Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #9-19

Published September 21, 2010

It’s a rare lawyer who hasn’t “communicated” with his or her deposition witness by kicking him or her in the ankle under the table. This is a particular specialty of female lawyers wearing high heels, and it usually means “shut up.”

It’s even rarer–even unheard of–for the lawyer to get caught at it. Legal history is being made in a Florida federal court, however, which will be holding what’s now known as the “footsie” hearing next month.

In its order, the court found allegations of footsie going on under the table are “quite significant.” Evidently, the party making the allegations submitted “allegedly damning pictures”–not available yet to us–but the court found this evidence insufficient. So it set an “evidentiary” hearing for next month. Details to follow.

Source: South Florida Lawyers, “Magistrate Judge Brown Schedules ‘Footsie’ Evidentiary Hearing,” September 3, 2010 via

Sue or Be Sued

The City of Beaumont is asking the court to declare a Texas woman “a vexatious litigant.” And not a moment too soon.

The woman has filed 19 lawsuits in the past two years and has yet to win one. Her causes of action include ones against:

  • The City of Beaumont Department of Human Services for helping her collect welfare benefits, evidently unsuccessfully.
  • Former President Bush (43) and the Beaumont Housing Authority (BHA) for allegedly forcing her into homelessness.
  • A physician for allegedly being rude during an examination.
  • An attorney for allegedly assaulting her by being sarcastic.
  • President Obama, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the BHA for alleged psychological abuse.
  • A county judge for denying her attempt to commit her mother to an institution.
  • Two additional suits against the city, alleging a city police officer harassed her, hypnotized her, and committed serial murder.

Beaumont is seeking to have the suits against it dismissed. “That seems reasonable enough,” says Walter Olson of “But surely a simpler solution would be for judges to exercise judgment and throw out [such] cases … before the wheels of justice start turning.”

Source: The Southeast Texas Record, “A girl named Sue who sues and sues and sues,” August 28, 2010 via

Unsafe at Any Speed?

The family of a prospect for the New York Mets Major League Baseball team recently settled, for an undisclosed amount, its lawsuit against Ford Motor Co. stemming from an automobile accident. The settlement came after a Mississippi jury returned a verdict for $131 million in actual damages but before the jury began deliberating on punitive damages.

The jury found Brian Cole, 22 years old at the time of the accident, had zero percent fault in the automobile accident and found Ford entirely liable because the vehicle was defective and unreasonably dangerous.

The accident occurred while Brian was driving home from spring training in Florida with his cousin, Ryan Cole. The vehicle overturned during a single-car accident. The family claimed Brian was wearing his seat belt and the accident occurred because the vehicle was unstable. Ford claimed Brian had not been wearing his seat belt, had been driving over 80 miles per hour when he lost control of the vehicle, and that he was thrown from it when it rolled over. Ryan, who was wearing his seat belt, walked away unharmed.

Source: Jack Elliott, “Lawyer: Ford, family settle in player crash death,” Associated Press, September 2, 2010

Angry Young Man

The actor who plays werewolf Jacob Black in the Twilight movie series, popular with teens for reasons most adults find inexplicable, has settled his lawsuit with a California recreational vehicle dealer, according to Associated Press.

Taylor Lautner, 18, claimed late delivery of the $300,000 vehicle to his movie set caused him “displeasure, annoyance and emotional distress,” according to Kevin Underhill of Lautner also claimed punitive damages, alleging the late delivery was made “with reckless disregard” for the actor’s interests and was “fraudulent, oppressive and malicious,” Underhill reported.

The owner of the RV dealership offered to settle the lawsuit with a push-up contest, an idea Underhill, a litigator in the San Francisco office of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, called “awesome.” If the owner lost, he would pay the actor $40,000 claimed in the suit, but if the owner won, the owner would instead donate the money to Children’s Hospital in Orange County. Lautner’s lawyer rejected the offer.

Underhill suggested the owner might want to settle the lawsuit before the next full moon, “either because the plaintiff will have changed into a ravenous and brutal monster, or because he is a big whiny baby who tends to throw tantrums at that time of the month.”

Sure enough, Associated Press reported on September 3 the suit was settled. The owner of the RV dealership will pay $40,000 to the actor, who will donate it to Lollipop Theater Network, a children’s charity.

Source: Associated Press, “Twilight’ actor Taylor Lautner settles suit with Calif. dealership over late delivery of RV, September 3, 2010; Kevin Underhill, “Werewolf Declines Offer to Settle Lawsuit With Push-Up Contest,” August 31, 2010

Weighty Issue

The owner’s manual for the Ultra Classic Harley-Davidson motorcycle warns against carrying persons and cargo weighing more than 420 pounds in total. The same information is on the motorcycle’s frame. The owner’s manual also warns against pulling a trailer with the motorcycle, saying it could result in “death or serious injury.”

Nevertheless, a new owner, who weighed 250 pounds, took his 204-pound wife for a ride while pulling a trailer. The wife was killed, and he was injured. Even though he admits he never read the owner’s manual, he is suing Harley-Davidson for “failure to warn.”

People don’t read manuals because “failure-to-warn” litigation has overloaded them “with pointless and obvious warnings, making the manuals bulky and intimidating,” said Ted Frank of the Manhattan Institute’s Point of Law. “If owner’s manuals could focus on the most important issues without fear of liability for failure to include everything, people would be more likely to read them and pay attention to the warnings. Just another way that trial lawyers have put profits ahead of people.”

Ted Frank, “Wacky warning dept.: Steven Morris v. Harley-Davidson Motor Co.,” Point of Law, July 20, 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