Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #7-17

Published October 8, 2008

Let’s Sue It Again

Another lawyer has visions of dollar signs dancing in his head over a lost pair of pants.

Last year a Washington, DC administrative law judge sued his local dry cleaners for $54 million because they lost his trousers. The case was eventually tossed out by the trial court, and the judge lost his job. But store owners Soo and Lin Chung paid $100,000 in legal fees and lost two of their three stores. The case is now on appeal, according to ABC news station WJLA in Arlington, Virginia.

Now another lawyer is suing his dry cleaners for lost trousers, this time in West Virginia. He’s seeking reimbursement of the cost of the pants but also wants an unspecified amount of punitive damages.

“Extravagant damages” should not be awarded, said Steve Cohen, executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. “These are the kinds of suits that kill small businesses that create jobs,” Cohen said.

Source: Kelly Holleran, “Extravagant damages the possible problem with dry cleaner suit, WV CALA says,” West Virginia Record, September 4, 2008; “$54 Million ‘Pants’ Lawsuit Headed Back to Court,” ABC News WJLA, September 10, 2008, via

Over the Top

In 2006, a man standing on the edge of the roof of a San Francisco apartment building fought off the efforts of a firefighter to rescue him and jumped to his death. The man’s family sued the city and has now won a settlement. The amount will not be disclosed until final papers are signed.

The family claimed the man would be alive today if the rescue had not been attempted, because efforts by police to talk the man out of suicide would have succeeded. The fireman, who was not disciplined and remains on duty, disagreed. “He took my hands and was ripping them off,” the firefighter said. “This guy was fighting to get over the ledge.”

The city attorney said the settlement resulted because the lawyers felt sorry for the family. The family members feel sorry for themselves: “My family feels very much the victimized party in this, and we’ll always say, ‘What if?'” one said. “But we need closure at this point.” Plus money.

Source: Beth Winegarner, “San Francisco pays up for failed rescue,” San Francisco Examiner, August 26, 2008

Fee Men

Two lawyers have been fighting for four years over how to divide up a $60 million class-action legal fee like a pack of hyenas snarling over a bloody kill. Now they’ve have been ordered to cut it out.

It all started in 2004 when the federal court case, involving alleged antitrust activity in the corrugated paper products market, settled for about $202 million. One lawyer, John F. Peoples, claimed he was promised a $4 million “referral fee”–a sum paid to a lawyer referring the case to trial counsel but not doing any work beyond that.

The judge gave liaison counsel Howard Langer the authority to apportion the fees, and Langer gave Peoples only $2 million, which doesn’t seem like a bad fee for not much work, but the snarling carried on for four years. Without getting into all the gory details (if you must know more, go to article.jsp?id=1202423215086), they included a gag on communications between the lawyers, motions for sanctions, threatened disciplinary action, and accusations of bias against the judge.

In the lengthy opinion, the judge wrote, “This drawn-out personal quarrel between the two of them must end.” Peoples vowed to fight on in state court, though. “This was supposed to be the happiest day of my life … and instead it turned into a nightmare,” he said.

Source: Shannon P. Duffy, “Federal Judge Calls Halt to Ugly Fee Dispute,” Legal Intelligencer, July 24, 2008,via

Bull Fight

A New York restaurant is being sued by a man thrown from its mechanical bull and injured because it didn’t have padding.

The restaurant, Johnny Utah’s, claims to provide “the urban cowboy experience” and has the only mechanical bull in Manhattan. The man, who alleges he was drunk when he got on it, said operators deliberately tried to throw him. The bull is a “danger” because it lacks the “proper safeguards and padding to break falls,” according to the suit.

The suit, claiming unspecified damages, was filed even though all riders are required to waive legal actions against the restaurant before mounting the bull.

Source: Jose Martinez, “Raging bull rider suing restaurant,” New York Daily News, September 5, 2008, via, a project of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Washed Up

Two Canadians riding jet skis in the Niagara River in Canada were arrested on charges of illegal immigration after they accidently entered a whirlpool and washed up on American soil. One was knocked unconscious and hospitalized.

“They’re here illegally,” said one U.S. official. If they fail to appear in court on a date not yet scheduled, they will be deported and banned from entering the United States for a minimum of five years.

Source: Sunny Freeman, “Accidental tourists land in hot water at border,” Toronto Star, August 24, 2008

Serve and Protect and Sue

A class-action suit in Ohio is challenging a Columbus police department regulation requiring employees taking sick leave to inform the department of the nature of their illness. The judge in the federal court case also ruled earlier grounds exist to stop enforcement of that requirement.

The police union hasn’t joined the case yet but is considering it, believing the regulation violates privacy laws. The suit doesn’t challenge the requirement for a doctor’s note justifying sick leave, only the requirement the illness be disclosed.

Source: Jodi Andes, “Columbus police sick-leave lawsuit gains class-action status,” The Columbus Dispatch, August 25, 2008, via

Bodybuilder’s Remorse

A former Mr. Universe is suing the city of Redwood City, California, alleging police used excessive force when they mistook his hypoglycemia for criminal conduct. He’s seeking $5 million in damages.

He alleges “unreasonable seizure, malicious prosecution, negligence, and assault and battery in violation.” He calls the episode “a nightmare,” but thinks a $5 million claim is excessive. “Something like this shouldn’t have a $5 million price tag on it. I should have had a better look at the amount. It’s my fault,” he said.

Source: “The Inside Story on Mr. Universe Suing Over Police Scuffle After All,” Diabetes Mine, June 22, 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