Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #8-10

Published May 20, 2009

Suing Like Drunken Sailors

The survivors of a fatal boating accident are suing the boat manufacturer for the boat’s alleged unsafe design, even though the craft was crammed with more passengers than design capacity, and most of them were drinking.

The lawyer for three who survived the accident, in which the boat crashed into a tugboat on Florida’s Intercoastal Waterway, said the woman driving the boat, allegedly sober, couldn’t see where she was going because of the passengers in the bow. There were 14 passengers on the boat designed to hold 12. Five people were killed in the accident.

“It’s just not safe to ride forward of the windscreen on a boat traveling 30 to 35 mph,” the lawyer said. “It blocks the driver’s view and subjects those riding in the bow to being ejected.”

Source: Paul Pinkham, “Lawsuit faults boat’s design in Palm Valley crash; Attorney for 3 survivors says too many people are allowed up front,” Florida Times Union, April 26, 2009 via, a project of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Trick or Streak

A dozen streakers who ran in the Boulder, Colorado “Naked Pumpkin Run” last Halloween wearing nothing but pumpkins on their heads were arrested for indecent exposure; if convicted, they will have to register as sex offenders.

The ACLU is troubled. “We are very concerned about the way in which the Colorado sex-offender registry is set up, resulting in sex-offender status for these kinds of activities,” said the head of the group’s Boulder County chapter.

Indecent exposure charges arise when genitalia are bared in a manner likely to upset a bystander, while public indecency applies to a person who lewdly exposes his or her body in public. Though the offenses are similar, indecent exposure can lead to registered sex offender status, while public indecency charges do not.

Source: Associated Press, “ACLU wants change in public nudity laws,” April 26, 2009

Skirting Conventions

The New Orleans Police Department is being sued for harassment after a police officer allegedly threatened to arrest a man who wore a skirt to court. The man is claiming discrimination due to gender stereotyping and seeking $1 in damages.

The man said he wears skirts, usually with button-down oxford cloth shirts or T-shirts, because they’re more comfortable. He claims women like the look.

Sources: Associated Press, “Man sues the New Orleans Police Department for $1 over the right to wear a skirt in public,” May 5, 2009

Separation Anxiety

A Kenyan man is suing a national coalition of women’s organizations because his wife followed their call for a week-long sex boycott to influence the country’s political leaders to work together and forget their political differences.

The man claims he has been suffering “mental anguish, stress, backaches, lack of concentration,” and “anxiety and sleepless nights” because his wife took part in the boycott.

Source: “Man Sues Over ‘Anguish, Stress’ Experienced During Sex Boycott,” Fox News, May 9, 2009

Stating the Obvious

The Foundation for Fair Civil Justice recently named the winners of its 2009 Wacky Warning Label Contest. Capturing first place is the label on a portable toilet seat for hunters and other outdoorsmen designed to attach to the trailer hitch on a vehicle. It’s called “The Off-Road Commode.” The warning label reads, “Not for use on moving vehicles.” The video is worth a look, at

Other winners include the label on a one-by-four-inch LCD panel warning, “Do not eat the LCD Panel” and a package of rings for animal castration saying “For animal use only.”

“Silly warning labels are a rational response by companies to the proliferation of outrageous and frivolous lawsuits,” said Bob Dorigo Jones, creator of the contest.

“The fear of such lawsuits forces companies to dream up every conceivable misuse of their product to protect themselves. After all, they know that behind every silly warning label is an outrageous lawsuit. Wacky warning labels reflect the high cost of liability rulings.”

Source: Bob Dorigo Jones, “Wacky warning labels reflect high cost of liability rulings,” Detroit News, May 12, 2009 via Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Legal Reform News Daily

A Great Fall

A Palm Beach, Florida law firm meeting with a potential client, a man injured in an auto crash, found itself being sued by the man instead.

The suit, in which the jury awarded the man $2.2 million, resulted after a chair in the law firm’s conference room collapsed, causing the man to fall backwards and hit his head on other furniture.

About two-thirds of the damage award was against the furniture store that sold the chair to the law firm, and about a third to the firm.

Source: Martha Neil, “Would-Be Client Wins $2.2M Verdict in Law Office Chair-Collapse Case,” American Bar Association Journal, May 7, 2009

Wheel Meet Again

A bicycling group is suing New York City over regulations requiring groups of 50 or more bikers to get a parade permit before riding down the Manhattan streets.

The plaintiffs claim the law requiring the permits for large group rides violates their First Amendment rights of assembly and amounts to harassment in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The law defines a “parade” as “any procession or race which consists of a recognizable group of 50 or more pedestrians, vehicles, bicycles or other devices moved by human power, or ridden or herded animals proceeding together upon any public street or roadway.”

The city is defending on the grounds the law represents “legitimate law enforcement objectives.” Cyclists observing the trial, now underway, believe the judge is biased against them.

Source: J. David Goodman, “Group Bicycling Goes to Court,” New York Times, May 12, 2009

Not a Happy Meal

A McDonald’s restaurant in Nashville is being sued by a woman who was beaten by a homeless man in the restaurant parking lot.

The incident happened after the woman gave the man a cheeseburger. He threw it back at her and asked her for money instead. She told him he was “an ungrateful bastard” and he beat her, breaking her nose, wrist, and cheekbone and cracking one of her ribs.

She’s also suing a nearby liquor store, which kicked the man out, alleging both the restaurant and store “knew, or should have known, that their mode of operating their particular stores attracted persons prone to criminal acts and provided an environment to crime.”

The suit seeks $2 million in damages.

Source: Nicole Young, “Woman sues stores, claims homeless man beat her,” The Tennessean, April 21, 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: