Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #9-17

Published August 16, 2010

A law firm associate who fell while dancing at a Vancouver nightclub after a dinner sponsored by the firm has been awarded nearly $6 million in damages for her injuries.

The woman, 32, was dancing near another associate, who fell on her and caused her to hit her head on the floor. Both had been drinking. She suffered severe headaches and cognitive injuries.

She couldn’t work for eight months, and upon returning to work, she took as many as 30 ibuprofen per day. The court awarded her $5.1 million in lost future earnings, $559,220 in past lost income, $185,000 in noneconomic damages, and $70,000 for future care and other damages.

A year after the nightclub incident, her auto was rear-ended. Before the accident, she testified, she was recovering, but the accident made her preexisting injuries worse. She sued the driver for $8 million, but the judge awarded her just over $10,000, rejecting her claim she had been recovering and her injuries were from the new accident.

Source: Andrea Woo, “$6 million awarded to patron injured at Vancouver nightclub,” Vancouver Sun, August 10, 2010, via above the law

Back in Action

A Seattle fireman who fell through a firehouse pole hole claimed he was permanently disabled, with chronic pain and breathing difficulties. He sued the city, and the jury awarded him $12.8 million, a city pension, and full coverage of medical expenses for life.

But the city is fighting to overturn the verdict after investigators caught him on video after the verdict chopping wood, playing horseshoes, and dancing. Three physicians hired by the city to evaluate the fireman had concluded he was “totally and permanently disabled,” but two of them reversed their conclusion after seeing the video. The third doctor had died since reaching his original conclusion.

Source: Jennifer Sullivan, “Secret video disputes disability of ex-Seattle firefighter,” Seattle Times, August 6, 2010

Flush with Money

North Carolina’s Oconee County has been cited by the U.S. Department of Justice for 93 violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in its new courthouse, most associated with access to washrooms. Most are minor, but the federal government is insisting on strict compliance, which will cost $2 million, with county taxpayers responsible for about $1.1 million.

Some toilet stalls are four feet wide, for example, but the ADA requires them to be five feet wide. The toilets are supposed to measure 18 inches from the center of the bowl to the wall. The courthouse toilets are 19 inches away. Because the toilets are attached to the walls and the plumbing is behind them, all of the walls will have to be torn down and the plumbing moved.

The builder said he was just following the architect’s designs. He has been hired to do the repairs for a price not to exceed $2 million. The architect has paid $825,000, and the builder has kicked in $85,000, bringing the cost to taxpayers to about $1.1 million. The entire building cost only $8 million to build.

The county said no complaints were received from disabled people. The DOJ citations came after a random inspection.

Source: Chris Cato, “Down The Toilet? Courthouse Restroom Repairs Cost Oconee County $1.1 Million,” WSPA-TV, July 23, 2010, via

Social Unease

A judge, 51, who repeatedly telephoned female lawyers and made unannounced visits to their homes and offices, has been suspended for two months without pay. The judge’s lawyer described his as “socially inept and challenged with women.” The court imposing the suspension called his behavior “bizarre and weird” and “akin to ‘stalking.'”

Source: Martha Neil, “2-Month Hiatus for ‘Socially Inept’ Judge re Conduct ‘Akin to Stalking,'” American Bar Association Journal, July 20, 2010

Loan Moan

A City of Cleveland lawsuit against 21 banks and mortgage lenders who made subprime loans has been dismissed by the Sixth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, which affirmed the federal trial court’s ruling.

The city sued the lenders for allegedly creating a public nuisance in making the loans, seeking millions of dollars in damages in lost taxes, blight, and crime it said resulted from homeowners abandoning their properties.

At the time the suit was filed, Cleveland’s mayor called the lending “a form of organized crime that happens to be legal in many respects.” But the Sixth Circuit found otherwise, affirming the lower court’s dismissal. “Home buyers chose to take out subprime loans and then default on their mortgages,” the Sixth Circuit wrote. “These voluntary choices were made for a variety of reasons unrelated to the Defendants.”

Source: Mark Gillispie, “Cleveland loses appeal in nuisance lawsuit vs. financiers of subprime loans,” The Plain Dealer, July 28, 2010

Lot’s Strife

A Florida couple who took advantage of a Utah Walmart’s policy allowing motor homes to park in the store’s lot for free overnight is now suing the retailer.

The couple was traveling to the Grand Canyon with their two daughters. While they were parked overnight, a man invaded their motor home. The father grabbed his shotgun, and he and the man struggled over the gun. It went off, killing the invader.

No charges were brought, but the couple is suing Walmart for negligence in failing to protect the family from the man. The couple alleges store officials knew the man was loitering in the parking lot but failed to call the police. The couple also alleges the family suffered medical problems and emotional distress as a result of the incident.

Source: Mark Havnes, “Family sues Walmart over intruder in store lot,” The Salt Lake Tribune, July 31, 2010

Text Case

When an incident potentially involving a gun took place in a Texas school, school officials and a police officer searched the text messages on a student’s phone, believing she was involved in the incident and there was evidence on the phone. Now the girl’s father is threatening to sue the school for $7.5 million.

The father alleges the search was illegal and his daughter’s constitutional rights were violated. He arrived at the damages by recalling the plaintiff in the McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit was awarded $4.5 million. “I guess a constitutional right is worth at least $4 M today,” he said.

The school district board denied the father’s claim, so now he’s planning to go to court. The district said there was “reasonable cause” for the search and the girl and other students whose phones were also searched consented.

Source: Duarte Geraldino, “Father demands $7.5 Million because school officials read daughter’s text message,”, August 1, 2010. Via overlawyered

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