Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #6-12

Published September 14, 2007

First, De-Fund All the Law Schools …

Shakespeare wrote we should first “kill all the lawyers.” Wisconsin State Rep. Frank Lasee (R-Green Bay) will settle for not using state funds to educate them.

Lasee introduced legislation to cut state funding for the University of Wisconsin School of Law by $1 million this year and end it completely by 2010, leaving only tuition to support the law school. His bill was intended to make a point and wasn’t supposed to pass the State Assembly–but it did, though it is not expected to become law.

The Wisconsin State Journal unearthed a transcript from Lasee’s 2003 divorce hearing and blamed dissatisfaction with his lawyer and the judge for his legislative “vendetta.” Lasee admits “smirking” at the judge and asking for a new one, but denies he has anything against lawyers in general. “I have friends who are attorneys,” he told The National Law Journal.

Sources: Brittney Pescatore, “Too Many Lawyers? Cut Funding, Says Legislator,” The National Law Journal, August 7, 2007; Susan Lampert Smith, “Lasee’s Acrimony on Full Display,” Wisconsin State Journal, July 31, 2007

Money for Nutting

Three years ago an immigrant from Somalia recently released from a psychiatric hospital in Oslo, Norway pulled out a large knife and began slashing passengers on an Oslo train. He killed one and injured four others.

Under further psychiatric care since he committed the crimes, he now wants money from the state for releasing him, claiming the state made him a killer. His mother agrees: “I understand that he needs a confirmation [that the stabbings weren’t entirely his fault] to get on with his life,” she said. The murdered victim’s family might disagree.

Source: Nina Berglund, “Killer Claims Compensation,” Aftenposten, August 24, 2007

Legal Gamesmanship

A Staten Island woman is suing her son’s baseball coach, the local Little League, and Little League Baseball and Softball Inc. for not instructing her son, then 12, in the proper way to slide into a base. Upon sliding into second base during a game, the boy suffered “serious bodily injury,” according to the lawsuit. He required surgery and has “permanent scarring and disability” because he was never taught “skills needed to avoid and/or minimize the risks of injury,” the suit claims.

Other parents called the suit frivolous. “It just doesn’t make sense,” one said. The Little League organization said the boy had been taught proper skills but didn’t execute them. “You can instruct players thoroughly on techniques. That does not necessarily mean that the proper technique will be used in a game,” a spokesman said.

The coach said he had taught the boy what to do. “Unfortunately, injuries happen,” he said. “That’s part of the game.” So, increasingly, are lawsuits.

Source: James Fanelli and Mike Scholl, “Base Accusation,” New York Post, May 20, 2007

Smelly Suits

Something must smell bad in the City of Detroit’s planning department–a new employee showed up for work last year wearing strong perfume and armed with a plug-in “scented room deodorizer.” A co-worker claims to have been overcome by the scents and sued the city, arguing her perfume sensitivity renders her disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Smelly as the suit seems, in 2005 a Detroit radio deejay recovered $814,000 in a similar one.

Source: Paul Egan, “Worker sues over co-worker’s perfume,” The Detroit News, July 4, 2007

No Fear of Filing

A class-action lawsuit filed in late August in the Ontario, Canada Superior Court of Justice claims customers should be compensated for irrational fears. The suit stems from a malfunctioning equipment sterilization device in a local tattoo parlor.

The equipment was to have been set at 132º C, but it dropped down to 128º. Local officials warned some 2,400 customers that the equipment might not have killed off viruses such as HIV and hepatitis. About 530 persons have been tested so far, with negative results.

The suit was brought by a former customer, waiting for test results, who said, “It is always in the back of my mind that I might have a disease.” The owner, whose equipment passed daily tests this summer and must now be tested frequently, called the suit “a crock.”

Source: Carola Vyhnak, “Tattoo studio faces $10M lawsuit, Former customer says he lives in fear of infection from studio’s improperly sterilized equipment,” Toronto Star, August 22, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies, and Lawyers’ Claims

Lawyers have long been immune from defamation lawsuits for any falsehoods they may utter in court, accidentally or on purpose. But now the Tennessee Supreme Court has extended this immunity to defamation suits for things lawyers say in public before a case is even filed.

The case was brought by a building materials manufacturing company against a Tennessee law firm for saying on its Web site and in newspaper ads that it was “investigating” whether the company’s products were defective. The company claimed immunity from defamation suits shouldn’t apply to lawyers merely “trolling” the general public for potential clients.

The court disagreed, holding the immunity applied whenever a lawyer is acting in good faith and there is “a reasonable nexus” between the published statement and potential litigation the lawyer is seriously considering bringing. So they can sue, but they can’t be sued. Sounds reasonable enough–to a lawyer.

Source: Simpson Strong-Tie Company, Inc. v. Stewart, Estes & Donnell, No. M2006-2407-SC-R23-CQ, 2007 Tenn. LEXIS 654, Tennessee Supreme Court, August 20, 2007

The Widow Is Not Merry

A Maryland widow and her late husband’s two children from a previous marriage have been disputing the husband’s will for 14 years–with no end in sight.

Walter Green died in 1993 at age 88, leaving behind a simple estate plan. After minor bequests, the bulk was to go in equal shares to the widow and the two children. The dispute does not involve the terms of the will, but instead concerns the value of the estate, which consists in part of businesses in seven states and is worth somewhere between $17 million in $30 million.

“It’s a lot like watching a show on TV–almost like we’re not the people involved,” the widow said. The son described the litigation as an “ordeal.” And so, as Dickens wrote: “This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means.”

Source: Ruben Castaneda, “Last Wishes Still Unfulfilled,” The Washington Post, August 15, 2007

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