Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #5-15

Published December 15, 2006

PlayStation 3 Is Defective–In Supply

In a case of alleged product liability gone amok, the mayor of Boston is threatening to hold Sony Corp. liable for not producing enough of its new PlayStation 3 systems, the Boston Herald reported.

Manufacturers usually risk liability for making a bad product, not a good one. But here the claim is that Sony knew or should have known its PlayStations were too good and the 400,000 devices it made were not enough to fill holiday demand, the paper reported.

Mayor Thomas Menino said he would file claims with Sony for the cost of police necessary for crowd control. “The mayor feels this [the supply shortage] is a ploy by big business to fill the pockets of their stockholders on the public’s back without any regard for public safety,” a spokesman for the mayor told the newspaper, which also reported there were disturbances in California, Connecticut, and Wisconsin.

Sony spokesman Dave Karraker said 400,000 devices were all the company could produce in time for the holidays. The chaos “is not something we planned or foresaw,” he said. From the Boston Herald

‘Wholly Guacamole?’

A class-action fraud lawsuit has been filed in Los Angeles against Kraft Foods, Inc. claiming its guacamole dip doesn’t contain enough avocado.

“It just didn’t taste avocadoey,” the plaintiff told the Associated Press. “I looked at the ingredients and found there was almost no avocado in it.”

The suit seeks an order prohibiting Kraft from calling “guacamole” a dip that contains only 2 percent avocado–the primary ingredient in traditional guacamole–plus damages in an unspecified amount.

Kraft responded that there was no fraud in its naming of the dip because its ingredients are listed on the label. AP reported there are no federal requirements governing the avocado content of guacamole. But Kraft said it will relabel the product as “guacamole-flavored.” From Associated Press

The Blame Game

The family of a teenager who lost control of his Ford Explorer and was killed when he passed a truck in a no-passing zone on a curve has been awarded $15 million by a Tulsa jury, Point of Law reports.

According to the family’s own accident reconstruction expert, the teen was traveling at 67 miles per hour around the curve, 37 miles over the posted speed limit. The vehicle rolled over and killed him because, the family alleged, the vehicle had “an inadequate roof-crush tolerance.”

Ford’s attorney said the vehicle exceeded federal safety standards. She told Point of Law the teen “was by all accounts a great kid,” but that his driving practices during the accident involved “bad decisions that had fatal consequences.” From Point of Law

Just Say ‘No’ to Drugs? Not in the UK

Up to 198 drug addicts who were imprisoned while under the influence of heroin and other opiates will receive compensation from the government because “they were forced to stop taking drugs in jail,” the UK Times reported.

The payouts are expected under a settlement in litigation six of them brought as a test case for the other 192 cases. The Times said the size of the payments had not been set, but they are expected to run to tens of thousands of pounds.

The cases were based on theories of assault, trespass, and negligence. The newspaper quoted the judge who allowed the case to proceed last May: “The claimants complain that they entered these prisons in a state of addiction. All claim that their treatment was handled inappropriately and so they suffered injuries and had difficulties with withdrawal.” From the UK Times

Not a Pretty Picture

Complaints that legal fees paid to class-action plaintiffs’ attorneys are too high are not uncommon, but they usually come from the defense side and from class-action reform advocates.

But in California, one group of plaintiffs’ attorneys in a class-action case is turning against the firms serving as lead counsel for those plaintiffs, alleging they engaged in abusive billing practices. The dispute provides plenty of fodder for reform advocates.

Among the alleged abuses were bills of $195 an hour for work by paralegals who were paid just $30 per hour; claims that attorneys and paralegals worked 24 hours or even 72 hours per day; and charges of $90 an hour or more for cleaning desks and filing.

A New York University professor of legal ethics stated the obvious as to billing for 24 to 72 hours of work in a single day. “That’s just not possible,” he told the New York Sun. He said lawyers may bill for travel time during which work for other clients otherwise could have been performed. But, he added, “No one to my knowledge bills for time you’re sleeping in the hotel.”

And while hourly rates for paralegals and clerks can be marked up over actual cost because of the need for supervision, such mark-ups must be reasonable, he told the Sun. “To charge $195 an hour for a paralegal who’s getting paid $30 seems to be pushing the envelope beyond its breaking point.”

The lead lawyers’ primary response was to object to their billing records being made public. As to the 72-billable-hours-per-day allegation, they claimed it was a typographical error and should have been 7.2 hours. From the New York Sun

But What If It Makes You Breathe Fire?

British regulators are threatening to prosecute a sausage maker because his “Welsh Dragon” sausage doesn’t actually contain dragon meat. Reportedly quite spicy and made with chili, leeks, and pork, the sausage must henceforth be known as “Welsh Dragon Pork Sausage,” the UK Times reports.

The sausage maker protested that the lack of dragon meat did not trouble his customers. “I don’t think any of our customers believe that we use dragon meat in our sausages. We use the word because the dragon is synonymous with Wales,” he told the Times.

According to Wikipedia, a dragon, symbolic of Wales for hundreds of years, appears on the official flag of Wales. Green and white stripes were added to the flag about five hundred years ago to represent the leek, also symbolic of Wales. But regulators said the name “was not sufficiently precise to inform a purchaser of the true nature of the food.” From the UK Times and

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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