Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #8-20

Published October 31, 2009

Height of Greed

A California restaurateur is charged with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act because the mirror in the restroom of his family-owned restaurant was hung two inches too high.

The suit was brought by plaintiffs who visited the restaurant 27 times–with a separate alleged violation claimed for each visit–before bringing the infraction to the restaurateur’s attention. He immediately rehung the mirror lower, but got sued anyway. The lawsuit may cost more than the restaurant made last year.

California is home to plaintiffs who file serial ADA lawsuits, sometimes hundreds and even thousands of such suits, against business.

Source: “Lawsuit over bathroom mirror 2 inches too high,” faces of lawsuit, a project of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Boa Tie

Guide dogs for the blind are the most common example of a service animal businesses are required to accommodate under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but people claim to have many other kinds: iguanas, ferrets, ducks, goats, cats, rabbits, miniature horses, and spiders. One Washington State man even says he has a service boa constrictor.

He perambulates through town with a five-foot boa coiled around his neck to warn him of oncoming seizures. The boa tightens its grip–the man calls it a “hug”–when one is imminent, the man claims. “He’s not strangling me,” the man said, although the man says he does have “to be stronger than the snake ” to pull him off his neck if necessary.

Some businesses don’t let him in with the snake. Even his doctor forbids it in her office. The man insists the boa helps with warnings about seizures, but medical experts don’t know if this is true. The U.S. Department of Justice last year proposed defining “service animals” to exclude exotic animals and kicked off a furor, with about 4,500 comments submitted opposing the definition. DOJ is reviewing the comments and expects to issue final rules later this year.

Source: Nancy Bartley, “Debate grows over what defines a service animal,” Seattle Times, October 19, 2009 via

Big Problem

Bally’s Total Fitness is being sued by a slightly built Manhattan lawyer who claims a “large, heavyset” woman sat on him during a spin class, engaged in “embarrassing and offensive touching,” and forced him off his stationary bicycle.

The man said the classes were full and he “found it difficult” to join the class and get a bicycle. The classes “seemed to be controlled by a small coterie of mem-bers,” he said. One day he arrived early and claimed a bike, and that’s when the woman “placed her body over him.” He wants his $1,500 membership fee back.

Source: Janon Fisher, “Fat lady stings,” New York Post, October 11, 2009

Fishy Story

A Portland man pled guilty recently to animal abuse and domestic violence assault after he stabbed his ex-girlfriend’s pet exotic fish.

After the couple’s breakup, the man returned to the woman’s apartment and said he wanted to reconcile. The woman tried to leave, but the man grabbed her and shoved her. She left, and he admitted then killing the fish, a bright purple Siamese fighting fish named DeLorean the man had bought for her. “If she can’t have me, then she can’t have the fish,” he told police.

The woman asked the judge to order the man to pay for a tattoo in memory of DeLorean, but the judge refused. He sentenced the man to two years’ probation, a psychological evaluation, and community service.

Source: Associated Press, “Man who stabbed ex’s fish gets probation, Reportedly told police: ‘If she can’t have me, then she can’t have the fish,'” October 13, 2009 via Jonathan Turley

Accusing the Accuser

Wal-Mart is being sued for causing the arrest of a Southern Illinois woman who left the store with items she “forgot” to pay for.

The woman paid for some items at checkout, but three items–coasters, pajama bottoms, and a bag of coffee–were allegedly hidden under her purse. A security guard nabbed the woman and called the police. The guard rebuffed her offer to pay for the items. She was acquitted on shoplifting charges at trial.

The suit seeks $150,000 in damages, plus punitive damages and other relief.

Source: Kelly Holleran, “Shopper who forgot to pay for pajamas sues Wal-Mart over her arrest,” Madison-St. Clair Record, October 7, 2009

Home Is Where the Smoke Is

Canadian truckers “were fuming,” as The Windsor Star put it, after a fellow trucker was ticketed for smoking in a workplace–his truck. The trucker received a $305 fine after being nabbed by police who saw him driving down the road with a cigarette in his mouth.

“It’s just going too far,” another trucker said. “I don’t smoke, but other guys do. That’s their prerogative. But this has just crossed the line.”

The police were enforcing the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, which states, “no person shall smoke tobacco or hold lighted tobacco in any enclosed public place or enclosed workplace.” Officials said because the truck is a “work vehicle,” it must be smoke-free.

“It’s bogus, it’s a money grab,” said another trucker. “If there’s nobody else in the truck with him, then he’s done nothing wrong.” Another trucker said the government was effectively regulating smoking within truckers’ homes. “I go out for two or three weeks at a time,” he said. “Out of the 21 nights, I probably sleep in that truck 19.”

Source: Trevor Wilhelm, “Truckers furious after driver fined for smoking in cab, Considered a ‘workplace,'” The Windsor Star, October 8, 2009

A Real Kick in the Head

A nonprofit organization formed to provide inner-city youths with horse-related activities must pay $2.36 million to a teen who was kicked by a horse. A jury found Work To Ride Inc., which involves youths in horseback riding and polo, was negligent, causing the teen to suffer a broken jaw and other injuries. His actual medical expenses were $117,023.

Both sides agreed the teen had struck the horse on its rump with a stick while he helped a Work To Ride employee load the horse into a trailer. The teen said the employee told him to use the stick to urge the horse into the trailer. The employee said he struck the horse on his own and did it a second time even though she told him to stop.

Source: Amaris Elliott-Engel, “Boy Awarded $2.36 Million for Horse Kick to the Face,” The Legal Intelligencer,” October 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