Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #8-17

Published September 14, 2009

Clear Problem

A woman suing Brookfield Zoo, near Chicago, for allegedly training its dolphins to splash water on the floor, causing her to slip, is going to file an amended complaint, her lawyer said.

After the original version drew publicity in Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly and many other publications expressing outrage and calls for tort reform, the lawyer said the substance splashed was more than mere water. It also contained “dolphin waste products,” algae, and polymers, which together form a “black slime.” This slime made the floor not just slippery, he said, but “really” slippery. He said it’s not your average “slip-and-fall” case.

Sophisticated evidence will be involved, such as concrete erosion, slip resistance, and algae accumulation. “It’s a known problem in the industry,” the lawyer said.

Source: Matthew Heller, “Lawyer: Zoo Ignored ‘Known’ Dolphin Splash Danger,”, September 1, 2009

Spousal Abuse

The city of Gahanna, Ohio and its police department are being sued by a former officer claiming he was “defamed and harassed” by the department because his wife appeared in a Playboy magazine photo spread in 2008.

The suit also names the city and the department’s police chief and deputy chief as defendants, alleging they asked for autographed copies of the spread numerous times. The officer said he provided them because he feared retaliation. Actual and punitive damages are sought for defamation and discrimination, among other claims.

Source: “Ohio Police Officer Files Lawsuit Over Treatment After Wife’s Playboy Feature,”,0,7731068.story, August 10, 2009

Death Benefit

A Michigan woman who killed her Ford Motor Co. retiree husband by stabbing him in the heart is now suing the company retirement plan after it refused to pay her survivor benefits. The woman was convicted by a jury of voluntary manslaughter and is serving a prison term of three to 15 years. The woman’s lawyer said the man abused her and that she stabbed him “under heat of passion.”

Source: Paul Egan, “Wife jailed in killing sues over denied survivor benefits, Share of husband’s Ford pension sought in manslaughter case,” The Detroit News, September 2, 2009

Second Shot

A Michigan man shot by a convenience store clerk while trying to rob the store at knifepoint is now suing the store for damages, including $125,000 in pain and suffering and emotional damages. He’s serving an eight-to-22-year prison term after robbing the store, wearing a ski mask and putting the knife to the throats of several clerks. He was shot on his way out after a clerk grabbed a gun and shot him in the arm and back.

Source: ABC Action News Detroit, “Convicted Thief Sues Store He Robbed,” August 30, 2009 via, a project of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Help Unwanted

One driver of frivolous lawsuits is too many lawyers chasing too little legitimate work. The two items above are proof of that.

Now, finding enough good work is an even bigger problem, with major New York law firms–where starting salaries have been around $160,000–laying off hundreds of lawyers due to Wall Street investment banking failures. That led one law school dean to discourage students from going to law school in the first place, even offering one-year deferral incentives.

“Perhaps many of you are looking to law school as a safe harbor in which you can wait out the current economic storm,” wrote the dean of the University of Miami Law School,” but, “It is very difficult to predict what the employment landscape for young lawyers will be in May 2012 and thereafter.” Another dean, from Southwestern Law School, was blunter: “If you counted on starting at $160,000 per year, then you’re in for a huge disappointment,” he said.

Source: Dan Slater, “Another View: Lock the Law School Doors,” New York Times, September 2, 2009 via

Appealing Personality

Former Administrative Judge Roy Pearson is at it again. He’s the one who famously sued a Washington, DC dry cleaners for $54 million over a lost pair of pants. That suit failed, but not before it was appealed and nearly drove the cleaners out of business because of their legal defense costs. Then he was not reappointed to a second 10-year term for his DC judgeship, so of course he sued for wrongful termination. The trial court dismissed the case, so he is now appealing it to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Next stop the Supreme Court?

Source: Mike Scarcella, “Ex-Judge Who Lost $54 Million ‘Pants Case’ Takes Wrongful Termination Suit to D.C. Circuit,” August 28, 2009

Back in the USSR

Maybe it’s a sign of increasing freedom, but here’s a first for Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly: a frivolous lawsuit in Russia.

A grandson of former Russian Premier Josef Stalin has filed a libel lawsuit against a Moscow newspaper, claiming it damaged his grandfather’s reputation when it wrote Stalin had ordered Russians to be killed. The suit is seeking 9.5 million rubles ($299,000).

“Half a century of lies have been poured over Stalin’s reputation, and he cannot defend himself from the grave, so this case is essential to put the record straight,” said the grandson’s lawyer. “We want to rehabilitate Stalin,” he said. “He turned populations into peoples, he presided over a golden era in literature and the arts, he was a real leader.”

Source: Guy Faulconbridge, “Grandson sues to clear Stalin over killings,” Reuters, August 31, 2009

Not SueFast

SueEasy was supposed to be a matchmaking site for lawyers and clients, announced about 1½ years ago with much hoopla. The idea was clients would post facts about their complaints and lawyers would respond if interested in taking the case. Something seems to have gone wrong somewhere, because SueEasy is now up for sale at auction. It claims more than 5,000 wannabe litigants and 2,000 pending cases, but the highest bid so far is $63,500.

Source: Carolyn Elefant, “Running SueEasy Turned Out to Be Not So Easy,”, September 2, 2009 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