Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #7-04

Published February 14, 2008

Whatever Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Fatter …

Egged on by obesity lawsuit aficionados such as Prof. John Banzhaf of George Washington University Law School, the food police are out in full force. A Mississippi legislator has introduced a bill banning restaurants from serving any food to the obese–not even a puny, pathetic little carrot stick. A New York regulation requiring restaurant chains to post the number of calories in every item on their menus went into effect on March 1, though the New York Restaurant Association has filed suit to stop it.

And in Los Angeles, a street vendor was jailed for grilling bacon-wrapped hot dogs heaped with numerous toppings. “You take a bite and think, This is so good, no wonder it’s illegal!” the LA Weekly observed.

But wait! What if obesity is caused by–drum roll, please–diet soft drinks, of all things? And other low-calorie, no-calorie, and low-fat foods laden with artificial sweeteners? An ABC News medical contributor concluded exactly that in February, reporting two studies–one involving 10,000 people–linked consumption of artificial sweeteners to weight gain. Sweet foods, even artificially sweetened ones, “rev up” our metabolism, she theorized. “We have to rethink what this artificial stuff does to us.”

So bring on the bacon-wrapped wieners. Supersized.

Sources: “No food for the obese? Miss. lawmaker proposes no-serve rule,” Associated Press, February 5, 2007; Lisa Fickenscher, “Calorie rules hit fine-dining spots; Steakhouses, other chains fear putting info on their menus,” Crain’s New York Business, February 9, 2007; Daniel Hernandez, “The Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dog: So Good It’s Illegal; Jailed for selling L.A.’s famed ‘heart attack’ dogs, licensed street vendors are fighting back,” LA Weekly, February 6, 2008 via, February 8, 2008; “Study: Artificial Sweeteners Increase Weight Gain Odds; Fake Sweeteners, Lack of Calories May Trick Brain,” ABC News, February 11, 2008.

Vacating His Decision

A Las Vegas lawyer who calls himself the “Heavy Hitter” skipped his client’s murder trial because he was out of state writing a book and “re-examining” his life. “I’ve been living the life of a rock star for so long,” he said, so “if the judge wants to sanction me, she can sanction me.”

The lawyer went on the lam after a plea bargain with the prosecutor fell through and he needed more time to prepare for trial. “I’d rather be sanctioned than railroad my guy into accepting 25 years in prison,” he said.

Source: Debra Cassens Weiss, “Lawyer Misses Client’s Murder Trial, Says He’s on Sabbatical,” ABA Journal, January 28, 2008, via The Legal Reader, January 28, 2008

Ad Venturers

Lawyer ads are second only to lawyer jokes as sources of amusement, but the folks in Port Wentworth, Georgia aren’t laughing at the ads airing in their community.

Lawyers have tried pitching themselves as sharks, snakes, pit bulls, tigers, wolves, crocodiles, and piranhas, earning sanctions from state ethics regulators for violating bans on ads that are “manipulative” and false, the Wall Street Journal reported.

But lawyers trawling for clients injured in a sugar refinery explosion in Port Wentworth descended on the town even before the fire had been extinguished and all the bodies recovered, drawing the ire of local residents. “These slicksters know that when people are emotional train wrecks, then they’re vulnerable to hard-sell pitches,” the local newspaper editorialized.

Source: Nathan Koppel, “Objection! Funny Legal Ads Draw Censure, Sharks, Pit Bulls Out In Florida; UFO Clients Get the Ax in Syracuse,” Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2008; Greg Bluestein, “Locals bristle at lawyers’ refinery ads,” Associated Press, February 13, 2008, via Illinois Civil Justice League, February 14, 2008

Thirst for Justice

A man visiting Chicago to interview for a high-paying software job with a major computer firm won the job but then lost it, all over a bottle of allegedly faux Scotch from the mini-bar in his hotel room. He filed suit in February in Cook County Circuit Court.

The man checked in and then took a sip from a small bottle of brand-labeled scotch from his room’s mini-bar. He says he thought it tasted like urine, so he called the hotel’s director of sales to complain. The man and the sales director got into a fight over possession of the bottle, and the man was ejected from the hotel.

It might have ended there, but he later sought reimbursement from his new employer, who promptly fired him after learning of the incident. Contrary to the movie Wall Street, greed is not always good.

Source: “Lawsuit: Whiskey Tasted Like Urine And I Got Fired, Man Claims Fight Over Whiskey Cost Him Promising Job,” Chicago Sun-Times, February 12, 2008, via, a project of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Giving Them an Earful

The Washington, DC judge who unsuccessfully sued his dry cleaners last year for $54 million over a lost pair of pants has inspired another lawsuit in the District for the same amount. This suit is against Best Buy over a lost laptop computer.

The computer, plus a warranty, cost the purchaser, a DC woman, $1,110.35. She alleges Best Buy lost it after she brought it in for repairs. Best Buy has already refunded what she paid, but she wants punitive damages. “It’s a ridiculous number,” she said of her $54 million damages claim, but adds, “I had to come up with a number that was significant enough that might force them to pay attention to me.”

She claims the damages are warranted because the loss of the computer raises the risk of identity theft due to personal information stored on it. “We’ve tried to resolve this dispute and feel badly that it escalated to a lawsuit,” Best Buy said.

Source: “Best Buy Sued for $54M Over Lost Laptop,” Associated Press, February 14, 2008

Slaying the Dragon

A New York City woman is being sued by the owner of a neighboring apartment–who just happens to be a class action plaintiffs’ lawyer specializing in suing large corporations–because the woman’s secondhand smoke allegedly makes the building’s hallway smell like “a Las Vegas casino” and poses a risk to their small child.

The woman has gone to extremes to contain the smoke within her apartment, running two air purifiers, opening the windows, and sealing door bottoms, to no avail. “They are hysterical,” she said of her neighbors. “You become a monster all of a sudden because you’re a smoker,” she said.

Source: Anemona Hartocollis, “Suing the Smoker Next Door,” New York Times, February 9, 2008

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:

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