Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #6-3

Published April 19, 2007

Lawyers Feast on Tainted Pet Food

The number of deaths of dogs and cats allegedly caused by kidney failure allegedly caused by pet food allegedly tainted with wheat gluten allegedly containing rat poison and allegedly coming from China or the United States has risen to more than 1,000, according to USA Today.

If you thought all those “allegedlys” would stop trial lawyers from suing the food manufacturer, you would be wrong. At least two class-action lawsuits have been filed against Menu Foods, Inc.–a $60 million suit in Canada and one seeking unspecified damages on behalf of 95 pet owners in Wisconsin, according to CNN and CBC reports. More are certain to come after Menu Foods recalled in March some 60 million cans and pouches of allegedly tainted pet food it produced under 95 brand names after reports of pet illness and death.

How much is at stake? It’s unclear, but a ballpark number per dog is about $50,000, according to jury verdicts in Oregon and Texas.

USA Today, CNN, CBC,

Driven to Distraction

A dispute over a shared driveway has resulted in three lawsuits, a physical fight, criminal charges, and numerous police reports, all involving two neighboring Florida families, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

Prior to 2005, the Loiselles and the former owners of the neighboring house shared the driveway, which is on the Loiselle property, without incident. But in 2005 when the LaBrants moved in, the Loiselles asked them to sign a hold-harmless agreement, and the LaBrants refused.

That’s when the trouble started, the paper reported. The Loiselles erected a fence on the drive, blocking the LaBrants’ access. The LaBrants then rammed the fence twice with a car, according to the Loiselles, leading to a physical confrontation and a misdemeanor battery charge against Loiselle. “We’ve never been through anything like this before,” LaBrant told the Times. “This is embarrassing.” To say the least.

Leonora LaPeter, “Neighbors feud over driveway: The dispute has led to three civil suits, an altercation and more,” St. Petersburg Times, March 13, 2007

Will Sue for Food

When the Kentucky Bar Association published a cartoon in the January 2007 edition of its magazine ridiculing attorneys who file dubious lawsuits, plaintiffs’ trial lawyers weren’t amused, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. The cartoon depicts a panhandling lawyer sitting near a sign saying “Will Sue for Food.” A passerby remarks, “It’s just the effects of tort reform, I suppose.”

Dozens of plaintiffs’ lawyers reacted angrily. “There is absolutely nothing funny about the notion that the effect of tort reform is to reduce lawyers to the status of homeless beggars, when the real victims of these ‘reforms’ are the injured person who can no longer receive full compensation,” one of them wrote to the magazine, the Courier-Journal reported.

Defense lawyers said the plaintiffs’ bar needs to “lighten up.” Plaintiffs’ lawyers insisted it isn’t funny to portray them “as parasites willing to sue over anything.” We rest our case.

Andrew Wolfson, “Trial lawyers find nothing funny in cartoon,” Louisville Courier-Journal, February 19, 2007

Dogged Determination

A Long Island school district is being sued for $150 million for its refusal to allow a partially deaf student to bring his service dog to school, according to Newsday. The judge has refused to allow the student to bring his dog to school pending resolution of the suit.

It was enough, the judge ruled, that the school provided the student with a sign language interpreter, a person to take notes for him, a teacher expert in instructing the hearing-impaired, and extra time to take tests. The student has about 70 percent hearing, due to cochlear implants, and the district also provides amplifiers to teachers to further aid him in hearing them, according to

The suit alleges, however, that the dog ban inhibits “bonding” between the boy and his dog. The boy’s mother reports he is “inconsolable” over the judge’s ruling and the school’s position. “He doesn’t feel that they have any respect for his disability and that they don’t care about him. He doesn’t want to be in a place like that,” Newsday reports her as saying.

Carl Macgowan, “Family vows to press case in service dog fight,” Newsday, February 27, 2007; and “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window,”, March 7, 2007

Diagnosis: Money

Do vaccines cause autism? “Almost certainly not,” Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told ABC’s John Stossel, citing 19 major studies finding no link. Stossel reports on that Offit told him autism is increasingly diagnosed in children because such a diagnosis leads to increased government funding.

“People that we once called quirky or geeky or nerdy are now called autistic,” Dr. Offit told Stossel, “because when you give that label of, say, autistic spectrum disorder, you allow that child then to qualify for services.” Stossel reports that declines in diagnoses of mental retardation track the increase in diagnoses of autism. “Imagine that,” Stossel said. “A trendy diagnosis being driven by government-paid services.”

Stossel notes lawyers have an interest in spreading fear to fuel autism litigation. “You scare people and make money off it!” Stossel told one lawyer. After a pause, the attorney replied, “True,” Stossel reports.

John Stossel, “The Fear Industrial Complex,”, February 28, 2007

My Kind of ‘Tonw’

A Chicago man is suing a tattoo artist for pain and suffering, loss of self-esteem, and emotional distress caused by the artist’s transposition of two letters in a tattoo so that it read “CHI-TONW” instead of “CHI-TOWN,” the Chicago Tribune reported.

“It was so embarrassing,” the tattooed man told the paper. “It was on my chest, and it was spelled wrong. I had to deal with all the people teasing me about it.”

Now the misspelled tattoo has become all the rage among tattoo aficionados, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. “We’re not a bunch of idiots that can’t spell,” one was quoted as saying.

Maureen O’Donnell, “‘We’re not a bunch of idiots’: CHI-TONW their kind of tattoo,” Chicago Sun-Times, March 13, 2007; Emma Graves Fitzsimmons, “‘CHI-TONW’ tattoo lawsuit filed,” Chicago Tribune, March 1, 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
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Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Editors: Maureen Martin, Diane Carol Bast

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