Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #8-04

Published February 23, 2009

A Leeds University student plans to sue the school after it accidently threw away about 75 pounds of rare lizard dung.

The university offered the student $750 and apologized, but the student wasn’t satisfied. The student, a Ph.D. candidate, had assembled the collection of Butaan lizard dung over seven years in a remote part of the Philippines. “To some people it might have been just a bag of lizard s—,” he said, “but to me it represented seven years of painstaking work searching the rainforest with a team of reformed poachers to find the faeces [sic] of one of the world’s largest, rarest, and most mysterious lizards.”

Source: Martha Neil, “Grad Student Threatens to Sue Over Destruction of Rare Lizard Dung,” ABA Journal, February 6, 2009

Fax in Dispute

Carnival Corp., the cruise ship operator, may be liable for up to $2 million in damages for sending unsolicited faxes to a travel agent.

A federal law bans the use of any “telephone facsimile machine … to send an unsolicited advertisement.” A New York judge ruled Carnival violated the law by sending between 540 and 1,387 faxes over a four-year period.

Carnival argued the faxes were not advertisements but “informational flyers,” an argument the judge called “frivolous.” The judge referred the case to a magistrate judge for a damages recommendation.

Source: Mark Fass, “Carnival Cruise Company Held Liable for Hundreds of Unwanted Faxes,” New York Law Journal, February 10, 2009

Novel Argument

A U.S. attorney working for an international law firm in Moscow is planning to sue the firm for firing her after she refused to stop writing steamy fiction about the sexual exploits of a U.S. lawyer based in Moscow.

Her name is Deidre Dare (her real last name is Clark), and she claims she was fired because she had claimed sexual harassment. “The whole office knew about my book but they took action against me about it only after I had complained of sexual harassment,” she said. But the law firm said her conduct “was unacceptable and totally at odds with the standards of behavior that we expect from all of our people.”

Source: Robert J. Ambrogi, “Muzzled Lawyer Gets the Boot, Threatens Suit,” Legal Blog Watch, February 11, 2009

Suit of the Border

A Tucson jury rejected almost all of the civil rights case brought against an Arizona man sued by 16 illegal immigrants whom he stopped at gunpoint on his ranch near the U.S.-Mexico border and turned over to the U.S. Border Patrol. The suit alleged the incident amounted to a conspiracy to violate their civil rights and inflict emotional distress, among other claims. They were seeking $32 million in actual and punitive damages.

The jury on February 18 rejected the civil rights claims and also claims for false imprisonment, battery, and conspiracy. They awarded the plaintiffs a total of $78,000 for assault and infliction of emotional distress.

The man had been stopping illegal immigrants and turning them over to the Border Patrol since his ranch became “the avenue of choice” as a route into the United States as a result of the Border Patrol diverting personnel to urban areas. He says the illegals vandalized his land, destroyed water pumps, killed calves, stole trucks, broke into his home, and left the property piled with garbage.

“This is my land. I’m the victim here,” he said. “When someone’s home and loved ones are in jeopardy and the government seemingly can’t do anything about it, I feel justified in taking matters into my own hands. And I always watch my back.”

Source: Jerry Seper, “16 illegals sue Arizona rancher,” Washington Times, February 9, 2009

Backup Plan

Three homeowners north of Milwaukee are suing the local sewage district and the outside contractor who runs it because their sewers backed up.

The homeowners allege the sewer backup resulted from negligence on the part of the district and the contractor in inspecting and repairing a gate that would have stopped the backup. The homeowners’ lawyer is asking the court to certify the case as a class action, because without that status the individual homeowner’s damages are too small to allow the case to go forward.

Source: Marie Rohde, “Homeowners sue over sewage backups,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 10, 2009, via Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Physician, Sue Thyself

A physician whose work led to 124 medical malpractice suits while on the staff of a West Virginia hospital filed a $50 million lawsuit against his former lawyer, alleging he is guilty of malpractice and other claims.

The physician alleges his lawyer did not represent him properly in suits against three other of the doctor’s former lawyers.

Many of the malpractice suits filed against the doctor allege he caused permanent physical impairment. They cost the hospital about $100 million.

Source: Paul J. Nyden, “King sues lawyer he hired to sue his previous lawyers,” Charleston Sunday Gazette-Mail, February 3, 2009

Green for Greens

Two federal agencies have agreed to consider global warming impacts when they finance energy projects overseas, as part of a settlement of litigation brought by Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and four cities that alleged they would suffer economic and environmental damages from global warming.

The two agencies, the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. and the Overseas Private Investment Corp., agreed to spend a total of $500 million to finance renewable energy projects and consider greenhouse gas emissions in other projects.

The plaintiffs alleged the two entities gave $32 million in financing and loan guarantees for fossil fuel projects and contended the National Environmental Policy Act required analysis of the projects’ impact on global warming. The projects were in China, Chad, Cameroon, Russia, Mexico, Venezuela, and Indonesia.

Oakland, California contended its airport could be damaged by rising ocean levels and Boulder, Colorado claimed its snowpack–its source of drinking water– could be reduced. The judge rejected the Bush administration’s argument that the effects of global warming “are too remote and speculative.”

Source: Associated Press, “Two Federal Agencies Settle Global-Warming Lawsuit,” February 6, 2009

Drywall of China

As reports proliferate of “unpleasant odors” and electrical problems in Florida homes, suspected to come from drywall made in China, lawsuit-hungry lawyers are not far behind. Investigators suspect the drywall is emitting sulfur gases that are corroding metal appliances and wiring.

State officials don’t believe there’s any immediate threat to health, but three separate lawsuits have already been filed, and one enterprising lawyer has a Web site telling about the alleged problem.

Source: Michael Corkery, “Is Chinese Drywall the New Mold?” The Wall Street Journal, February 6, 2009

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