Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #9-5

Published March 1, 2010

The American Academy of Pediatrics wants warning labels on hot dogs, carrots, grapes, and apples because kids could choke on them, Associated Press reported. Labels, of course, are a means of avoiding litigation for failure to warn of dangers.

Other doctors want some foods–including hard candy, popcorn, and marshmallows–banned for kids entirely, for the same reason, AP noted.

“What is unnerving about the idea of slapping a warning label on everyday foods is that we are now defining something as ‘unsafe’ that is actually very safe– just not absolutely, [but] perfectly safe,” wrote Lenore Skenazy of “The story ran on MSNBC under the subhead, ‘Pediatricians Seek to Protect Kids from High-Risk Items.’ To me a ‘high risk’ item is a leaky beaker of plutonium,” she wrote.

Source: Lindsey Tanner, “Pediatricians urge choking warning labels for food,” Associated Press, February 22, 2010; Lenore Skenazy, “Surely You Must Be Choking,”, February 23, 2010


More on the hazards of hot dogs comes from Kansas City, where the Kansas City Royals baseball team is being sued because mascot Sluggerrr threw a hot dog into the stands and hit a fan.

The man was probably lucky Sluggerrr merely threw the hot dog. Minutes earlier Sluggerrr had been firing ‘dogs into the stands with his air gun.

The man claims the sandwich hit him in the eye, detaching the retina and causing cataracts. Sluggerrr allegedly tried some fancy pitching–kind of like the Harlem Globetrotters of baseball–by throwing the hot dog behind his back. The suit alleges Sluggerrr either lost control of the hot dog or was reckless.

“This could only happen to the Royals. Or maybe the Cubs,” quipped the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.

Source: Mark Morris, “Kansas man sues Royals over Sluggerrr’s hot-dog toss, February 23, 2010; Ashby Jones, “The Royals’ Mascot + One Allegedly Bad Toss = One Weird Lawsuit,” Wall Street Journal Law Blog, February 24, 2010

The Rights of Fish

Swiss voters go to the polls in March to decide whether lawyers must be hired to represent cats, dogs, farm animals, and other vertebrates allegedly abused by humans.

The country already has one animal rights attorney, who recently prosecuted a fisherman for allegedly torturing a pike because it took 10 minutes to land it. The attorney lost the case. “Fish don’t get much sympathy,” he said, but he prosecuted “to make sure that people are suitably punished for their crimes.”

Source: Eliane Engeler, “Legal eagles? Swiss to vote on lawyers for animals,” Associated Press, February 10, 2010

Night of the Lawyering Dead

It must come as a great relief for the people of Minneapolis to know they can’t be arrested for disorderly conduct for dressing up in zombie costumes.

Seven people were arrested for that offense and jailed for two days for protesting “consumerism” at a street fair while wearing costumes involving white powder, fake blood, and black around their eyes. They then shuffled around like zombies. The zombies were listening to a high school band when they were arrested. Police said a young girl looked scared.

The arrests came after police said a “violent gang from Washington State known for wearing face paint” was present. The zombies filed suit against the city, alleging their civil rights had been violated and seeking $350,000 in damages. The federal trial court dismissed their claim, but the federal appellate court reversed that ruling and reinstated the case, holding a violation of free speech rights had been alleged. A trial will now go forward.

Source: James Walsh, “Appeals court gives new life to local ‘zombie’ suit, Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 24, 2010

Drunken Parking

The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the drunken driving conviction of a man asleep at the wheel of a parked car police couldn’t start.

The car had the “potential” to be driven, the court found. The man “could, without too much difficulty, make the vehicle a source of danger,” the court said.

Source: “Minnesota Supreme Court Rules DUI Possible in Inoperable Vehicle,” January 21, 2010 via

Absent-Minded Professor

The lawyer representing the University of Alabama professor who shot and killed three of her colleagues and wounded three others apologized last week for calling his client “wacko.” But he didn’t really retract it, saying “there’s something wrong with this lady.”

The woman, a biology professor at Alabama with a Ph.D. from Harvard, had been denied tenure. Her lawyer said she couldn’t remember shooting anyone, but he blamed this on how smart she is. Doctors of biology, he said, “have got, in my estimation, high IQs–and the high IQ in my opinion is sometimes not good for people.” He added she is sometimes so mentally preoccupied, she “does not know what’s going on around her.”

Source: “Alabama professor’s lawyer regrets calling her ‘wacko,'” CNN, February 19, 2010

Ash Not

A judge ordered an Iowa prosecutor to remove ashes from his forehead before proceeding with a criminal trial.

The prosecutor, a Catholic, had received ashes over his lunch hour in commemoration of Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. The order came after the defense attorney objected. Legal experts said the prosecutor might have had the right to refuse to remove the ashes, but he complied with the judge’s order.

Source: “Ash not: attorney told to take off ashes in the courtroom,”, February 21, 2010 via

Much Expense About Nothing

A lawsuit in which the plaintiff recovered just $1,791 will cost a Colorado County about $1 million.

The plaintiff prevailed in a case claiming the county denied him the right to speak at public meetings and to review public records, and the jury awarded him the amount of damages corresponding with the year the Bill of Rights was adopted. But the county has to pay its own legal fees of about $464,000 plus the plaintiff’s fees of around $500,000.

The plaintiff contends he would have settled the case if the county apologized, but says it refused to do so. The county denies the settlement offer was ever made. The plaintiff had an ongoing dispute with a county commissioner who has now left office. Another suit is pending, alleging the county followed the plaintiff and intercepted his emails. The county’s defense costs in that case are $148,176 so far.

Source: Karen Crummy, “Jeffco’s costs mounting in First Amendment lawsuits,” The Denver Post, February 15, 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
Editors: Maureen Martin, 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