Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #7-15

Published September 1, 2008

Fighting Fire with Firing

An Erie, Pennsylvania firefighter who lost her job after she admitted setting her father’s house on fire two years ago is suing to get her job back.

The fire chief told her she was fired because “This incident renders you presumptively unsuited to be a firefighter, as you pose an ongoing threat to the safety of the public, other firefighters, and yourself.” Setting a fire is “the single most significant act a fire fighter may not commit,” the civil service chief said.

But she alleges in her suit that her firing was “capricious, arbitrary, unreasonable, and void” and violated her constitutional rights.

Source: Kara Rhodes, “Fired worker wants old job, City says firefighter admitted to setting fire,” (Erie) Times News, viaoverlawyered, August 27, 2008

Same Old Story

AARP, a national advocacy and service organization for older Americans, is being sued for age discrimination by a former employee.

The woman, 63, worked for AARP in Washington, Chicago, and Lansing, Michigan. She alleges she had “excellent job reviews” but was passed over for nine vacant positions because she was “too old.” She ultimately lost her job in a reorganization. She seeks $25,000 in damages.

Source: Associated Press, “63-Year-Old Woman Sues the AARP for Age Discrimination,” August 20, 2008, via, a project of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Legal Affair

The Mississippi Supreme Court recently affirmed a jury verdict finding a lawyer liable for $1.5 million in damages for having an affair with his client’s wife.

The client couple hired the lawyer to represent them and their son in a medical malpractice case. The affair began after the husband went to Hollywood to become an actor. The husband later learned of the affair and divorced his wife. He then sued the lawyer for intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract, and alienation of affection.

The lawyer said he was not surprised by the ruling because the Supreme Court had denied his motion for oral argument in the appeal. “I knew I was going to get screwed,” he said. Well, turnabout is fair play, isn’t it?

Source: Leigh Jones, “Affair With Former Client’s Wife Costs Attorney $1.5 Million,” National Law Journal, August 20, 2008, via Illinois Civil Justice League

Class Action

A Manhattan lawyer is suing Columbia University for discriminating against men by offering women’s studies classes.

He calls the university “a bastion of bigotry against men” and says the women’s studies program “demonizes men and exalts women in order to justify discrimination against men based on collective guilt.” Such programs at Columbia and other universities, he claims, are “spreading prejudice and fostering animosity and distrust toward men with the result of the wholesale violation of men’s rights due to ignorance, falsehoods, and malice.” The university should have a program for men’s studies, he believes.

Source: Corey Kilgannon, “Lawyer Files Antifeminist Suit Against Columbia,” New York Times, August 18, 2008, via

Undercover Copout

A Beaumont, Texas cop suspended for having sex with a prostitute as part of an undercover investigation is suing to get reinstated. The policeman claims he was told that having sex was a necessary part of the investigation. Department officials denied having said this and suspended him without pay indefinitely.

The city attorney opposing the cop’s case asked some uncomfortable questions, such as whether the cop enjoyed the sex. “If you are asking if I had an orgasm, yes. It was a job, sir,” he said. “I didn’t have pleasure doing this. I was paid to do it.” He was also asked if he is faithful to his wife. “I am true to my wife, period,” he said.

Source: Dee Dixon, “Suspended cop: Sex with prostitute wasn’t fun, it was work,” Beaumont Enterprise, August 21, 2008, viaoverlawyered

Rolling the Dice

A jury’s award to a Minnesota man of more than $8.2 million “gives a whole new meaning to ‘jackpot justice,’ ” writes Ted Frank, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. The man sued a pharmaceutical manufacturer claiming the drug he took for Parkinson’s disease “caused him to become a compulsive gambler.” But he gambled before he took the drug and continued to gamble compulsively after he stopped taking it.

The jury awarded him $204,000 in reimbursement for his gambling losses, $175,000 for pain and suffering, and $7.8 million in punitive damages.

The drug had approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Frank notes the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case in November and consider whether FDA approval should bar suits against pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Source: Ted Frank, “Jackpot justice gets new meaning,” DC Examiner, August 18, 2008 via

Unpleasant Diversions

A Virginia lawyer could receive a sentence of up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to embezzling millions of dollars from his clients. Sentencing is set for November 14, 2008.

The lawyer embezzled the funds from more than 50 clients, forging their names to settlement checks for more than $3.5 million. Many had suffered serious injuries. He used the money to travel, buy a chalet at a Virginia ski resort, and build a mansion in Loudon County valued at $1.6 million.

“It kind of makes me sad. I don’t bear him any malice,” said one of the clients. “I don’t think he was chasing ambulances, he just made bad choices.”

Source: Scott McCabe, “Personal injury lawyer admits embezzling millions from clients,” DC Examiner, August 20, 2008, via U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform

Tragedy, then Farce

On June 5, 2007, a 34-year-old, mentally troubled California man, described until then as “gentle,” suddenly turned violent and shot his father. A gun battle followed in which three El Dorado County sheriff’s deputies were shot and injured. One year later to the day, two of the three deputies are suing the man’s mother.

The deputies allege the 66-year-old mother–and widow–was negligent in failing to control her son. One deputy was shot in the chest, arm, and leg. The other was shot once in the leg. They seek recovery for emotional distress, medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, and punitive damages, plus anxiety and humiliation.

Law professors said such suits are difficult to win because of “the firefighter’s rule,” which typically bars suits against citizens by emergency personnel injured in the line of duty. One said, “the reasoning is that they voluntarily agreed to undertake these risks–they know going in that fighting crime or fighting fires is dangerous.” The third deputy shot during the firefight declined to sue for precisely that reason.

“We were all victims that day,” the widow and mother said. “But this lawsuit is victimizing our family again. What do they want? My husband’s dead, my son’s dead. Do they want my house and my 10-year-old car?” Well, yes.

Source: Dorothy Korber, “Son battled officers; now mom fights suit, Year after Shingle Springs shootout, deputies seek $8 million from widow,” Sacramento Bee, August 10, 2008, via

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