Lawsuit Abuse Fortnightly #9-9

Published April 26, 2010

A U.K. man has been suspended from driving for three years after his conviction for driving a “Barbie car” while drunk.

The battery-operated 2×4-foot pink and white convertible, designed for three- to five-year-old girls who are fans of the Barbie doll, has a top speed of four miles per hour. The man, who is six feet tall, said an adult has to “be quite a contortionist to get in.”

The man, an engineer, said he found the car abandoned and rebuilt it with his son who was studying auto mechanics. He had been drinking before he decided to show off the car to a neighbor.

He admitted to the offense in court and received the stiff sentence even though the bench chairman noted, “This is most unusual. I have never seen the like of it in 15 years on the bench. The vehicle is not even capable of doing the speed of a mobility scooter and could be outrun by a pedestrian.”

Source: Andrew Levy, “Drink-drive ban for father who took toy Barbie car for a spin, Daily Mail U.K., April 20, 2010 via Jonathan Turley

Spirit of the Law

The Michigan Supreme Court reinstated $273,000 in damages awarded by a state jury to a churchgoer who claimed she was injured during church services.

The woman sued the church’s pastor, claiming she was “slain in the Spirit” by the church service and fell over backwards after being “overcome by the Spirit of the Lord.” She also sued the pastor for defamation after he accused her of faking the injuries. The jury awarded her $40,000 for the pastor’s negligence and $273,000 for libel, slander, and false light.

The state appellate court vacated the libel/slander/false light damages, reasoning the pastor might have immunity for utterances from the pulpit. But the state supreme court reversed, finding the pastor had acted with malice.

Source: “Supreme Court rules for woman in Mount Hope Church ‘slain in spirit’ case,” Lansing State Journal, April 8, 2010 via faces of lawsuit abuse, a project of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Obsessive Repulsion

Lawyers are hated by the public because they are “neurotic, pedantic, disagreeable and egotistic people,” one lawyer admits. This is not a bad thing, he adds, because those characteristics enable lawyers to carefully scrutinize “difficult situations and ask hard questions. Ultimately, they are inquisitive people who want to understand how things work, as they may have to explain their findings to others,” such as judges and juries. But “the downside is that this fuels the obsessive part of the lawyer’s reptilian hindbrain.”

Source: J. DeVoy, “Why people hate lawyers: an overview,” The Legal Satyricon;, April 2, 2010

The Look of Law

Indicating an astonishing decline in professional decorum, the Chicago Bar Association found it necessary this month to hold a training session on “What Not to Wear” to court and on job interviews. Aimed at law students, the seminar featured models parading on the fashion runway in inappropriate outfits, followed by comments from lawyers, judges, and law professors. Some of the advice included:

  • “Bra straps are meant to be hidden.”
  • “Make sure your suit is clean and pressed.”
  • “You should shave.”
  • “Never wear clothes that reveal your tramp stamp,” a small tattoo on a woman’s lower back.
  • “No one should be able to see your cleavage.”

No wonder the legal system is in trouble.

Source: Kashmir Hill, “Fashion Dos and Don’ts from the Windy City,” Above the Law, April 12, 2010

Branch Manager

A British hotel was required to pay damages to a handyman who fell after leaning his ladder against a tree branch and then sawing it off. The handyman had been asked to prune the tree. He broke his heel and damaged ligaments in the fall.

The court found the hotel liable because it failed to train workers not to saw off a tree branch while standing on a ladder leaning against the branch. The hotel was ordered to pay £2,015, about $3,092 U.S.

The hotel’s lawyer called the accident a “Laurel and Hardy” type of episode derived from a lack of common sense.

Source: Liz Hull, “Bungling handyman puts ladder against branch he is sawing off … then sues bosses after breaking his foot,” Daily Mail U.K., April 14, 2010

Loan Moans

Last year, the city of Baltimore’s lawsuit against Wells Fargo & Co. for violating civil rights laws by making mortgage loans to tens of thousands of minority residents who couldn’t afford to repay them was dismissed.

The judge said there was no proof this happened. The city alleged 30,000 properties were involved but linked only 80 of them to Wells Fargo. But the city wanted Wells Fargo to pay damages for all 30,000 homes in foreclosure due to lower property values, lower tax revenues, increased law enforcement spending due to a rise in criminal activity, and increased social service spending and construction costs.

Now Baltimore is back in court, this time omitting the allegations of civil rights violations but still seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages from blight allegedly caused by Wells Fargo.

The bank’s attorney accuses the city’s lawyer of forum-shopping, noting he filed the same lawsuit in Tennessee and also observing lenders such as Wells Fargo were previously sued for not making enough loans to minorities.

“One year, they file a suit saying that the lender didn’t make enough loans in minority communities: redlining. The next year, they file a suit saying that they made too many loans in minority communities: reverse redlining,” the lawyer said. “This is just a commercial enterprise for these lawyers. They just want to go fishing to see if maybe they can come up with something.”

Source: Tricia Bishop, “City’s Wells Fargo lawsuit dismissed; U.S. judge calls claims of millions in predatory lending damages ‘not plausible’,” Baltimore Sun, January 7, 2010; Robbie Whelan, “City changes tactics on Wells Fargo lawsuit, After judge dismissed case, city returns with revised complaint, list of 250 foreclosed properties lawyers say are damaging city,” April 21, 2010, both via the Manhattan Institute’s

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
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Publisher: Joseph L. Bast
Author: Maureen Martin
Editors: S.T. Karnick, Diane Carol Bast

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