November 19 roundup

  • By popular demand: Alexis Brennan gives hot chocolate to daughter in carseat, little girl spills drink and burns herself after mom drives away, mom sues Starbucks; press mentions one hot coffee case where plaintiff won, and none of the dozen-plus where plaintiffs had claims thrown out. (This case is distinguishable from the McDonald’s coffee case if the mother’s claim that she specifically asked for a low-temperature drink holds up.) [Indianapolis Star; WRTV]
  • Former placekicker and current Illinois Supreme Court Justice Robert Thomas wins $7 million libel judgment from newspaper that dared to criticize him. Newspaper unable to defend truth of its reporting, because its discovery requests were blocked by claims of “judicial privilege.” [Lattman; Bashman]
  • Copyright trolls inhibit hip-hop music. Is that a bug or a feature? [Tim Wu @ Slate]
  • Judge to class action plaintiffs: tell me about your dealings with Milberg. [Point of Law]
  • “Plaintiff draws $1.26M penalty. Judge sends developer message: ‘Scorched-earth litigation’ will cost you.” [Knoxville News]
  • Second Circuit: Illegal aliens may sue for wages at U.S. levels. [Madeira v. Affordable Housing Foundation; New York Sun; both via Bashman]
  • UK Guy Fawkes crowd forced to resort to “virtual bonfire” because of liability fears over real one. [Evening Standard; apologies for losing the hat-tip]
  • Burlington Northern & Santa Fe to artists: don’t paint paintings of our trains or else. [CL&P Blog]
  • Borat update: “One immediate handicap the two fraternity brothers bring to this legal battle is an inability to find a lawyer who knows how to spell ‘aisle.'” [Slate]
  • ATLA on the offense in the new Congress, but their fifth Congressional target, Heather Wilson, held on to her seat against AG Patricia Madrid (Sep. 13). [Point of Law; Albuquerque Tribune]
  • Reliving deregulation debates. [Wallison @ AEI]
  • Inconsistent Internet gambling ban violates existing treaty, may result in trade sanctions; Congress must now decide whether to annoy anti-gambling Puritans, American IP content providers, or horse-racing and lottery industry. [Slate]
  • Roundup of links on new UK law on derivative suits. [Point of Law]
  • World ends: minorities and women hardest hit, as applied to noneconomic damages. [Point of Law; Roth CPA]


  • Agreed that press reports on the hot chocolate case disserve informed public discussion in failing to mention the various spilled coffee cases that have been thrown out. That omission gives sustenance to the myth, assiduously cultivated by some, that our legal system is plagued by such problems as hot coffee liability run amok.

  • The official position of ATLA is that Stella Liebeck’s case reached the correct, aspirational, result and that the majority of cases that threw identical claims out are incorrect. Even today, torts students are being taught that Liebeck’s case is legitimate. If one googles for the McDonald’s coffee case, nine out of the ten top links erroneously argue for its legitimacy–the tenth is this site.

    The Liebeck case illustrates many things that are wrong with our liability system, ranging from bogus expert testimony to the game-show tactics of tricking witnesses in depositions to punitive damages divorced from intentional wrongdoing to the increasing disappearance of proximate causation in torts cases. As such, it’s entirely appropriate for this site to note that case’s problems.

  • “Illegal aliens may sue for wages at U.S. levels.”

    In any sane universe, whther they were allowed to do that or not would be moot, as they would be dported immediately upon confession to being an illegal alien.

    What utter insanity.

  • The DOJ should assist them in these lawsuits to recover as much as possible from the employers – and then fine the illegal aliens the amount recovered before deporting them…