Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #7-07

Published April 15, 2008

Warning: Lawyers Prowling

Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch is on the job again, handing out awards in its 11th annual Wacky Warning Label Contest. First prize went to the label on a small tractor saying, “Danger: Avoid Death.” Second place went to the label on an iron-on T-shirt transfer: “Do not iron while wearing shirt.” Third prize went to the label on a baby stroller equipped with a small storage pouch: “Do not put child in bag.” Honorable mention went to the warning on a letter opener, our personal favorite: “Caution: Safety goggles recommended.”

“Behind these silly labels is a serious public policy concern–America’s out-of-whack system of civil justice,” said Robert Dorigo Jones, M-LAW president. “Predatory lawyers know they can file ridiculous lawsuits against innocent product makers and blackmail them into cash settlements–even in cases in which a user has ignored common sense,” he said.

Source: Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch, December 2007, at

Missed Miss

A woman mistakenly crowned Miss California USA after scores were calculated incorrectly by pageant officials is suing for $500,000, alleging racial discrimination, negligence, and other wrongs. Pageant officials deny any racism was involved, pointing out the woman forced to surrender her crown is Ecuadorian and Mexican, while the actual winner is 25 percent Filipino. Two recent winners in prior years have been African American, they noted. The woman’s negligence claim might be a winner, though, if the court’s decision emulates the pageant officials’ math skills.

Source: Associated Press, “Woman Sues Miss California USA Pageant,” April 11, 2008

A Great Inflation Hedge

A Florida family loaned $300 to the City of Tampa during the Civil War. Descendants filed suit against the city in March 2008 seeking repayment. With interest, the family says, the city owes them $23 million. Nor surprisingly, the city’s defense is the statute of limitation has run out on the case.

Source: Associated Press, “Tampa fights lawsuit over Civil War-era loan,” April 9, 2008

Tattoo and Sue

A Phoenix man may sue Mayo Clinic Hospital after his surgeon photographed the man’s private parts while operating on the patient’s gall bladder. The patient, a local strip club owner, had his genitals tattooed with the name “Hot Rod.” The surgeon took the photo with his cell phone, exhibited it around the hospital, and then erased it. Someone tipped off the local newspaper.

“It was the most horrible thing I ever went though in my life,” the man said. “I feel violated, betrayed, and disgusted.” He’s disgusted–what about us?

Source: Associated Press, “Surgeon Faces Discipline For Photo Of Genitals After Newspaper Tipped Off,” December 19, 2007, via


Women aren’t known for their strong handshakes, but a female lawyer in Florida has been charged with assault after she nearly floored a female federal prosecutor as they shook hands after court. The prosecutor had just won a conviction of the other lawyer’s husband for supplying cocaine. Federal officials were said to be taking the matter seriously. Somehow, we can’t.

Source: “Assault rap for rough handshake,” BBC, February 10, 2008, via the legal reader,, February 10, 2008

Doggone Lawsuits

A Maine blogger is furious because a local animal shelter killed “a lovable Saint Bernard” dog rather than let his family adopt it. His family was declared unfit to adopt the dog, which he was already calling Baxter, because he and his wife have two children under age 12. The shelter feared “an incident” with the children because the dog’s “history” was “unclear.”

“In order to save the dog, they had to destroy him,” the blogger said. “And never mind that we would have signed a waiver absolving the SPCA of culpability if an incident did happen.”

“His anger is misdirected,” said Ted Frank, director of the AEI Legal Center for the Public Interest, writing on “The SPCA didn’t kill his dog; trial lawyers did. Courts’ failure to recognize the right of parties to contract out of excessive liability means that the SPCA has to protect itself against attorneys, and can only do so if they avoid situations where they might be sued.”

Source: Rogier van Bakel, “Farewell Baxter, or, the SPCA Killed My Dog,” nobodys_business/, September 18, 2007;, March 26, 2008

Water, Water Everywhere

Residents of an Alaskan coastal village filed suit recently against five oil companies, 14 electrical utilities, and the nation’s largest coal company, alleging their carbon dioxide emissions caused global warming, which caused ice to melt, which caused waves, which caused erosion, which caused their oceanfront homes to flood or be in danger of falling into the ocean. The 400 residents of the village of Kivalina are seeking $400 million in damages to relocate houses now sitting on a barrier reef between the Chukchi Sea and two rivers.

Source: Felicity Barringer, “Flooded Village Files Suit, Citing Corporate Link to Climate Change,” New York Times, February 27, 2008

Hair Care

A Manchester, New Hampshire lawyer may do jail time and lose his law license after he was convicted of extorting funds from a local hair salon. The lawyer had written letters to several salons alleging they were discriminating on the basis of gender by charging less for men’s haircuts than for women’s. He said the prices should be based on the length of hair of the customer or the time involved.

“I demand payment in the amount of $1,000 in order to avoid litigation,” he wrote. The jury required only about 1½ hours to decide that amounted to extortion and find him guilty. He plans to appeal the conviction, claiming it violates his First Amendment rights.

Source: Chelsea Conaboy, “Lawyer guilty of salon extortion, He says conviction violates free speech,” Concord Monitor, March 21, 2008, via above the, March 25, 2008

Backtalk on Silence

A federal district judge in Chicago has expanded a suit challenging a mandatory moment of silence in public schools to cover all students in all public schools statewide. An Illinois statute requiring such a moment was challenged by atheist Rob Sherman and his daughter, a freshman at Buffalo Grove High School. The law, called the Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act, makes the moment mandatory, but legislation is pending to remove the words “Student Prayer” and make the moment voluntary.

Source: Carla K. Johnson, “Judge favors class action for ‘moment of silence’ lawsuit,” Associated Press, March 20, 2008, via Illinois Civil Justice League, March 20, 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:

The Heartland Institute
19 South La Salle Street #903
Chicago, Illinois 60603