Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #9-22

Published November 1, 2010

An Anaheim, California company has been ordered to pay $1.4 million to a former employee who was spanked by coworkers with yard signs as part of “a voluntary event meant to build camaraderie” and foster team-building.

The workers also threw pies at one another and fed each other baby food.

The plaintiff reached the $1.4 million settlement with the company, which later refused to pay it because its banks refused to lend them the money. The worker then sued for breach of the settlement agreement. The jury awarded her the full $1.4 million.

Source: Salvador Hernandez, “Company pays $1.4 million to spanked employee,” The Orange County Register, October 27, 2010

Bug House

The swank Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan is being sued by a guest who alleges her room was infested by bedbugs. She claims she carried the bedbugs home with her after a one-night stay at the hotel, resulting in “permanent scarring to her [six-year-old child’s] face, legs, stomach, groin, and body,” who also allegedly was treated for “psychological and emotional injuries.”

The hotel says exterminators it hired shortly after the woman’s stay found no trace of bedbug infestation.

Source: Associated Press, “L.I. woman files bedbug suit vs Waldorf,” October 22, 2010

Money Man

Yahoo News suggests a Florida lawyer may be “the poster boy for the foreclosure mess.” The lawyer, David J. Stern, operates a law firm Yahoo News calls a “foreclosure mill” handling cases for banks and other lenders. Last year the firm processed more than 70,000 cases representing Bank of America, JP Morgan, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, among others.

Such “foreclosure mills” started the practice of “robo-signing” in which employees process foreclosure documents without really reviewing them. The Florida attorney general’s office is investigating the firm’s practices after former employees told the office about irregularities in which they allegedly were involved.

The foreclosure field is certainly lucrative. An investigation in Mother Jones‘ November-December 2010 newsletter notes Stern owns a $15 million mansion in Florida and recently bought a neighboring property for $8 million and tore down the house to build a tennis court. He also owns a $20 million yacht, four Ferraris, four Porsches, two Mercedes-Benzes, a Cadillac, and a Bugatti.

Sources: Zachary Roth, “Is David J. Stern the poster boy for the foreclosure mess?” Yahoo News, October 14, 2010; Andy Kroll, “Fannie and Freddie’s Foreclosure Barons; How fishy foreclosures earned millions for lawyers like David J. Stern–and made the housing crisis even worse,” Mother Jones, November-December newsletter,

You Say “Tomato,” She Says “Ouch”

The City of Belfast is on the hook for £24,000 (about $31,000) after the then-mayor failed to vault over a human tomato as part of a publicity stunt and injured a Belfast woman.

The injured party, a city employee, was dressed as a tomato to promote a gourmet food fair. The mayor slipped as he tried to jump over her and kneed her in the back of the head. The employee suffered a slipped disc.

“I have been absolutely devastated over what has happened,” the mayor said, adding his leap would have succeeded but for slipping on wet grass. “I’m very fit and look after myself, but it was just one of those unfortunate things.”

Source: “Mayor that accidentally kicked giant human tomato in the head costs council £24k,”, October 15, 2010, via lowering the bar


A Georgia woman lost her challenge to equate her criminal conviction under a city ordinance for refusing to cut her lawn to “involuntary servitude” under the Georgia and United States constitutions.

The Georgia Supreme Court dismissed the case, which resulted in a $150 fine. The court noted the U.S. Supreme Court has found “The prohibition against involuntary servitude does not prevent the State or Federal Governments from compelling their citizens, by threat of criminal sanction, to perform certain civic duties.”

The state court continued, “Key examples of such civic duties are jury service, military service, and roadwork. A municipal ordinance requiring a citizen to maintain grass, weeds, and vegetation for the welfare of the community is not constitutionally prohibited involuntary servitude.”

Source: Bruce Carton, “Ga. Supreme Court: Ordinance Requiring Lawncare Does Not Equal Slavery,” Legal blog watch, October 14, 2010

Would You Like an Affidavit with That?

When a New York plaintiff’s personal injury law firm decided to open an office in Manchester, Connecticut, it selected the site of a former fast food restaurant–and decided to keep the drive-thru window for its clients.

They staffed it with a paralegal rather than a burger flipper and let clients use it to pick up or drop off documents.

Personal injury lawyers are sometimes called “ambulance chasers,” leading one wag at NBC to quip: “Now the ambulance can stop here on the way to the hospital.”

Source: Loweringthebar, “Please Advise at Your Earliest Convenience Whether You Would Like to Super-Size Your Allegations,” October 21, 2010

Fast Feud

The white-shoe lawyers at Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, DC say offensive fumes from a neighboring burger joint are infiltrating their office and jeopardizing the health of the firm’s 700 employees. They sued the restaurant, Rogue States, and won.

The firm alleged its employees were suffering headaches, nausea, and dizziness, among other ailments. The judge agreed, finding the health problems were “noticeable, discomforting and annoying.” He ordered the restaurant to shut down.

Source: Joanna Chung, “Steptoe & Johnson Wins Great Hamburger War,” Wall Street Journal Law Blog, October 11, 2010

Seeking Good-Faith Agreement

A Grand Rapids, Michigan woman is being sued by the state for housing discrimination after she posted an ad at her local church last summer seeking a Christian roommate.

The Fair Housing Center filed a civil rights complaint and referred the case to the state Department of Civil Rights. The complaint alleges the ad “expresses an illegal preference for a Christian roommate, thus excluding people of other faiths.”

The woman faces several hundred dollars in fines and “fair housing training so it doesn’t happen again,” according to the state department. She is being defended at no charge by the Alliance Defense Fund. An attorney there said the woman sought the roommate at church, a constitutionally protected activity, and called the case “outrageous.”

Source: Todd Starnes, “Michigan Woman Faces Civil Rights Complaint for Seeking a Christian Roommate,” Fox News, October 22, 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