Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #9-25

Published December 13, 2010

A few weeks ago a Boston city tow truck crashed into a 17-unit apartment building after the truck’s brakes failed. The crash blasted a hole in the fa├žade, broke numerous windows, and forced all tenants into escaping the building with virtually only the clothes on their backs. The crash left the truck, which also struck two parked cars, embedded in the building.

The next day, city building inspectors arrived and decided the building had “structural defects” and was “unsafe and dangerous.” They ordered the building’s owner to repair the building, at his own expense, within 24 hours. He’s also required to answer for the defects to a judge in court.

“It’s unfair,” the building owner said, adding the code violations occurred “because the truck made them.”

But city officials said issuing code violations after a vehicle crashes into a building is standard procedure. “Because it’s a city vehicle, the rules don’t change,” said one official.

Source: Akilah Johnson, “Building’s owner cited after tow truck crash, Inspectors allege structural defects,” Boston Globe, December 1, 2001

Course Correction

An Illinois lawyer is the target of a disciplinary complaint for having his secretary complete mandatory online continuing legal education courses in his place and then certifying he completed the courses himself.

The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission brought charges against the lawyer, contending he “acted dishonestly and in a manner that tends to bring the courts or the legal profession into disrepute.”

The ABA Journal says the complaint “will likely strike a chord with a number of attorneys who have been seen reading the newspaper, reviewing draft filings or otherwise appearing inattentive at live continuing legal education courses.”

Source: Martha Neil, “Lawyer Got Secretary to Take His CLE Courses, Disciplinary Complaint Contends,” ABA Journal, November 22, 2010

Dispensing Justice

The cover of a toilet paper dispenser in the restroom of a Michigan restaurant fell on a diner’s right hand a few years ago, breaking it. The Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled she can sue the restaurant.

The woman says she can’t work anymore. Worse yet, she had to switch to bowling with her left hand, causing her average score to drop by 40 pins.

Source: Ed White, “Supreme Court: Woman can sue over tricky Taylor toilet paper dispenser,” Associated Press, December 6, 2010, via facesoflawsuitabuse, a project of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Enemy of the Steak

A cook for a West Bend, Wisconsin restaurant got angry when a diner sent a steak back to the kitchen for a replacement. So the cook cut a slit in the new one and stuffed it with facial or pubic hairs.

The diner sued the restaurant for damages, including $4,500 in lost wages and medical expenses. A jury found the restaurant was not negligent but still awarded the diner the $4,500, plus $25,000 for his pain and suffering and $100,000 in punitive damages.

The restaurant filed post-trial motions alleging it should not be liable for punitive damages or pain and suffering because no finding of negligence was made. The judge overruled the motions, and the restaurant is now deciding whether to appeal.

The cook is no longer working at the restaurant–he’s serving a six-month jail term. He tried to defend himself by saying he thought the diner “was just trying to get free stuff.”

Source: Bruce Vielmetti, “Judge upholds $100,000 verdict in hairy steak case,” Proof and Hearsay blog of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, December 3, 2010

Under Scrutiny

Indian actor and model Yana Gupta evidently “forgot” to wear her underpants at a recent public appearance at an event for children, so a “social activist” is now suing the photographer who took her picture and the organizer of the event, for obscenity.

The actor/model allegedly promoted herself online as the “no-panty girl.” The activist plaintiff claims to be shocked and extremely offended by the episode.

Source: Iti Shree Misra, “No-panty girl Yana sued!” The Times of India, December 3, 2010, via legal juice

Tempest of a Teacup

A New York condo building’s governing board imposed a rule stating “no pets are allowed in the building for any reason.” So when a resident acquired a 3.5 pound “teacup terrier” named Charlie, the board went to court to evict the pup.

After three years of litigation and $100,000 in legal fees paid by building residents ($4,200 per capita), the board lost because it had put the rule in place without first obtaining the approval of 80 percent of building residents.

Charlie’s owner said, “Nobody in the building is too happy with me right now because it’s costing everybody a lot of money and it’s not fair to the homeowners,” she said. “I feel terrible,” Forman said. Not terrible enough to get rid of Charlie, though.

Source: Associated Press, “Despite Pets Ban, Teacup Terrier OK In NYC Condo,” November 11, 2010 via overlawyered.

Slow Thinking

A Tennessee judge has been reprimanded for taking 11 years to decide a case. Court rules require cases be disposed of “promptly.” Although courts recognize there is some flexibility about what “promptly” means, 11 years is not it.

The case involved a claim against an insurance company heard during a 1999 bench trial, after which the court took the matter “under advisement.” Four years later, the plaintiff asked the court for a status report, which the judge ignored. Six years after that, the plaintiff inquired again, and this time the judge ruled.

Eleven years is not the longest decision time on record. Last year a retired Montana judge found a 1983 case file in his home while doing spring cleaning. The Montana Supreme Court said the judge could rule on it–26 years later. Neither party in that case had ever inquired about its status.

Source: Kevin Underhill, “Eleven Years Too Long to Have Case ‘Under Advisement,’ Says Panel,” lowering the bar, December 3, 2010

Free Rider Problem

A New Yorker who took his date horseback riding was not “reckless,” a New York court recently ruled.

The woman fell off the horse and sued her date for damages because he “was negligent in failing to properly warn her and appreciate her limited level of skill as a rider, and in failing to pay proper attention to her request that the horses proceed at a slow pace in a careful manner.”

The woman assumed the risk of injury because she knew horses can act “in an unintended” manner. As one pundit put it, “I guess you know your date didn’t go very well when you get sued afterward.”

Source: Kevin Underhill, “It’s Safe Again to Take Your Date Horseback Riding in New York,” lowering the bar, December 1, 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 http://www.heartland.org
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:
http://www.atra.org
http://www.alec.org
http://business.pacificresearch.org/civil-justice-and-legal-reform
http://www.calatx.com
http://www.halt.org
http://www.iamlawsuitabuse.com
http://www.overlawyered.com
http://www.fed-soc.org
http://www.manhattan-institute.org
http://www.wlf.org
http://www.sickoflawsuits.org

The Heartland Institute
19 South La Salle Street #903
Chicago, Illinois 60603


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 http://www.heartland.org
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:
http://www.atra.org
http://www.alec.org
http://business.pacificresearch.org/civil-justice-and-legal-reform
http://www.calatx.com
http://www.halt.org
http://www.iamlawsuitabuse.com
http://www.overlawyered.com
http://www.fed-soc.org
http://www.manhattan-institute.org
http://www.wlf.org
http://www.sickoflawsuits.org

The Heartland Institute
19 South La Salle Street #903
Chicago, Illinois 60603