Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #5-4

Published April 11, 2006

He Backed Into This Lawsuit

A Lodi, California man’s car was damaged when a city dump truck backed into it. Naturally, he filed a claim for damages against the city. The only problem was that the man, a city employee, was driving the dump truck when it hit his car. He admitted the accident was his fault.

The city denied the claim, asserting he was essentially making a claim against himself. So his wife filed a second claim with the city. City Attorney Steve Schwabauer predicts that one will also fail. “You can sue your spouse for divorce, but you can’t sue your spouse for negligence.” From Associated Press

Too Afraid to Work, But Not to Sue

A California health care case worker sued his employer, Sonoma County, for bias in denying him a promotion. A jury in mid-March awarded the man $1.5 million in lost income and $5 million for his pain and suffering. Given the size of the verdict, you would think the county must have done something really mean and nasty, right? Not so.

The worker was diagnosed 19 years ago with panic disorder and agoraphobia (a fear of leaving home and being in crowded public spaces). During almost 14 years of his county employment, the county accommodated his disability by allowing him to contact health care clients by telephone. But the county contended the new job would require him to meet with clients in person, and that’s why he was denied the promotion.

After being denied the promotion, the worker went on permanent disability and sued the county in 2003. County Counsel Steven Woodside said the county may file a motion for a new trial. “Everyone around here was stunned by the verdict, particularly the amount of the verdict, which we think is excessive.” No kidding. From Associated Press

Maybe She Sings in the Tub?

An elderly Denver-area couple who live in a condominium have filed suit against their downstairs neighbor for “reckless and negligent use of her bathtub.” The neighbor, a special education teacher, routinely bathes at 5 a.m., before going to work. The couple (whose son, incidentally, is their lawyer) contends in the suit that shared water pipes between the two units vibrate so much they can’t sleep, according to the Denver Post.

The teacher removed all of the tile in her bathroom so the pipes could be insulated. Sound testing has been done in the building. “Nothing’s abnormal,” she said. The condo association investigated and agreed. The teacher’s lawyer was shocked. “This is the most frivolous lawsuit I’ve seen in 30 years of practicing law,” he said. From the Denver Post

Teacher Lacks Fart Smarts

A British school official resigned from her position as a deputy head teacher and is claiming damages of £1 pounds (about $1.74 million) in lost wages and pension benefits from the school, based upon alleged sex discrimination. Why? Because her desk chair made farting noises whenever she moved.

She asked for a new chair once verbally and once in writing, she told the British employment tribunal, where her claim is pending, and did not receive one, while her two male counterparts received new “executive” chairs without even requesting them.

“It was very embarrassing to sit on. I asked for a chair that didn’t give me a dead leg or make these very embarrassing farting sounds. It was a regular joke that my chair would make these farting sounds and I regularly had to apologise that it wasn’t me, it was my chair,” she told The Times of London.

Her boss, the head teacher, said a shipment of new chairs was unclaimed and available in the school’s reception area for two weeks. “If it was an issue, I would have expected her to help herself.” From The Times of London.

Six Strikes and You’re Not Out

A group of parents and students have filed suit against the state of California, seeking to delay a state requirement that students must pass a math test and an English test, called “exit exams,” before receiving a high school diploma. Students may take the test up to six times.

One of the plaintiffs in the suit is a high school senior who flunked the English exit exam, which requires students to achieve at least 10th grade reading levels, all six times. She attributes her lack of reading skills to her immigration to California from Mexico four years ago and contends “this exam is unfair.” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell disagrees. “It simply means your education is not complete. You don’t have the minimum skills to succeed in this economy.”

“I want to go to college and become a registered nurse,” the student said in a written statement, “I really want to wear my cap and gown, and I don’t know what to do to make my dream a reality.” Writing about the case, Debra Saunders says, “I know what she can do: Study harder.” From the Los Angeles Times and

Dateless in California, the on-line matchmaking service, is being sued because it refused to help an Alameda County, California, man cheat on his wife–technically, at least.

eHarmony refused to find the man a date because he is separated. His divorce is not yet final. The service informed the San Jose Knight Ridder Newspapers that only those “free of relationship commitments” may join.

But the man, a 36-year-old lawyer, claims his civil rights were violated by eHarmony on the basis of his marital status, the newspaper reported. He is seeking damages of $12,000. “Most people don’t file a suit to get a date,” the lawyer said, but added, “I’m emotionally in a different state than I am legally.” From the San Jose Knight Ridder Newspapers

Man Versus Train: the Train Wins

The highest court in New York upheld a jury verdict of $1.4 million awarded to a Queens, New York man who unsuccessfully tried to outrun a subway train.

After a night of drinking, the man and three of his friends waited for a train in the station, but when no train arrived, they started walking along a catwalk that bordered the tracks. When they heard a train behind them, they tried to outrun it. Three of them made it, but the fourth, then 18, was struck by the train, resulting in the amputation of part of his leg below the knee.

The man testified he was running seven to eight miles per hour, based on his experience on a treadmill. His expert witness testified the man could have outrun the train if the train operator had applied the emergency brakes sooner. The high court said the verdict was “not irrational.” From Soto v. New York City Transit Authority, 2006 N.Y. LEXIS 518 (2006).

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