Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #5-2

Published February 13, 2006

Coming Next: A Ban on Sharp Sticks?

A ban on “long pointed kitchen knives” has been proposed by the authors of an article in the British Medical Journal for the purpose of reducing the murder rate in Britain. But in a moment of candor rare for nanny-gaters, one of the researchers added, “Whether it’s a sensible solution to this problem or not, I’m not sure.”

The researchers note one-third of British murder victims are stabbed to death, although they concede research is not available about how often kitchen knives are used as murder weapons.

Gun control interest groups on both sides of the issue in the United States reacted with amusement. “Are they going to have everybody using plastic knives and forks and spoons in their own homes?” Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, asked the New York Times. A spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence added: “Can sharp stick control be far behind?” British police organizations questioned whether such a knife ban would be enforceable. From the New York Times, BBC News, and the British Medical Journal article cached by Google at

Taking a Bite Out of Crime

A convicted drug dealer has filed suit seeking $450,000 in damages and asking that felony charges be filed against a dog used in drug searches by the Athens County, Ohio Sheriff’s Department.

Wayne Francis Green alleges in his complaint that the sheriff’s department, using the dog, named Andi, illegally searched his business and an adjoining building. They found 50 pounds of marijuana, and Green was later convicted of possession and trafficking in drugs.

Green alleges he “felt endangered” by Andi. “They’ve got a mean ol’ dog, you know what I’m saying? I take that pretty serious,” Green said. “I want him charged with several different felony counts,” he said. From Associated Press

In His Dreams

A British man was cleared of rape charges in a recent case when the jury accepted his argument that the rape took place while he was sleepwalking. Court observers said they believed this case was the first time a sleepwalking defense was used successfully.

The defendant and the woman were friends and had been out drinking on the evening of the attack. The two returned to the defendant’s apartment, where he put her in his bed and he slept on the sofa. The woman awoke to find the man groping her. The defendant claimed to remember nothing about the attack, but said he had suffered from sleepwalking since he was 13 years old. “It’s the only explanation I can come up with for this,” he said. From the News-Telegraph


The Florida Supreme Court upheld disciplinary charges against two Florida lawyers for their advertisements using a logo depicting themselves as “pit bulls” and urging potential clients to call them at 1-800-PIT-BULL. The court disagreed with the conclusions of a mediator, who found pit bulls are loyal, persistent, tenacious, and aggressive.

“We consider this a charitable set of associations that ignores the darker side of the qualities often also associated with pit bulls: malevolence, viciousness, and unpredictability.” The court publicly reprimanded the lawyers and ordered them to attend a Florida Bar Association seminar on advertising.

“Prohibiting advertisements such as the one in this case is one step we can take to maintain the dignity of lawyers, as well as the integrity of, and public confidence in, the legal system. Were we to approve the referee’s finding, images of sharks, wolves, crocodiles, and piranhas could follow.” The lawyers are considering an appeal. From The Florida Bar v. Pape, No. SC04-40, and The Florida Bar v. Chandler, No. SC04-41.

The Thrill of the Hill Is No More

That time-honored childhood tradition–the thrill of speeding downhill on a sled–has been banned in parks in Warren County, New Jersey after the family of a boy sued the county because he broke his leg, noted Common Good. The case was settled for $150,000. Elsewhere on the East Coast, golf courses are also banning sledding.

There go any hopes the U.S. may have had of winning the luge–the French word for sled–at the winter Olympics. The sport dates to 800 A.D. From Common Good and

My Lawyer ‘Til Death Do Us Part

It’s almost commonplace nowadays to read about plaintiffs’ lawyers collecting billions of dollars in legal fees, while the plaintiffs themselves are left with “crumbs,” as the Center for Legal Policy at the Manhattan Institute put it in its publication, Trial Lawyers, Inc. So it’s newsworthy that a Missouri state appellate court recently denied an attorney’s application to recover exorbitant legal fees from her client in a contingent fee case.

The case involved the layoff of a secretary from McDonnell-Douglas. She hired a lawyer to sue McDonnell-Douglas for employment discrimination. The lawyer and client signed a contingent fee contract, drafted by the lawyer, that required the client to pay 35 percent of any funds the client received prior to trial plus the fair market value of any “non-monetary items” received.

The suit was filed and almost immediately settled. The secretary was paid the sum of $27,500 and got her job back. The lawyer received 35 percent of that monetary amount, $9,625.

But the lawyer wanted more. So she sued her client, claiming that, under the “non-monetary items” term of the contract, she was entitled to 35 percent of the client’s future lifetime wages and benefits, including pension benefits, as a further contingent fee.

In December 2005, the Missouri Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the client, stating that under Missouri law, contingent fee contracts control the awards and that, because the lawyer drafted the “carelessly worded contract,” the meaning of any ambiguous terms such as “non-monetary items” is construed against the lawyer. The court stated that if it was the lawyer’s “intent to have her client surrender 35 percent to 45 percent of all future earnings until the welcome hand of death freed her from this servitude, the contract needed to say as much.” From Trial Lawyers, Inc. and Mello v. Davis, ED84795 and ED 84856, slip opinion dated December 6, 2005.

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