ARCHIVE -- APRIL 2002
April 19-21 --
Pitcher hit by line drive sues maker of baseball bat.
Hurling for the Pittsfield (Ill.) High School baseball team, Daniel Hannant
put one over the plate to a batter from opponent Calhoun High School, who
smacked the ball in a line drive straight at the pitcher's
mound where it hit Hannant on the head. Now Hannant is suing
... guess who? The maker of the baseball bat, Hillerich & Bradsby,
known for its trademark Louisville Slugger. ("Lawsuit comes out swinging",
Chicago Tribune, Apr. 18) (& see letter to the editor,
Jun. 14; update, Dec.
30). (DURABLE LINK)
April 19-21 --
No apologies from RFK Jr. As the uproar continues in Iowa
over Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s assertion that large hog-raising operations
are more of a threat to American democracy than Osama bin Laden, Kennedy's
office has sent word to the Des Moines Register not to expect an
apology or retraction. (Mark Siebert, "Kennedy stands by hog-lot
18; J. R. Taylor, "To the Preening Born", New York Press "Billboard",
18; earlier reports on this site Apr. 15, Apr.
17). Far from being an unconsidered slip of the tongue, the comparison
seems to have been a feature of Kennedy's speeches for months, to judge
from a report published back in January on another of his Midwestern swings:
"This threat is greater than that in Afghanistan," he was quoted as saying.
"This is not only a threat to the environment, it is a threat to the American
economy and democracy." (Gretchen Schlosser, National Hog Farmer,
15, linked in WSJ OpinionJournal.com "Best of the Web" Jan.
21). And a staff attorney from Kennedy's office has sent us a
letter responding to our editor's Wednesday
New York Post op-ed on the affair, to which we append a fairly
lengthy response -- see our letters
MORE: The food-industry-defense group Center for Consumer
Freedom has been on the warpath against Kennedy and his band of lawyers
for a while. It quotes Iowa Agriculture Secretary Patty Judge as
saying: "The true agenda of this group is to sue farms and take the monetary
rewards back to the East Coast." ("Trashing Pork, Cashing In", Apr.
11). Kennedy has estimated "damages" against the industry of
$13 billion: "We have lawyers with the deepest pockets, and they've agreed
to fight the industry to the end," he has said. "We're going to go after
all of them." ("Kennedy's Pork Police Hit Iowa", Apr.
2; "Waterkeepers, Farmers Weepers", Dec.
12, 2001) "'We're starting with hogs. After the hogs, then we are going
after the other ones,' referring to the poultry and beef industries."
16, 2001, citing "Concerns that pork suit may be extended to other
areas," Des Moines Register, Jan. 8, 2001). (DURABLE
April 19-21 --
Traffic-cams, cont'd. In the controversy (see Apr.
8-9) over the uses and abuses of automated traffic camera systems,
a reader writes in (see letters
page) to say we were wrong to describe Lockheed Martin as the current
contractor on the systems; it actually sold the operation last August to
another company. Our apologies. And Eugene Volokh reports
on his blog (Apr.
17) that he found some inaccuracies in Matt Labash's Weekly Standard
investigative series on the cameras which Labash and the Standard
have been happy to correct. See also "Hawaii scraps 'Talivan' traffic
cameras", AP/ABC News, Apr.
11. (DURABLE LINK)
April 19-21 --
Clipboard-throwing manager = $30 million clipping for grocery chain.
The Ralphs supermarket chain in California had a store manager who over
the course of a decade "physically and verbally abused six female Ralphs
employees by calling them vulgar names, manhandling them, and throwing
items like telephones, clipboards and, in one instance, a 30- to 40-pound
mailbag, at them." So a San Diego jury awarded them $5 million each
in damages. (Alexei Oreskovic,
"$30M Awarded in Sex Harassment Suit Against Grocery Chain", The Recorder,
9)(& update Jul. 26-28: judge cuts
total award to $8 million). (DURABLE
April 19-21 --
See you ... at the Big
Apple Blog Bash Friday night. (DURABLE
April 18 -- "Tampa
Taliban" mom blames acne drug. By reader acclaim: "The
family of 15-year-old Charles Bishop has filed a $70-million lawsuit against
the maker of acne medication
Accutane, saying nothing else explains the teenager's suicidal flight into
a downtown Tampa high-rise." Bishop, whose father bore an Arab surname,
left a suicide note praising Osama bin Laden; the county medical examiner's
office found no trace of Accutane in his bloodstream, although it says
that does not rule out the possibility that he might have been on the medication,
for which he had been written a prescription. Although the maker
of the widely used acne drug denies that it causes psychosis or suicidal
impulses, its cautious consent form "required the Bishops to agree to tell
their physician 'if anyone in the family has ever had symptoms of depression,
been psychotic, attempted suicide, or had any other serious mental problems.'
Julia Bishop, however, did not reveal that in 1984, she and Charles' estranged
father failed in a bloody suicide pact during which she stabbed him with
a 12-inch butcher knife." Mrs. Bishop's lawyer, Michael Ryan of Fort Lauderdale,
calls that earlier suicide pact incident "completely irrelevant".
(Robert Farley, "Suit: Drug behind suicide flight", St. Petersburg Times,
17; Natashia Gregoire, "Teen Pilot's Family Sues Drug Maker", Tampa
17; "Accutane acne drug maker sued over suicide", USA Today/Reuters,
16; Broward Liston and Tim Padgett, "Despair Beneath His Wings", Time,
13; Howard Feinberg, "Is Accutane to Blame?", TechCentralStation.com,
18; see Feb. 1). Updates:
manufacturer wins first jury trial (Margaret Cronin Fisk, "Suits Probe
Acne Drug, Depression", National Law Journal, Apr.
25; Michael Fumento, "The Accutane Blame Game", National Review
9). (DURABLE LINK)
April 18 -- Judge
compares class action lawyers to "squeegee boys". A Florida
judge has rejected the tentative settlement of a shareholder lawsuit filed
by Milberg Weiss Bershad Hynes
& Lerach against power company Florida Progress Corp. over a 1999
merger, saying the evidence indicated that the suit did not leave class
members in a better position than if it had never been filed. Added
Pinellas County Judge W. Douglas Baird: "This action appears to be the
class litigation equivalent of the 'squeegee boys' who used to frequent
major urban intersections and who would run up to a stopped car, splash
soapy water on its perfectly clean windshield and expect payment for the
uninvited service of wiping it off." (Jason Hoppin, The Recorder,
April 18 -- Welcome
Humorix.org readers. The Linux-humor
site started linking to us way back in 1999, if we remember correctly.
Also sending us visitors lately: Auckland (N.Z.) District Law Society,
14 ("For a change of pace, spend some time with this digest of news
stories ... Most cases reported on are from the U.S., but there are quite
a few examples from Europe, Australia, and elsewhere"); WTIC-AM Hartford,
"Morning Links", Apr.
7; American Civil Rights
Union "ACLU Watch", Nintendominion "Site Unseen", Mar.
31; Dog Brothers Martial
Arts (Hermosa Beach, Calif.), Mutual
Reinsurance Bureau, Anne Klockenkemper (Univ. of Florida) Media
Law Resources, Smith
Freed & Eberhard P.C. (attorneys at law, Portland, Ore.), Univ.
of Nevada-Reno Tau
Kappa Epsilon, RKKA.org
(Russian Red Army-themed wargaming); Fureyous.com, Mar.
("My dream site, a site where I can find the entire downfall of civilization
due to frivolous and pathetic lawsuits and legal actions"), and many more.
April 17 -- New
York Post op-ed on RFK Jr. & hogs. Our editor
has a piece today on the op-ed page of the New York Post about the
furor that broke out in Iowa when celebrity environmentalist Robert F.
Kennedy, Jr. told a rally that large-scale hog farms are more of a threat
to America than Osama bin Laden and his terrorists. For links
to the local Iowa coverage, see our item here from Monday,
of which the Post op-ed is an expansion. (Walter Olson, "Osama,
the Pigs and the Kennedy", New York Post, Apr.
April 16-17 --
Pharmaceutical roundup. The total cost of the settlement
over the diet compound fen-phen has ballooned to more than $13 billion,
swollen by mass recruitment by law firms of claimants who defendants believe
have suffered no ill effects from the compound at all aside from possible
worry. "Wyeth's general counsel, Louis L. Hoynes Jr., said he believes
that in a different legal climate his company might have been able to settle
all serious claims for less than $1 billion. That would amount to an average
of $1 million each for 1,000 cases." (L. Stuart Ditzen, "Mass diet-pill
litigation inflates settlement costs to $13.2 billion", Philadelphia Inquirer,
9 -- whole article well worth reading). Lawyers for a group of
British women have filed what is believed to be the first injury suit over
the "third-generation" birth control pill, which they say raises the risk
of blood clots, and similar suits are expected to follow in the United
States (Mary Vallis, "U.K. suit targets perils of The Pill", National
5). In one of the more recent applications of the U.S. Supreme
Court's Daubert doctrine, courts have dismissed several lawsuits
seeking to blame Pfizer's anti-impotency drug
Viagra for users' heart attacks, ruling that the expert testimony in the
cases was not based on scientific principles that had gained "general acceptance."
(Tom Perrotta, "Viagra Cases Dismissed", New York Law Journal, Jan.
22). The Nov. 9, 2001 installment of CBS's "48 Hours" launched
a one-sided attack on psychiatric drugs used to treat attention deficit
and hyperactivity and told the stories of two parents who say their use
of the ADHD drug Adderall caused them to behave irrationally, resulting
in the death of their children; but Hudson Institute fellow Michael Fumento
finds that much was misstated or left out in the network's account, including
the exact role of the trial lawyers hovering in the background (Michael
Fumento, "Prescription for
Bias", "Dawn Marie Branson:
A Sad Story Only Half Told") And although the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration has not chosen to give a green light for the reintroduction
of silicone breast implants for American women following the litigation-fueled
panic that drove them from the market, they have regained popularity among
women in Canada, reports the CBC ("Silicone implants back in style", Sept.
20, 2001). (DURABLE LINK)
April 16-17 --
A DMCA run-in. Tom Veal's Stromata site, which covers
topics ranging from pension regulation to science fiction, had a run-in
a few days ago with its hosting service, Tripod, which abruptly closed
down access to the site and then took its sweet time about reopening it.
The reason? Tripod had received a nastygram from a law firm charging
that Stromata was in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act,
not because it had posted any copyrighted
material itself, but because it had linked to another site which had
(it said) posted an unauthorized translation of a widely discussed piece
on terrorism by Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci. Unfortunately,
as Veal notes, the incentives under DMCA are for hosts to muzzle speech
in haste and un-muzzle at leisure. ("Et Cetera", Apr.
9). (DURABLE LINK)
April 16-17 --
Unlikely critic of litigation. The Washington group Judicial
Watch files lawsuits at a manic clip, but now its founder Larry Klayman
is taking to the mails to decry our national problem of excessive litigiousness.
"One may liken the overall effect of Klayman's direct-mail sermon against
frivolous lawsuits to that of a Weight Watchers commercial starring Marlon
Brando or a temperance lecture given by Hunter S. Thompson." (Tim
Noah, "Larry Klayman Decries Evils of Litigation!", Slate, Apr.
3). (DURABLE LINK)
April 15 -- RFK
Jr. blasted for hog farm remarks. Robert F. Kennedy
Jr., the highest-profile spokesman for the developing alliance
between trial lawyers and some environmentalist groups (see Dec.
7, 2000), "made an ass of himself" in remarks last weekend at a Clear
Lake, Ia. rally, according to veteran Des Moines Register political
columnist David Yepsen. Kennedy's "statement that large-scale hog
producers were a bigger threat to America than Osama bin Laden's terrorists
has to be one of the crudest things ever said in Iowa politics. ... [Kennedy]
brought his Waterkeeper's Alliance for a rally [in Clear Lake]. It's
a group that is threatening lawsuits against livestock
industries. ... Rural America needs positive solutions to this problem,
not the corrosive rhetoric of another out-of-state political operative
or lawsuits from greedy trial lawyers. ... What was one of the finest hours
of this legislative session was marred by this fool from the East. ...
Kennedy looks to be cashing in on his family's name. ... If his name
were Bob Fitzgerald, he'd be dismissed as another one of the kooks on the
fringe of this debate." Other reaction was not much more favorable: "'You
have to be a complete wandering idiot to make that statement,' said [Luke]
Kollasch [of Algona, Ia.], whose family owns several hog farms and feed
and construction companies in northwest Iowa." (Donnelle Elder, "Big hog
lots called greater threat than bin Laden", Des Moines Register,
10; "Kennedy's outrageous rhetoric" (editorial), Apr. 11; David Yepsen,
"Kennedy cashes in on family name while acting like a fool", Apr. 14) (DURABLE
April 15 -- Updates.
Stories that seem to have a life of their own:
* Richard Espinosa, "who is suing the city of Escondido because his
dog was attacked by a cat inside a city library, now says the attack was
a hate crime." (see Dec. 4, 2001)
("Cat attack now described as hate crime", MSNBC, Apr. 5)
* "The Florida Legislature has partially undone a landmark Florida
Supreme Court ruling issued in November that gave slip-and-fall injury
victims the upper hand in lawsuits against supermarkets and other premises
owners." (see Jan. 7). The ruling had
required businesses to prove they were not negligent when presented with
slip-fall claims. However, trial lawyers extracted a compromise in
which plaintiffs will not have to prove that a slippery material was on
the floor for long enough for the store owner to have known about it.
(Susan R. Miller, "Florida Legislature Passes Bill on Slip-and-Fall Cases",
Daily Business Review, Mar.
* "A Hays County judge has thrown out a default judgment that
would have awarded $5 million to a local woman whose near-topless image
was used in a national television ad for a 'Wild Party Girls' video without
her permission. ... Judge Charles Ramsay set aside the default judgment,
ruling that the plaintiff had listed the wrong company in the lawsuit,
and that the video's makers were not either properly named or properly
served." (see Mar. 6-7) (Carol Coughlin,
"Topless suit is groundless, judge rules", San Marcos (Tex.) Daily Record,
* More on the symbiotic relationship between state attorneys general
and Microsoft competitors
(see Apr. 3-4): "An April 2000 e-mail message
from the Utah attorney general's office to Novell, revealed in court, asked
for 'guidance ... preferably without involving too many people seeing this
language.'" (Declan McCullagh, "Report: MS Foes Bribed Attorneys", Wired
6). (DURABLE LINK)
April 12-14 --
Hey, no fair talking about the pot. During a 20-hour trip
from California to Texas pulling a U-Haul trailer, three young women work
their way through a bag of marijuana. Of course the ensuing
rollover accident is, like, practically totally the fault of their Firestone
and the U-Haul company, or at least so their lawyers argue in a suit against
those companies, even though the tires did not suffer the "tread separation"
that has heretofore been seen as the distinctive source of accident risk
with the now-recalled Firestones. Now Matagorda County, Tex. Judge
Craig Estlinbaum has declared a mistrial at the request of plaintiff's
lawyer Mikal Watts who complained that defense attorney Morgan Copeland
"had breached a pretrial order by introducing detailed evidence of marijuana
use" during the trip. If we read the AP story correctly, Judge Estlinbaum
had ruled that the defense could mention only that portion of the marijuana
it could prove the driver consumed, and attorney Copeland, who may now
face sanctions in the famously pro-plaintiff county, had improperly let
jurors know about the whole bag. The Ford Motor Co. was also named
as a defendant but has already settled out of the case ("Texas judge declares
mistrial in Firestone case", Yahoo/ Reuters, Apr. 5; Pam Easton, "Judge
declares Firestone mistrial", AP/ MySanAntonio.com,
Update -- additional coverage of ruling: Miriam Rozen, "Mistrial
declared in Firestone case", Texas Lawyer, Apr.
April 12-14 --
In the line of fire. Post-Enron, many companies feel the
need to seek out savvier and more experienced executives to sit on boards
and audit committees, but with escalating fears of personal liability "attracting
talent may become nearly impossible. 'Recruiting directors for the
audit committee is like calling them on deck for a kamikaze attack,' quips
[corporate finance officer Bob] Williamson." (Marie Leone, "Audit Committee?
Thanks, But No Thanks", CFO Magazine, Apr.
April 12-14 --
L.A. police sued, and sued. The family of the late James
Allen Beck, who died in a fiery shootout
with L.A. sheriff's deputies last August after barricading himself in his
home, has filed a wrongful death claim against the sheriff's department.
During the standoff Beck, an ex-police officer with a history of stockpiling
weapons at his home, shot and killed Deputy Hagop Kuredjian. ("Mother of
gunman who died in shootout files claim", Sacramento Bee, Apr.
10)(& see Feb. 23, 2000).
And: "Heirs of the late rap star Notorious B.I.G. have filed a wrongful
death and federal civil rights lawsuit against Los Angeles Police Chief
Bernard Parks, two former chiefs and the city of Los Angeles, claiming
they did not do enough to prevent the rapper's death five years ago in
a drive-by shooting." ("Notorious B.I.G. heirs sue LAPD, officials, city",
April 11 -- Don't
ban therapeutic cloning. Though not usually the
petition-signing types, we (our editor) have signed a petition
being circulated by Virginia Postrel's just-launched Franklin
Society opposing the current stampede in Congress to ban all scientific
use of cloned human cells including "therapeutic" (non-reproductive) uses,
and even the use of imported pharmaceuticals developed via such methods
(see "Criminalizing Science" (symposium), Reason, Nov.).
If you agree with us that this proposed law is a bad idea, you can sign
the petition here
and view the list of distinguished signers: despite efforts in some conservative
quarters to hand down a party line opposing this potentially life-saving
branch of biomedical research, support for it in fact cuts across the political
spectrum. For information on contacting elected representatives,
see InstaPundit, Apr.
10. (DURABLE LINK)
April 11 -- Texas
doctors' work stoppage. Monday's one-day work stoppage
by South Texas doctors outraged at spiraling malpractice costs (see Mar.
15-17) drew national attention ("Texas docs protest malpractice claims",
AP/CNN, Apr. 8; see also Dean Reynolds, "Crushing Cost of Insurance", ABCNews.com,
5 (Nev., Pa.)). And a Florida physician has launched an insurance
policy for doctors "that aims to provide them with the legal resources
they would need to countersue lawyers
or expert witnesses filing frivolous lawsuits". (Tanya Albert, "Frivolous
suits feel wrath of Medical Justice", American Medical News, Feb.
11). (DURABLE LINK)
April 11 -- Batch
of reader letters. Topics
include the "pedal-extender" suit against Ford; what happened to attorney
Alan Wolk's suit against posters who criticized him on AvWeb?; OxyContin;
suing food companies for waistline problems; police getting ticketed while
responding to calls; laws mandating handicap accessibility in private homes;
and why schools would send kids home when they have a slight sniffle.
One writer upbraids blogger Natalie Solent for thinking it crazy to impose
strict product liability on British blood suppliers that currently offer
their services free of charge to patients; he thinks she (and by extension
we) must not have stopped to consider that blood transfusions can transmit
lethal diseases like AIDS and hepatitis.
Best of all, we hear from attorney Jack Thompson, the anti-videogame
crusader who has just filed a lawsuit claiming that Sony's EverQuest game
is responsible for the suicide of a user, and he turns
out to be every bit as suave and ingratiating as we dared hope ("go
to Afghanistan where your anarchist, pro-drug views will be greatly rewarded"),
though we wonder whether he caught the phrase "as if" in our original Apr.
3 posting. Mr. Thompson will probably not appreciate Eugene Volokh's
new satirical piece for TechCentralStation.com ("Worse than Internet Addiction",
10). (DURABLE LINK)