Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #7-19

Published October 31, 2008

Running Roughshod Over Budget

A Canadian prison inmate serving time for murdering four people in Minnesota and Canada has been awarded $6,000 in damages because prison officials failed to buy him special running shoes costing $125.00.

Canadian law entitles prisoners to one free pair of shoes per year, and he asked for New Balance shoes, a costly brand. Prison officials substituted cheaper ones the prisoner claimed didn’t fit his large feet. A senior prison official testified she told the inmate, “My budget does not allow me to purchase New Balance, and if you want New Balance, you can purchase [them] yourself.” The prisoner sued after allegedly suffering a knee injury wearing his old New Balance.

The inmate’s lawyer believes the right side won. “This case tells us that when we as taxpayers are not properly served by our administrators, there may well be a remedy.” Canadian officials, fearing a flood of inmate litigation, are considering an appeal.

Source: Shannon Kari, “Killer awarded $6K over wrong shoes in prison, Corrections Canada did not buy New Balance,” (Ontario) National Post, October 16, 2008

Miraculous Recovery

Federal prosecutors are suing for reimbursement of $331,000 paid from the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund to a retired Navy commander for injuries he allegedly suffered in the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon.

The former Navy man got the recovery money because he claimed he suffered “a partial permanent disability” in the attack. But he played basketball and lacrosse immediately after the attack and ran the New York City marathon two months later, completing it in under four hours. Prosecutors will try to seize the $1 million house and the Mercedes-Benz the man bought using compensation funds.

Source: Associated Press, “Md. Navy commander sued over funds for 9/11 injury,” October 15, 2008, via

Hazard Pay

An Army Reserve explosives expert hired by a private contractor to dismantle hundreds of tons of explosives in Iraq is suing the contractor because the job exposed her to bird excrement. She claims the buildings in which the bombs and ammunition were stored were “littered with bird nests, animal carcasses, and mounds of feces,” but doesn’t claim she was injured. She seeks a portion of the $120 million her employer earned in Iraq, though it’s unclear whether the firm will actually be paid that much.

Source: Shane Borer, “Bomb tech sues for hazard pay–because of pigeon droppings,” cfo|, October 15, 2008, available at, via, a project of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Dogged Determination

Residents of a Springfield, Illinois condominium project are in court over accusations about one resident’s alleged failure to use a pooper-scooper.

Police were called after the president of the condo executive board hung a bag of dog poop on the resident’s gate. The board president admitted doing it, but said he was upset because the resident failed to pick up after his dog. The resident denies the allegation.

The board voted to fine the resident $500 for violating association rules, which the resident refused to pay. Letters by both sides were circulated, and the police were called several times. Now the board has sued the resident for $100,000 for “extreme embarrassment, humiliation, loss of reputation, and emotional distress.”

“The country is teetering on the brink of financial disaster. There’s a war or two under way. A new president is about to be elected,” wrote State Journal-Register columnist Dave Bakke. “And some people are in court in a dispute over dog dung. Go figure.”

Source: Dave Bakke, “Court dispute started with a dog-day afternoon,” The State Journal-Register, October 2, 2008

How Much Is that Doggie in the Lawsuit?

Some owners of dogs and cats that became ill or died after eating pet food allegedly contaminated with melamine are opting out of getting payments from a $24 million settlement fund approved by a federal court recently. The fund would pay for medical and burial expenses, the value of the dead animals, vet expenses, carpeting ruined by ill animals, and their owners’ costs for lost time for work, plus the cost of the food.

But for some pet owners, that’s not enough. They want noneconomic damages for pain and suffering caused by loss of their pets. Lawyers in the suit say there’s no legal basis for such claims.

So far, the average pet owner claim in the case is about $1,500. The lead lawyers in the case are claiming $5 million in legal fees.

Source: Geoff Mulvihill, “Judge OKs $24M for cats, dogs sickened by pet food,” Associated Press, October 14, 2008, via U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform.

A Sodding Shame

A 66-year-old Florida grandfather is in jail indefinitely because he couldn’t afford to resod his brown, withering lawn.

The rules in his restricted community require lawns to be covered with grass. Dead grass apparently doesn’t count, so the homeowners’ association sued him. The man ignored the suit, the judge ordered him to resod the lawn, and he was held in contempt of court for ignoring that order. So now he’s in jail until he “purges” the contempt by resodding the lawn.

He could be in jail a long time. He claimed financial hardship, telling the association he couldn’t afford new sod because his adjustable rate mortgage increased by $600 per month, his car was repossessed, and his daughter and two young children had to move in with him due to their financial woes.

The association lawyer had no mercy. “This case is an example of what happens when someone defies an order entered by a judge in our country,” he said. But the grandfather had a question: “To me, keeping the house is more important than the grass. Should I go out and rob a bank? Then I’d be back here,” he said. “But then I’d get out on bail.”

Source: Jodie Tillman, “Brown lawn means jail time,” St. Petersburg Times, October 10, 2008

It Must Be the Food

A Nebraska woman ran up a bill of more than $125,000 after she refused to leave a hospital though she had been discharged. The hospital is suing her for $124,888 plus 12 percent interest.

The hospital said it couldn’t discuss her health information but said it had placed a lien against her property until her bill is paid. The hospital also said it found her an assisted living facility for completion of her rehabilitation.

Source: Mark Andersen, “Hospital files lawsuit against woman who wouldn’t leave,” Lincoln Journal Star, October 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