece of me?” the judge said to the defendant, according to a witness. “But for the quick intervention of two police officers, who removed the defendant from the courtroom and physically blocked respondent from pursuing the defendant, the incident might well have escalated,” the dissent noted.

In the second incident, which occurred while the judge was already under investigation for the first, the judge urged a policeman to “just thump the shit out of him [the defendant] outside the courthouse, because I am not going to do anything about it.”

In censuring rather than removing the judge, the commission said the judge’s conduct, “though inexcusable, was an aberration by an otherwise diligent, dedicated judge.” Sounds like the judge needs anger management training, though. From In the Matter of the Proceeding Pursuant to Section 44, subdivision 4, of the Judiciary Law in Relation to William A. Carter, a Judge of the Albany City Court, Albany County, September 25, 2006, available at

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
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Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Editors: Maureen Martin, Diane Carol Bast

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