Washington, D.C. city council plans $1,000 speeding tickets, officials insist it’s Not About the Money [Washington Post]
Lawyers Brendan and Nessa Coppinger moved into their row house in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood last September. They have now gotten a judge to agree to a temporary restraining order prohibiting their neighbor, Edwin Gray, from smoking or allowing anyone to smoke on his property. The Coppingers say the smoke is getting onto their premises through openings between the connected structures and “is harming them and their children”; they also want cash damages. The Gray family has owned the house next door for 50 years. [AP/ABC13 via ABA Journal; Washington Post]
Benjamin Freed at Washingtonian was kind enough to quote me at length making several points about this and similar litigation: 1) it would have been thrown out over most of the course of legal history because courts insisted that nuisance and similar claims (in this case couched as “negligence, nuisance, and trespassing”) exceed a de minimis standard and, in a claim for damages, required proof of actual harm going well beyond “you hit me with a molecule and that could kill me”; 2) smoking is uniquely disapproved nowadays which means some courts are willing to entertain de minimis claims that they would not for other common neighborhood nuisances; 3) if carcinogenic smoke drifting across property lines is to be stopped, both backyard grills and barbecues and common fireplaces are in trouble, at least if courts behaved logically — a very big if, of course. (It should be noted that the lawsuit includes some claims — such as that an unrepaired chimney at the Grays’ is contributing to the smoke problem — that might fit more readily into traditional legal categories.)
The temporary court order, incidentally, also bars the Gray family from allowing any smoking of now-legal marijuana in their house, which prompts this additional thought:
“It does make you wonder why conservative opponents of marijuana would bother to fight legalization in DC when instead they can let it go through and get rich suing over it,” Olson says.
Whole thing here.
“A Texas law firm has sued a former client over a negative Yelp review, posted after the firm sued the client for attorney fees.” Joseph Browning of Austin had comprehensively denounced the firm as “disorganized, deceptive, manipulative and largely disrespected,” “selfish and incapable of showing empathy towards their clients,” and one that “will take everything you’ve got,” in a review that the law firm described as defamatory and “blatantly false.” [ABA Journal]:
The new suit, [attorney Kirk] Fulk said, “is not about the money. I would be shocked and amazed if [the firm’s name partners] even got their filing fees back from Mr. Browning. It’s purely a matter of principle and personality. They don’t want their names slandered.”
“If we don’t get a dime, that’s OK, if we can make a difference and save some lives,” said longtime Overlawyered favorite Willie Gary, one of the lawyers representing a woman awarded $23 billion-with-a-b in punitive damages by a Florida jury for the lung cancer death of her husband, a longtime smoker. [USA Today] I’ve covered earlier stages in the long-running Florida Engle tobacco litigation, which included a $145 billion punitive damage verdict later thrown out, in articles here, here, and here, as well as Overlawyered coverage; more on Willie Gary.
More: Jacob Sullum on the illogical basis of the jury’s decision.
Because the best way to show that it’s Not About the Money is to ask for $200 million [TMZ]
- Report: dead woman’s name robo-signed onto thousands of collection documents [Business Insider] Or was it? [comment, Fredrickson/Collections and Credit Risk (alleging that living daughter shares name of deceased mother)] “Are faked attorney signatures the ‘next huge issue’ in the foreclosure scandal?” [Renee Knake, Legal Ethics Forum]
- “Major Verdict Threatens to Bankrupt Maker of Exercise Equipment” [Laura Simons, Abnormal Use]
- Decline in competitiveness of U.S. capital markets owes much to legal and regulatory developments [Bainbridge, related]
- Deadly Choices, The Panic Virus: Dr. Paul Offit and Seth Mnookin have new books out on vaccine controversy [Orac]
- “No one’s trying to get rich off this,” says lawyer planning suit on behalf of A train subway riders stranded during NYC blizzard [NY Daily News]
- Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna continues to seek solutions to state’s uniquely exposed litigation position, including fix of joint and several liability [Seattle Times, background here and here]
- ABA Blawg 100 picks — and a critique;
- Alabama bar orders lawyer’s law license suspended, but in the mean time he’s been elected judge [four years ago on Overlawyered]
One of the examples given: “It’s not about the money, but…” [Erin McKean, Boston Globe]
- Online game purveyor Evony threatens to sue UK critic in Australian court [GameSetWatch, Ken at Popehat, Patrick at Popehat]
- 106: number of (counted) cases filed since 2005 that blame errant grapes for slip-fall injuries [ABA Journal]
- Bayonne, N.J.: “Connolly suing county for $1M over job switch” [Jersey Journal; background (city councilman took six months off from job as coordinator of 9/11 emergency call center; “doctors won’t let him go back because it’s too stressful.”)]
- “Lessons from Andrew Sullivan’s pot bust” [Sullum, Reason] More: Patrick at Popehat.
- “The Appraisal Debacle: How Not to Regulate” [Jack Guttentag, Yahoo Finance, via Fountain]
- Bizarre: “Paralegal Guilty in Fake-Libel-Suit Scam That Briefly Won $3M” [ABA Journal]
- Idea for immigration reform: “Let the smart people in”. [Farhad Manjoo, Slate, via Alkon] More: “Free the H-1Bs, free the economy” [Vivek Wadhwa, TechCrunch]
- Academic finds that depending on whom you ask, “It’s not about the money” or maybe it is [Relis, SSRN/Pittsburgh 2007, via Burch, Mass Tort Lit]
Updating our Apr. 29 item: “A law professor who sued two former students for defamation has dropped his suit after the school’s interim dean said there is no evidence he is a racist. Law professor Richard Peltz of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock told Inside Higher Ed that he sued to get his reputation back. ‘This suit was never about money,’ he said. ‘I feel that now with the university’s support, I am on the road to repairing my reputation.'” (Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal, Nov. 17).