Posted July 6:
Given its leading role in the litigation against the tobacco
industry, why exactly has the state of Florida decided to "approve the
purchase of tobacco stocks for the government's $99 billion-state pension
fund"? (June 21). If tobacco
is such a bad thing (and it would have to be for the suit to have been
anything but meritless), why is it all right for the state to turn around
and invest in it?
Come on, Florida, stick to a story and be consistent. Either tobacco
should not be used, the tobacco companies are evil and your suit had merit
OR there is nothing wrong with putting out this legal product and the suit
was only brought to fatten up some plaintiff's lawyers. Which is
it? -- William E. Davis, Esq., Ceres, Calif.
Regarding the "Love Your Neighbor" copyright dispute and Michigan attorney
Julie Greenberg's letter warning that criticism of the lawsuit damaged
her reputation and demanding that it be retracted (June
20), I sent the following email to Ms. Greenberg:
"For a good read: http://www.overlawyered.com
"For a good laugh: http://www.patlaw.com
"Reading an account of your overbearing tactics against Overlawyered.com
and against a charity group has inspired me to include the two above links
with every email I send out. The idea of a charity using a biblical
phrase in its fashion is causing harm is absurd. Your threats are
a major reason why I believe strongly that the legal community in this
country is out of control." -- Chris Covert
[We also received many other notes of support regarding the Love
Your Neighbor affair.]
Regarding your June 25
item: I would *love* it if someone organized a class-action lawsuit against
lawyers who withheld information about safety problems with Firestone
on Ford SUVs! -- Mike Sierra
[Similarly from other readers.]
Regarding the expansion of auto insurance in Ohio (June
29): in Australia and the Netherlands it is very common for company
cars to cover employees and their immediate families. In fact, I
don't think I would accept a company car if only I could drive it. --
George Schwalbe, The Hague, Netherlands.
[If we are correctly interpreting the account in the Columbus paper,
the Ohio high court went further and insisted that employers must provide
some coverage even for employees' driving of their personal vehicles, as
distinct from company cars. See also letters, Aug.
Re: your article on the lawsuit against Duane Reade by lawyers for
the handicapped in New York (June
29): A few weeks ago WNBC-TV's 6 o'clock local news carried a story
about this. There were a suitable number of people in wheelchairs
with I-can't- buy-aspirin- by-myself sob stories, lawyers with carefully
prepared sound bites, and a microphone suddenly stuck into the face of
some totally sandbagged Duane Reade store manager for his comment, thus
making the story a balanced one.
Needless to say, there was not a hint given that making aisles wide
enough for two wheelchairs to pass at speed and no shelves higher than
Toulouse-Lautrec could reach on tiptoe might have economic consequences
in terms of closed stores and higher prices.
Worse, this "news story" was the lead story that night.
It was the most important thing that had happened in the New York metropolitan
region that day, at least in the judgment of the show's editor, and the
lawyers had not even filed the suit. They had merely announced their intention
to do so. Even by the standards of local television news -- if you'll
pardon the oxymoron -- it was egregious water-carrying for the plaintiff's
Of course, since Al Sharpton is in the slammer, the local stations each
have an extra camera crew sitting around twiddling its collective thumbs.
-- John Steele Gordon, North Salem, N.Y.
I am a big fan of Overlawyered.com and am always wryly amused
and sometimes outraged at the stories you call attention to. However, I
was shocked to see the story June 19 entitled "Keeping child in her lap
= homicide conviction." Although the great majority of cases noted on the
site illustrate the legal community's abuses of power, this seems to be
a story where an extremely irresponsible and foolish parent made a bet
with her son's life and lost. Bravo to the justice system in this rare
circumstance where it served its purpose!
You don't need me to tell you that the lion's share of safety laws are
ridiculously overcautious; the laws that Latrece Jones violated, on the
other hand are in place as a result of statistical probability analysis.
For many years, car seats were used only at the discretion of a parent.
After it was shown statistically that (properly used), a car seat dramatically
increases a child's chances of survival, laws were made in many areas to
enforce this practice.
Miss Jones, like the vast majority of drivers and passengers, probably
felt that since they were only going a short distance, it would be okay.
This mentality kills people every day. They don't realize that the chances
of a collision are exactly the same whether you are going to another state
or to the next block. They think that a short trip doesn't require a seatbelt,
or a child's carseat. They ignore warnings, laws, and common sense.
Miss Jones is being punished not because her child was sitting in her
lap, as your title suggests. Lap-sitting is not a punishable offense even
here in California. Rather, she is being punished because her negligence
toward the safety of her child resulted in his death. She will likely receive
probation in lieu of two years of prison; yet how much worse a punishment
is the death of her son.
Keep up the good work. Just remember as you do so that your goal
is not lawlessness, but temperance. -- Peter Cress,
In no way do I view the prosecution for criminally negligent homicide
in the child restraint case to be excessive. Let's look at the facts.
1) The child had no ability to protect himself. He is completely
at the mercy of the supervising adult(s).
2) Child restraint is the law, and is one that few would quibble with.
3) The child died as a direct result of the actions of the adults.
At this point, a prosecutor is faced with the following choices: ignore
the failure to follow a widely-supported law, even though the consequences
of that failure were the reason the law was created in the first place;
go in for an even lesser charge, which I guess would be some sort of non-homicidal
negligence, pretty silly given that we have a death; go for a criminally
negligent homicide prosecution; or go for something more severe, such as
In this case, I believe the prosecutor took the correct action, and
further acted in a proper manner by not seeking any jail time. An innocent
child whose responsibility was entrusted to an adult was killed because
the adult chose to ignore a sensible law designed to prevent the very thing
that happened to him. And instead of going for some publicity-seeking
murder charge, the prosecutor instead sought a conviction on what the action
was: criminally-negligent (because the restraint law was violated) homicide
(proper, because the child died). To seek no prosecution here would
have been a dereliction of duty.
-- John Kingston, Carle
[Sorry, but we remain troubled by this one. There's been controversy
from early on about the practice of treating negligence as a crime when
its consequences are sufficiently terrible, since to do so tends to undercut
the traditional mens rea (evil intent) requirement of criminal law.
From the news accounts, it seems undisputed that nothing could have been
farther from Miss Jones' intent than to harm her child, nor was she was
charged with being reckless in any other way; the auto collision was neither
her fault nor even her driver's. It seems relevant to us, too, that
the car seat regulation is a recently enacted one based on what Mr. Cress
calls statistical probability analysis, leaving it arguably closer (since
we are trotting out the Latinisms) to mala prohibita (wrong because
it has been prohibited) than mala in se (wrong intrinsically).
Like mandatory seat belt laws, child-restraint laws are indeed controversial
among many who esteem liberty and distrust government's (or, as the case
may be, the insurance lobby's) claims to care more about children than
parents do. And both our correspondents agree in not wanting to send
Miss Jones to prison for having yielded to a mother's primeval instinct
to allow her child onto her lap -- another signal, in our view, that even
those who cheered her prosecution don't really regard her lapse, or lap,
It's unfortunate that Jeremy Hix (June
21), who got in so much trouble for wearing his bagpiper's uniform
to his senior prom in Michigan, has a background that is Scottish, not
Sikh. The Sikh faith requires adherents to carry a kirpan,
a small ceremonial dagger. Watching an adherent of a minority faith
go up against zero-tolerance
would be most enjoyable -- there is nothing in the world more entertaining
than the sight of two sacred cows engaged in furious head-butting.
John LeBlanc, Montreal, Canada
I think your website sucks! Whoever constituted the "brains"
or lack thereof was who instituted this sorry excuse for a website really
needs to be involved in one tragic or life-changing incident. Imagine
not being able to work any longer because your employer railroaded you
out of a job with his company and blackballed your name. Imagine
serving on a civil jury and then having the defendant (who ultimately won
the trial) encourage local doctors and or businessmen not to deal with
you or to "give you the treatment". Imagine having a loved one killed
in an accident that was caused solely by a product defect that the manufacturer
knew about and ignored cost-effective alternatives in the production process.
This website is full of half-truths and idiotic soapbox speeches.
If it wasn't for the First Amendment and other laws -- fought for and defended
by lawyers -- your website would not be posted. I wish it was not
posted but that is your right as an American. Of course, I wonder
if you are true Americans. Why don't you go to Siberia or some other
country where lawyers are not as prominent and the landscape is more pure
according to your dumb standards.
I hope your website is shut down by lack of interest and I hope that
each person responsible for the website meets with one experience in which
they sorely need a lawyer. Don't call me; do it your freaking self.
Have a rotten day.
-- "Proud lawyer", via comment form
[The "proud lawyer" also listed a name and town, in North Carolina,
but no email contact with which we could confirm his identity; absent that,
we'll skip those identifying details.]
I was looking over your excellent web site and reviewed some of the
items about "loser pays".
In America the "right" to sue will never be taken away, and "loser pays"
is always portrayed as something that would prevent poor but worthy plaintiffs
from exercising their rights. Countersuits are essentially impossible to
file when a defendant wins or the case is thrown out, no matter how absurd
There needs to be some disincentive to the freedom enjoyed by the plaintiff's
bar to sue whenever they want. The real way this should be handled, however,
is "losing attorney pays", not "loser pays." Plaintiffs attorneys are the
ones who confabulate new theories of negligence. They should be at risk
for defense costs when the plaintiff loses. If a case has a high degree
of merit, the plaintiff's attorney would pursue the case. But if the case
has little merit, the attorney would have to seriously think about his
own financial risk were he to lose. He would have to advise the potential
plaintiff "look, your case is weak and I'm not going to put my own money
into it." [The argument that a losing plaintiff's case has cost the attorney
his time is inadequate ... what about the defense attorney's time, that
the defendant must pay for?] Attorneys would undoubtedly participate in
a "losing attorney pays" indemnity insurance program so that they can cover
their own costs for cases on the margin, but that's totally appropriate.
It's the equivalent of malpractice insurance. There might be fewer settlements
of marginal cases but that's probably a good outcome, since settlements
rarely have anything to do with truth or justice. It's about time that
plaintiff's attorneys have a real disincentive to recommend an action when
the real goal is a nuisance and a settlement, or the opportunity for fabulous
wealth by cleverly weaving a web of fantasy. And this system protects meritorious
I have reviewed a large number of medical malpractice cases (for the
defense) and I see how inappropriate many of the complaints are, designed
solely to try to squeeze settlement dollars from marginally involved physicians
or hospitals, yet these docs endure irrecoverable personal, professional
and financial consquences even if they were totally blameless and prevail.
Unfortunately, it would take legislation and favorable appeals court
decisions to change the system, and all those guys are ... lawyers! --
Lawrence L. Faltz, M.D., F.A.C.P.
Regarding the case of the tipsy topless dancer (July
3-4), note that many clubs (if not most) have independent contractor
relationships with their dancers so they don't have to pay social security
tax and deal with tax withholding issues. Thus the tipsy topless
talker can evade workers comp and go after the club under Texas' Dram Shop
Act. -- Russell DePalma
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