Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #7-10

Published June 1, 2008

When Your Aluminum Foil Hat Just Isn’t Enough …

Litigation may be in the air in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where several “electro-sensitive” residents are claiming the city is discriminating against them with its municipal wireless Internet system. The residents claim they are allergic to wi-fi and are threatening to sue the city unless wi-fi is banned from public buildings.

“I get chest pain and it doesn’t go away right away,” one resident said. A city council member ridiculed their possible claim, which would be brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act. “It’s not 1692, it’s 2008,” he said, pointing out wireless is everywhere, not just in public buildings. The city attorney is reviewing whether wi-fi can be considered discriminatory under the ADA.

Source: Gadi Schwartz and Joshua Panas, “Group wants Wi-Fi banned from public buildings,”, May 20, 2008

Lawyers Behaving Badly

Jury verdicts against doctors in medical malpractice cases were reversed by higher courts in cases in Michigan and Ohio recently due to misbehavior by the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

In the Michigan case, the appeals court reversed a $500,000 verdict against a neurologist for an alleged misdiagnosis. The court said the trial court tried “valiantly and repeatedly” to curb the lawyer’s misconduct. But it said, “There is a point, however, when an attorney’s deliberate misbehavior becomes so repetitive and egregious that it necessarily impacts the jury, notwithstanding the judge’s efforts. That point was reached here.”

In Ohio, the case alleged a doctor delayed performing a Caesarian section, resulting in the birth of a retarded child. The defense alleged the retardation occurred well before birth, due to intrauterine defects. The plaintiff’s lawyer told the jury in his closing argument, among other things: “I am standing here as the voice of Walter. Walter is a baby in his mother’s womb waiting to be born. Doctors, nurses, I’m suffocating. Please help me be born. … Please, please nurses, I’m a little baby. I want to play baseball. I want to hug my mother. I want to tell her that I love her. Help me. Please help me to be born.” The appeals court reversed a $30 million verdict.

New trials will be held in both cases.

Source: Amy Lynn Sorrel, “Lawyers’ misconduct triggers new liability trials,” American Medical News, May 5, 2008, via

Flight Suit

An airline has been sued for $2 million because a flight attendant’s backside evidently got tired. The jetBlue flight attendant gave up her seat on a sold-out flight from San Diego to New York to accommodate an extra passenger, offering to sit in the airline employee “jump seat” instead.

About midway through the flight, though, she became “uncomfortable,” so the pilot asked the passenger to give her the regular seat back and “hang out” in the plane’s bathroom until the flight landed. He was not allowed to sit in the jump seat.

He alleges he suffered “extreme humiliation” by the bathroom seating and “tremendous fear” when the flight became turbulent, because the toilet lacked a seat belt. Adding insult to (lack of) injury, the pilot told the man he “should be grateful for being onboard.” It’s surprising the passenger didn’t sue the company manufacturing the airplane for a design defect over lack of a seat belt on the toilet.

Source: Edith Honan, “NY man sues airline over flight spent in toilet,” Reuters, May 12, 2008, via iamlawsuit abuse

Lotto Marital Trouble

A wife who’s suing her husband for fraud because he didn’t tell her he’d won the Florida Lotto was in court recently, but the judge thinks the case belongs in divorce court.

The wife is suing her husband for half of the $600,000 he won as his share of a $19 million jackpot. The husband was among 17 mechanics at Miami International Airport who bought the ticket together. The cash value of the jackpot, taken as a lump sum, was $10 million.

A state court judge tossed the case out in May but gave the wife leave to refile it with allegations the winning ticket was purchased with marital assets, which she plans to do. She plans to sue him for divorce later, she said.

Source: Evan S. Benn, “Judge tosses wife’s Lotto suit–for now, Miami Herald, May 16, 2008

Gone with the Wind

It’s now official: repeated “intentional farting” in British workplaces can be worth almost $10,000 to the person on the receiving end.

That’s what a British woman recovered because her boss, who sat next to her, “would lift up his bottom off the chair and fart and think it’s funny.” She added, “I am no prude, but I do think there is a time and a place for that behavior.” Her other gripes were that a beach ball was thrown at her head when she objected to “sexist banter” and she was forced to wear a badge saying “I’m simple” when she had problems working with her computer. She won £5,000, which is about $9,900.

Source: Neil Sears, “Office worker awarded £5,000 after boss constantly broke wind in her direction,” Daily Mail, May 15, 2008

Shark Bait

As oil prices soared, Democrats in the U.S. House, joined by numerous Republicans, responded by voting to sue OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), a bill requiring the U.S. Justice Department to sue OPEC member countries in U.S. federal courts was approved by a vote of 324-84, which would enable Congress to override President George W. Bush’s threatened veto. The suit would allege price-fixing and other U.S. antitrust law violations.

It’s known as the Gas Price Relief for Consumers. One Republican leader called the bill “another silly, ludicrous, cosmetic bill that does nothing to increase energy in America or lower the price at the pump.”

Fox Business News saw a benefit to the government suit, though: Tort suits by contingency fee lawyers would follow. If we “sic the U.S. tort bar sharks on this oil gang,” Fox opined, this might distract them from suing “beleaguered U.S. corporations.” For once, a good unintended consequence of government action!

Source: David Ivanovich, “OPEC again becomes target on Capitol Hill,” Houston Chronicle, May 20, 2008; Elizabeth MacDonald, “Why Suing OPEC Won’t Work, May 23, 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
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Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Editors: Maureen Martin, Diane Carol Bast

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