Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #9-15

Published July 19, 2010

A Long Island woman’s 31-year-old mentally ill son decapitated a neighbor, chopped her body up into pieces, and carried her head around in his car. The son is serving 30 years in prison for the crime, but his mother is now being sued by the neighbor’s family for civil damages.

Who’s on the hook for the mother’s legal fees in the civil case? MetLife, of course. A judge recently ruled the company must pay up to $300,000 in the mother’s legal fees under her homeowner’s insurance policy.

The family’s lawsuit alleges the mother was negligent because she knew of her son’s violent tendencies but failed to warn neighbors of the danger. The court found the decapitation incident was an “accident.”

“Since the insured here … obviously did not expect and could not foresee her son murdering [her neighbor], that act was, in fact, an ‘accident’ from her point of view”–and thus must be covered by the insurance policy, the judge wrote.

Source: Janon Fisher, “Judge OKs grisly insurance payout,” New York Post, July 13, 2010 via

Appealing to a Higher Power

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month the Second Amendment, which authorizes individual gun ownership, applies to the states, thus invalidating Chicago’s gun ban ordinance. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley responded by gathering an international assembly that passed a resolution favoring “redress against the gun industry” in the World Court in The Hague.

David Kopel, research director of the Independence Institute, quotes Daley as saying, “This is coming from international mayors. They’re saying, ‘We’re tired of your guns, America. … We don’t want those anymore because guns kill and injure people.'” Kopel argues at the Volokh Conspiracy, however, there are legal impediments to Daley’s proposed lawsuit.

Sources: Walter Olson, “Calling in the World Court against the Gun Trade,” Cato@Liberty, July 12, 2010; David Kopel, “Mayor Daley and other Mayors: Seek ‘redress against the gun industry’ in the World Court,, April 28, 2010

Toys Make You Fat?

The Center for Science in the Public Interest–more accurately known as the “food police”–says it will sue McDonald’s to stop the fast food chain from using toys to promote its Happy Meals.

“McDonald’s is the stranger in the playground handing out candy to children,” the group said in a statement. “McDonald’s use of toys undercuts parental authority and exploits young children’s developmental immaturity.”

McDonald’s is not caving in. It says Happy Meals can include apple slices instead of French fries and juice or milk in place of soda. It’s “just one part of a fun, family experience at McDonald’s.”

Source: Sharon Bernstein, “McDonald’s faces lawsuit over Happy Meals; A watchdog group says giving away toys with Happy Meals contributes to childhood obesity and threatens to sue. McDonald’s cites healthful menu choices, Los Angeles Times, June 23, 2010

Old Yeller

An Australian teacher is suing the government for $420,000, claiming she damaged her larynx by yelling at misbehaving children in her classroom.

The teacher taught special-needs children in their sixth and seventh years of schooling. One had diabetes, two were autistic, one had a cardiac disorder, and several were hyperactive. She alleges the school failed to provide her with staff assistants and she was not properly trained to prevent her injury. She alleges claims for personal injury and breach of contract or statutory duties.

Source: “Bundaberg teacher claims $400,000 damages from injuries to larynx from yelling at students,” Queensland Sunday Mail, July 11, 2010

Wine Whine

A Canadian family has filed a discrimination complaint against a wine bar that declined to accommodate the family at a dinner party because it included a three-month-old baby.

The complaint kicked off a debate between those who believe businesses have the right to serve whom they choose and those who claim the policy is discriminatory.

The restaurant owner justifies the policy because “we weren’t adequately equipped to handle either strollers or infants, mostly because there’s nowhere to change them.” She added, “There’s no baby-change table. There’s no space.” Plus, she thought it would be nice to have an adults-only place.

Public comments have been split. “I have never felt so alienated in my life. Refusing to seat and serve a couple because they have a sleeping baby in tow. This is ridiculous,” one person commented. But another applauded the “decision to create a sophisticated adult environment. Not every business has to cater to children.”

Source: Drew Halfnight, “Foodies chew over Ottawa restaurant’s baby ban,” National Post, July 7, 2010

Powering Down

Some good news from an unexpected source: The American Association for Justice–the association for plaintiffs’ trial lawyers, a lobbying group for legislative favors whose members are huge donors to politicians–just elected new officers at its annual convention. One successful candidate spilled the beans: The group is losing members and money.

The association advances its officers through successive major offices–secretary to vice president to president-elect to president. It was expected Richard Golomb of Philadelphia would continue his upward trek by advancing from secretary to vice president, but he was defeated for the office by Dallas attorney Mary Alice McLarty. Her campaign platform:

“AAJ has seen a serious membership drop. I will advocate for a new plan for membership recruiting and retention with a regional approach, including a sales force of dedicated AAJ staff. … I will actively participate in this effort. I will raise money and make sure it’s being well spent. … We need leaders with the judgment to recognize when things aren’t working and the courage to speak up.”

Source: Carter Howard, “New elected leadership at trial lawyers group,” Point of Law (a web magazine sponsored by the Manhattan Institute), July 14, 2010

Auto Races

A Virginia county has spent almost $750,000 in legal fees in suing the state and federal governments alleging laws that reserve lanes on interstate highways for vehicles with multiple occupants are racist.

Alexandria County sued the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, trying to stop the special lanes–called HOT lanes.

The suit has found little support from other government entities, and local business leaders have urged the county to drop the suit and get on with the project.

Source: Scott McCaffrey, “County’s HOT-Lanes Legal Costs Approach $750,000,” Sun Gazette, June 11, 2010 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
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