Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #6-5

Published May 1, 2007

A Real-Life ‘Perry Mason’ Moment

It’s not uncommon for medical malpractice defense lawyers to hire investigators to secretly videotape plaintiffs who claim serious crippling injuries, hoping to catch them in a big lie. It almost never works. But it did in a recent Florida case.

The case was filed in 2004 by a plaintiff who alleged she became permanently paralyzed due to a delay in the diagnosis and treatment of a spinal abscess. She sued the hospital and doctors for $3 million.

In 2005, she was videotaped by hospital investigators walking down the street with her husband. Just a few months later, she testified under oath at her deposition she couldn’t walk or stand and couldn’t even move by herself from her bed to her chair.

But it wasn’t until she repeated that testimony at a second deposition in 2007 that hospital lawyers had their “Perry Mason” moment. They sprang the videotape on her and the judge and got the case dismissed on grounds of fraud. “This is the worst case of misrepresentation, of outright fraud, that I have ever had in 22 years,” the judge said to the plaintiff after viewing the tape.

Source: Daniel Ostrovsky, “Citing Fraud, Judge Tosses Case After Video Shows ‘Paralyzed’ Woman Walking,” Daily Business Review, April 26, 2007

A Slippery Slope

An Australian state-owned railway should have foreseen that a woman who slipped on its rail station stairway and broke her ankle would weeks later be raped in a private home because her cast and crutches prevented her from escaping her assailant. This was the recent ruling from a Sydney judge, who awarded the woman $240,000 in compensation from RailCorp.

The woman told the court she was at a man’s home and was unable to run away from his assault. As a result of the rape, she said she suffered depression and other psychological injuries. The judge found RailCorp set in motion the chain of events that led to her psychological injuries. But for the fall, the judge found, she would not have been sexually assaulted. But for the sexual assault, he ruled, she would not have become depressed. All of this was a “forseeable consequence” of the railway’s failure to prevent the stairway from becoming slippery, he ruled. A RailCorp spokesman said the company will appeal. “We feel there are some inconsistencies in the judgement,” he said.

Source: Geesche Jacobsen, “A fall, a rape — and $240,000,” Sydney Morning Herald, April 26, 2007

Warning to Tavern Patrons: Beware of Walking

Talk about falling down drunk. That’s what an Illinois man did … and he’s blaming an Alton tavern for it. He’s suing the tavern for $200,000 for injuries he allegedly suffered while exiting the tavern carrying a bottle of beer. He alleges he tripped on a jamb at the door and fell on the bottle, which then broke and cut his neck, face, and chest. His complaint alleges the tavern “knew or should have known” the exit was dangerous for “patrons leaving the premises who may stumble and be unable to stop or catch their fall.”

Source: Ann Knef, “Man exiting bar with beer bottle sues for tripping,” The Madison St. Clair Record, April 11, 2007

Taking Them to the Cleaners

A Washington, DC administrative law judge has sued his local dry cleaners because they misplaced his pants for a week. The judge left a suit there for alterations in 2005 and, when he returned to pick it up two days later, the pants were missing. He demanded $1,000, the full price of the suit. The dry cleaners refused to pay after finding the pants a week later.

The judge refused to accept the pants back and sued the dry cleaners for $65 million. The suit alleges losing the pants temporarily amounts to fraud by the dry cleaners because it displays signs saying “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service.” He is claiming “mental suffering, inconvenience and discomfort” due to the lost pants.

But the bulk of the damages are sought under the District’s consumer protection laws, which provide for daily fines of $1,500. He also claims $15,000 to rent a car once a week to take his dirty laundry to another dry cleaning firm. The judge has refused to accept settlement offers of up to $12,000.

The judge’s behavior led the Washington Post to question in an editorial whether the judge ought to be reappointed to a new term in his $100,512 a year job when it comes up for renewal soon. “The case raises serious questions about his judgment and temperament,” the paper opined.

Source: Lubna Takruri, “Judge sues cleaner for $65M over pants,” Associated Press, May 3, 2007; “Kick in the Pants,” The Washington Post, May 3, 2007

Road Raging Toll Collector

The New Jersey Supreme Court upheld an arbitrator’s decision to reinstate a toll collector to his job with the New Jersey Turnpike. He was fired, so to speak, after he repeatedly fired a paintball gun at a slow-moving van as he drove home from work.

The toll collector, who said he was “[f]eeling a lot of stress” and “a little annoyed” as he left work, pled guilty to the charge of “interference with transportation” by disorderly conduct. He was sentenced to two years’ probation so long as he continued psychiatric counseling. The Toll Authority then fired him, citing an authority rule prohibiting employees from committing “any act which will be prejudicial to the good order or discipline of this Authority.” On appeal, the court upheld the arbitrator’s decision, citing law requiring courts to uphold arbitration awards as long as they are reasonable.

Source: New Jersey Turnpike Authority v. Local 196, I.F.P.T.E., 2007 N.J. LEXIS 446 (April 23, 2007)

Sex, Drugs, and Unemployment Rolls

A suburban New York City woman working her way through college as a professional dominatrix is suing the Greenburgh, New York police department for $5 million because she can’t get a job on Wall Street. The dominatrix contends she was unjustly treated by police after her arrest for drug use and possession.

When police learned of her profession, she alleges, one officer lured her to a secluded area on the pretext of recruiting her as a police informant. There, they engaged in “kinky sex” — trust us, you don’t want to know the details. Let’s just say it was undoubtedly consensual. After graduation, she tried to get a job on Wall Street, but couldn’t because of her criminal record. The police officer was fired and — naturally (or perhaps unnaturally) is suing to get his job back.

Source: Reka Bala, “Dominatrix sues Greenburgh police for $5M,” The Journal News, April 21, 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