Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #8-16

Published August 31, 2009

Prufreedur Wantid

A typo on the Best Buy Web site has led to a class-action lawsuit against the company for false advertising. For several hours on August 12, 2009, the Web site advertised a 52-inch LCD HD TV for sale for $9.99. Long lines formed outside a store in Virginia, and some people ordered as many as 10 sets.

Best Buy contends the advertised price was a mistake and points to its policy against honoring prices published in error. But a lawyer in New Jersey filed suit anyway on behalf of some consumers and is inviting others to join in.

One law professor, Brian Slocum of the McGeorge School of Law, disagrees with the suit’s theory of false advertising. Best Buy had nothing to gain from the erroneous price listing, he said: “It’s hard to think why they would have intent to mislead consumers in this way.”

Source: Debra Cassens Weiss, “N.J. Lawyer Plans Suit Over Best Buy’s $9.99 Price Flub; Law Prof Is Skeptical,” American Bar Association Journal, August 13, 2009

Slippery Slope

Brookfield Zoo, near Chicago, is being sued by a woman who claims she was injured because the zoo “recklessly and willfully trained and encouraged the dolphins to throw water at the spectators in the stands, making the floor wet and slippery.”

The woman, who claims she was injured when she slipped on the wet floor, wants $50,000 in damages from the Chicago Zoological Society for training the dolphins to splash spectators, failing to warn spectators about the wet, slippery floors, and failing to provide floor mats. She claims lost wages, medical expenses, and non-economic damages for physical and mental suffering.

Source: Lauren R. Harrison, “Brookfield Zoo dolphin lawsuit: Woman sues over fall she blames on wet floor,” Chicago Tribune, August 20, 2009

Never Can Say Goodbye

A Pennsylvania woman arrested on arson charges claims the death of Michael Jackson made her do it. The Web site Lowering the Bar calls it “post-traumatic celebrity death syndrome.”

The woman admitted she set fire to a trash barrel in the ladies’ room in a Lorain, Pennsylvania bar, police said, but they said she blamed it on stress over Jackson’s death and over another fire at her apartment. The arresting officer said the woman seemed “heavily intoxicated.”

Source: “Woman Arrested for Arson Claims Stress Over Michael Jackson’s Death as Cause,”, June 30, 2009, via

Puppy Love

A Virginia man is suing his former domestic partner for emotional distress damages after the former partner allegedly killed the man’s 12-pound Chihuahua, Buster. The ex denies killing the dog but was convicted of animal cruelty and assault and battery in the incident.

Under settled Virginia law, owners are entitled to recover the fair market value of a dead pet from those responsible for it–Buster’s replacement value would be between $250 and $1,200–but no one has ever been awarded non-economic damages. The man’s lawyer, Lanny Davis, is trying to change all that. Buster’s “actual value” is “irreplaceable” to his owner, said Davis, former White House counsel for former President Bill Clinton. Davis took the case pro bono at the request of the California-based Animal Legal Defense Fund, which has worked with similar cases across the United States.

The man said he rescued Buster in 2005, which was “akin to adopting a child.” He fed Buster with homemade dog food at the dinner table each night. “I still can’t tell you the pain I feel every day and every night I think about him,” the man said. “He died in my arms.”

Source: Allison Klein, “Court to Hear Va. Suit Seeking Damages in Chihuahua’s Death,” Washington Post, August 17, 2009 via

Expansive Definition

A Pittsburgh mother is suing the city’s public schools alleging three of her daughter’s sixth-grade male classmates bullied her into anorexia by calling her “fat,” while school officials did nothing to stop it.

The suit is being brought under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination by schools receiving federal funds. Title IX has more commonly been the focus of lawsuits by females alleging unequal athletic activities, but an attorney at the National School Boards Association says schools are increasingly being sued under it for bullying by one gender against the other. The attorney said he’s never seen a suit alleging a link between anorexia and bullying, though.

Experts on anorexia took a dim view of the lawsuit. People are predisposed to anorexia, one said. “With eating disorders, we say you’re born with a gun and life pulls the trigger.” “We cannot say that anorexia is caused by bullying or brain issues or mother-daughter relationships or any one thing,” said another.

Source: “Pittsburgh Mom Sues School District, Says Daughter Was ‘Bullied’ Into Anorexia,” Fox, August 19, 2009

Precautionary Principle

The family of a New York City public school official who died of swine flu in May has notified the city they’ll be bringing a $40 million lawsuit alleging the city failed to do enough to stop his death from the virus.

The man was an assistant principal at a school in Queens. The suit will allege the city failed to carry out its duty to warn the man he’d been in contact with people testing positive for swine flu, failed to act quickly enough to halt transmission of the disease, and failed to provide a safe working environment for him. The family sent a “notice of claim” to the city, a required pre-lawsuit step.

There have been 47 deaths in New York City from swine flu and 909 hospitalizations through early July. A city spokesman said only one other swine flu-related lawsuit had been brought, by a prison inmate alleging he suffered “mental anxiety” as a result of the swine flu outbreak there. The city had no further comment, but at the time of the man’s death, the city medical examiner said the man’s obesity, hypertension, and ateriosclerotic heart disease contributed to his death.

Source: Anemona Hartocollis, “Family of Swine Flu Victim Plans to Sue City,” August 11, 2009, New York Times, City Room blog

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
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Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Editors: Maureen Martin, Diane Carol Bast

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