Posts Tagged ‘Coca-Cola’

Diet Coke formula: variation = unfairness

As has been reported here and there for years, Diet Coke as it is served at soda fountains is sweetened in part with saccharin, whereas the version sold in cans and bottles is sweetened with more expensive aspartame. We always assumed that the reason must be that competition between brands is more intense in the supermarket aisle than in restaurants, but the Coca-Cola company cites another reason for the formula variation, saying aspartame is not as stable in fountain use. At any rate, class-action lawyers have now filed lawsuits in Florida, Illinois and California on behalf of beverage drinkers supposedly victimized by this practice. The company says the allegations in the various lawsuits are identical and that it expects to prevail. (Lawrence Viele, Bloomberg/Oakland Tribune, Mar. 26)

“Trial Lawyers Inc.”

In an editorial yesterday, the Wall Street Journal hailed the new study by the Manhattan Institute (with which I’m affiliated) dissecting the finances and operating methods of what might be “America’s only recession-proof industry: the plaintiffs’ bar. … [The] estimated $40 billion in revenues our tort warriors took in for 2001 was 50% more than Microsoft or Intel and double that of Coca-Cola.” (Sept. 23, online subscribers only). More coverage: Marguerite Higgins, “Lawsuit industry generates billions”, Washington Times, Sept. 24; UPI/Washington Times, Sept. 24. The study itself, along with updates and lots of other related information, can be found at the eponymous site TrialLawyersInc.com.

A career of suing foodmakers

“A fast-food company like McDonald’s may not be responsible for the entire obesity epidemic,” litigious law prof John Banzhaf tells Time, “but let’s say they’re 5% responsible. Five percent of $117 billion is still an enormous amount of money.” Brian Murphy, a recent Rutgers law grad who attended this summer’s Northeastern U. let’s-sue-foodmakers confab, said: “It’s a very important and pressing issue, and its outcome will be with us for years to come. I’m hoping to be able to build a career out of this issue.”

However, even many anti-sweets activists gag at Banzhaf’s notion of suing school districts that enter vending-machine deals. “Brita Butler-Wall, executive director of Seattle-based Citizens’ Campaign for Commercial-Free Schools, has been lobbying the school board for more than a year to get rid of the Coca-Cola contract. Yet, as a parent of an eighth-grader in a local public school, she says, ‘I don’t want to see our district spending its money hiring more lawyers to fight a legal battle.’ Adam Drewnowski, director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition at the University of Washington, says, ‘If you want to influence the school board, you run for a seat on the board. Threatening a lawsuit is almost like blackmail. It’s just unconscionable.'” (Laura Bradford, “Fat Foods: Back in Court”, Time, Aug. 3).

Fast food second update

You can never have too much information about fast food lawsuits department: The Center for Consumer Freedom is running humorous ads on news channels showing a lawyer cross-examining a Girl Scout for selling Girl Scout cookies. (Marguerite Higgins, “Food companies use humor as defense in ads,” Washington Times, June 26). Thing is, plaintiffs’ lawyers are immune to parody: John Banzhaf threatens to sue the Seattle school district if it agrees to renew a $400,000 contract with Coca-Cola for vending machines. (Deborah Bach, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 2).

Archived workplace items, pre-July 2003

U.K. roundup” (perennial litigant), Jun. 12-15, 2003.

‘Resumé spam saddles employers’“, Jun. 3, 2003.

Fair Labor Standards Act, overtime and employee classification suits, 2003:Schools roundup“, Apr. 9.  2001:Wal-Mart- as-‘cult’-suit: it is about the money“, Jun. 14.  2000:Goodbye to gaming volunteers?“, Sept. 12 (& update Oct. 3); “Why rush that software project, anyway?” (California overtime law), March 29; “And so now everybody’s happy” (temps fired in wake of Microsoft decision), Feb. 17 (& see letters, Dec. 20); “Strippers in court” (challenge to independent contractor status), Jan. 28; “Microsoft temps can sue for stock options“, Jan. 11. 1999:Don’t call us professionals!“, Oct. 1-3; “Click here to sue!” (AOL volunteers who want to be recategorized as employees), Sept. 7; “Do as we say (I)” (overtime suit filed against Justice Department on behalf of its own lawyers), Aug. 30; “Click here to sue!” (Seattle law firm offers easy way to sign up for labor law class actions), Aug. 19.

It ain’t heavy to him, he’s my brother“, May 1-2, 2003; “Firehouse blues” (too-short firefighter), Feb. 20-21, 2002; “Non-pregnant rescuers, please“, Sept. 13, 2001; “Litigators vs. standardized tests, II: who needs sharp cops?“, Feb. 9-11, 2001; “Slow down, it’s just a fire” (Canadian high court strikes down firefighter speed test), Sept. 17-19, 1999; “Perps got away, but equity was served” (Lanning v. SEPTA: challenge to running test given to prospective transit cops), Sept. 15, 1999 (& Oct. 5-7, 2001, Oct. 25-27, 2002).

U.K.: ‘Killer wrongly sacked for axe attack’“, Apr. 7-8, 2003.

Maybe crime pays dept.” (annual roundup of weird employment and labor law cases), Apr. 1, 2003.

Their own petard, 2003:Wellstone campaign didn’t buy worker’s comp for its employees“, Feb. 6-9. 2002:‘Civil Rights Agency Retaliated Against Worker, EEOC Rules’“, Jun. 14-16; “‘Disability rights attorney accused of having inaccessible office’“, Apr. 25. 2001:EEOC sued for age bias“, Mar. 6.  2000:White House pastry chef harassment suit“, Sept. 18.  1999:Do as we say (I)” (overtime suit filed against Justice Department on behalf of its own lawyers), Aug. 30 (more).

Race-bias cases gone wrong“, Jan. 24-26, 2003.

Vt. high court: ALL-CAPS DISCLAIMER on front page of employee handbook not unambiguous enough“, Jan. 17-19, 2003.

Ninth Circuit panel sniffs collusion in bias settlement fees“, Dec. 16-17, 2002.

Public employee entrenchment, 2002:Munched zoo animals, gets six months severance” (Germany), Nov. 8-10; “Convicted, but still on their teaching jobs“, Jul. 10-11; “School told to rehire cocaine abuser“, Mar. 20-21.  2001:‘Poor work tolerated, employees say’“, Nov. 15.  2000:Reprimand ‘very serious’ for teacher” (had given 11-year-old girl money to buy marijuana), June 27; “‘Foreman who slept on job wins reinstatement’“, June 7; “From the labor arbitration front” (disallowed firing of Ct. town employee who pleaded no contest to larceny), March 28;  “Not to be dismissed” (unfireable workers, Canada and U.K.), Feb. 25. 1999:Better than reading a lunchtime novel” (IRS employee sues; fired for accessing taxpayers’ personal returns 476 times), Oct. 25; “Undislodgeable educators” (teacher peer review undermined by tenure legalities), Aug. 18.

‘Nannies to sue for racial bias’” (U.K.), Oct. 30-31, 2002.

Looking back on EEOC v. Sears” (sex discrimination, statistics and history), Oct. 28-29, 2002.

Appearance and authenticity, 2002:‘Demand for more ugly people on TV’” (Norway: higher “ugly quotas” sought), Oct. 21. 2001:Facial-jewelry discrimination charged“, Jul. 2; “Pregnant actress complains at being denied virgin role“, Jun. 21; “‘Fired transsexual dancers out for justice’“, Mar. 23-25.  2000:Appearance-blind hiring?“, Dec. 26-29; “Latest female Santa case“, Dec. 13-14 (and see Dec. 18-19); “Wal-Mart wins female Santa case“, Oct. 12; “Next: gender-blind stage casting?” (theme restaurant’s hiring of males as “riverboat tough” food servers), Mar. 24-26.

U.K.: ‘Dr. Botch’ sues hospital for wrongful dismissal“, Oct. 18-20, 2002; “Let them sue us!” (hospitals get sued if they withdraw privileges from questionable doctors), Mar. 23, 2000.

‘Inundations of electronic resumes pose problems for employers’“, Oct. 16-17, 2002.

Latest sacked-Santa suit“, Oct. 9-10, 2002 (& Dec. 13-14 and Oct. 12, 2000)

Right to break workplace rules and then return“, Sept. 16-17, 2002.

Personal responsibility roundup” (workers’ comp told to compensate worker for his suicide attempt), Sept. 12, 2002; “‘Court upholds workers compensation for drunk, injured worker’“, April 6-8, 2001.

National origin, language on the job, 2002:Hiring apple pickers = racketeering“, Sept. 9-10; “‘Surgeon halts operation over foreign nurses’ poor English’“, Jul. 25; “No ‘flood’ of Muslim or Arab discrimination complaints“, Jun. 17-18; “Must-know-Spanish rules defended“, May 28-29; “High court nixes back pay for illegal aliens“, Apr. 3-4.  2001:Sued if you do dept.: language in the workplace“, Dec. 19 (& Nov. 17, 1999); “Competitor can file RICO suit over hiring of illegal aliens“, Dec. 13-14; “Opponents of profiling, still in the driver’s seat“, Nov. 2-4; “Employee’s right to jubilate over Sept. 11 attack“, Oct. 9 (& letters, Oct. 22). 2000: Christian Science Monitor on accent discrimination, see Dec. 18-19; “Green cards gather moss” (immigration delays), Feb. 4; “Back pay obtained for illegal aliens“, Jan. 10 (& Oct. 28, 1999).  1999:52 green-card pickup” (rules against asking for too much documentation of citizenship in hiring), Oct. 29; “Say what?” (accent), Reason, November 1997.

Ambulance driver who broke for doughnuts entitled to sue“, Nov. 2-4, 2001 (& Jun. 28-30, 2002).

Not worth the hassle?” (Home Depot tries to avoid federal contractor status), Jun. 17-18, 2002.

Advertisement for ‘friendly’ employee deemed discriminatory“, Jun. 10, 2002.

Catharine MacKinnon, call your office“, May 16, 2002.

Soap star: ABC wrote my character out of the show” (“medical leave” for drug rehab), Apr. 10, 2002.

Will EU silence the pipes?” (occupational noise regulation), Mar. 8-10, 2002; “Britain’s delicate soldiery“, Dec. 22-25, 2000.

Retaliation:Inability to get along with co-workers” (employer’s counterclaim as retaliation), Mar. 8-10, 2002; “Latest lose-on-substance, win-on-retaliation case“, Oct. 16, 2001; “Latest lose-on-substance, win-on-retaliation employment claim“, Jan. 25, 2000; “Employment-law retaliation: real frogs from ‘totally bogus’ gardens“, Sept. 29, 1999.

Aerobics studio mustn’t favor the svelte“, Feb. 27-28, 2002 (& update May 10-12).

Jarring discord” (Audubon String Quartet), June 5, 2000 (& June 14, 2001, Nov. 13, 2001, May 10-12, 2002).

European workplace notes“, Feb. 25-26, 2002.

‘The Enron mythos’” (employee compensation, 401(k)), Feb. 15-17, 2002.

Sept. 11 and court awards” (price, payouts of employment liability insurance soar), Jan. 14-15, 2002; “‘Workers win more lawsuits, awards’“, March 29, 2001.

‘UK women can demand to know men’s salaries’“, Dec. 28, 2001-Jan. 1, 2002.

Menace of office-park geese“, Dec. 13-14, 2001.

‘Halliburton shares plunge on verdict’” (law-firm whistleblowing), Dec. 10, 2001.

An ill wind” (layoffs mean prosperity for employment lawyers), Dec. 4, 2001.

Rejecting an Apple windfall” (race discrimination suit), Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2001.

Sued if you do dept.: co-worker’s claim of rape“, Nov. 7-8, 2001.

In the mean time, let them breathe spores” (OSHA and anthrax), Nov. 6, 2001.

Judge may revive ‘Millionaire’ ADA case” (Echabazal v. Chevron: employer’s right to turn away workers who would be injured by job), Nov. 5, 2001.

‘Attorney Ordered To Pay Fees for “Rambo” Tactics’“, Oct. 5-7, 2001; “Even the chance of loser-pays helps keep ’em honest” (pilots’ union bid for back pay), August 12, 1999.

Employment class actions: EEOC to the rescue“, Sept. 10, 2001.

Not discriminatory to kick sleeping worker’s chair” (includes item on U.K. employee privacy), Sept. 3, 2001.

Firefighter’s demand: back pay for time facing criminal rap“, Aug. 29-30, 2001.

Negligent to lack employee spouse-abuse policy?“, Aug. 29-30, 2001.

N.J. court declares transsexuals protected class“, July 30, 2001; “‘Fired transsexual dancers out for justice’“, March 23-25, 2001; “Columnist-fest” (transgender employee sues over no-skirt order), May 31, 2000.

Age discrimination law:Research for lawyers, courtesy of their targets“, July 6-8, 2001; “EEOC sued for age bias“, March 6, 2001; “‘Toronto Torch’ age-bias suit” (stripper), May 23, 2000; “Take the settlement, sue anyway“, March 13; “‘Tenure Gridlock: When Professors Choose Not To Retire’“, March 3-5; “‘The case for age discrimination’“, Jan. 20, 2000; “Age-bias law expands” (Calif., N.J. developments), Aug. 12, 1999.

Court says tipsy topless dancer can sue club“, Jul. 3-4, 2001.

‘Hearsay harassment’ not actionable“, Jun. 12, 2001.

Dispatches from abroad” (U.K. policeman claims snoring resulted from inhalation of cannabis), May 28, 2001.

Six-hour police standoff no grounds for loss of job, says employee“, May 21, 2001.

Letter to the editor” (arbitration agreements), Apr. 16, 2001.

Comparable worth in Maine” (state enacts “pay equity”), April 20-22, 2001; “Comparable worth: it’s back“, May 17, 2000.

‘2000’s Ten Wackiest Employment Lawsuits’“, Apr. 13-15, 2001.

‘Kava tea drinker alleges bias in FedEx firing’“, Mar. 19-20, 2001.

Ergonomics:Narrow escape from ergonomic regs“, March 9-11, 2001; “‘Cop’s claim: gun belt too heavy’“, Feb. 23-25, 2001; “Born to regulate“, June 28, 2000; “Go ahead and comment — if it’ll do much good” (OSHA ergonomics regulations), March 17-19, 2000; “Repetitive motion injury Hall of Fame” (phone sex operator), Nov. 22, 1999.

Forbidden paint zone” (New York City schools’ 10-foot rule), Feb. 27, 2001.

Employees not tenured in California“, Feb. 7-8, 2001.

Digital serfs?“, Jan. 26-28, 2001.

‘Firms mum on troubled workers’“, Jan. 22-23, 2001.

Police-record discrimination:Coming soon to a school near you” (applicant with police record OK’d since no convictions), Jan. 17, 2001; “‘Killer’s suit alleges job discrimination’“, Jan. 15, 2001; “You were negligent to hire me” (undisclosed rape-related conviction), May 30, 2000; “Hire that felon, or else”  (Wisc. law protects felons from job discrimination), Jan. 7, 2000 (& earlier commentary: Sept. 24, 1999).

Stressed out in New Hampshire” (stress from legitimate workplace criticism triggers workers’ comp), Jan. 4, 2000; “Stress of listening to clients’ problems” (masseuse wins benefits), June 21, 2000; “Weekend reading” (workplace psychological injury claims), July 31-August 1, 1999.

Damages, big numbers:Big numbers” (Kroger Co. hit for $55 million after workplace accident), April 16, 2001; “Property taxes triple after wrongful-termination suit“, Dec. 20, 2000; “‘Stock Options: A Gold Mine for Racial-Discrimination Suits?’“, Dec. 11-12; “How to succeed in business?” (Christian Curry case), Nov. 20; “Wonder Bread hierarchy too white, suit charges“, July 10 (updates Aug. 4: jury awards $132 M damages and Oct. 10: judge cuts award by $97 M); “Penalty for co.’s schedule inflexibility: 30 years’ front pay” (ADA), June 16-18; “Record employment verdict thrown out” (Lane v. Hughes Aircraft), March 9, 2000; “From our mail sack: memoir of a morsel” (Calif. employer’s story), Nov. 24-25, 1999; “The stuffed-grape-leaf standard” (litigator says $300K isn’t that much money), August 14-15, 1999.

Promising areas for suits” (broken interview promises, third party suits to sidestep workers’ comp limits), Dec. 7, 2000.

‘Company Is Told to Stay and Face New Union’“, Nov. 24-26, 2000; NLRB lurches left”, Oct. 11, 2000.

Obese soldiers class action“, Nov. 10-12, 2000.

New unfairness for old” (Employment Non-Discrimination Act), Oct. 26, 2000.

Prospect of injury no reason not to hire” (ADA), July 5, 2000; and see disabled-rights page.

Judge tells EEOC to pay employer’s fees“, Oct. 5, 2000.

When sued, be sure to respond” (Wal-Mart transsexual employee), Jul. 21-23, 2000 (update Sept. 6-7: judge grants retrial after default judgment).

EEOC: offbeat beliefs may be protected against workplace bias“, Sept. 5, 2000.

Losing your legislative battles?  Just sue instead” (contraception coverage by employer health plans), July 26-27, 2000.

Coke:‘Coca-Cola settles race suit’“, Nov. 17-19, 2000; “Class-action lawyers to Coke clients: you’re fired“, Jul. 21-23; “‘Coke plaintiff eavesdrops on lawyers; case unravels’“, Jul. 19-20; “‘Ad deal links Coke, lawyer in suit’” (Willie Gary, suing Coke on behalf of clients, enters into a lucrative ad deal with it), May 11, 2000.

Chutzpah is. . .” (marital-status discrimination case by boss’s ex-son-in-law), Jul. 18, 2000.

Welcome readers” (CNNfn article advising workers thinking of suing employers; cites this site), Jun. 19, 2000; “Favorite bookmark” (head of Employment Policy Foundation likes this site), May 23, 2000.

Look for the Kiwi label” (sweatshops), Jun. 9-11, 2000.

Another Mr. Civility nominee” (associate at law firm asks for bonus, is fired), June 2-4, 2000; “Smudged plumage” (Angelos’s Orioles won’t hire Cuban defectors), May 24, 2000.

Funny hats and creative drawing“, May 1, 2000.

Employer-based health coverage in retreat?“, Mar. 31-April 2, 2000.

OSHA and at-home workers:OSHA & telecommuters: the long view“, April 7-9, 2000; “Update: OSHA in full retreat on home office issue“, Jan. 29-30; “OSHA at-home worker directive“, Jan. 8-9; “OSHA backs off on home-office regulation“, Jan. 6; “Beyond parody: ‘OSHA Covers At-Home Workers’“, Jan. 5, 2000.

Feds’ mission: target Silicon Valley for race complaints“, Feb. 29, 2000.

Judgment reversed in Seinfeld case“, Feb. 26-27, 2000.

Private job bias lawsuits tripled in 1990s“, Jan. 19, 2000; “Employee lawsuits increasing” (Society for Human Resource Management survey), August 25, 1999.

Warn and be sued” (industrial psychologist found liable for warning co-workers of patient’s violent fantasies), Jan. 12, 2000; “Indications of turbulence” (pilot whose mental fitness for duty was challenged wins partial back pay), Dec. 1, 1999.

Christmas lawyer humor” (“Restructuring at the North Pole” parody), Dec. 23-26, 1999.

Truth in recruitment?” (N.J. jury verdict), Dec. 17-18, 1999.

From the quote file” (Legal Times: U.S. Supreme Court as nation’s chief human resources manager), Dec. 15, 1999.

Under surveillance at work?Hold your e-tongue” (employee emails), Nov. 9, 1999; “EEOC encourages anonymous harassment complaints“, Sept. 3; “Please — there are terminals present” (email censorship and harassment law), July 30; “‘Destroy privacy expectations: lawyer’” (advice managers are getting), July 26, 1999.

Bring a long book” (New York takes average of seven years to adjudicate discrimination complaints), Nov. 4, 1999.

Perkiness a prerequisite?” (bias suit says employer wanted workers to look like “Doris Day or the boy next door”), Nov. 2, 1999.

New Jersey court system faces employment complaint“, Oct. 21, 1999.

Blackboard jungle” (Ann Arbor, Mich. substitute teachers’ suit gets $30 million), Sept. 14, 1999.

Labor Day: ‘Overworked America?’“, Sept. 7, 1999.

Big numbers” (Kroger worker $55 million award not blocked by workers’ comp), April 16, 2001; “Block PATH to lawsuits” (claims against NY-NJ commuter line under Federal Employer’s Liability Act), Sept. 1, 1999.

Ohio high court says forget tort reform; should unionists be cheering?” (unions exempted from exposure to many injury suits), August 17, 1999.

You made me defame myself” (workplace defamation law doctrine of “self-compelled publication”), August 10, 1999.

All have lost, and all must have damages” (suit against employer by insurance agent who sold allegedly deceptive policies), August 3, 1999.


Other writings by Overlawyered.com‘s editor: The Excuse Factory: What Happened When America Unleashed the Lawsuit (Free Press, 1997); writings on disabled rights/ADA; on harassment and sex discrimination law; on other branches of discrimination law.

Archived legal ethics items, pre-July 2003

Bar discipline and client protection, 2003: Probate’s misplaced trust” (Washington Post series), Jun. 16-17. 2002:Crumbs from the table“, Feb. 8-10.  2001:Law firm sued over fen-phen settlement practices“, Dec. 28; “Updates” (IOLTA), Dec. 15-16 (& Jan. 31); “Holiday special” (Canadian lawyer’s misconduct), May 28; “Mills of legal discipline” (updates on Brock, Hager, Fieger cases), Mar. 3; “Dangers of complaining about lawyers” (Ga. considers easing defamation counter-complaints by lawyers), Mar. 30-Apr. 1.  2000:‘Judge Lenient With Perjurer, Cites Clinton Case’“, Oct. 16-17 (& May 16); “Disbarred, with an asterisk” (Mass. has let many attorneys resume practice), Sept. 20; “Funds that don’t protect” (client protection funds), Aug. 23-24; “Fit to practice?” (California bar disciplinary board), Aug. 21-22; “That Hager case” (American U. law professor Mark Hager, settlement of Warner-Lambert Nix lice treatment case), Feb. 23 (& update May 3, 2001: board recommends three-year suspension). 

New legal ethics weblog” (ethicalEsq.?), Jun. 6-8, 2003.

Judicial conduct, 2003:Year’s most injudicious judges”  (NLJ roundup), May 6. 2002:‘Federal authorities say judge offered illegal payoff’“, Sept. 3-4; “‘Privileged chambers’” (Albany Times-Union series), May 30; “‘Injudicious conduct’” (NLJ roundup), May 1-2; “La. officials seek oyster judge recusal“, Mar. 25-26; “So depressed he stole $300K“, Mar. 19.  2001:‘Pseudologica fantastica’ won’t fly” (judge’s resum?ibs), June 7 (& update Aug. 20-21); “‘Judges behaving badly’” (NLJ roundup), May 11-13.  2000:Year’s most injudicious judges“, Jun. 5, 2000; “Brockovich story, cont’d: the judges’ cruise“, Apr. 18; “New Hampshire high court blowup“, Apr. 5 (& updates Oct. 11: chief justice acquitted at impeachment; May 3, 2001); “The costs of disclosure” (Washington state, Grant Anderson case), Jan. 19. 

Class action lawyer takes $20 million from defendant’s side“, Mar. 15-16, 2003.

Politico’s law associate suspended over ‘runner’ use” (Louisiana), Feb. 14-16, 2003.

Civility:Law’s attraction for the bully“, Dec. 13-15, 2002; “‘Attorney Ordered To Pay Fees for “Rambo” Tactics’“, Oct. 5-7, 2001; “Mills of legal discipline” (Geoffrey Fieger tirade against judges), May 3, 2001 (& more on Fieger: Apr. 23-24, 2002, Sept. 14, 1999; “Another Mr. Civility nominee” (“dreck”, “scum”), June 2-4, 2000; “From the incivility frontier” (“gag a maggot off a meat wagon”, “proctology exam”), April 19; “Majesty of the law” (alleged threat to kill opposing counsel), March 13, 2000 (& update May 17: attorney sanctioned); “Bright future in some areas of practice” (“abusive, hostile” applicant for law license), Oct. 13, 1999 (update, Nov. 23). 

Race-bias cases gone wrong“, Jan. 24-26, 2003.

Lawyers fret about bad image” (Fla. bar plans to rate and monitor tone of journalists’ coverage), Oct. 3, 2002. 

FTC cracks down on excessive legal fees“, Oct. 1-2, 2002. 

Second Circuit: we mean business about stopping frivolous securities suits” (scope of Rule 11), Aug. 29-Sept. 2, 2002. 

Lawyer’s 44-hour workday“, Jun. 28-30, 2002; “Charged $16,000 for brief he copied from book“, May 17-19, 2002; “Lending rules trip up litigation-finance firms“, Dec. 3, 2001; Letter to the editor (incremental billing disclosed?), Oct. 22, 2001; “Law-firm bill-padding?  Say it isn’t so!“, Nov. 18, 1999. 

‘Student gets diploma after threatening lawsuit’“, Jun. 13, 2002.

Truth value, 2002:Lying’s not nice, especially when representing the bar“, Jul. 30-31; “Columbia Law School survey on public attitude toward lawyers“, Apr. 26-28; “‘Ex-student sentenced for rape lie’” (wants to become attorney), Jan. 11-13 (& see May 26-29, 2000: Stephen Glass graduates Georgetown Law).  2001: Criminal defense attorneys, doing what they do best“, Dec. 15-16; “‘Lawyers pay price for cruel hoaxes’” (phony heir claims after plane crashes), Aug. 3-5; “‘Lie-tery winners’“, April 20-22.  2000:What was the Florida court thinking?” (Boies-submitted affidavit), Dec. 11-12; “‘Judge Lenient With Perjurer, Cites Clinton Case’“, Oct. 16-17 (& May 16); “The judge wasn’t asleep” (sanctions for submission of dubious affidavits), June 14-15.  1999:If true, then all the better” (excerpt from Campos, Jurismania), Dec. 3-5; and see witness coaching, below. 

‘”Little” done for firm, Rendell says’” (law firms provide no-show jobs for politicians), May 9, 2002. 

‘Former clients sue attorney O’Quinn’” (Kennedy Heights case), Apr. 8-9, 2002 (& Aug. 4, 1999).

Gary & Co. shenanigans at Maris trial“, Apr. 1-2, 2002. 

Lawyers stage sham trial aimed at inculpating third party“, Mar. 22-24, 2002. 

Disclosure:Lending rules trip up litigation-finance firms“, Dec. 3, 2001; Letter to the editor (incremental billing disclosed?), Oct. 22, 2001; “Trial lawyers knew of tire failures, didn’t inform safety regulators“, June 25 (& June 28)(& letter to the editor, July 6); Letter to the editor (ghostwriting), June 13; “ABA’s toothless ethics proposals“, Jan. 17, 2001; “Contingency fee reform“, Nov. 1, 2000. 

Contingent fees, 2001:Lending rules trip up litigation-finance firms“, Dec. 3; “Red-light cameras“, Sept. 6, 2001; “‘The Louima millions’“, July 24; “The rest of Justice O’Connor’s speech“, July 6-8; “Evils of contingent-fee tax collection, cont’d“, May 30; “Reclaiming the tobacco loot“, March 15; “Hugh Rodham’s ‘success fee’“, Feb. 23-25; “Dangers of tax farming“, Jan. 10 (& letter to the editor, Jan. 16).  2000:Contingency fee reform“, Nov. 1; “‘Lawyer take all’” (equity stakes in clients), Oct. 27-29.  1999:Piece of the action” (contingent fees for public officials), Dec. 3-5; “Reform stirrings on public contingency fees“, Oct. 15.

Witness coaching, 2001:GAF sues asbestos lawyers“, Feb. 12-13, 2001 (& see Dec. 10).  2000:‘N.Y. lawyer charged in immigrant smuggling’“, Sept. 22-24; “Sunday’s Times on Fred Baron“, June 5 (& see “Thanks for the memories” by Walter Olson, Reason, June 1998 and subsequent letters exchange with William Hodes).  1999:State of legal ethics” (hey, what’s wrong with witness coaching?), Sept. 9. 

‘The Great Mouthpiece’” (Manhattan’s Bill Fallon, 1920s), Dec. 28, 2001. 

‘Halliburton shares plunge on verdict’” (law-firm whistleblowing), Dec. 10, 2001. 

‘2d Circuit Upholds Sanctions Against Firms for Frivolous Securities Claims’“, July 23, 2001 (more on sanctions: Jul. 30-31, 2002). 

Estate law temptations“, July 6-8, 2001; “Lawyers charged with $4.7 million theft from clients“, April 10, 2000; “Lawyers stealing less, clients say“, Dec. 21, 1999. 

Lost his live client, had to substitute dead one instead“, April 11, 2001; “Turn of the screw” (lawyers alleged to have sued without client consent), Oct. 24, 2000; “Curious feature of lawyer’s retainer” (allowed him to settle case without client consent), Sept. 12, 2000. 

‘It’s time to disarm the hired guns’” (Arianna Huffington), Feb. 28-March 1, 2001; “Trustworthy professionals” (survey of public confidence), Dec. 11-12, 2000. 

Fed prosecutors chafe at state ethics rules“, Oct. 16-17, 2000. 

Lenzner: ‘I think what we do is practice law’” (private investigator in Oracle scandal), July 28-30, 2000. 

Access to something” (lawyer accused of working for Social Security Administration while helping clients sue it), July 13, 2000. 

Ready to handle your legal needs” (Stephen Glass graduates Georgetown Law), May 26-29, 2000. 

Steering the evidence” (DaimlerChrysler gets sanctions against lawyers for evidence and witness tampering), May 23, 2000 (& update June 26). 

‘Ad deal links Coke, lawyer in suit’” (Willie Gary, suing Coca-Cola on behalf of clients, enters into a lucrative ad deal with it), May 11, 2000. 

Splash of reality” (sanctions for frivolous litigation in case of claimed Jackson Pollock painting), May 4, 2000. 

Brockovich story, cont’d: the judges’ cruise“, April 18, 2000; “Brockovich story breaks wide open“, April 17, 2000 (& see Dec. 21). 

Majesty of the law” (Phila. attorney Marvin Barish could face sanctions for allegedly threatening to kill opposing counsel during trial break), March 13, 2000; “Relax, you’re being taken care of” (Barish advances injury client’s rent and expenses), Dec. 14, 1999. 

Legal ethics meet medical ethics” (lawyers advise schizophrenic murder defendant to go off his medication for trial), Feb. 26-27, 2000. 

Secrets of class action defense” (assisting cooperative opponent to draft complaint), Feb. 25, 2000. 

Watchdogs could use watching” (fee-splitting in Florida securities cases), Jan. 20, 2000. 

The costs of disclosure” (lawyer reveals misconduct by client, judge), Jan. 19, 2000; “Pack your toothbrush, son” (Ala. law-firm whistleblower), Dec. 20, 1999. 

Popular CLE course: ‘How to Hammer Allstate’” (insurer charged with unauthorized practice of law), Dec. 22, 1999 (update, April 18, 2000). 

Splitsville, N.Y.” (New York mag on divorce), Dec. 17-19, 1999. 

Victory in Florida” (plaintiffs deliberately run up gunmakers’ costs for leverage), Dec. 14, 1999. 

Weekend reading: evergreens” (St. Petersburg Times Pulitzer series on probate law), Dec. 3-5, 1999; “From the evergreen file: L.A. probate horror” (estate of art collector Fred Weisman), Nov. 20-21; “Weekend reading: evergreens” (Denver probate nightmare), Oct. 23-24, 1999. 

Class action fee control: it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law“, Nov. 30, 1999; “Class action coupon-clippers“, Nov. 15; “$49 million legal fee okayed in case where clients got nothing“, Sept. 28, 1999. 

Accommodating theft“, Nov. 11, 1999. 

Who loves trusts-and-estates lawyers?“, Nov. 8, 1999. 

Criticizing lawyers proves hazardous“, Nov. 4, 1999 (update, Nov. 30); “No spotlight on me, thanks” (Houston’s John O’Quinn), Aug. 4, 1999. 

State of legal ethics” (lawyers take out glossy ad to stir up will-contest litigation), Oct. 5-6, 1999. 

Weekend reading: evergreens” (lawyer-abetted accident fraud), Sept. 25-26, 1999; “Wages of wrongdoing” (Staten Island lawyers convicted), Sept. 8, 1999. 

Join our new Verdict Rewards program” (checks for jurors), Sept. 13, 1999 (updates, Sept. 17-19, 1999 and Aug. 4-7, 2000). 

Cook County law bills a secret“, Sept. 11-12, 1999. 

My lawyer is an impostor“, Sept. 3, 1999. 

ABA thinks it can discourage ‘pay-for-play’“, Aug. 11, 1999 (& Aug. 14-15 update). 

Like calling the Orkin man to talk about bugs” (ABA convention), Aug. 10, 1999; “Weekend reading” (ABA choice of speakers), Aug. 28-29, 1999. 

No need for speed“, Aug. 3, 1999. 

Weekend reading” (at execution sale, law firm buys up client’s right to sue it for malpractice), July 31-Aug. 1, 1999. 

Honey, you’ve got mail” (solicitations from divorce lawyers arrive before unsuspecting spouses know they’re being divorced), July 15, 1999.


Articles by Overlawyered.com editor Walter Olson:

Thanks for the memories” (coaching of witnesses), June 1998 (& subsequent letters exchange with William Hodes) 

Tobacco Analysts Meet the Plaintiff’s Lawyers” (abuse of pretrial discovery), Wall Street Journal, August 30, 1995. 

Juries on Trial“, review of The Jury by Stephen J. Adler and We the Jury by Jeffrey Abramson, Reason, February 1995. 

Sue City: The Case Against the Contingency Fee“, excerpt from The Litigation Explosion, Policy Review, Winter 1991 [in two parts] [part one] [part two

Dentists, Bartenders, and Lawyer Unpopularity“, Manhattan Institute Civil Justice Memo #37, April 1999. 

Lawyers with Stethoscopes: Clients Beware“, Manhattan Institute Civil Justice Memo #26, June 1996. 

Taming the Litigators: Why Not More Disclosure?“, Manhattan Institute Civil Justice Memo #24, February 1996.


Codes of ethics:

ABA Center for Professional Responsibility
Overview — Rules of Lawyer Conduct
U.S. Judges Code of Conduct
California Rules of Professional Conduct
D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct

Some online articles of interest:

James McCauley, “The Ethics of Making Legal Services Affordable…” (Virginia bar; discusses unauthorized practice, pro se litigation) 

Rep. Chris Cox, Testimony on tobacco settlement (1997)

Lawrence Schonbrun, “Class Actions: The New Ethical Frontier” (Manhattan Institute, 1996)

Archived food and beverage posts, pre-July 2003

Archived entries before July 2003 can also be found here (food) and here (beverages).

Food, 2003:Give me my million“, Jun. 20-22; “Lawsuit’s demand: stop selling Oreos to kids“, May 13 (& update May 16-18: suit dropped); “Fast-food opinion roundup“, Mar. 25-30; “They’ll be back for seconds“, Feb. 19; “Claim: marriage impaired by tough bagel“, Feb. 3; “Judge tosses McDonald’s obesity case“, Jan. 23 (& Jan. 27-28); “U.K.: coercive campaign to constrain Cadbury“, Jan. 20; “Anti-diet activist hopes to sue Weight Watchers“, Jan. 13-14.

2002:California’s hazardous holiday” (acrylamide), Dec. 27-29; “Scourge of the Super-Size order“, Nov. 7; “WHO demands pretzel de-salting by law“, Nov. 1-3; Letter to the editor, Oct. 23; “Personal responsibility roundup“, Sept. 12;  “Fat suits, cont’d“, Jul. 26-28; “‘Ailing man sues fast-food firms’“, Jul. 25; “Sin-suit city“, Jun. 10; “McArdle on food as next-tobacco“, May 27 (& Jun. 3-4); “Nader credibility watch” (calls fast-food restaurants “weapons of mass destruction”), May 24-26; “The mystery of the transgenic corn“, May 14-15; “‘Targeting “big food”‘“, Apr. 29-30; “‘Woman sues snack food company for spoiling diet’“, Apr. 23-24; “No more restaurant doggie bags“, Mar. 20-21; “Fast-food roundup“, Mar. 11; “King Cake figurine menace averted“, Feb. 1-3; “McMouse story looking dubious“, Jan. 25-27; “Life imitates parody: ‘Whose Fault Is Fat?‘”, Jan. 23-24.  “‘Hot-dog choking prompts lawsuit’“, Jan. 2-3.

2001:There’ll always be a California” (chocolate and Prop 65), Dec. 4; Letter to the editor (Wisc. exempts lutefisk from toxic-substance status), Nov. 29; “Disposable turkey pan litigation“, Nov. 23-25; “‘Diabetic German judge sues Coca-Cola for his health condition’” (candy bars too), Nov. 18; “‘Baskin-Robbins lawsuit puts family in dis-flavor’“, Aug. 2; “‘Couple sues over flaming Pop-Tart’“, July 30; “Feeling queasy?” (E. coli), July 27-29; “‘Man sues Rite Aid over stale jelly bean’“, July 20-22; “By reader acclaim: ‘Vegetarian sues McDonald’s over meaty fries“, May 4-6; “Woman settles hot pickle suit with McDonald’s“, April 16 (& Oct. 10, 2000); “Putting the ‘special’ in special sauce” (alleged rat in Big Mac), March 29.

2000:You deserve a beak today” (McDonald’s chicken case), Dec. 6.

1999:Are they kidding, or not-kidding?” (proposal for suits against makers of fattening foods), Nov. 15; “Toffee maker sued for tooth irritation“, Nov. 5-7; “More things you can’t have” (unpasteurized cider), Sept. 27; “Not just our imagination” (calls for class actions against fast food, meat industry), Sept. 25-26; “Taco Bell not liable for Ganges purification pilgrimage“, Aug. 30.

Beverages:Litigation good for the country?” (Carl T. Bogus), Aug. 19, 2002; “British judge rejects hot-drink suits“, Mar. 29-31, 2002 (& Aug. 10, 2000); “‘Diabetic German judge sues Coca-Cola for his health condition’“, Nov. 18, 2001; “‘Group sues Starbucks over tea ingredient’“, Sept. 10; “By reader acclaim” (maker of cup holder), Jan. 11, 2001; “‘Court says warning about hot coffee unnecessary’” (Nevada Supreme Court), July 18, 2000; “Now it’s hot chocolate“, April 4; “Next on the class-action agenda: liquor?“, March 22, 2000; & see Sept. 10, 2001. For burns from hot beverages that were under the control of the complainant, see also personal responsibility page.

Archived personal responsibility items, pre-July 2003

Tipple your way to court, 2003:Shouldn’t have let him get so drunk” (Australia), May 12.  2002:‘Woman freezes; sues city, cabbie’“, Sept. 18-19; “Wasn’t his fault for lying drunk under truck“, Aug. 16-18; “Hey, no fair talking about the pot” (highway rollover), Apr. 12-14; “European workplace notes” (employer responsible for vodka overdose), Feb. 25-26; “‘Drunken Driver’s Widow Wins Court’s OK To Sue Carmaker’“, Feb. 25-26. 2001:‘Teen hit by train while asleep on tracks sues railroad’“, Dec. 12; “‘Man suing after drunken driving crash’“, Aug. 20-21; “Don’t rock the Coke machine“, Jul. 20-22; “Court says tipsy topless dancer can sue club“, Jul. 3-4; “Jury: drunk driver hardly responsible at all for fatal crash“, Jun. 15-17; “It was the bar’s fault“, Apr. 13-15; “‘Court upholds workers compensation for drunk, injured worker’“, Apr. 6-8; “‘Woman who drove drunk gets $300,000’” (Ontario), Feb. 7-8 (& see Sept. 24, second case: $18 million); “‘All you can drink’ winner sues over fall“, Jan. 31-Feb. 1.  2000:Zapped pylon-climber sues liquor-servers, utility“, March 6.  1999:Personal responsibility wins a round” (judge rejects case from Pa. man who got drunk and climbed high voltage catenary), Sept. 17-19. 

Maybe crime does pay, 2003:‘Robber sues clerk who shot him during holdup’“, May 6; “Not an April Fool’s joke“, Apr. 1; “‘Burglars to be banned from suing victims’” (U.K.), Mar. 10-11; “‘Family of electrocuted thief gets $75,000’“, Feb. 26; “Tried to outrun Coast Guard in chase“, Feb. 14-16; “‘No suits by lawbreakers, please’“, Jan. 27-28 (& Jan. 31-Feb. 2).  2002:‘Mom who drugged kids’ ice cream sues’“, Nov. 1-3; “‘Patient sues hospital for letting him out on night he killed’” (Australia, psychiatric case), Oct. 16-17; “‘Crime pays for teenage lout’” (Australia), Sept. 3-4; “‘After stabbing son, mom sues doctors’“, May 31-Jun. 2; “‘Barbed wire might hurt burglars, pensioner warned’“, May 28-29; “Hospital rapist sues hospital“, May 22-23 (& Mar. 5-7, 2003: court dismisses case); “Lawyers say taxpayers owe $41 million to smuggled illegals’ survivors“, May 10-12; “L.A. police sued, and sued” (by family of gunman killed in shootout), Apr. 12-14; “Should have arrested him faster” (frostbite in the open), Mar. 1-3; “Vandal’s dad sues store over blaze“, Feb. 6-7; “Paroled prisoner: pay for not supervising me“, Jan. 4-6.  2001:Firefighter’s demand: back pay for time facing criminal rap“, Aug. 29-30; “‘Man suing after drunken driving crash’“, Aug. 20-21; “‘Criminals could sue their victims’” (U.K.), July 26; “‘Woman who drove drunk gets $300,000’” (Ontario), Feb. 7-8; “Crime does pay” (Denver burglar shot by police gets $1.2 million), Feb. 2. 2000:‘Burglar sues for compensation’” (Australia), Nov. 21 (& see Apr. 1-2, 2002); “‘Fla. DUI Teen Sues Police’” (should have arrested him, he argues), Nov. 14; “Killed his mother, now suing his psychiatrists“, Oct. 2; “Not my fault, I” (woman who murdered daughter sues psychiatrists), May 17; “$65 million Texas verdict: driver at twice the legal blood limit” (drunk driver’s estate sues automaker), March 28; “From the labor arbitration front” (disallowed firing of employee who pleaded no contest to larceny), March 28; “Crime does pay, cont’d” (North Hollywood, Calif. bank robber killed in police shootout), Feb. 23 (& update March 23: mistrial declared after jury deadlock in suit by robber’s family); “County to pay ‘mountain man’ burglar $412,500“, Feb. 15. 1999:‘Two men shot in suspected drug deal win $1.7 million’“, Dec. 15 (& update June 6, 2001: appeals court overturns); “California’s worst?” (bank robber sues after hidden tear-gas device goes off in loot), Dec. 14; “Drunks have rights, too“, Dec. 1 (& update Jul. 24-25, 2000: appeals court throws out award).  See also our editor’s article on New York’s “mugger millionaire” case

Pools & swimming, 2003:‘Lawyers spoil fun’” (Ga. water park), May 19; “‘Florida jury awards $100M for pool accident’“, Feb. 13.  2002:Australia’s litigation debate“, May 24-26.  2001:Australian roundup” (bodysurfer), Nov. 23-25; “Needed: assumption of risk“, Jul. 27-29.  2000:‘How’s the pool?’” (Las Vegas Strip’s Frontier Hotel recommended for its pre-big-lawsuits deep end), Feb. 23; “Latest shallow-end pool dive case“, Jan. 24.  1999:Razor wire on the pool fence” (homeowner finds it too big a legal risk to let local kids swim), Jul. 27. 

Should have watched his step answering call of nature“, Mar. 8-9, 2003.

Couldn’t help eating it, 2003:Give me my million“, Jun. 20-22; “Judge tosses McDonald’s obesity case“, Jan. 23 (& Jan. 27-28); “Anti-diet activist hopes to sue Weight Watchers“, Jan. 13-14.  2002: Letter to the editor, Oct. 23; “Claim: docs should have done more to help woman quit smoking and lose weight“, Sept. 18-19; “Personal responsibility roundup“, Sept. 12; “Fat suits, cont’d“, Jul. 26-28; “‘Ailing man sues fast-food firms’“, Jul. 25; “Sin-suit city“, Jun. 10; “McArdle on food as next-tobacco“, May 27; “‘Targeting “big food”‘“, Apr. 29-30; “Life imitates parody: ‘Whose Fault Is Fat?‘”, Jan. 23-24.  2001:‘Diabetic German judge sues Coca-Cola for his health condition’“, Nov. 18.  2000:‘Caffeine added to sodas aims to addict — study’“, Aug. 18-20.  1999:Toffee maker sued for tooth irritation“, Nov. 5-7; “Not just our imagination” (calls for class-action suits against fast-food, meat purveyors), Sept. 25-26.

Warning labels and disclaimers, 2003:‘Wacky Warning Label’ winners“, Jan. 13-14.  2002:Satirical-disclaimer Hall of Fame” (Australian humor magazine), Oct. 28-29; “‘Warning …’” (Dave Barry humor column), Aug. 16-18; “Read the label, then ignore it if you like” (flammable carpet adhesive), Jul. 12-14; “Pitcher, hit by line drive, sues maker of baseball bat“, Apr. 19-21; “Injured in ‘human hockey puck’ stunt“, Mar. 18; “‘Before you cheer … “Sign here”‘“, Mar. 15-17; “Didn’t know cinema seats retracted“, Feb. 13-14; “Warning on fireplace log: ‘risk of fire’“, Jan. 25-27.  2001:Et tu, UT?” (Utah will not enforce parent-signed release forms for children), Nov. 16-18; “Disclaimer rage?“, Oct. 15; “Needed: assumption of risk“, Jul. 27-29; “Quite an ankle sprain” (failure to warn of gopher holes in parks), Apr. 20-22; “‘Wacky Warning Label’ winners“, Jan. 19-21.  2000:Columnist-fest” (Girl Scout horseback riding disclaimer), Apr. 6; “Rise of the high school sleepover disclaimer“, Mar. 22; “From our mail sack: skin art disclaimers” (tattoo consent form), Mar. 1; “Weekend reading: columnist-fest” (Laura Pulfer on warning labels), Feb. 5-6; “Never iron clothes while they’re being worn” (Wacky Warning Label contest winners), Jan. 18 (& letter to editor, Jan. 21-23).  1999:Christmas lawyer humor” (Yuletide greetings consisting entirely of disclaimers), Dec. 23-26; “Weekend reading” (disclaimers “creeping into nearly every aspect of American life”), Jul. 31-Aug. 1. 

Blamed for suicides, 2003:‘No suits by lawbreakers, please’“, Jan. 27-28 (& Jan. 31-Feb. 2).  2002:The blame for suicide“, Sept. 25-26; “‘Addictive’ computer game blamed for suicide“, Apr. 3-4. 2001:Utah: rescue searchers sued“, Nov. 26, 2001; “‘Shooting range sued over suicide’“, Sept. 27; “$3 million verdict for selling gun used in suicide“, Sept. 17; “‘Suicide- Attempt Survivor Sues’” (department that issued cop his gun), Jan. 24-25. 

Excuse syndromes, 2002:Blue-ribbon excuses” (sex on train), Oct. 7-8; “So depressed he stole $300K“, Mar. 19; “Rough divorce predisposed him to hire hitman“, Feb. 13-14. 2001:Stories that got away” (multiple-personality defense), Jul. 23; “‘Pseudologica fantastica’ won’t fly” (judge’s fibs on resume), Jun. 7 (& Aug. 20-21); “Judge buys shopaholic defense in embezzling“, May 25-27; “The malaria drug made him do it“, Mar. 28.  2000:Blue-ribbon excuses” (baked goods mutilator, lawyer pleading incompetent self-representation), Oct. 6-9; “Predestination made him do it” (Pope’s assassin and Fatima prophecy), June 6; “Victim of the century?” (misbehaving school principal collects disability benefits for sexual compulsion), Jun. 2-4; “Prozac made him rob banks“, Mar. 1; “Blue-ribbon excuse syndromes“, Feb. 12-13; “Latest excuse syndromes“, Jan. 13-14.  1999: “Doctor sues insurer, claims sex addiction“, Oct. 13. 

Lightning bolt in amusement park’s parking lot“, Jun. 23, 2003; “‘Woman attacked by goose sues county’“, Jan. 27-28, 2003; “Quite an ankle sprain” (watch where you’re going in parks), Apr. 20-22, 2001. 

MIT sued over student’s nitrous-oxide death“, Feb. 25, 2003; “By reader acclaim: ‘Parents file suit over student’s drug death’” (abuse of Oxycontin), Jul. 25, 2001. 

Take care of myself?  That’s the doc’s job“, Feb. 14-16, 2003; “Claim: docs should have done more to help woman quit smoking and lose weight” (Pa.), Sept. 18-19, 2002.

Satirical-disclaimer Hall of Fame” (Australian humor magazine), Oct. 28-29, 2002; “Tobacco: Boeken record” (The Onion parody), June 19, 2001; “Jury orders ‘Big Chocolate’ to pay $135 billion to obese consumers” (parody), Aug. 3, 2000; “This side of parodies” (fictional account of self-inflicted icepick injury), Oct. 5-6, 1999. 

Sports risks:Sis-Boom-Sue” (cheerleading), Jan. 15-16, 2003; “Skating first, instructions later“, Sept. 25-26, 2002; “Pitcher hit by line drive sues maker of baseball bat“, Apr. 19-21, 2002; “Australian roundup” (Perth bodysurfer), Nov. 23-25, 2001; “Needed: assumption of risk” (baseball thrown into stands, skydiving), July 27-29; “‘Lawsuits could tame ski slopes’“, Feb. 6, 2001; “Promising areas for suits” (foul-ball cases and other stadium injuries), Dec. 7, 2000; “Teams liable for fans’ safety” (Colorado: hockey puck hit into stands), Aug. 15; “‘Skydivers don’t sue’“, May 26-29; “Trips on shoelace, demands $10 million from Nike“, April 7-9, 2000. 

Gambling: Letter to the editor, Oct. 23; “Personal responsibility roundup“, Sept. 12, 2002; “Sin-suit city“, Jun. 10; “‘Next tobacco’ watch: gambling“, May 20-21, 2002 (& May 31); “‘Gambling addiction’ class action” (Quebec), June 20, 2001.

Hot beverages:Litigation good for the country?” (Carl T. Bogus), Aug. 19, 2002; “British judge rejects hot-drink suits“, Mar. 29-31, 2002 (& Aug. 10, 2000); “By reader acclaim” (Illinois case; complainant sues mother), Jan. 11, 2001; “‘Court says warning about hot coffee unnecessary’” (Nevada Supreme Court), Jul. 18, 2000; “Now it’s hot chocolate“, Apr. 4, 2000. 

‘Family of boy injured by leopard may sue’“, Jul. 18, 2002; “Skinny-dipping with killer whale: ‘incredibly bad judgment’“, Sept. 21, 1999 (Oct. 7 update: case dropped). 

Wasn’t his fault for lying drunk under truck“, Aug. 16-18, 2002; “‘Win Big! Lie in Front of a Train!’“, Jun. 26-27, 2002 (& Jul. 12-14); “Australian roundup” (graffiti artist on train), Nov. 23-25, 2001; “Hit after laying on RR tracks; sues railroad“, Oct. 23, 2001. 

‘Man awarded $60,000 for falling over barrier’“, Mar. 5, 2002. 

Utah: rescue searchers sued“, Nov. 26, 2001. 

Suit blames drugmaker for Columbine“, Oct. 24-25, 2001. 

Mosh pit mayhem“, Sept. 7-9, 2001. 

Urban legend alert: six ‘irresponsibility’ lawsuits“, Aug. 27-28, 2001.

Don’t rock the Coke machine“, Jul. 20-22, 2001. 

Tobacco: Boeken record“, June 19, 2001. 

Scary!:From dinner party to court” (U.K. hypnotist), May 22, 2001; “Hypnotist sued by entranced spectator“, March 3-14, 2001; “Girl puts head under guillotine; sues when hurt“, March 8, 2000; “Haunted house too scary“, Jan. 6, 2000; “‘Scared out of business’” (decline of community Halloween haunted houses), Nov. 5-7, 1999. 

Stop having fun (children’s recreation): see schools page

Tendency of elastic items to recoil well known“, Mar. 6, 2001.

By reader acclaim” (sues alleged crack dealers over own addiction), Jan. 11, 2001.

Smoker’s suit nixed in Norway“, Dec. 18-19, 2000; “Personal responsibility takes a vacation in Miami” (Engle tobacco verdict), July 8, 1999.

Highway responsibility” (Derrick Thomas suit), Nov. 28, 2000.

Fat tax proposed in New Zealand“, Oct. 31, 2000. 

More things you can’t have: raw-milk cheeses“, Oct. 3, 2000; “More things you can’t have” (unpasteurized cider, New England square dances), Sept. 27, 1999; “More things you can’t have” (rare hamburgers, food sent to summer camp), August 9, 1999.

Smoking and responsibility: columnists weigh in” (after Florida verdict), Jul. 28-30, 2000. 

‘”Whiplash!” America’s most frivolous lawsuits’” (book collects cases), Jul. 14-16, 2000. 

Inmate: you didn’t supervise me” (horseplay alone in cell), Jul. 7, 2000. 

Can’t sue over affair with doctor” (court rules it was consensual), Jun. 13, 2000. 

Risky?  Who’da thunk it?” (currency speculator sues over losses), Jun. 9-11, 2000. 

‘Jury awards apparent record $220,000 for broken finger’” (hurt while dancing), May 22, 2000. 

Videogame maker agrees to furnish safety gloves“, Mar. 13, 2000. 

Letourneau scandal: now where’s my million?” (boy sues), Apr. 20, 2000.

All dressed up“, Apr. 19, 2000. 

Down repressed-memory lane I: costly fender-bender” (eggshell-psyche plaintiff), Dec. 29-30, 1999. 

Down repressed-memory lane II: distracted when she signed” (separation agreement), Dec. 29-30, 1999.

GM verdict roundup” (lawyers shift drunk drivers’ responsibility to automakers), Dec. 16, 1999; “Drunks have rights, too“, Dec. 1, 1999. 

Rolling the dice (cont’d)” (Internet gambler sues credit card companies that advanced him money), Dec. 7, 1999; “Rolling the dice” (same), Aug. 26, 1999.

Responsibility, RIP” (columnist Mona Charen), Nov. 2, 1999. 

The art of blame” (death of child left in hot van), Oct. 20, 1999. 

Nominated by reader acclamation” (killer’s parents sue school district, lawmen for failing to prevent Columbine massacre), Oct. 18, 1999. 

Block PATH to lawsuits” (fall out of tree in yard, sue your employer), Sept. 1, 1999. 

To restore individual responsibility, bring back contract principles” (Cato Institute paper by Prof. Michael Krauss), Aug. 16, 1999.

Somebody might trip” (NYC condemns prints-of-the- Hollywood-stars sidewalk as slip hazard), Aug. 13, 1999. 

All have lost, and all must have damages” (huge award to salesman who hawked bad insurance policies since he’s a victim too), Aug. 3, 1999.


Through much of American history, courts discouraged lawsuits arising from risks that individuals were deemed to have assumed in the course of going about familiar activities, such as the risk of being thrown while horseback riding, of slipping on toys underfoot while visiting a house with children, or of being hit with a foul ball while attending a ball game.  (Stored search on “assumption of risk”: Google, Alta Vista). Under the doctrine of “contributory negligence”, they often dismissed, as a matter of law, cases where a complainant’s own negligence had helped cause an accident.  They were even less likely to entertain cases in which someone’s knowing or deliberate dereliction had placed him in physical peril, such as cases in which people sue over injuries sustained in the course of committing crimes or attempting suicide.  And finally, they gave broad respect to express contractual disclaimers or waivers of liability: if a party was on notice that the other side in a transaction wasn’t willing to assume a responsibility, it wouldn’t be easy to tag them later with that responsibility in court. 

By the 1950s all these old barriers to liability had come under sustained attack in the law schools, where they were viewed as insulating defendants’ misconduct from legal scrutiny and impeding the forward march of liability law as a (high-overhead) variety of social insurance.  Most states moved from contributory negligence to comparative negligence, which allows a plaintiff whose negligence helped cause an accident to sue over it anyway, though for a reduced recovery.  Waivers and disclaimers began to be struck down as unconscionable, against public policy, not spelled out with sufficient clarity, etc.  And assumption of risk was whittled down by way of a dozen techniques: the most influential torts scholar of the postwar period, William Prosser, took the view that “that implied reasonable assumption of risk should not be allowed to reduce a plaintiff’s damage in any way” (Chase Van Gorder, “Assumption of Risk Under Washington Law“). 

The result is today’s American legal environment in which plaintiffs routinely try their luck at suits after being injured climbing high-voltage utility structures while drunk, skinny-dipping in icy pools with captive killer whales, trying “wheelies” and other stunts on industrial forklifts, and smoking for decades.  Some of these suits succeed at obtaining settlements while others fail, and it’s important to bear in mind that assumption of risk and related doctrines have not disappeared entirely.  Their general decay, however, has been important in bringing us today’s hypertrophy of such areas of law as premises liability, product liability and recreational liability. 

The website of attorney D. Pamela Gaines has useful resources on assumption of risk as it applies to such areas as premises liability, recreation and amusement parks. At the International Mountain Bicycling Association site, Tina Burckhardt explains “recreational use statutes” which grant some protection from liability lawsuits to landowners who allow free recreational use of their property.

November 2001 archives, part 2


November 19-20 — New frontiers in discrimination law: Harleys among the cyclamens. Lawmakers in Ohio, South Carolina and several other states are pushing legislation that would prohibit businesses from turning away customers on motorcycles. Georgia state Sen. Joey Brush, who rides a Harley-Davidson, “introduced the legislation because of a long-running dispute with Calloway Gardens, a private, nonprofit horticultural garden that doesn’t allow bikers to drive onto the grounds. The ban, in place for the garden’s entire 49-year existence, is meant to protect the serenity and peace for which the grounds are known, said spokeswoman Rachel Crumbley. ‘We feel it’s not a civil right to ride a motorcycle wherever you please,’ Crumbley said.” An Ohio rider who supports such legislation “said a waitress at a restaurant near Cincinnati once placed him and his wife in a corner away from other patrons when the couple pulled up wearing leather boots, chaps and vests.” But the biker community, which in the past has often sided with libertarian causes such as opposition to mandatory helmet laws, is far from unanimous on this one: “As a business owner, they should have right to decide who they want,” says spokesman Steve Zimmer of Ohio’s pro-biker ABATE group — clearly someone who hasn’t forgotten that biking is supposed to be about freedom. (Andrew Welsh-Huggins, “Laws Seek to Protect U.S. Bikers”, AP/Yahoo, Nov. 14). (& letters to the editor, Feb. 28) (DURABLE LINK)

November 19-20 — Can’t find the arsonist? Sue the sofa-maker. “With the two-year statute of limitations almost up, lawyers representing victims of New Jersey’s Seton Hall University dormitory fire are working frantically to find parties to sue.

“The fire, which authorities believe was intentionally started, broke out in the Boland Hall dormitory on Jan. 19, 2000, killing three students and injuring 58 others. Seton Hall, which enjoys charitable immunity from suit, has settled out of court with some of the plaintiffs. Still, lawyers contemplate suits against other people who may have contributed to the conflagration — the arsonists, the maker of the sofa that ignited and any other potentially responsible parties.” (Charles Toutant, “Seton Hall Fire Victims’ Lawyers Still Scrambling to Identify Defendants”, New Jersey Law Journal, Nov. 14) (see June 1, 2000). (DURABLE LINK)

November 19-20 — By reader acclaim: football’s substance abuse policy challenged. “New England wide receiver Terry Glenn has sued the NFL, claiming a disability makes it difficult for him to adhere to certain rules in the league’s substance abuse policy. … Glenn filed the complaint under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but it did not specify what disability Glenn suffers. Glenn claims he should not have been suspended by the NFL for the first four games of the season for violation of the substance abuse policy.” (“Glenn’s suit doesn’t specify disabilities”, AP/ESPN, Nov. 4). Plus: reader Rick Derer, outraged by the Casey Martin episode, has put up an ADA horror stories website to call attention to what he terms “the worst law ever foisted on the American people”.

November 19-20 — Municipal gun suits on the run. Cause for thanksgiving indeed: the lawless and extortionate municipal gun-suit campaign has been encountering one setback after another. “In a major victory for gun manufacturers, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on [Nov. 16] upheld the dismissal of a suit brought by Camden County, New Jersey, that accused gun makers of creating a ‘public nuisance’ and sought to recoup the governmental costs associated with gun-related crimes.” Arguing the losing side were radical law prof David Kairys and class-action firm Berger & Montague. The three-judge panel was unanimous. (Shannon P. Duffy, “3rd Circuit Shoots Down Gun Suit Theory”, The Legal Intelligencer, Nov. 19). The city of Atlanta is desperately trying to keep its anti-gun suit alive in the face of legislation enacted by its parent state of Georgia making it as explicit as humanly possible that the city has no authority to press such a suit (Richmond Eustis, “Atlanta Asks State Appeals Court to Keep Alive Suit Against Gun Makers”, Fulton County Daily Report, Nov. 15).

Yale law professor Peter Schuck describes the gun lawsuits as based on the “most tenuous” theories yet of government rights of recoupment (“subrogation”) and tort law as “one of the last places” we should look to resolve the policy issues of gun control (“Smoking Gun Lawsuits”, American Lawyer, Sept. 10). And Bridgeport, Conn. mayor Joseph Ganim, who had taken perhaps the highest profile among Northeastern mayors in support of the gun suits, is likely to be less heard from for a while given his indictment last month on two dozen felony counts including extortion, bribery and mail fraud. (He denies everything.) (John Christoffersen, “In Connecticut, a growing and unwelcome reputation for corruption”, AP/Charleston (W.V.) Gazette, Nov. 16; Chris Kanaracus et al, “Ganim on the Spot” (pre-indictment coverage), Fairfield County Weekly, undated). See also Kimberley A. Strassel, “Bummer for Sarah Brady”, OpinionJournal.com, Nov. 15 (expressing optimistic view that municipal gun suits have been contained). (DURABLE LINK)

November 16-18 — Profiling perfectly OK after all. “State highway safety officials said they have received a $700,000 federal grant to help them crack down on two groups of chronic violators of the state’s seat belt law: drivers and passengers of pick-up trucks, and all male drivers and passengers between 18 and 55. … [Louisiana Highway Safety Commission Executive Director James] Champagne said state and federal studies have consistently shown pickup drivers and all male drivers are less likely to buckle up than any other groups of drivers or front-seat passengers. State law requires both the driver and front-seat passengers of vans, sports utility vehicles, cars and trucks to use seat belts. … Asked if the targeting of males and pickup drivers and passengers is profiling of a certain group, Champagne said, ‘Absolutely.'” To recap, then: the federal government strictly bans giving extra attention to 25-year-old males from Saudi Arabia at airport check-in. While they’re driving to the airport, on the other hand, it positively encourages them to be profiled. Perhaps the explanation is that it’s willing to swallow its scruples in order to combat really antisocial behavior — like failing to wear seat belts, as opposed to hijacking planes into buildings. (Ed Anderson, “Police to harness seat belt scofflaws”, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Nov. 10 — via InstaPundit). Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union is soliciting racial-profiling plaintiffs in New Jersey. “The ACLU billboard, which went up last month, shows a photograph of two minority men and between them the words ‘Stopped or searched by the New Jersey State Police? They admit to racial profiling. You might win money damages,’ the sign reads. The ad includes the ACLU’s toll-free number.” (“Billboards in New Jersey Ask for Trooper Praise, Not Profiling Complaints”, FoxNews.com, Nov. 14).

November 16-18 — EEOC approves evacuation questions for disabled. To the relief of many in the business community, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has announced that it is not unlawful to ask workers about the state of their health for the purpose of formulating plans for emergency building evacuations. The September attacks called attention to the difficulty experienced in disaster situations by evacuees with such conditions as blindness, paraplegia, extreme obesity, and asthma. While employers may ask about problems that might impede evacuation, they should not insist on getting actual answers; EEOC officials recommend that they let each worker elect whether to disclose the information. The Americans with Disabilities Act has generally been interpreted as conferring on employees a broad legal right to conceal health problems from their employers. (Kirsten Downey Grimsley, “EEOC Approves Health Queries”, Washington Post, Nov. 1).

November 16-18 — Et tu, UT? Perhaps envying California its litigious reputation, the Supreme Court of Utah has ruled that it will not enforce releases in which parents agree to waive their children’s right to sue for negligence. The case involved a child thrown from a rented horse; the mother had signed a release before the accident, but then decided she wanted it invalidated so she could sue anyway. Attorney James Jensen, who represented defendant Navajo Trails, “listed many activities that now may be affected or curtailed, including school field trips, religious organization youth activities, scouting programs, amusement parks and ski resorts. ‘Anybody that provides recreational activities to minors,’ he said.” (Andrew Harris, “Utah High Court Says No Release of Liability to Children”, National Law Journal, Nov. 12).

November 15– “Poor work tolerated, employees say”. We keep hearing that if we were really serious about airport security we’d kick out those ill-paid Argenbright bag screeners and swear in a new 28,000-strong corps of federal employees to replace them. But a “new study concludes that federal workers themselves view many of their co-workers as poor performers who are rarely disciplined. The survey of 1,051 federal workers, conducted for the Brookings Institution’s Center for Public Service prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, found that on average federal employees believe 23.5 percent of their colleagues are ‘not up to par.’ Meanwhile, only 30 percent believe their organization does a very or somewhat good job of disciplining poor performers.” Those numbers are worse than the ones you get when you poll employees of private firms. At least when Argenbright botches things you can kick it out in favor of another contractor (Ben White, Washington Post, Oct. 30; Gregg Easterbrook, “Fighting the Wrong Fight”, The New Republic Online, Nov. 13).

November 15 — Lawyers’ immunity confirmed. In a dispute arising out of a developer’s plan to buy Fisher Island, home to many celebrities and wealthy persons, a Florida court has ruled that the developer cannot pursue a countersuit for tortious interference against residents who filed lawsuits aimed at derailing the deal, even if it can show they knew the suits to be unmeritorious. The court relied on a 1994 case in which the Florida Supreme Court ruled that an attorney’s acts in the course of litigation are subject to an “absolute” privilege: “We find that absolute immunity must be afforded to any act occurring during the course of a judicial proceeding, regardless of whether the act involves a defamatory statement or other tortious behavior such as the alleged misconduct at issue, so long as the act has some relation to the proceeding.” Or, as the Miami legal paper puts it, “litigation itself is immune from litigation”. Put differently, people engaged in litigation boast an “absolute immunity” to engage in injurious behavior that would have a remedy at law if you or I tried it (Julie Kay, “Lawsuits of the Rich and Famous — and Their Two Dozen Law Firms”, Miami Daily Business Review, Nov. 1).

November 15 — Exxon Brockovich vs. Erin Valdez. The Ninth Circuit has struck down as excessive an Alaska jury’s $5 billion punitive award against Exxon over the Valdez oil spill, sending the case back for further litigation; compensatory damages are unaffected by the ruling (Henry Weinstein & Kim Murphy, “Court Overturns $5-Billion Judgment Against Exxon in ’89 Alaska Oil Spill”, L.A. Times, Nov. 8; Yahoo Full Coverage)(update Dec. 30, 2002: judge cuts award to $4 billion). Meanwhile, toxic-tort celebrity Erin Brockovich is helping spearhead a new effort to recruit plaintiffs from among the more than 15,000 workers who took part in the cleanup effort a dozen years ago, some of whom believe that it caused their health to take a turn for the worse. A Los Angeles Times account, after sympathetically relaying what would seem to be the most striking such cases the plaintiff’s team could come up with, concedes that “most health officials remain unconvinced that the cleanup left anyone sick”. (Nick Schulz, “Busy Bee Brockovich Looking to Sting Again”, TechCentralStation, Nov. 9; Kim Murphy, “Exxon Oil Spill’s Cleanup Crews Share Years of Illness”, L.A. Times, Nov. 5; Mary Pemberton, “Erin Brockovich probes Exxon complaints”, AP/ Anchorage Daily News, Nov. 6).

November 14 — “Rejoice, rejoice”. “[Y]esterday’s liberation of Kabul and much of the rest of Afghanistan is a great victory. … The moving scenes from the Afghan capital remind us … that most believing Muslims reject the rigorist insanity that bin Laden and the Taliban promote in their name, and are happy to worship God without having to wear a beard or a burqa. They can sing and dance again; women can work, and children can learn. The Taliban’s scorched-earth devastation of so many Afghan villages reveals their contempt for their own people, and their desertion of so many of their own Arab and Pakistani jihadis shows their capacity to betray. … Today, though, everyone who cast doubt on the possibilities of success and everyone who sneered at American ‘gung-ho’ should observe a period of silence. The rest of us should, to use a famous phrase from another war, ‘just rejoice rejoice'”. ((editorial), Daily Telegraph, Nov. 14; Paul Watson, “Taliban torturers on the run”, L.A. Times, Nov. 14; Christopher Hitchens, “Ha ha ha to the pacifists”, The Guardian, Nov. 14; Dexter Filkins, “In Fallen Taliban City, a Busy, Busy Barber”, New York Times, Nov. 13).

November 14 — Insurance market was in trouble before 9/11. With alarms being heard about an impending crisis in the availability of commercial insurance, it’s worth noting for the record that conditions were deteriorating rapidly in that market even before Sept. 11, mostly because insurers were pulling back from liability exposures: “Among the lines tightening the most are products liability, umbrella liability, contractor liability and nursing home liability, insurers and brokers say,” reported the July 2 issue of the trade publication Business Insurance. Also in scarce supply was coverage for “anything with an occupational disease exposure, like insulation and cell phones,” said one industry observer, Tom Nazar of Near North. “Generally, premiums for most liability lines are increasing anywhere from 25% to 60%,” with transportation risks seeing rate hikes of 100-200 percent and nursing homes 150 percent, said another insurance exec — all this well before the WTC attacks hit carriers with the largest losses from a single insured event in history. (Joanne Wojcik, “Transportation takes biggest hit in hardening market”, Business Insurance, July 2 (online subscribers only), and other contemporaneous coverage in the same publication). Directors’ and officers’ liability was another big problem area, especially for companies in fields such as high tech and telecom, financial services and health care. “The risks facing the steepest premium increases are pharmaceutical companies, nursing homes and contractors, especially organizations located in the litigious markets of California, Illinois and New York, insurance executives said.” In workers’ comp, “loss severity continues to deteriorate”.

And then there was asbestos: an August Standard & Poor’s report indicated that insurers were setting aside an additional $5-10 billion this year for asbestos claims, above earlier amounts reserved. “The implications to the insurance community are potentially devastating,” says the report. “Other analysts and ratings agencies recently have estimated that the insurance industry would need to put up as much as $20 billion to $40 billion more to cover their asbestos exposure. In May, ratings firm A.M. Best Co. calculated that insurers have set aside $10.3 billion to pay additional asbestos claims, having already paid out $21.6 billion.” A not-insubstantial portion of those sums, as we know, will go to compensate persons who are not sick from asbestos and never will be — raising once again the question of why we don’t try harder as a society to reserve the limited pool represented by insurance for situations where it’s really needed (Christopher Oster, “Insurers to Set Aside Additional Billions For Asbestos Claims”, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 1 (online subscribers only)). On proposals to bail out insurance markets since the attacks, see Scott Harrington and Tom Miller, “Insuring against terror”, National Review Online, Nov. 5. (DURABLE LINK)

November 14 — “Diabetic German judge sues Coca-Cola for his health condition”. Why should American lawyers have all the fun? In a trial that began Monday in Essen, Germany, Hans-Josef Brinkmann, 46, a judge in the east German town of Neubrandenburg, says the beverage company is partly responsible for his developing diabetes after drinking two bottles of Coca-Cola a day for years. He further “disputes the contention of the drinks company that Coca Cola is a ‘flawless foodstuff’ … Brinkmann plans to bring a similar case against Masterfoods, manufacturers of Mars Bars, Snickers and Milky Way chocolate candy, in January.” Whether Herr Brinkmann wins or loses these suits, we hope he’ll come to America — we bet he’d have no trouble landing a job at one of our law schools. (AFP/Times of India, Nov. 14) (more).

November 13 — From the paint wars: a business’s demise, a school district’s hypocrisy. “Sherwin-Williams Co. acquired Mautz Paint Co. Thursday after the local company said it could no longer afford facing a costly lawsuit filed by the city of Milwaukee. Bernhard F. ‘Biff’ Mautz, the company’s chairman of the board, said negotiations to sell the [family-owned] firm intensified in April after the city of Milwaukee filed suit seeking more than $100 million in damages over the manufacture of lead-based paints decades ago.

“‘Although we believe the city’s case is meritless and Mautz will ultimately be absolved of any responsibility, for the first time in our history we were faced with years of litigation, which even if (the plaintiff was) unsuccessful, would destroy our small company,’ he said. …

“The sale price was not released, but Mautz President Dan Drury said it was discounted to reflect the costs of the lawsuit. Founded in 1892, Mautz employed 260 people at its 33 retail stores and manufacturing plant. It had sales of $32 million last year. …

“Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce said the sale of the one of Madison’s oldest businesses will make it more difficult for the state to attract new businesses. ‘This is a sad day in the state of Wisconsin,’ said James S. Haney, the organization’s president. ‘This is every business person’s worst nightmare. Mautz got in the gun sights of the contingency fee trial lawyers and the bureaucrats and now another homegrown locally owned business with strong ties to the community is gone.'” (“Mautz announces acquisition by Sherwin-Williams”, AP/Janesville (Wis.) Gazette, Nov. 9).

Meanwhile: In Houston, where contingency-fee lawyers have been recruiting local school districts to go after paint companies, the lawsuit filed by the Spring Branch School District claims that residual paint from decades past exposes students and teachers to “a substantial risk of lead poisoning” — a dramatic charge indeed. Which left Jon Opelt, executive director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse Houston and the parent of a child in the district, wondering why “the school district has never notified me, as a parent, of the presence of any health or safety risks related to lead. No cautionary notes have been sent home with my children. No alarming studies have been released discussing the severity of the problem in our schools.'”

Which naturally raises the question: is there a genuine lead hazard, which the district has been covering up from parents, or just a phony hazard, which their lawyers are conjuring up in an effort to squeeze money from manufacturers? Opelt: “Ron Scott, a lawyer for the school district, is quoted in a Houston Chronicle article as saying: ‘This isn’t a panic issue. People don’t need to feel their schools are unsafe.’ Duncan Klussmann, a district administrator, told me, ‘Your child is not at risk.’ These are the very same people who signed onto a lawsuit that says there is a ‘substantial risk of lead poisoning.’ What are we to believe? District officials are telling parents their schools are safe but their lawsuit demands millions of dollars for addressing a dangerous situation caused by lead paint. Both cannot be true.” (CALA Houston website, “Parent Urges School District To “Get The Lead Out“, “Contrary to Other Reports“, David Waddell, “Why Should Safety Be a Secret?“, Annette Baird, “District: Lead-paint concerns in check”, Houston Chronicle, Oct. 17). (DURABLE LINK)

November 13 — Update: ousted quartet member wins damages. “A Pennsylvania judge has ordered three members of the Audubon Quartet to pay their former colleague David Ehrlich more than $600,000 in damages, adding yet another dramatic twist to the legal battle that has largely silenced the internationally acclaimed quartet since February 2000 and cost the group its home at Virginia Tech.” (Kevin Miller, “Ousted quartet member should receive damages, judge rules”, Roanoke Times, Oct. 16; “In Support of the Audubon Quartet“; summary of court opinion) (see June 5, 2000, June 14, 2001). Update May 10-12, 2002: defendants could lose house.

November 13 — Women’s rights: British law, or Islamic? According to columnist Theodore Dalrymple of The Spectator, a misguided multiculturalism has led authorities in the United Kingdom to adopt a hands-off policy toward some British Muslim families’ trampling of their young daughters’ rights (“The abuse of women”, Oct. 27).

November 12 — “Morales trying to ‘clear the air’ before campaign”. Many assumed the political career of former Texas attorney general Dan Morales was dead, dead, dead after allegations began flying in the papers about the circumstances under which he’d hired outside lawyers to represent the state in the tobacco affair and share one of the largest fee windfalls in history (see Sept. 1-3, 2000). But now Morales wants to run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Phil Gramm and is insisting with new vehemence that he never acted improperly and that it’s all been a misunderstanding. Two of his lawyers have “asked a state district court in Austin to let Morales lay the groundwork for a possible defamation suit by taking the sworn testimony of four former associates. Morales wants to question John Eddie Williams Jr. of Houston — one of five trial lawyers who shared $3.3 billion in legal fees from the tobacco case — and three former assistants in the attorney general’s office — Harry Potter of Austin and Jorge Vega and Javier Aguilar of San Antonio. He indicated that Williams and Potter, who was actively involved in the tobacco suit, could be targets of any suit he may file.” Pull up a chair, this promises to be interesting (Clay Robison, Houston Chronicle, Nov. 7). Morales also continues to deny “allegations by Houston trial lawyer Joe Jamail that Morales improperly solicited $1 million from each of several lawyers he considered hiring for the tobacco suit.”

November 12 — Short-sellers had right to a drop in stock price. At least that’s the premise underlying this press release and lawsuit from a class action law firm seeking the right to sue on behalf of short-sellers who feel their speculative bets against the stock of Intelli-Check Inc. were stymied by the company’s allegedly over-sunny fiscal projections. (“Speziali, Greenwald & Hawkins, PC Announces the Filing of a Class Action Suit on Behalf of Short-Sellers of Intelli-Check, Inc. (Amex: IDN) Securities”, Yahoo/PR Newswire, Oct. 18).

November 12 — “U.S. Debates Info on Chemical Hazards”. “Separate hearings in the House and Senate [were] held this week to reassess the safety of chemical and industrial facilities in the light of recent terrorist attacks. A key policy at stake is the so-called ‘right to know’ law, which requires the federal government to publicly disclose sensitive information about facilities around the country that could be used by terrorists to target the most dangerous locations.” Jeremiah Baumann, a spokesman for the Nader-empire U.S. Public Interest Research Group, called for preserving public access to the sensitive information. “‘Let’s at least make the bad guys work for it,’ countered Amy E. Smithson, a chemical and biological weapons analyst for the Henry L. Stimson Center think tank.” Smithson said “[t]he Clinton EPA’s decision to post those plans for some 15,000 plants on the Internet in August 2000 ‘wasn’t just bad, it was colossally bad’.” (John Heilprin, AP/Yahoo, Nov. 8) (see Oct. 1). More: Carol D. Leonnig and Spencer S. Hsu, “Fearing Attack, Blue Plains Ceases Toxic Chemical Use”, Washington Post, Nov. 10 (chlorine use at Washington sewage treatment plant); Jonathan Adler, “How the EPA Helps Terrorists”, National Review Online, Sept. 27; “Environmental Danger”, Oct. 11; Angela Logomarsini, “Laws that Make Terror Easy”, New York Post, Oct. 12; “‘Right To Know’ Hearings – Taking Away Terrorist Tools”, Competitive Enterprise Institute press release, Nov. 7.

July 2001 archives, part 2


July 20-22 — Don’t rock the Coke machine. “A couple whose 19-year-old son was crushed to death by a Coke machine as he rocked it to extract a free can has filed a $1-million lawsuit in a Quebec court” against the soft-drink company, the vending machine’s makers and operators, and the university he was attending. “Kevin Mackle of Etobicoke, Ont., was discovered in December, 1998, pinned beneath a toppled machine in a residence stairwell at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Que. A coroner’s investigation concluded that after a night drinking beer to celebrate the end of exams, Mr. Mackle was trying to shake a soft drink loose when the 420-kilogram machine tipped over. An autopsy found he died of asphyxiation and had a blood-alcohol level slightly above the legal limit for driving.” (Graeme Hamilton, “Family sues Coca-Cola over son’s death”, National Post, July 11).

July 20-22 — Rand study finds no boost in accident rates from no-fault. A new Rand Corporation study “refutes a common criticism of no-fault auto insurance — that it may increase the accident rate by reducing drivers’ incentives to drive carefully. An analysis of accident trends in the United States between 1967 and 1989 found no statistically significant relationship between states’ adoption of a no-fault system and the fatal accident rate, overall accident rates, and other measures of driver care.” (David S. Loughran, “The Effect of No-Fault Automobile Insurance on Driver Behavior and Automobile Accidents in the United States,” RAND Institute for Civil Justice, 2001 (summary) (full study)).

July 20-22 — ADA’s busiest complaint-filer. National Law Journal profiles Miami lawyer John D. Mallah, who with his partner since 1998 “have sued at least 740 businesses — car dealerships, fast food franchises, drug stores, run-down motels — claiming that they had failed to make their facilities accessible to the disabled, as required under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)” (see Jan. 26, Feb. 15b, March 7, May 18, 2000). Most of the suits were brought on behalf of a activist who directs a local disabled-rights group and who also happens to be Mallah’s uncle. “According to Mallah, most of his access cases yield $3,000 to $5,000 in [legal] fees,” which defendants pay him as a condition of settling cases. (Bob Van Voris, “South Florida’s ADA Industry”, July 9).

July 20-22 — “Man sues Rite Aid over stale jelly bean”. From Maine: “A Winslow man who said he broke his false teeth on a stale jelly bean is suing Rite Aid Corp. and a Maryland candymaker, seeking new dentures plus damages. Clayton Weeks, 62, has asked for a total of $9,000 to replace the dentures and for pain and suffering, said his lawyer, Gregory J. Domareki. … ‘He has lost 15 pounds … What is it worth not having your teeth for four months?’,” Domareki said of his client (AP/Boston Globe, July 13).

July 20-22 — Back from summer break. We figured our visitor traffic would plunge over the last week and a half since we’d warned that we wouldn’t be posting updates. To our surprise it dropped only modestly, clocking around 3,500 pages served per weekday, not so far below the 5,000 a day clip we’d been hitting before. Thanks for your support! (And maybe we can take more time off.)