Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #6-2

Published March 31, 2007

Redefining “Food Police”

A Tampa high school student is suing a local McDonald’s restaurant for failing to protect him from being shot in the foot in a shooting spree in the restaurant’s parking lot, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The shooter pled guilty in February to murdering another high school student in the same incident and was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

The lawsuit seeks to hold McDonald’s liable for monetary damages–not just for “gang activity, thefts, robberies, assaults and other crimes” in its parking lot, but also in the vicinity of the restaurant.

The student’s lawyer characterized the restaurant’s conduct as “intentional, malicious, deliberately oppressive, and committed with such gross negligence as to indicate a willful and wanton disregard for the rights of others,” the paper reported. The restaurant had no immediate comment. From the Tampa Bay Times

For Lawyer, Katrina Was a “Perfect Storm”

As Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly reported in its special Hurricane Katrina edition in October 2005, class-action plaintiffs’ lawyer Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, who collected a billion-dollar fee in tobacco litigation, lost a vacation house in Pascagoula, Mississippi in the storm. He vowed to sue insurance companies for not paying him and others for damages caused by flood waters, which insurers exclude from coverage.

Scruggs has now made good on his threat, the Associated Press reports. State Farm Insurance agreed to pay about $80 million to 639 policyholders, plus legal fees of $26 million to Scruggs and his firm. “It was never about the money for me,” said Scruggs. Could have fooled us. From the Associated Press

Thank You for Not Suing

When Sacha Baron Cohen won a Golden Globe award for his performance in the hit comedy movie Borat, he thanked the usual suspects–his co-star, his brother, his fiancĂ©, and colleagues on the film.

He added something more unusual, however. The film, in which Cohen starred in the title role, involves a Kazakhstanian who comes to America to make a movie and ridicules many real-life Americans in the process. It spawned a number of lawsuits, including one filed by college students (later dismissed) alleging they were induced to appear in the movie in a drunken state and to make sexually and racially insensitive remarks.

Cohen stated in his acceptance speech, “Thank you to every American who has not sued me so far. Thank you.” From Variety and the Chicago Tribune

Devilish Business

Two women who were fired by the University of Texas-Arlington after they conducted a ceremony to rid a co-worker’s cubicle of “demonic” oppression are suing the university, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

The ceremony involved rubbing religious oils on the cubicle and chanting the words “You vicious evil dogs. Get the hell out of here in the name of Jesus. … I command you to leave.” The women allege their employment termination amounted to religious, age, and gender discrimination, the latter two claims arising because a younger man who joined the ceremony by saying “Amen” and “Yes, Lord” was not fired.

The university had no comment except to say the women had admitted the incident took place and it does not discriminate against employees. From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The Art of Litigiousness

A Manhattan man was married for 10 years, but his divorce has been pending for 13 years and isn’t over yet, according to the New York Times. Formerly an art conservator to the rich and famous–including Greta Garbo’s estate–the man has been representing himself in lawsuits that have stalled the divorce proceedings.

Most of these cases involve whether a watch collection valued at about $500,000 was acquired by him prior to the 1994 marriage, in which case it is his personally, or afterwards, in which case it is part of the marital estate, the newspaper said. He has also sued one of his former lawyers, his wife’s lawyer, three banks, five judges, and the court-appointed psychiatrist who examined him.

In all, he has filed 18 lawsuits, losing 17 of them, and 32 appeals, losing 30. On remand, the trial courts turned the two appellate victories into defeats. “I used to be an art restorer,” he told the Times. “Now I’m a litigator. If you’re going to attack me or assault me on a legal front, and I don’t hit back, I would feel dishonorable with myself.” From the New York Times

Few Cheers for Title IX Ruling

The federal law known as Title IX requires gender equality in high school sports, but does this mean cheerleaders are required to cheer equally for both boys’ and girls’ basketball teams? Yes, according to a U.S. Department of Education (DOE) ruling on a complaint brought by the mother of a female basketball player in New York state.

Backers of the boys’ basketball teams don’t like the ruling because, in order to provide cheerleaders for girls’ basketball, cheerleaders are not attending boys’ games away from the home court. Backers of the girls’ teams don’t like the ruling because they say it interferes with the game. “They asked, ‘Why are you here?'” one cheerleader told the New York Times. “We told them, ‘We’re here to support you,’ and it was a problem because they kept yelling at us.”

The complaining mother believes it is important for cheerleaders to be present at girls’ games. Otherwise, “It sends the wrong message that girls are second-class athletes and don’t deserve the school spirit, that they’re just little girls playing silly games and the real athletes are the boys,” she said.

Two of the 17 districts named in the complaint have appealed the ruling, according to the Ithaca Journal. The ruling requires equal levels of “publicity and promotional services for both boys’ and girls’ sports.” The two districts argue “spirit clubs” present at sporting events for both genders fulfill this requirement, the paper reported.

One district was recently notified that it won its appeal, though it will be required to provide detailed information to DOE about the spirit clubs. The second district is awaiting the outcome of its appeal. From the New York Times and Ithaca Journal

Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly

Published by The Heartland Institute (312/377-4000), a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1984.
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Editors: Maureen Martin, Diane Carol Bast

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