Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #5-7

Published May 30, 2006

Viagra Handouts Promote Lawsuits

It’s either a terrific practical joke or a new low in promotion by the plaintiffs’ bar.

Recently women dressed as nurses roamed the streets around Grand Central Station in New York City distributing small boxes with the word “Viagra” printed in big letters on the outside. Of course there were no Viagra tablets inside, only peppermint breath mints. However, the small print on the box warned of possible vision loss from the use of Viagra and advised men who might be affected to call a local plaintiffs firm at an 800 number listed on the box. Not wanting to encourage this scam, we won’t give you the firm’s name or phone number.

What Are These Juries Thinking?

These Vioxx jury verdicts are getting more ridiculous by the day.

In late April a Texas jury awarded $7 million in actual and $25 million in punitive damages to the family of a 71-year-old man who suffered a fatal heart attack in 2001 after taking Vioxx for only one month.

No scientific evidence shows such short-term use can lead to heart problems. Moreover, the man was obese, a smoker, had been suffering from heart disease since 1978, and had undergone quadruple bypass surgery in 1985.

Even more damning, there was serious doubt whether he ever took Vioxx at all. He had no prescription for the drug; one of his doctors said he had never even given him so much as a sample; and the second doctor testified he gave him at best an eight-pill sample packet, certainly not enough to cover the full month his family claimed he took the drug before he died. From The Monitor and

What Every Parent with Teenage Sons Already Knows

“Attractive nuisance” is the legal theory that holds property owners liable for accidents, generally involving small children, who trespass onto a neighbor’s property because they see something “attractive” that turns out to be dangerous. The simplest example is an unfenced swimming pool into which a wandering toddler may topple.

Problem is, it has never been made legally clear to what age limit the theory applies. Now that question’s been clarified. A Pennsylvania federal judge has ruled that two 17-year-old boys, who were trespassing at the time, may sue for burns they received from overhanging electric wires in an Amtrak railroad yard. The judge ruled, “17-year-old males generally do not have fully mature brains, and as such cannot fully control their impulses or appreciate some risks.” You’ll get no argument here. From The Legal Intelligencer

A Dollar for You, Two for the Lawyers

The family of a man who died from asphyxiation while in policy custody in 2000 settled its civil rights lawsuit against the city of Cincinnati and its police department for a grand total of $6.5 million.

The family will receive just $2.4 million of the total while $4.1 million–roughly 63 percent–will go to the three law firms who handled the case for the family.

The family actually was awarded $4 million, but it had to give 40 percent to the lawyers, who also received $2.5 million directly from the city.

The lawyers explained their greed by pointing out the case was very complex, and they said they spent around $250,000 of their own money in expenses and expert witness fees.

Some members of the Cincinnati City Council, which had to approve the agreement, said they never would have done so if they knew in advance the lawyers would get that much money. From The Cincinnati Enquirer

“Loser Pays” Whacks Da Vinci Code Plaintiffs

You would have had to be stranded for the past six months or so on that weird island with the survivors of Lost to have missed the controversy surrounding the May release of the movie version of Dan Brown’s mega-best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code.

Part of that controversy involved a London lawsuit filed by two authors who claimed Brown stole his plot for the book from a 1992 non-fiction book of their own titled The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. They picked England as the venue for their suit in part because of its lax legal standards for establishing such things as libel and plagiarism. Unfortunately for them, England also has a “loser pays” legal system, so when the judge ruled in favor of Brown, he ordered the two plaintiffs to pony up 85 percent of Brown’s legal fees, estimated at just over $2.4 million. The first installment of $651,000 was due in early May, but the two asked for more time to raise the money. They will, of course, have to pay their own lawyers as well. From The New York Times

California Warns: Don’t Lick Your Wine Glass!

California’s Proposition 65 requires businesses to label products or post warning signs identifying items that contain one of hundreds of chemicals “known to the state” to cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm. The law has proven a bonanza to bounty-hunting lawyers who have collected on thousands upon thousands of lawsuits filed against unsuspecting businesses.

Now they are targeting the state’s wine industry, not because of hazardous chemicals in the wine, but because some of the wineries use lead paint–which, by the way, causes none of the above-listed hazards–to create the logos on the outside of the glassware they use for wine-tastings or sell as souvenirs.

Calling the whole thing “ridiculous,” one vintner said he thought people are “smart enough not to chew on the outside of the glass.” Unfortunately, the state of California doesn’t see it that way. From The San Luis Obispo Tribune

Cease, Desist, or Stay After School for a Year

As part of a school writing assignment, a nine-year-old girl wrote a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs suggesting adding support for song lyrics to her iPod music player so she could sing along with her favorite songs. Instead of a nice ‘thank you” letter from the company’s public relations department, she instead received a threatening missive from its legal department warning her to never again send unsolicited ideas to the company.

Apple apparently was concerned that the company might be subject to future patent lawsuits should such unsolicited ideas ever be used. When the media found out about the incident, Apple’s general counsel called the young lady to apologize and the company has pledged to review its policies for dealing with children. From Macworld UK

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