In the New York legislature, bowling alleys are hoping to win a law protecting them from slip-fall liability arising after their customers wear store-rented shoes outside the building and either slip there or track snow or other slippery matter back inside. Weather hazards have been tripping up more customers of the ordinarily indoor sport, it seems, since the state enforced a complete indoor smoking ban. The trial lawyer association is dead set against the bill; its president claims that the bill “undercuts the constitutional right to a trial by a jury” — presumably on the theory that it somehow undercuts trial by jury for a legislature to roll back any instance of liability for anyone anywhere. That’s sheer nonsense, of course — otherwise, it’d have been unconstitutional for legislatures around most of the country to have abolished the old heartbalm torts of breach of promise to marry and alienation of affection. [Albany Times-Union via Future of Capitalism] More: Lowering the Bar.
Should the damages be confined to the unrecoverable costs of the planned wedding, or extend beyond that? [Today Show]
Wayne Gibbs and RoseMary Shell were engaged to be married. Gibbs gave Shell an expensive engagement ring, and $30,000 to pay off her debts, but discovered that her financial situation was considerably more precarious, and broke off the engagement. (Shell also alleges that Gibbs was cheating on her.) Shell sued, and a jury awarded $150,000. (“Hall Co. jury awards jilted bride $150,000”, WDUN, Jul. 23; ABC News, Jul. 23).
Of course, if the two married, and Gibbs filed for a no-fault divorce a couple of days later, Shell would have no cause of action. One of many reasons that breach of promise to marry suits are especially absurd in twenty-first century America.