Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #9-7

Published March 29, 2010

A school district in upstate New York has a diversity awareness program, a conflict resolution program, mediation on racial issues, and character education, and the district works individually with students on discrimination issues. It also operates a program called Students and Teachers Opposed to Prejudice (STOP).

Nevertheless, a jury found the Poughkeepsie school district guilty of “indifference” to racial harassment of a student. It ordered the district to pay the student’s parents $1.25 million in damages. The jury found the district inadequately addressed the harassment charges.

“Given our deeply held commitment to and advocacy for social justice, we are stunned by the jury’s verdict,” the board said.

Source: John Davis, “Pine Plains school found liable in racial harassment suit,” Poughkeepsie Journal, March 13, 2010

Little Miss Buffaloed

A former teen beauty queen claims the reality television show Wife Swap portrayed her as spoiled and exposed her to “ridicule, mockery and derision.” She is suing the program, which featured her mother, for causing her emotional and psychological harm.

She says the program was scripted and that she does not actually receive Christmas presents every day from her parents, as she said on-air, nor does she typically reject breakfast cereal prepared by her mother, as she did on-air. And she says she was coached to say on-air, “I am the most popular girl in school.”

Her mother appeared with her on the ABC program. The girl, now 18, is a former Little Miss Buffalo. She is seeking $100 million in damages.

Source: Dareh Gregorian, “TV ‘Wife Swap’ kid sues show for $100M,” New York Post, March 23, 2010, via, a project of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

The Price of Love

A North Carolina woman has been awarded $9 million in damages from the “other woman” with whom her husband had an affair. The amount includes $5 million in compensatory damages and $4 million in punitive damages.

The couple had been married for 33 years. The suit was brought for alienation of affection, a cause of action allowed in only six other states: Hawaii, Illinois, Mississippi, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah.

Source: Jonathan Turley, “North Carolina Woman Wins $9 million For Alienation of Affection,” March 24, 2010

Slippery Argument

A Chicago-area newspaper reports an Illinois woman is suing a local store, alleging her 77-year old husband died because he slipped and fell outside the establishment.

The suit alleges there was an “unnatural accumulation of ice” near the store as a result of the store’s negligence, which caused her husband’s death.

The problem is the man’s obituary, published in the same newspaper reporting the lawsuit, also reports the man died at his home after a “courageous battle with cancer.” Whoops!

Source: Josh Stockinger, “Batavia woman sues over husband’s unusual death,” Daily Herald, February 22, 2010

Sweat Suit

City workers in Detroit are being urged not to wear deodorant or any other “scented products” after the city settled a lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act with a city employee who objected to another worker’s perfume.

The employee said the perfume made it challenging to perform her job. The city agreed to pay her $100,000 in damages and to warn other workers not to use cologne, aftershave, perfume, deodorant, or body or face lotion. The workers are also being urged not to use scented candles, perfume samples from magazines, or air fresheners–which you’d think the workplace might need.

Source: Associated Press “Detroit city workers being warned to go scentsless,” March 10, 2010 via

Rank States

The U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform 2010 survey ranks West Virginia as the state with the worst legal climate in the nation. Also ranking at the bottom are Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and California. Corporate lawyers and executives are among those surveyed. They say a state’s legal climate affects decisions about where to locate or expand their businesses.

Delaware is at the top of the list of states with the best legal climate. Following closely behind are North Dakota and Nebraska.

Source: “Ranking the States: Lawsuit Climate 2010,” March 2010, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Equal Opportunity Bias

A federal trial court judge ruled recently Wisconsin’s Equal Rights Division is guilty of discriminating against one of its employees.

The employee, a black man and a supervisor in the division, had responsibility for resolving complaints about employment discrimination, but the judge found the man himself was denied raises for many years because of race and gender bias.

“I guess it’s ironic; I’d been protecting rights of other people and couldn’t protect my own,” the man said.

The division is considering whether to appeal.

Source: Bruce Vielmetti, “State equal-rights official suffered discrimination, court rules,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 8, 2010 via

Grapes of Path

Two Chicago-area women are suing stores because they slipped and fell on “runaway grapes” in the stores’ produce departments.

Both women fell after stepping on the grapes and squashing them. “They are very stealthy, those grapes,” the women’s lawyer said. “They are small, they are round and they roll. … They don’t make a sound when they hit the floor.”

“Produce sections are notoriously dangerous,” the lawyer said. “I’ve had people fall on watermelon juice, rotten grapes, and cherry tomatoes.” But, he added, “I have never actually had the proverbial banana peel, though.”

Source: Cynthia Dizikes, “Grapes on floor blamed for falls in two lawsuits,” Chicago Tribune, March 23, 2010 via, a project of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform

Sling Shots

Remember when baby slings were touted as good for the tykes and moms for bringing them closer together? Well, now they’re under attack by the Consumer Product Safety Commission as “risky” because 13 tiny ones have died in “sling-related” incidents in the past 20 years.

The problem, the CPSC says, is that the baby can suffocate if the fabric in the sling presses against the baby’s nose or mouth. One Oregon family is suing over such an incident.

But, as Lenore Skenazy of points out, comparisons are useful. In 1999, 624 people died because they fell off of furniture. Should furniture be banned? In the same year, six people suffered fatal spider bites. An astounding 45 people died from being bitten or crushed by snakes. Snake ownership is not banned.

“I worry that we worry so much we have lost all perspective and are afraid of our own shadows. And especially our baby’s shadows,” Skenazy said.

Source: Nancy Shute, “New Warning on Baby Slings and Safety Risks,” U.S. New and World Report,” March 12, 2010; Lenore Skenazy, “The Baby Sling Thing,” March 19, 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
Editors: Maureen Martin, Diane Carol Bast

Information on lawsuit abuse can be found on these Web sites:

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Chicago, Illinois 60603