Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #6-8

Published June 28, 2007

The Right to Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of a Tan

Do fundamental freedoms such as free speech, religious expression, and due process of law include the right to wear a bikini? That’s what female inmates in a Swedish jail contend in their petition to the state prison judicial overseers, alleging they have been deprived of their “human right” to wear bikinis in jail.

Failure to include bikinis as standard prison garb is sex discrimination, they say. “It’s a human right,” the women said. “We want to be able to enjoy the sun just like everybody else in Sweden, whether they are in an institution or on the outside. … We are treated differently because we are in an institution and we are discriminated against because of our gender.”

Source: Bruno Waterfield, “Prisoners demand right to tan in a bikini,” U.K. Telegraph, May 28, 2007

Tort Law Critic Tripped Up

A $1 million slip-and-fall case might not be stop-the-presses news, but it is when the plaintiff is former U.S. Supreme Court nominee, former Yale Law School professor, and tort law critic Robert Bork and the defendant is the Yale Club.

Bork sued the club, alleging he tripped and fell as he sought to climb the dais to give a speech there, because, due to the club’s “gross negligence,” the dais was too high and lacked stairs or a handrail. Bork, who is 80, claims he suffered a swollen leg requiring surgery and physical therapy, leaving him with a limp. He is seeking actual and punitive damages.

Source: David Glovin, “Robert Bork Sues Yale Club for More Than $1 Million,” Bloomberg, June 7, 2007

Honest to a Fault

Comments reportedly made by a partner with a swanky, Chicago-based law firm to a Florida federal bankruptcy court judge have put the lawyer in hot water. Deep down inside, however, lawyers often forced to suffer foolish judges gladly must be secretly cheering him on.

The lawyer, licensed in Illinois and Ohio but admitted to the Florida court for a specific case, was not having much luck convincing the judge of his client’s position. Apparently having exhausted more elegant legal arguments, he told her, “I suggest with respect, Your Honor, that you’re a few French fries short of a Happy Meal in terms of what’s likely to take place.”

The judge called it “conduct that appears to be inconsistent with the requirements of professional conduct” and ordered the attorney to appear before her later “to show cause why he should not be suspended from practice before this court.” The lawyer’s firm was equally indignant, saying in a statement, “We expect our lawyers to observe established rules and protocols of professional conduct in the courtroom. Any departure from that standard is of concern to us and we look forward to a resolution of this matter.”

The lawyer, who has the highest possible marks for legal abilities and ethics from the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell legal rating service for his accomplishments in a 30-year, apparently otherwise blemish-free legal career, had no comment.

Source: Brandon Glenn, “Lawyer’s ‘Happy Meal’ comment eats at judge,” Crain’s Chicago Business, May 29, 2007

Judge Not …

You know you’ve got a problem when the organized plaintiffs’ trial bar complains you’re unethical. That’s what happened to Washington, DC administrative law judge Roy Pearson Jr.

Pearson became the poster child for frivolous litigation when he filed suit for $65 million in damages recently against his local dry cleaners for losing a pair of his pants for a week. He has since reduced that claim to a mere $54 million.

Signs in the shop saying “Satisfaction Guaranteed” and “Same Day Service” amount to “false, misleading and fraudulent advertisements,” Pearson told Associated Press. But the American Association for Justice, formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, filed an ethics complaint against the judge last month with the District of Columbia Bar Association. No word yet on the outcome.

Sources: Brendan Smith, “Ethics Complaint Filed Against Judge Over His $65M Suit Against Dry Cleaners,” Legal Times, May 16, 2007; Lubna Takruri, “Judge Now Wants Just $54M From Cleaner,” Associated Press, June 6, 2007

Unexpected Bonus

If Novartis AG had claimed its health drink Boost Plus caused long-lasting erections in males, it probably would have gotten in hot water with the Food and Drug Administration. But the drink allegedly had that result–at least for one man in New York who is suing for damages resulting from a case of priapism he suffered the morning after consuming the drink.

The man had to seek relief via hospital treatment and surgery. The amount of monetary damages he claims is not specified in the suit.

Novartis claims on its Web site the drink is “a great tasting, high calorie, nutritionally complete oral supplement for people who require extra energy and protein in a limited volume.”

Source: Associated Press, “Man Sues Over Long-Lasting Erection,” June 5, 2007

Get a Grip, Lady!

A Tennessee woman who fell 11 feet off a roller coaster at a Hot Springs, Arkansas amusement park because she was too fat to ride it safely is now suing the park for $16 million in damages. The dispute centers on who gets the blame for the accident.

State officials who investigated said she “was extremely large,” took up two seats on the ride, and should not have been allowed on it by park workers.

The woman describes herself in the suit as “healthy, active and industrious” and claims the ride did not have sufficient safety features, including weight restrictions.

A spokesman for the company said the accident was the woman’s fault because she failed to follow “written and verbal direction on how to act on the ride.”

Source: Associated Press, “Parsippany firm sued over amusement ride accident,” May 24, 2007

Barring Discrimination

The California Supreme Court has ruled that a bar charging women a lower admission price than men on a “Ladies’ Night” violates a state statute that says all Californians must be treated equally no matter what their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. The defendant argued the statute ought not apply to plaintiffs who act as “bounty hunters” through repeated visits to an establishment to drive up damages, causing the proliferation of “meritless, abusive litigation.”

The court said it understood this concern and shared it “to some degree.” But, the court said, “It is for the Legislature (or the People through the initiative process) to determine whether to alter the statutory elements of proof to afford business establishments protection against abusive private legal actions.”

Source: Angelucci v. Century Supper Club, Case No. S136154, 2007 Cal. LEXIS 5489 (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