Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #6-4

Published April 25, 2007

Brother, Can You Spare 450,000 Dimes?

Three homeless men in Las Vegas arrested under a city law banning “sleeping too close to a pile of feces” have received a $45,000 settlement of their lawsuit against the city.

The suit was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and by a private attorney who received $15,000 from the settlement funds. The suit alleged the arrests were improper because the city ordinance had previously been repealed.

An ACLU of Nevada spokesman was in quite a righteous snit over the city’s conduct. “They were arrested, taken off to jail, for quote, unquote, sleeping too close to poop,” he told AP. “Their rights were violated–violated in a rather egregious fashion.”

The men originally sued for a total of $2 million. No word on the identity of the negligent pooper, who was not named in the suit.

Source: “Vegas homeless men win $45,000 in suit over sleeping near feces,” Associated Press, March 29, 2007

Something Smells

A New York City beauty salon patron is suing the establishment, alleging vapors from the nail polish being applied to her nails in the shop made her “nauseous, dizzy, [and] disoriented,” according to the Brooklyn Courier Life. She also claims to have suffered shortness of breath, throat pain, and unspecified injuries to other parts of her body from the nail polish.

Well, maybe not from the nail polish. She alleges the vapors instead may have come from improperly maintained heaters, from heat lamps, from improper toxic chemical storage in the shop, or from improper ventilation. In short, she alleges, something smelled funny.

Something does smell funny, though not necessarily in the shop.

Source: Tom Tracy, “Showing her claws,” Brooklyn Courier Life, March 15, 2007

Joker’s Wild

What started as a “childish joke” by a Florida high school student escalated into litigation warfare with the school district, according to the St. Petersburg Times. The student started it, the paper said, by “mooning” his teacher after being barred from attending a “lip sync” talent show because the auditorium was overcrowded. Not only that, the paper says, he went further “by spreading his buttocks for an instant.”

The family’s attorney says the student meant it as a “childish joke” for which he has apologized. He says the school’s disciplinary action went too far by suspending him for six days and transferring him to a different school with his graduation coming up in a few weeks. “That’s an important event in a guy’s life,” the lawyer said. “This kid deserves a break.”

The school district defended the action before seeing the lawsuit. “Without knowing the allegations, we’re confident in the administration’s position on this case,” the board’s attorney told the paper. In a letter to the district, the principal of the student’s high school said the teacher was “traumatized” by the mooning.

Source: Thomas C. Tobin, “Parents sue to get student reinstated,” St. Petersburg Times, April 4, 2007

Hot Enough for Ya?

This time it’s Starbucks that’s being sued for selling hot coffee. A Birmingham, Alabama woman claims she was sold “a scalding hot cup of coffee” at a Starbucks drive-through window, the Birmingham News reports. It spilled, burning her stomach.

She alleges Starbucks engaged in “conscious indifference, willful, wanton, and reckless disregard” by serving the “unreasonably dangerous coffee.” She is seeking damages of $50,000.

Isn’t it way past time for people to wake up and smell the coffee … and wait until it cools before trying to drink it?

Source: Nancy Wilstach, “Woman claims Starbucks coffee caused burns, sues,” Birmingham News, March 30, 2007

Lawyers’ Red Glare

A Nebraska town considered canceling its annual “Big, Bang, Boom” Fourth of July fireworks show because fears of lawsuits drove up its liability insurance costs.

The City of Norfolk, Nebraska is requiring “Big, Bang, Boom” organizers to increase their insurance coverage to $5 million from $1 million, so the event’s organizers said they had no choice but to cancel it, KTIV-TV in Sioux City, Iowa, reported.

The insurance premium alone would cost $7,000, an increase of $4,500, the station reported.

The latest word, though, is the city will help the group find extra money to pay the premium. Organizers of other local events such as an ethnic festival, holiday lights festival, and Halloween trick-or-treating are also scrambling to find funds for extra coverage.

Source: KTIV-TV, March 30, 2007 at

Fred and Ginger They’re Not

A Chicago woman is suing her dance partner after he flipped her in mid-air and dropped her on her head, the Associated Press reports. Her lawyer calls it a case of “negligent dancing.” The incident occurred at an office party at a Chicago bar and restaurant.

She claims the fall fractured her skull and is seeking unspecified damages for medical bills and lost wages.

More proof that it’s a bad idea to have a good time at office parties.

Source: Associated Press, April 3, 2007

More Than They Bargained For?

There’s a general principle in tort law known as “proximate cause.” It holds that though there may be a cause-and-effect relationship between an act and its ultimate consequence, at some point the relationship is too remote to allow the plaintiff to recover. A recent lawsuit is a textbook example.

The case has been brought against Pfizer Inc. by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The complaint alleges: (1) Pfizer makes Viagra; (2) Pfizer markets Viagra as “a party drug”; (3) 32% of “men who have sex with men” (MSM) use Viagra; (4) 36% of MSM Viagra users take it with alcohol and illegal drugs such as methamphetamines and ecstasy; (5) MSM users of Viagra plus these other drugs “often exercise poor judgment about safe sex practices”; (6) MSM Viagra users are “up to six times more likely to engage in unprotected sex”; (7) all of this has caused the increased spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among MSM Viagra users; (8) all of this is known to Pfizer; and therefore (9) the rise of STDs among MSM Viagra users is all Pfizer’s fault.

The suit seeks an order halting Pfizer’s allegedly unlawful marketing practices and “requiring disgorgement of Pfizer’s ill-gotten gains.”

Source: AIDS Healthcare Foundation v. Pfizer Inc., No. BC564983, Superior Court of the State of California, January 22, 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