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ARCHIVE -- FEBRUARY 2003 (I)


February 10 -- By reader acclaim: "Student sues to get A+, not A".  Memphis, Mich.: "A high school senior says he earned an A+, not an A, and has sued to get the grade changed to bolster his chance at becoming valedictorian." Brian Delekta's suit "names the school principal, superintendent and all seven school board members as defendants."  (AP/CNN, Feb. 6). (DURABLE LINK)

February 10 -- "Woman files $500,000 lawsuit for 'ruined' fingernail".  Also from Michigan: "A Clinton Township woman who had a $5 fingernail repair job done at a local salon now wants $500,000 or more in damages, claiming a beautician nicked her finger with cuticle scissors."  Ann Laerzio's lawyer says she had to undergo surgery after a resulting infection: "The $500,000 figure isn't necessarily what we'll get (in court). It's to put some attention to the case, and to how important we consider it.'" (Chad Halcom, Macomb Daily, Feb. 5). (DURABLE LINK)

February 10 -- Asbestos: "better than the lottery".  Inside one asbestos client-recruitment operation: "[A]s many as 70,000 new [lawsuits] are added each year. Most are workers or retirees invited into medical screenings by lawyers offering quick money. ... 'I saw the notice in the union newsletter and said, "Why not?"' said an automotive worker from Ford. Sitting on the tailgate of his shiny, new Chevy pickup and lighting a fresh cigarette off the one he had just finished, he added: 'It's better than the lottery. If they find something, I get a few thousand dollars I didn't have. If they don't find anything, I've just lost an afternoon.' Standing nearby, a Boeing worker 10 days from retirement volunteered, 'The lawyers said I could get $10,000 or $12,000 if the shadow [on the x-ray] is big enough, and I know just the fishing boat I'd buy with that.' Asked if he'd ever worked with asbestos, he said, 'No, but lawyers say it's all over the place, so I was probably exposed to it.'" (Andrew Schneider, "Asbestos lawsuits anger critics", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb. 8).  (DURABLE LINK)

February 6-9 -- After failed workplace romance, a $1.3 million bill.  After a three day trial, a jury has ordered the village of Bloomingdale, Illinois to pay $1.3 million dollars to a former employee who alleged that supervisors ignored her complaints about a co-worker who she said continued to pester her after their romantic relationship ended.  Worse yet, the village had given the man a promotion.  "Something every manager who thinks he or she can date a subordinate without inviting trouble should think about," comments EmployersLawyer (Feb. 3; Christy Gutowski, "Lost suit to cost village $1 million", Daily Herald (suburban Chicago), Feb. 2).  (DURABLE LINK)

February 6-9 -- Discovery abuse: spitballs at the Opera.  In a 148-page opinion, federal judge Loretta Preska ruled that New York's Metropolitan Opera was entitled to judgment in a defamation case and an award of attorney fees because of misconduct by Local 100 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union and the union's law firm, Herrick Feinstein.  Judge Preska said lawyers with the firm "completely abdicated their responsibilities".  "I am certainly familiar, both from practice and from my time on the bench, with discovery disputes that devolve into arguments about which child threw the first spitball," the judge declared. "The discovery process in this case, however, transcended the usual clashes between adversaries, sharp elbows, spitballs, and even Rambo litigation tactics."  (Mark Hamblett, "Firm's Discovery Abuse Leads to Win for Met Opera", New York Law Journal, Jan. 29). (DURABLE LINK)

February 6-9 -- Do as we say dept.: Wellstone campaign didn't buy workers' comp for its employees.  Although the late Sen. Paul Wellstone was a noted backer of stringent anti-employer legislation, it was disclosed last Friday that Wellstone's re-election campaign had failed to purchase workers' compensation insurance to cover its own employees, four of whom were killed with the senator in last October's plane crash.  Instead, a state fund is now being obliged to cover a large share of the benefits expected by the aides' families.  "State law requires employers to buy worker's compensation insurance as a safety net in the event workers are injured or killed while on the job. But election campaigns are believed to widely overlook the requirement."  Translation: we don't have to obey that stuff, do we? (Greg Gordon, "Wellstone campaign aides weren't covered by worker's comp insurance", Minneapolis Star Tribune, Feb. 1). (DURABLE LINK)

February 6-9 -- Tort suits over global warming.  "Rather than treaties and regulations, litigation may soon be the weapon of choice for those concerned about human-induced global warming."  Among other efforts is that of recent Yale Law grad David Grossman: "In a paper to be published in the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law, Grossman argues that tort litigation over global warming -- in which communities or states seek damages from oil companies, electric utilities and automobile manufacturers -- is entirely feasible."  Among the desired effects: to "make fossil fuels more expensive and thus force corporations to pay more attention to renewable energy. ... So donít be surprised if 'See you in court' becomes the environmentalist's new rallying cry."  (Madhusree Mukerjee, "Greenhouse Suits: Litigation becomes a tool against global warming", Scientific American, Feb. 3) (see Jul. 31, 2001). (DURABLE LINK)

February 4-5 -- We own e-commerce.  A little-known company in San Diego named PanIP, or Pangea Intellectual Properties, holds patents which it claims cover basic elements of electronic commerce.  It files lawsuits against businesses across the country, particularly small and medium-sized companies engaged in Internet sales, and then demands sums ranging to $30,000 or more in exchange for dropping the complaints.  Some of PanIP's targets have organized a website entitled YouMayBeNext.com to spread the alarm and encourage resistance.  (Jon Van, "Firm claims patent on e-commerce", Chicago Tribune/Newark Star-Ledger, Feb. 3; "Every E-Commerce Site is Threatened", press release, Internet News Bureau, Jul. 11; Slashdot thread, May 2002).  (DURABLE LINK)

February 4-5 -- "Governance by Lawyers".  "Tort law is not the only aspect of the litigation spectrum that should be on Congress' agenda this term. Congress should also address the phenomenon known as institutional reform litigation. We refer to the process -- which has grown exponentially over the last 30 years -- in which advocacy groups bring suits resulting in consent decrees; those decrees then effectively -- and inflexibly -- run public agencies and institutions, sometimes for decades.  Institutional reform decrees dealing with special education, foster care, mental health, public health and dozens of other state and local programs continue -- sometimes decades after their issuance -- without any real regard to whether court control still is needed to protect rights or whether the decree is the best way to achieve statutory goals. Courts base these cases mostly on rights embedded in federal statutes like the Americans With [Disabilities] Act or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act."  Ross Sandler and David Schoenbrod summarize the argument of their important new book Democracy by Decree (National Law Journal, Jan. 20).   (DURABLE LINK)

February 4-5 -- Slip, fall, learn who to blame.  Law firm promotion, or lawsuit incitement?  On the website of Florida plaintiff's firm Jacobs and Goodman is found the following passage: "In the United States, more than a million people are injured each year in falls. Oftentimes, if your loved one has been previously injured or is elderly or disabled, you might have a tendency to assume that they are responsible for the accident. However, we at Jacobs & Goodman have worked with kinesiologists to help us understand the study of motion and to help you, the injured, look beyond your assumptions to find the actual cause of the accident." ("Premises Liability" section) (DURABLE LINK)

February 4-5 -- Sanity restored?  Three cases ruled on by the courts in the last month or so "offer hope that sanity can be restored to product liability litigation", writes syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum.  Besides the dismissal of a McDonald's-obesity case by a New York judge, and one of the pack of pending individual-smoker cases by a California judge, "a Florida judge threw out a verdict against the gun distributor that sold the pistol used by 12-year-old Nathaniel Brazill to kill schoolteacher Barry Grunow in the summer of 2000. Last November a jury found the distributor, Valor Corp., 5 percent responsible for Grunow's death and said it should pay $1.2 million to his widow." (see Dec. 13-15). Cites our editor's new book on issues of jury selection ("Defective Arguments", Jan. 31).  Also see Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review "The Corner", Jan. 14 (DURABLE LINK)

February 3 -- Claim: marriage impaired by tough bagel.  Panama City Beach, Fla.: "A couple is suing the franchisee of a McDonald's restaurant, claiming an improperly prepared bagel damaged the husband's teeth and their marriage."  John and Cecelia O'Hare "contend in the suit that John O'Hare broke teeth and bridgework on Feb. 1, 2002 when he bit into the bagel. The suit did not say what exactly was wrong with the bagel. The suit alleges the wife 'lost the care, comfort, consortium and society of her husband.' ... Tracey Johnstone, owner of [franchisee/defendant] Johnstone Foods, said she never before had a bagel complaint and had no idea how it could have been prepared in a way that would damage teeth. 'It's a bagel,' she said." ("Couple Sue McDonald's Over Tough Bagel", AP/Kansas City Star, Feb. 1).  (DURABLE LINK)

February 3 -- NFL said to blame for Bengals' haplessness.  Cincinnati: "Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune sued the Bengals and the National Football League claiming the team violated its stadium lease by failing to be competitive. Portune filed the lawsuit Thursday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court as a private taxpayer, without backing from other commissioners. The complaint, which also named the other 31 NFL franchises as defendants, alleges fraud, civil conspiracy, antitrust violations and breach of contract."  In return for municipal concessions on stadium construction, "the Bengals promised to field a competitive team, Portune said. Cincinnati hasn't made the playoffs since 1990, and just finished the worst season in franchise history at 2-14." (Terry Kinney, "Commissioner sues Bengals, NFL", AP/Cincinnati Enquirer, Jan. 31). (DURABLE LINK)



 
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