“The Irish News must pay £25,000 plus court costs to a west Belfast Italian restaurant owner after a jury found a food critic’s review to be defamatory.” (“£25K for food critic’s poison pen”, BBC, Feb. 8). Journalist Caroline Workman, in a review of Ciaran Convery’s restaurant Goodfellas, had “described his staff as unhelpful, his cola as flat, and his chicken marsala ‘so sweet as to be inedible'”. Guardian restaurant critic Matthew Norman described the jury verdict as “very worrying news”: “You really cannot overstate the imbecility of a libel jury: what we really need now is a sustained campaign against our ludicrous libel laws.” (Maev Kennedy, “Critics bite back after restaurant reviewer sued for calling chicken too sweet”, Guardian, Feb. 10).
Some quick links:
- Michael Krauss reviews a Mississippi Court of Appeals decision on a bogus fender-bender claim. [Point of Law; Gilbert v. Ireland]
- Yet another example of overbroad laws on sex offenders (see also Jul. 3, 2005). [Above the Law]
- “As far as the law is concerned, those individuals whose pacemakers fail are the lucky ones.” [TortsProf Blog]
- Emerson Electric sues NBC in St. Louis over a scene in an hourly drama where a cheerleader mangles her hand in a branded garbage disposal. [Hollywood Reporter, Esq.; Lattman; Defamer and Defamer update; St. Louis Post Dispatch]
- A case that’s really not about the money: Man stiffs restaurant over $46 check, defends himself against misdemeanor charge with $500/lawyer. [St. Petersburg Times; Obscure Store]
- Bill Childs catches yet another Justinian Lane misrepresentation. See also Sep. 26 and Sep. 17 (cf. related posts on Lane’s co-blogger Oct. 3 and Sep. 25), and we might just have to retire the category, since we can only hope to scratch the surface. Point of Law has the Gary Schwartz law review article discussed by Childs. [TortsProf Blog and ] Lane’s post also deliberately confuses non-economic damages caps with total damages caps: nothing stops someone with more than $250,000 in economic damages from recovering more than $250,000, even in a world with non-economic damages caps.
Update: Bill Childs in the comments-section to Lane:
“Of course, all of this gets pretty far afield from what I originally wrote and that you’ve conceded, which is that you (unintentionally but sloppily) misrepresented the facts of the Pinto memo, failed to research its background beyond what was apparently represented to you, and still haven’t (last time I checked, at 9:10 p.m.) updated your site to reflect your error. Nor have you approved the trackback I sent to the site. You’ve posted comments to that very entry and another entry has gone up on the site, but readers still see the plainly inaccurate statement that the memo excerpt you show was Ford evaluating tort liability for rearendings, when in fact it was Ford evaluating a regulatory proposal for rollovers using numbers from NHTSA.
Councilman Joel Rivera, who heads the New York City Council health committee, likes that idea on grounds of protecting city residents from their own choices (as opposed to on grounds of protecting neighbors against traffic, litter, etc.) (“Councilman: Limit fast food places to fight fat”, AM New York, Jun. 21; Carl Campanile and Mathew Charles, “Make That Fast Food ‘To Go’: Council Big”, New York Post, Jun. 22; KipEsquire, Jun. 22; The Rant Shack, Jun. 22). Similarly, from Ireland: Feb. 17, 2004.
The grandson of James Joyce, Stephen James Joyce, has used his control of the copyrights to Joyce’s work to impede scholarly research by threatening to withhold consent to any academic who would veer into investigation of the family history. He spent a hundred thousand dollars of the estate’s money to halt publication of a new edition of “Ulysses”; has “blocked or discouraged” a number of readings; and threatened to sue the National Library of Ireland when it sought to display its copies of Joyce’s manuscripts. In revenge for Michael Groden’s favorable blurb of a scholar Stephen Joyce disliked, Joyce quoted a price of a million and a half dollars for Groden’s right to quote “Ulysses” in the multimedia work he spent seven years preparing. D.T. Max in the June 19 New Yorker explores the younger Joyce’s battles, and also mentions other litigious literary estates.
In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a group of Sikh “protesters” forced the cancellation of a controversial play described as a “black comedy” that centered around rape and murder at a Sikh temple. The details are in this article (registration is gratis) and some outrage is in this short lead editorial.
Here is what is most worrisome — the notion that free speech must give way to the (violent) protests of the community (and the concurrent lack of protection by peace officers). The attitude is nicely encapsulated by these two reactions:
I was a guest on Mark Carbonaro’s a.m. show this morning on KION-AM in Salinas, Calif. to discuss The Rule of Lawyers. To book a broadcast interview on the book, email me directly or contact Jamie Stockton at the St. Martin’s/Griffin publicity department: 212-674-5151, ext. 502.
Some other recently noted publicity on The Rule of Lawyers: reviewer Art Taylor of Metro Magazine in North Carolina’s Research Triangle named it as one of the top ten nonfiction books of 2003 (Jan.). Writing in Salt Lake City’s Deseret News, Hal Heaton of the Brigham Young University Center for Entrepreneurship devoted much of a column to discussing the book’s contents (“Litigation hinders new ideas, growth”, Jul. 11, not online). And Maurice Neligan, a distinguished cardiac surgeon in Ireland, recommends the book as “most revealing” in a piece published in Irish Times (“Common sense, fat chance”, May 11, not online).
In a far-reaching reform intended to curb its rising litigation rate, Ireland recently adopted the system sometimes known as scheduled damages: an official panel, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, has been established to publish recommended guidelines (the “Quantum”) for the pain and suffering component of sued-over serious injuries, thus reducing the need to litigate each damage determination afresh. Scheduled compensation and like devices are often encountered in European court systems but, aside from workers’ compensation, are virtually unknown here. I discuss the Irish reforms and their implications at more length today on Point of Law.
In Ireland, an official health board has objected to the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant in the County Clare town of Ennis, saying its products might make children fat. “Community dietitians” on the board have insisted that before the restaurant chain has its permit application approved it should “prepare an Environmental Impact Statement to determine what effect the restaurant will have on the health of children in the Ennis area.” (“Board opposes a McDonald’s for Ennis over health factors”, Irish Times, Feb. 3). Further reading on the slimness-through-legal-compulsion crusade: David Gratzer (Manhattan Institute), “Cadbury Replaces Cholera”, National Review Online, Feb. 12; Todd G. Buchholz, “Burgers, Fries, and Lawyers”, Policy Review, Feb.; Kelly Jane Torrence, “Food Fight”, Reason, Dec. 23.