Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #8-07

Published April 6, 2009

The federal appeals court in Chicago lambasted a self-described “bad lawyer” for filing frivolous litigation and, adding injury to insult, fined him $80,000.

The lawyer represented the losers in a union election who sued the winners under a variety of legal theories, none of which were proven in court. Among other allegations, one plaintiff claimed she suffered intentional infliction of emotional distress because she heard “through the grapevine” the successful candidate for union president was going to fire her if he was elected. He did win but then gave her a promotion and a raise. “Other claims were as weak, or worse,” the court said.

The defendants won, but it cost them $200,000 in legal fees, so they asked the court to grant them that amount as a sanction. The lawyer’s defense: He should not have been fined $80,000 because he only has $2,000 in cash, having transferred most of his assets to his wife. The court didn’t buy into this. If the lawyer “really is a bad lawyer (as he depicts himself), and is poor because people are not willing to pay much, or at all, for his services, then he should turn from the practice of law to some other endeavor where he will do less harm.”

Source: Shales v. General Chauffeurs, Sales Drivers and Helpers Local Union No. 330, No. 07-3342 (7th Cir. 2009) via American Bar Association Journal

The Bird Is the Word

Flipping the bird at a police officer does not amount to obscene speech–it’s merely freedom of expression, so to speak, protected by the First Amendment, according to a court decision.

The ruling came in a suit filed by a Pittsburgh man who got involved with another motorist in a dispute over a parking space. He flipped the bird at the motorist and also at the police officer who came along just a bit later. The police officer arrested the man for disorderly conduct. He was convicted, though the case was eventually dropped. He then filed a federal suit against the city for “physical pain and suffering, emotional trauma, humiliation and distress.”

In refusing to dismiss the case, the federal court found the flipper “was expressing his frustration and anger when he gestured with his middle finger” at the motorist and police officer. The court noted “several courts, including federal and state courts in Pennsylvania, have found that the expressive use of the middle finger is protected speech under the First Amendment.”

Source: Jason Cato, “Judge: ‘Flipping the bird’ was not illegal,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 24, 2009 via

Justice Delayed …

An Italian woman who’s 102 years old won a pyrrhic victory in court last month. After a 12-year legal contest with her relatives over use of family land, the woman won. But appeals are expected, which could take another 12 years or so.

“It could take six years for the first appeal and just as long again if they go to the Supreme Court,” her lawyer said, adding his client “would have to set a new longevity record to get her land back.”

Source: Nick Squires, “102-year-old told legal dispute could take a decade to finish,” Guardian, February 24, 2009

Singing the Blues

Teen pop star Miley Cyrus is being sued for $4 billion for violating the civil rights of all Asian Pacific Islanders living in Los Angeles County, after she and her friends were photographed pulling on their eyelids to make them slanted.

The class-action lawsuit seeks at least $4,000 per potential plaintiff due to the gesture.

Source: “Report: Woman Files Lawsuit Against Miley Cyrus for Offensive Gesture,” Fox News, February 12, 2009

Not a Good Fit

A Michigan man has filed an age and weight discrimination claim against his former employer, claiming he was fired because he was overweight and lacked a “flat belly.” He’s claiming $25,000 in damages and says he was an “excellent performer” but was replaced by a thinner person.

“He said what?” his boss said. “That is so absurd I don’t know what to say. Is this some kind of early April Fool’s joke? He was let go for one reason and one reason only: He didn’t sell. You don’t let good salesmen go, and he was not a good salesman.”

Source: Mike Martindale, “Man sues, can’t stomach firing, Former employer says statement is ‘absurd’ and salesman was dismissed because he wasn’t good,” Detroit News, March 19, 2009, via, a project of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Good News Bad News

A Canadian hospital has been sued for $3.5 million by a couple alleging the hospital returned their severely disabled infant daughter to life support without their permission.

The couple was told the infant would never breathe or feed herself, would be deaf, dumb, and blind, and would never walk. Acting on the advice of doctors, they withdrew feeding and breathing assistance. The hospital ethics committee reversed that decision.

The child turned out to be able to breathe on her own, but needs a feeding tube. The family claims her care required the wife to quit her job.

Source: Catholic News Agency, “Montreal hospital faces $3.5 million lawsuit for keeping disabled newborn alive,” via

Taking Disney for a Ride

A Florida woman is suing Disney, claiming the Tower of Terror ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida relieves her chronic pain and she should have been allowed to ride it more often than four times a day.

The ride goes up and down a 199-foot-tall building on a “fright elevator.” The woman suffers from abdominal adhesions–internal scar tissue–and contends the G-forces from the ride break them down. Her lawyer says she went on the ride dozens of times every Saturday. “Literally, Ms. Mooty’s life depends on her being able to ride the ride,” her lawyers say.

But Disney limited her Saturday rides to four and arrested her for trespassing when she tried for five. She’s suing Disney for breach of contract, false arrest, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Source: Mathew Heller, “Pain Patient Sues Disney over Thrill-Ride Therapy,” On Point News, February 10, 2009, available at via iamlawsuitabuse

Prescription: Lawsuit

The families of a man killed and another man seriously injured in an accident caused by a driver under the influence of prescription narcotics took their case to the Nevada Supreme Court recently, seeking reinstatement of their lawsuit against seven drug store chains whose stores filled the prescriptions. The case was tossed out of a lower court because established state law prohibits such cases against pharmacists. The family appealed to the state high court seeking a reversal.

The families’ lawyer argued pharmacists are to blame for the driver having taken the drugs. They have a duty to control the driver’s conduct because a state task force had warned them the driver “might” be a drug abuser. Despite the tentative language of the task force warning, the lawyer told the supreme court the pharmacists had “absolute knowledge that prescription abuse was involved.” The lawyer said the pharmacists had the duty to ask the prescribing doctor if prescribing the drugs was “intended.”

The pharmacies’ lawyer said the plaintiffs were in search of defendants with “deep pockets” to sue, adding pharmacists are not authorized to “second-guess a registered physician.” And, he added, “A call to a doctor would have done nothing anyway.”

Source: Ed Vogel, “Lawyer says pharmacists liable, State high court asked to reinstate wrongful death case,” Las Vegas Review-Journal, March 3, 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