Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #7-02

Published January 28, 2008

Dogged Determination

A monogrammed polyester dog chew toy shaped something like a purse does not infringe the trademarked monogram featured on Louis Vuitton’s $995 to $4,500 handbags, a federal court of appeals ruled recently.

The parent company of the haute designer sued Haute Diggity Dog, maker of the “Chewy Vuiton” plush dog toy, to stop sale of the toys. The purpose of the toy was to poke “fun at the elegance” and cost of the designer handbag, the court wrote in ruling consumers are unlikely to think the two items were made by the same company.

Haute Diggity Dog also makes chew toys known as Chewnel No. 5 (Chanel No. 5), Furcedes (Mercedes), Jimmy Chew (Jimmy Choo), Dog Perignonn (Dom Perignon), Sniffany & Co. (Tiffany & Co.), and Dogior (Dior).

Source: Roger Parloff, “Louis Vuitton loses dog chew-toy case — again,” Fortune magazine Legal Pad, November 19, 2007

Judicial Litmus Test

No, it wasn’t Roe v. Wade on the mind of one member of the Rhode Island Judicial Nominating Commission, which recommends judicial candidates to the state’s governor for final nomination and legislative confirmation.

Instead, the commissioner wanted to know what historical figure the candidates would choose to spend a day with. “You could have predicted Abraham Lincoln. No one was shocked by Jesus or Thurgood Marshall,” the paper said. “But Larry Bird came as a bit of a surprise.”

The candidate said Bird, who formerly played for the Boston Celtics, “is a lunch-pail kind of guy who goes above the call of duty. When you think of some of the adversity he faced and what he accomplished, it’s impressive.”

Others named by the candidates included Dwight D. Eisenhower, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Truman, and John F. Kennedy. One candidate, apparently not wanting to be outdone by the one naming Larry Bird, selected former Boston Red Sox star Carl Yastrzemski.

Source: Edward Fitzpatrick, “Judicial minds share a few insights,” Providence Journal, October 28, 2007

Judge, Interrupted

A New York state judge who “snapped” over a cell phone ringing in his courtroom and jailed 46 people who refused to admit it was theirs should lose his job, a state commission on judicial conduct recommended.

The judge was presiding over a courtroom filled with domestic violence offenders sentenced to 26 weeks of counseling and education. The ringing cell phone prompted a two-hour outburst from the judge.

The commission found he had “abandoned his role as a reasonable, fair jurist and instead became a petty tyrant,” bringing the judiciary into “disrepute.” The judge attributed the episode to “stress in his personal life.” One commissioner dissented: “I cannot find it within myself to destroy this individual’s professional life over this regrettable episode …, a profound aberration in an otherwise unblemished career.” Maybe he should just have been sentenced to 26 weeks of counseling.

Source: Joel Stashenko, “Judge’s Removal Recommended for Prolonged Tirade Over Courtroom Cell Phone,” New York Law Journal, November 28, 2007

You May Feel a Pinch …

A married Washington state psychiatrist is being sued for malpractice after allegedly treating a married, depressed patient by dating her.

The psychiatrist “took her on dates, kissed and fondled her, told her he loved her, and tried to convince her that she loved him,” the suit alleges. That was as far as it went before the spouses of the pair found out. The doctor acknowledges “a brief personal relationship.” But the woman’s lawyer says, “The word relationship wasn’t appropriate in this context. There’s no such thing as a consensual relationship between a psychiatrist and a patient.”

Damages are unspecified.

Source: “Woman suing Spokane psychiatrist over affair,” Associated Press, November 20, 2007

Spreading the Word

A woman sued a Pennsylvania Kmart over 28 cents … and the retailer isn’t laughing.

The consumer fraud suit came because the store was charging a 7 percent sales tax on a $3.99 12-pack of toilet paper in violation of state sales tax laws. She won a court award of $100 plus court costs. Kmart offered to settle the case out of court–presumably for more money–in return for a confidentiality agreement. The woman turned down the offer, saying she wanted to warn holiday shoppers to watch for such illegal taxes. “I would lose my ability to spread that message if I were gagged.”

Source: “Pa. woman wins complaint against Kmart over tax on toilet paper,” The Associated Press, November 30, 2007

Lawsuit Abuse Intolerance

Nine milk sellers have no duty to warn lactose-intolerant consumers they “may experience bloating, diarrhea, or other gastrointestinal discomfort from consuming milk,” the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decided recently.

The class-action suit was filed on behalf of persons who drank milk before they knew of their lactose intolerance. “A bout of gas or indigestion does not justify a race to the courthouse,” the court wrote.

“It is too soon to know for certain whether the nation’s baked-bean manufacturers are celebrating the decision’s outcome,” quipped lawyer/blogger Howard J. Bashman.

What’s next, a label saying, “Milk Causes Global Warming?”

Source: Howard J. Bashman, “D.C. Circuit Doesn’t Swallow Lactose-Intolerance Class Action,”, November 19, 2007

Hands-On Management

A business executive fired for deducting the costs of “escort services” as part of his work-related relocation expenses tried to convince the judge they were just like other personal relocation costs such as entertainment and furnishings for his new apartment.

He’s seeking damages for his firing over “inappropriate and unacceptable” spending on his corporate credit card, and wants a declaration he was not guilty of misconduct. The case is pending. No word on how he’s working off the tension in the meantime.

Source: Jennifer Cooke, “Escorts a work expense, court told,” Sydney Morning Herald, November 13, 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