Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #9-10

Published May 10, 2010

The St. Louis City Museum, described as “a cross between a playground and a theme park,” is a magnet for tourists–and frivolous lawsuits.

The museum transforms items from the city’s industrial history into attractions that can be climbed or touched by children of all ages. MonstroCity, for example, is a three-story slide. The museum also has a five-story jungle gym with two real jets kids can climb on. Its annual attendance of 700,000 is about twice the population of the city.

The museum has been sued some 24 times since 2005. It lost one case, but the jury reduced the award from $500,000 to $100,000, finding the plaintiff mostly at fault. It settled two others. Plaintiffs’ lawyers say the museum doesn’t adequately warn of the park’s risks, though the risk of a three-story slide seems obvious. The museum’s founder says lawyers “are taking the fun out of life.”

Even though the litigation has been largely unsuccessful, the museum’s insurance costs have soared from approximately $36,000 in 1997 to about $600,000 this year. The museum recently posted a sign near the admission gate listing the names of law firms that have sued the museum, tagging them as responsible for a 9 percent increase in the cost of admission. Many museum patrons admire such defiance. “You take a risk when you go anyplace,” one said.

Source: Conor Dougherty, “This Museum Exposes Kids to Thrills, Chills and Trial Lawyers; Defiant St. Louis Venue Owner’s Claim: Attorneys ‘Take the Fun Out of Life,” Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2010

Water Torture

A Pennsylvania township is suing a local couple to force them to drink township-supplied water even though the husband says the chlorine in the water makes his wife sick.

The township sued the pair in 2008 for not hooking up to the water supply, and the court ordered them to connect. They did, and they have been paying the standard monthly fees to the township ever since. But they don’t want to drink the water or otherwise use it for their daily needs because of the wife’s reaction to the chlorine. So they’ve kept their well connected to the house and use water from it instead.

Township officials say its water ordinance requires township water to be used “for all human consumption in the residence” and want the couple held in contempt of the earlier ruling, which could subject them to fines or even jail time.

Source: Phil Ray, “Couple asked to use water; Burkets use well, contending chlorine sickens wife, Altoona Mirror, March 30, 2010 via overlawyered

Glass Case

A Chicago woman became angry with her husband while walking home from a night of dining and drinking on Chicago’s north side. In front of a beauty salon, she tried to kick him but lost her balance and fell through the shop window. So she’s now suing the shop for failing to install safety glass in its window.

Her complaint alleges the sidewalk in front of the shop is “frequently traveled by intoxicated pedestrians” and the shop should have anticipated they might fall through the window.

Georgetown law professor Jonathan Turley sympathizes with the plaintiff–at least somewhat. He observed the California Supreme Court ruled in 1855 for a drunk plaintiff who fell into a hole in a sidewalk, saying, “A drunken man is as much entitled to a safe street, as a sober one, and much more in need of it.”

Source: “Woman sues Lake View salon, hospital after fall through window,” Sun Times Media Wire, May 1, 2010; Jonathan Turley “Shaker Down: Chicago Woman Sues Salon After Falling Through Its Front Window After Trying To Kick Her Husband,” May 3, 2010

Bunny Suit

A 14-year-old is being sued by her teacher for drawing a picture of a rabbit on the blackboard in the classroom in a U.K. school. The teacher says she is traumatized by rabbits and alleges the teen knew it and made the drawing deliberately. School officials removed the teacher, who now wants compensation for lost wages.

Source: “Teacher with rabbit phobia to sue 14-year-old for drawing bunny,”, April 30, 2010 via overlawyered

Ill Repair

One of the tenants in a California apartment complex requested the management firm make improvements there.

But when the firm posted notices about the imminent repairs and upgrades, the tenant claimed the notices were causing her emotional distress. She sued the management firm for $500,000. The case settled on the courthouse steps the day of the trial, with an undisclosed sum paid to the plaintiff.

“You try to do everything right,” the management firm’s owner said, “and it’s just not good enough.”

Source: “Woman claims repair notices caused emotional damage, sues for $500K,” faces of lawsuit abuse, a project of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, retrieved May 7, 2010

Safe or Sorry

The manufacturer of a 10,000-pound safe was negligent in failing to warn it could be deadly if it fell on someone while being moved, according to a Florida lawsuit.

The suit was filed by the wife of a Florida jeweler who was killed when the safe–the size of a refrigerator–fell on him while he was moving it by himself.

The lack of safety warnings rendered it “defective” and “unsafe for its intended use,” the suit says. The widow is seeking damages for medical and funeral expenses, mental pain and suffering, and lost income.

Source: Adam Linhardt, “Widow sues over safe that killed husband,” Florida Key West Citizen, April 23, 2010

Rest of the Story

A suburban Chicago woman who claims she sustained a concussion when the armrest on her movie theater fell on her head is suing the movie theater.

The incident happened during a showing of The Incredible Hulk. The woman says she bent down to the floor to “discreetly answer her telephone” and the armrest, then in its upright position, fell on her head, causing a concussion. The suit, seeking unspecified damages, alleges the theater failed to maintain its seats properly.

Source: Jennifer Fernicola, “Lawsuit: Struck in the head by armrest at movie theater,”, March 24, 2010

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
Author: Maureen Martin
Editors: S.T. Karnick, 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