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Please be sure to provide the source. Tales Stranger than Fiction:

Yankee Doodle Doozy

Anthony Berry and Johnny Anderson of Jefferson County, Mississippi, are suing the CBS program "60 Minutes" and Wyatt Emmerich, owner of Emmerich Newspapers, for defamation.  Berry and Anderson were both jurors in separate cases where the jury awards were $150 million each.  During a "60 Minutes" broadcast, Beau Strittman, a plaintiff in an unrelated case, commented the juries "awarded these people this money because they felt as if they were going to get a cut of it."  Despite Strittman's claim that he was only joking, Berry and Anderson filed suit and included Emmerich, who stated during the same "60 Minutes" segment that Jefferson County jurors want to gouge the northern corporations.  Anderson and Berry are seeking $5.9 billion in punitive damages and $597 million in actual damages.


Will the Real Bill Wyman Please Stand Up?

Pop music journalist Bill Wyman is being threatened with legal action by attorney Howard Siegel, of Pryor Cashman Sherman & Flynn, representing former Rolling Stones member, Bill Wyman.  Journalist Wyman was asked to "cease and desist" using his name, unless he could prove that he had obtained it legally and included a disclaimer in everything he wrote "clearly indicating that [he is] not the same Bill Wyman who was a member of the Rolling Stones."  Journalist (and avid Rolling Stones fan) Wyman remembered from musician Wyman's autobiography, Stone Alone, that he was actually born William George Perks and did not change his name to Bill Wyman until 1964.  Journalist Wyman, born in 1961, is considering asking Mr. Siegel's client to "stop using a name [he has] claim to by several years."

—Source:  Atlanta-Journal Constitution

A Sock By Any Other Color

Trevor LeBlanc of San Diego, California, sued Poway Unified School District and Rancho Bernardo High School band director Tom Cole for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress.  LeBlanc, age 16, was a freshman and baritone player at the school when he claimed Cole shook him and yelled, "I ought to wring your [&!#%] neck," for wearing orange socks instead of regulation white socks to perform at the 2001 Tournament of Roses Parade.  LeBlanc, who quit the band following the incident, sued for $150,000.  Last month a jury awarded him $25,000.  The school district had no comment on whether Cole was disciplined.

—Source:  Associated Press

Take Me Out (of) the Ballgame

A fifteen year old Vallejo, California high school student is suing the Vallejo Babe Ruth Baseball League.  Jason Abbitt claims Coach Marshall McGriff had promised him a starting position on the team, but kept him on the bench for 80% of the season.  Abbitt, whose batting average was .083 (1 for 12), alleges the coach intentionally benched him because of a "confrontational history" between his dad - a former umpire in the league - and McGriff.  Dennis Clemente, former league president and a defendant in the suit, says the league plays "strictly by the Major League Rules," and that there is never any guarantee on playing time.  Abbitt is seeking $65 - 80% of his sign-up fee - plus court costs.  If he wins the suit, Abbitt plans to use the money to fund his drivers' education course.  He has no desire to play baseball, commenting, "It's not exactly my cup of tea anymore."

—Source:  Times-Herald Online

Caution!  Slippery When Wet!

Stephen Flandro lost his appeal to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a lawsuit against the Salt Lake County jail alleging his Eighth Amendment rights were violated.  Flandro, a former inmate, claimed the jail's slippery shower floor was "so dangerous that it amounted to cruel and unusual punishment."  The three-judge appeals panel disagreed, ruling the situation did not pose the excessive risk to health and safety necessary to violate the Eighth Amendment, saying, "Slippery shower floors constitute a daily risk faced by the public at large."

—Source:  Associated Press

"Wake Me Up Before You Sue Sue"

Beverly Hills police officer Marcelo Rodriguez is suing pop singer George Michael for slander.  While undercover in 1998, Rodriguez arrested Michael in a public restroom where he observed the singer performing a lewd act.  Michael pleaded no contest to the charges, paid a fine and was ordered to undergo counseling.  Following the incident, Michael recorded the song "Outside" as a parody of his arrest, and went on a round of interviews alleging that Rodriguez had entrapped him, playing "I'll show you mine if you show me yours."  Rodriguez filed a suit which U.S. District Judge Consuelo Marshall dismissed but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has reinstated, ruling that Michael's comments made during interviews could be interpreted as "accusations that the officer committed a crime and was unfit for the job."  Rodriguez is seeking $10 million in damages.

—Source:  The San Francisco Chronicle

Until Death (or Divorce) Do Us Part

When Christine and Richard Taylor divorced, a Vermont family court ruled that Mr. Taylor was to pay alimony until Mrs. Taylor's remarriage or death.  Mrs. Taylor later had that stipulation modified to allow her to continue to receive at least $250 a month in support if she were to remarry, claiming it was unlikely she could ever "replace the standard of living she had enjoyed" with her substantially wealthy ex-husband.  When the former Mrs. Taylor later remarried a man of considerable wealth, Mr. Taylor moved to be relieved of the financial obligation.  A lower court denied his motion for lack of "real, substantial or unanticipated change in circumstance."  He appealed to the state Supreme Court which overturned the lower court's ruling, stating spousal support is for meeting "reasonable needs" and Mrs. Taylor's remarriage "substantially reduces the need for maintenance."

—Source:  National Law Journal


Owners of the Mexican-American restaurant Salsa Dave's in Sparks, Nevada, sued the Reno Gazette-Journal over an unfavorable restaurant review.  A free-lance restaurant critic stated Salsa Dave's guacamole was "definitely not the real deal," the food tasted prepackaged and that canned beans were seen in the kitchen.  The restaurant denied the allegations in a letter to the editor, claiming canned beans and frozen avocado pulp were used only in emergencies.  When the newspaper would not print a retraction of the review, the owners filed suit alleging defamation.  The trial court granted summary judgment to the newspaper but the ruling was appealed by the restaurant.  The state Supreme Court upheld the lower court's ruling, concluding a "reasonable person, reading a restaurant review, would recognize that the comments contained therein are the opinions of the writer and not blanket statements of fact…" and the restaurateurs could not prove "actual malice or reckless disregard for the factualness of its statements" by the newspaper. 

—Source:  Las Vegas Review-Journal

"Red and Yellow and Pink and Blue, Purple and Orange and Green.  I Can't Make a Rainbow, Can You?"

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania law firm Sheller, Ludwig & Badey filed a class-action lawsuit against handheld maker Palm.  The lawsuit claimed the company misled customers by falsely advertising the range of color combinations in its new personal digital assistant, the m130.  Palm admitted the product can only display 58,621 of the advertised 65,536 colors, an 11% difference which Stephen Barnett, a law professor at University of California in Berkeley, says most users wouldn't notice or even use.  Palm settled the lawsuit with registered users by offering a full refund or a free game valued at $29.95 if they choose to keep the device. 

—Source: Compiled from multiple news sources

Seeing Pink

Tyler Murello of Patterson, New York, is suing his neighbors, Michael and Laura Schek for $8 million in compensation.  Murello alleges the Scheks decorated their lawn with 58 pink flamingos, various signs, Christmas trees and gargoyles, to "repulse potential buyers" of the million-dollar home he is building after the Scheks tried to unsuccessfully block construction of the new house with their own lawsuit.  Mitchell Lieberman, the attorney representing the Scheks, claims the lawn ornaments are intended to "slow down construction vehicles and deter trespassing construction workers."  Lieberman believes the Scheks have a First Amendment right to decorate the lawn in this manner even if it offends others.  State Supreme Court Justice S. Barrett Hickman has issued a temporary restraining order to remove the display until both parties can present their cases. 

—Source: The Journal News (New York)

Steered Wrong

The Cody family of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has filed a lawsuit against Wisconsin State Fair officials for negligence.  Jessica Cody, age 14, won $56,000 when her 1,300 pound steer won the grand championship at the 2001 fair, but was stripped of the prize and prohibited from competition when her steer tested positive for a banned substance.  The Codys allege that the state fair did not provide adequate protection to the steer, allowing someone to inject the animal with the substance. 

—Source: Associated Press

"Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To See Cowboys"

Peggy Hilden, of San Francisco, California, has filed a lawsuit on behalf of her son against the San Francisco Unified School District to keep Bay Area school children from attending "student day" at the Grand National Rodeo.  Hilden and two animal rights activists groups charge that the school-sponsored attendance is in violation of the California Education Code forbidding schools "from teaching and encouraging inhumane treatment of animals."  Michael Wegher, CEO of the Cow Palace, where the rodeo is held, disagrees, commenting, "The animals are not abused because that's the people's livelihood.  Some of those animals are better cared for than some people in the world."  The school district argues that only children with parental permission may attend the free event and that individual teachers decide whether or not to allow their class to participate.  David Blatte, Hilden's attorney, claims the children would be subjected to pain inflicted on frightened animals and fears the violence could upset them.  Wegher acknowledges a bull was killed during a non-school performance in 2000.  "It wasn't planned.  It wasn't intentional.  It's like driving on the freeway; sometimes accidents happen," he said, noting that children have been attending the rodeo for over twenty years. 

—Source: The Mercury News

"You Better Not Pout, You Better Not Cry"

Robert and Carolyn Wells sued retailer JC Penny, seeking $600,000 in damages for injuries.  Mrs. Wells claimed that while shopping during the store's after-Christmas sale, she was attacked by another customer during an argument over two crystal bear figurines.  Wells alleges she was verbally assaulted by the women who also wanted to buy the figurines.  According to the suit, when Wells requested security or store management to settle the dispute, the other woman became hostile, shouted obscenities and grabbed Wells' wrist, which caused one of the bears to fall and shatter.  The remaining figurine was ultimately sold to the unidentified shopper.  Wells alleged JC Penny should have "protected [her] from the other shopper," and sought damages for injuries to her shoulder, back and neck.  Her husband also sued, claiming "loss of [her] earnings, society, service, company and consortium."  The Tennessee Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling dismissing the suit, saying it "demonstrates the dangers of the cutthroat arena of after-Christmas bargain shopping."


[Posted November 15, 2002]

Skating on Thin Ice

Former figure skater Tonya Harding is threatening legal action against PDX Hot Lix for defamation and misappropriation of her image with one of their products, "Tonya Hot Sauce."  The hot sauce bottle features a caricature of Harding on a label that states: "Not for the weak-kneed.  Guaranteed to assault your taste buds.  It's a lead-pipe cinch you'll love it."  Company owner John Farmer claims "it's all in fun," but Harding's attorney, William Markham, believes the spoof "unfairly conjures up memories...  disturbing and misunderstood events that foiled her dreams of an Olympic championship," and the company is wrongly profiting at her expense.  Markham has already succeeded in removing the product from an Oregon store after threatening the retailer with a lawsuit.  Farmer and his attorney find the "whole thing laughable," but say they would be willing to give Harding a percentage of proceeds from the sales if she were to donate them to Mothers Against Drunk Driving in light of her recent DUI conviction while on probation for assault.  Harding could not be reached for comment.

—Source: Associated Press

[Posted November 8, 2002]

"Losing My Religion"

Kimberly Cloutier, of West Springfield, MA, has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, Costco Wholesale Corporation, for religious discrimination.  Cloutier, who wore an eyebrow ring, among other body piercings, for 2 ½ years while employed with Costco, was fired when the company changed its dress code to ban facial piercings, which she refused to remove claiming religious beliefs.  She claims she wears them as a sign of faith, which helps to "unite her mind, body and soul" in her religious participation with the Church of Body Modification ­ "an interfaith church whose members practice an assortment of ancient body modification rituals, which [they] believe are essential to [their] spiritual salvation."  Cloutier filed a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which found in May, 2002 that Costco had "probably violated religious discrimination laws" when they fired her.  Because the company did not rehire her following the EEOC ruling, Cloutier has filed a $2 million lawsuit against Costco. 

—Source: Union-News (Massachusetts)

I Vant To Suck Your Blood

The Utah State Court of Appeals has dismissed a lawsuit filed by inmate Robert Paul Rice against the Utah State Prison alleging his right to practice his religion had been violated.  Rice, whose prison records list him as a Catholic, now claims to be a "Druid" in the Wicca religion and follows "the order of the Vampire" which includes drinking blood and conjugal visits with a "vampress."  Since there are no conjugal visits in the Utah prison system and five special dietary menus are provided, prison officials denied Rice's request.  The court agreed with a lower court's ruling that the appeal "raises numerous questions that are so insubstantial as not to merit further consideration."

—Source:  The Daily Herald

Deja Vú

Nancy and Larry Marks of Aspen, Colorado, have filed a lawsuit against Archie Eli and Lauren Miller to keep them from using the name of their business, Aspen Psychic.  The Marks claim they registered their business with the state over twenty years ago and Eli and Miller recently chose the same name to "upset, vex and annoy" them and to steal their clients in the elite mountain resort.  Miller denies the accusations, stating that there is nothing wrong with using a name which "describes what your business is" and where it is located.  Marks, who believes that "evil was trying to enter a very sacred place," claims to have foreseen the situation through visions.  Both parties accuse the other of harassment and slander, and are each currently seeking restraining orders.  Both are confident in their visions of victory.

—Source:  Associated Press


Andrew Wysotski and Lori Learmont of San Francisco have filed a $5 million lawsuit against Air Canada, claiming negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, fraud and false advertising. The couple alleges that airline representatives assured them their four cats, traveling in cargo, would be safe in airline-approved animal transportation crates on a flight from Toronto to San Francisco. They were further assured the crates would be handled carefully during the flight and hand carried on and off the plane. However, upon arriving in San Francisco, Wysotski and Learmont found the crates to have been severely damaged and their cat, Fu, missing. Learmont said that after allowing a seven minute search, the airline would not allow them to continue for over an hour, causing them "to miss a critical opportunity to recover their cat." The complaint states that the defendants knew the couple considered their cats to be members of the family and would suffer emotional harm if one were to be lost. The complaint accuses the airline of failing to follow through with their promise of care "willfully and by gross negligence, in disregard of humanity."

—Source: Aviation Litigation Reporter

Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend

Allen Smith of Philadelphia filed a lawsuit against his homeowner’s insurance company, Liberty Mutual Fire Insurance Co., over a theft claim for a 2-carat diamond engagement ring valued at $12, 475. Smith proposed to Bergittia von Buelow de Rothschild, of Australia, after meeting her through an internet dating service, and gave her the engagement ring. Shortly after their engagement, Rothschild stopped e-mailing Smith and would not return his phone calls. A private investigator, hired by Smith, determined Rothschild had lied about her identity and when Smith attempted to get the ring back, Rothschild disappeared. Smith filed a fraud complaint with the police and tried to recoup the ring’s value under his insurance policy. Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Stephen E. Levin ruled that Smith was not entitled to recover the money for the ring from his insurance company. Citing a 1999 Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling that an engagement ring is a conditional gift, to be returned if the engagement is terminated, Levin said that this standard would constitute breach of contract, not a criminal offense. He ruled in favor of Liberty Mutual because Smith had not proven that Rothschild "entered the relationship with the intention of tricking him into giving her a ring." Joseph Zenstein, Smith’s attorney, responded, "If you are conned out of something, that is a theft. To me it is a really simple issue. He asked for the ring back, she wouldn’t provide it." Smith plans to appeal the decision.

—Source: The Associated Press

From Riches to Rags

Herbert Black has filed a lawsuit in New York, charging Denise Rich with breach of contract. Black alleges that Rich hired him to find a buyer for her music business and manage her fortune, in excess of $200 million. After cutting Rich’s annual expenses by $8 million — including $40,000 for her astrological star-aligner, $210,000 by reducing her chauffeurs from three to one, and $52,000 for a dog walker to push two of her dogs around Central Park in a baby carriage — and finding buyers for her business, Black claims that Rich stopped taking his calls and refuses to pay his fees. He believes this to be in retaliation for his rejecting her romantic advances. Rich denies the accusation and alleges it was he who was romantically interested in her. Black, also the lead plaintiff in two class action suits in New York, commented, "I don’t sue for sport — I sue for just cause." Black is seeking damages up to $6 million.

—Compiled from multiple news sources

Common Cents

Associated Credit Services (ACS) filed a lawsuit against Wendy Ehringer, of Seattle, Washington, for interest due from the collection of a bounced check. Last November, Ehringer bounced a $15.02 check and received a notice from ACS requesting immediate payment plus $40 in service fees. She sent a money order to the agency for the full amount and assumed her account was settled when the money order cleared. Then, in April, Ehringer received notice from ACS that she was being sued for $0.00 owed for the bounced check and 18 cents interest because her payment arrived after the due date, in addition to $311.26 in attorney’s fees. Ehringer hired lawyer Amanda Lee to attempt to resolve the case. After numerous failed attempts to contact the company, Lee filed a countersuit, claiming ACS had no grounds to sue her client since the lawsuit stated her balance was zero and the money order had been cashed. Seattle District Court Judge Eileen Kato agreed, finding ACS’ practices violated the Consumer Protection Act and the Collection Agency Act. She awarded Ehringer $500 and attorney’s fees.

—Source: Seattle Times

 The Blind Leading the Legally Blind

In 1995, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against United Parcel Service on behalf of a group of employees alleging the company’s policy denying jobs as drivers to candidates who are legally blind in one eye violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In December, 2000, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled for the employees and ordered the company to consider candidates based on their skill and safety record and not visual acuity, saying that even people with little or no vision in one eye could compensate and still be safe drivers. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, citing recent Supreme Court decisions that narrowed the definition of disability, unanimously overturned Alsup’s ruling in September, stating that UPS had not violated ADA. The court ruled that the drivers in this instance are not disabled because they can still read and drive their own cars, yet UPS is entitled to set its own strict safety standards and ban visually impaired drivers. The case has been remanded back to Judge Alsup.

—Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

Fool Me Once, Fool Me 18 Times

A Vancouver, Washington, Mazda/Dodge car dealership has reached a settlement with the state attorney’s office after a complaint was filed accusing the dealership of selling 18 cars in 14 months to a mentally impaired man. The complaint alleges the dealership staff took advantage of the customer’s mental state and fooled him into trusting them by pretending to be his friend. The dealership, without admitting wrongdoing, entered a private settlement with the 70-year old unnamed victim for $50,000 and a new car and agreed to pay $15,000 in civil penalties and $17,000 in attorney’s fees. Ron Anderson, the dealership’s owner, claims he was unaware of the deceptive practices of his staff until the man’s guardian notified the general manager.

—Source: The Seattle Times

The Tell-Tale Heart

Kathleen Ann McCormick, of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, is suing doctors at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center for $1 million dollars in damages, alleging that her physicians did not do enough to prevent her heart attack. McCormick, who by her own admission has a family history of coronary artery disease, is overweight, has hypertension, high cholesterol and is a smoker, claims her doctors did not adequately assist her in making the lifestyle changes that could have prevented her debilitating heart attack. Alleging the doctors told her that her symptoms were "basically normal and non life-threatening," McCormick, who is home-bound and requires constant care, has named the United States government and various doctors as defendants in her suit.

—Source: The Times Leader

Excuse Me, Mister, Can You Spare Some Change?

Alleghany County Court Common Pleas Judge Joseph A. Jaffe could face indictment for allegedly asking lawyers appearing before him for money in return for favors. Joel Persky, representing plaintiffs seeking health damages from asbestos, claims that Jaffe, who was presiding over 1,300 asbestos cases, asked him for $13,000 and then presented his "repayment plan". Persky reported the misconduct and in cooperation with federal authorities, secretly taped a meeting in his home at which he handed the judge the requested $13,000. The bills were marked, and federal agents stopped Jaffe as he left with the cash in an envelope. Jaffe is currently on paid leave from his duties and U.S. attorney Mary Beth Buchanan would not confirm nor deny the investigation.

—Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Oh Brother!

A 15-year court battle between brothers Salvatore and James Dell’Orto may be nearing an out-of-court settlement. The brothers had inherited the grocery store, Manganaro Foods, from their uncle, but in 1962 split the business into rival sandwich and grocery shops located next door to each other. At issue has been which brother had the right to the take-out telephone orders for Manganaro’s famous "Hero-Boy" party sandwiches. In 1989, Justice Harold Baer, Jr. ruled that while both could use the Manganaro name, James had the rights to the "Hero-Boy" and take-out telephone orders for the sandwich. Six years later, brother Salvatore was ordered to pay $422,240 in damages for operating a new, heavily advertised take-out phone line in violation of Justice Baer’s 1989 decision. James has still not received the money, but has offered to give it up if Salvatore closes his shop next door, ceases to use the business name and transfers the sandwich order telephone number to him. The family is hopeful that a settlement will be reached in the next few weeks and the multigenerational family feud can end.

—Source: The New York Times

A Costly Affair

King County, Washington, is suing public defender Theresa Olson for over $80,000 due to trial delays. Olson is accused of engaging in sexual activity with her client, Sebastian Burns, who had been charged with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder. After being reported by a jail sergeant claiming to have witnessed Olson having sex with Burns in a jailhouse conference room, Olson was replaced by private court-appointed lawyers, which led to a costly delay in the trial. King County officials believe Olson is liable for legal costs already put toward Burns’ defense as well as any new costs associated with the case due her alleged negligence. County Budget Director Steve Call said, "It’s not any different than in previous incidents, where somebody has, by their negligence, cost the county a lot of money."

—Source: The Associated Press

Choking on Smog Fees

Sacramento’s Third District Court of Appeals has ordered a new arbitration for attorney fees in a case over smog-impact fees. Five law firms succeeded in overturning California’s smog-impact fee — a $300 registration fee imposed on the owner of any out-of-state vehicle relocating to California — as unconstitutional. State legislators set up a fund of more than $500 million for reimbursement, of which lawyers were originally granted $88.5 million in fees. The award, which comes to more than $8,000 per billable hour, was overturned by the appeals court three-judge panel, with instructions that any new award could not exceed $18.2 million plus interest. Judge Richard Sims, III wrote, "The fact that attorneys even requested a fee of this absurd magnitude from the taxpayers is a testament to the unreal world of greed in which some attorneys practice law in this day and age."

—Source: The Recorder

Wholly Healing!

Sophia Reitan sued the Upper Room Tabernacle Church for $4 million after falling and breaking her arm during a Pentecostal service. Reitan’s lawyer, Andrew Siben, alleges that congregants at the church "often quake and tremble during services when the spirit moved them" and the church should have provided safety devices that would catch the falling worshippers and have prevented Reitan from falling to the floor when the minister pushed her while trying to bless her. Reitan settled her case with the church’s insurance company for $80,000. Other than declaring, "God loves me" when notified of the cash award, Reitan had no other comment, Siben said, because "God told her not to speak about the case."

—Source: The New York Post

"You’ve Got To Know When to Hold ‘em,
Know When to Fold ‘em…"

David Williams, of Evansville, IN, has filed a lawsuit against Aztar Corporation, owner of Tropicana Casino, for federal and state racketeering activity, breach of contract, tortious breaches of duty and fraud. Williams alleges that despite the casino’s knowledge of his gambling addiction, they continued to tempt him to their riverboat casino, causing him to lose an estimated $175,000. Although Aztar banned him from the casino after he was committed to a mental health center by an Indiana judge, Williams was still sent promotional material and special offers to entice him to return to the casino. Williams claims he succumbed to temptation after a Gamblers Anonymous meeting one evening and eventually lost his entire savings and home and was forced to file for bankruptcy. Tom Grey, executive director of the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling, hopes that this lawsuit will prompt governors and attorneys general nationwide to sue gambling entities to hold them responsible for the "cost of addiction, bankruptcy, crime and corruption that are by-products of gambling." Williams is asking for an unspecified amount of damages.

—Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal

"Here They Come, Misses North Carolina"

Rebeka Revels has filed a federal lawsuit against the Miss America organization and the North Carolina state pageant to reclaim her title as Miss North Carolina in order to compete in the September 21 Miss America pageant. In July, Revels turned in her crown after an ex-boyfriend informed pageant officials that he had topless photos of her. Now Revels claims she was forced to step down by pageant officials who threatened to terminate her contract as a result of the photos. In state court, Revels won a preliminary injunction requiring the state pageant to acknowledge her as Miss North Carolina. Revel’s lawyer, who has failed to bring witnesses to court despite the federal judge’s instructions, has been given one more chance to present his case against the Miss America pageant. For the pre-pageant events currently underway in Atlantic City, N.J., Revels and first runner-up Misty Clymer have been participating as co-contestants.

—Source: The Charlotte Observer

"Presidential Hopeful" Files Lawsuit

Matthew Hooker has filed a defamation lawsuit seeking $200 million dollars in damages against actress Nicole Kidman and various media outlets for referring to him as Kidman’s "stalker." Despite a judge having entered a three-year, stay-away order against him because of "numerous past harassments" of Kidman, Hooker believes the label will hurt his 2004 presidential campaign. Hooker, age 30, has not explained how he plans to fulfill the age requirement of 35 for presidential eligibility.

—Source: San Antonio Express News

Anna "Porn-ikova"

Vadim Levin and Alex Sheyngis have filed a class action lawsuit against Penthouse magazine. The two men are seeking damages, claiming they were deceived into spending $8.99 on the magazine’s issue claiming to feature topless photos of Anna Kournikova on a beach in Florida. Their suit follows two out-of-court settlements by Penthouse over the pictures — one from Kournikova for violation of her privacy rights and for portraying her in a false light, and another by Judith Stoltesz-Benetton, the woman who actually appeared in the false Kournikova photos. Kournikova had warned Penthouse, prior to distribution, that the photographs of the woman on the beach were not of her, but the magazine printed and distributed 1.2 million copies of the much-hyped issue anyway, relying only on the photographer’s claim that it was the tennis star. In court, photographer Frank Ramaesiri testified that his identification was made based on comparing the nipples in his pictures to those in a picture of Kournikova clothed and said, "It was pretty evident, the diameter of them; and they matched up [with] what we had on film." Both cases were settled out of court for an undisclosed amount, an apology from the magazine and the destruction of all unsold copies of the issue.

—Source: Multiple News Reports

[Posted September 6, 2002]

"Basebol Has Been Berry Berry Bad To Me"

Anthony Ercolano has filed a lawsuit against the Seattle Mariner baseball club for violating his right to free speech and breaching his season ticket contract. Ercolano claims that Mariners executive vice president called him to tell him to "turn down the volume" of his heckling the visiting teams or give up his two $32,000 Diamond Club season tickets in the fifth row behind home plate. Mariners club lawyer Bruce Johnson wrote in a letter to Ercolano’s lawyer that "the Mariners have full authority to protect nearby fans… from the heavy, incessant volume of noise created by Mr. Ercolano." His lawyer, Paul Meiklejohn, believes that other Diamond Club members are complaining because they use the baseball games as an "opportunity to network and to set up business deals…." Ercolano is also asking the judge to bar the club from ejecting him from the stadium and from revoking his season tickets claiming he never uses foul language or insults a player’s family, and commented, "I believe in being loud at a baseball game."

—Source: The Associated Press

[Posted September 6, 2002]

A Little Leaguer Playing in the Big Leagues

Russell and Pamela Van Beustring have filed a lawsuit against Katy Youth Football League on behalf of their son. They claim the league violated the contract they entered in May for Alec, age 11, to play on a varsity fifth grade football team by changing the team assignments in August, moving Alec to a senior varsity level of sixth graders. They allege that the new rule "adversely affects their son and about 85 other children," claiming that Alec "cries himself to sleep each night" and it is unfair to force a 75-pound boy to play with older and bigger players weighing up to 160 pounds. They are asking a judge to require the league to revert to the rules that were in place when they registered Alec with the league. There was no comment made by the Katy Football League, but Mr. Van Beustring says the coaches are "as upset as the children."

—Source: The Houston Chronicle

[Posted September 6, 2002]

Flying the Crowded Skies

Philip Shafer, an attorney from Ashland, Ohio, has filed a lawsuit against Delta Airlines. Shafer claims that on a two-hour flight from New Orleans to Cincinnati he suffered "embarrassment, severe discomfort, mental anguish and severe emotional distress" by having to sit next to a passenger so overweight that they were "figuratively married from the right kneecap to the shoulder" for the duration of the flight. He alleges Delta breached its contract "to provide him with a full seat and reasonable comfort because the obese man crowded into his seat." James Tyminski, an attorney representing the airline, commented, "We’ve become too litigious. We have problems in society that are much deeper than that…. This is trivial." Shafer says he has no prejudice against overweight people, but wants to "get Delta’s attention" so they will address the situation. He is seeking $9500 in damages, but is open to a settlement.

—Source: Mansfield News Journal

"Liar, Liar Pants on Fire"

Claudia Huntey has filed a federal lawsuit in Denver, Colorado, after being evicted from her apartment complex for violating her lease because of "continuous noise problems from [her] apartment." Huntey claims that her shouting "Fire" in the middle of the night is "involuntary vocalization" as a result of the Tourette's syndrome she has suffered from since childhood and thus is protected by federal disability law. She charges in her suit that she was illegally, overtly and intentionally discriminated against due to her condition. Since the eviction, Huntey claims her physical and verbal tics have become more pronounced causing depression, flashbacks and nightmares.

—Source: The Rocky Mountain News

"Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys"

Fritz Herring has filed a lawsuit against the Hennepin County Government, alleging the Minnesota county violated his constitutional rights and falsely imprisoned him. Herring, age 72, went to the county government building dressed as a cowboy to deliver a singing telegram. Herring claims sheriff's deputies, concerned by the fake 1860 .44 caliber pistol he was carrying as a prop, arrested him and held him in jail for nearly 12 hours. The suit also accuses Sheriff Pat McGowan of exacerbating the situation at a news conference by pointing the pistol at a reporter and asking if she was afraid of it. Herring is seeking unspecified damages for negligence, defamation and slander, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

—Source: The Minneapolis Star Tribune

Just a Squirrel Trying to Get a Nut

Luminata Marinas, of Eastpointe, Michigan, is being charged with violating her probation from a previous charge of littering and rat harborage. Marinas had been feeding squirrels in a local park in February, 2002, a punishable offense because city officials claim it attracts rats to the community. She received one year probation for the initial offense, with one of the conditions being she was no longer permitted to feed the squirrels. In June, Marinas was caught in the park feeding the squirrels again. She originally plead guilty, but withdrew that plea in July and has requested a jury trial, claiming she loves animals and does not believe that she is harming anyone. In the meantime, the judge has forbidden Marinas to feed the squirrels until the case is resolved.

—Source: The Detroit Free Press

Tortious Barbie

Mattel, Inc. sued Universal Music alleging copyright infringement for the 1997 pop hit "Barbie Girl" by Danish quartet Aqua. The song, Mattel charges, tarnished Barbie’s reputation with its sexual innuendo and refrains including, "… life in plastic, it’s fantastic… Come on, Barbie, let’s go party…." Universal argued the song fell under the artists’ right of free speech and was a "social commentary." On July 24, 2002, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled the song was a parody, protected by the First Amendment. Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the three-judge panel, "Barbie has been labeled both the ideal American woman and a bimbo. She has survived attacks both psychic (from feminists critical of her fictitious figure) and physical (more than 500 professional makeovers)." The record company had also filed a counterclaim for defamation, rejected by the appeals court with Kozinski stating, "The parties are advised to chill."

—Source: Reuters

"Sufferin’ Ssssuccotash"

Douglas Gray has filed a lawsuit against AOL Time Warner, alleging fraud in an online Looney Tunes contest. Gray, age 11, entered and won a Chevy Venture minivan valued at $31,000. When Warner discovered Gray was a minor, they awarded the prize to another contestant, claiming that only entrants 18 and older are eligible. While the official rules have a minimum age requirement, another section of the rules allow for the prize to go to the guardian if a minor wins. Gray says he just wanted to win the van, equipped with CD players, chrome Bugs Bunny, Warner Bros. logos and pull-down video screens, for his paraplegic mom.

—Source: National Law Journal

Foot In Mouth Disease

Tim and Donna Vogle are suing Dante’s Restaurant in St. Joseph, Missouri for medical expenses, counseling expenses and punitive damages. The couple claims that when they complained about their overcooked meal, restaurant owner Kenneth Shearing responded by slapping Mrs. Vogle in the face with a raw steak. The Vogles allege that, as a result of the incident, their sex life has diminished by 75%. Stephen Small, attorney for the restaurant, denies the incident ever occurred, claiming that Shearing offered the couple free meals, free drinks and two raw steaks to prepare at home, but never hit anyone.

—Source: Dallas Morning News

It’s A "Zoo Suit Riot"

Eric River, age 11, was attacked by a snow leopard at the Rosamond Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, NY, and his family now wants to sue Onondaga County for failing to adequately protect the child. River and his friends snuck into the zoo after it had closed for the night and attempted to feed and pet the leopard. The leopard reached through the cage, scratching River on his neck and arm, causing injuries that required 500 stitches. River’s mother, Terry Wells, believes that despite:

there are "twenty-two ways in which the county failed to ensure safety at the zoo." All 22 are included in her filing notice of claim preserving her right to sue the government agency in court at a later date.

—Source: The Post-Standard (Syracuse, NY)

WARNING: Disregard This Warning Label!

Gregory Roach and Gordon Falkner sued carpet adhesive manufacturer Para-Chem after being seriously injured in an explosion. Falkner and Roach, carpet installers, disregarded the warning label on the "All Weather Outdoor Adhesive" which read, "Do Not Use Indoors Because of Flammability," when installing carpet in a basement. A spark from a hot water heater ignited the adhesive fumes, causing an explosion which left both men badly burned. Despite Roach testifying that he had read the label and knew that the adhesive was designed exclusively for outdoor use, a jury found in favor of the men. In a 6 — 2 vote they were awarded $8 million because the jury believed that the warning label was inadequate. Para-Chem attorney Kenneth Abarrno commented, "I guess it’s too much to expect that people will read a label. … It’s kind of like a stop sign and they went right through it. This jury just said to [Roach and Falkner] that they don’t have to take responsibility for their own actions." Para-Chem is planning an appeal to the 9th District Court of Appeals.

—Source: Akron Beacon Journal

Veni, Vidi, VISA

Elizabeth Roach was convicted of embezzling more than $240,000 from her employer, Andersen Consulting. Despite drawing an annual salary of $150,000, Roach racked up tens of thousands of dollars in credit card charges which she paid off by submitting false expense reports. She claimed in her defense that chronic depression caused her out-of-control shopping sprees. U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly accepted her claim of reduced mental capacity and gave her a lightened sentence, placing her on five years probation and six-weeks in a work-release halfway house to be followed by six months of weekend house arrest. However, the U.S. Circuit of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit disagreed with Judge Kennelly’s sentencing, ruling that Roach’s sentence must include jail time. The appeals court ruled that although reduced mental capacity may be grounds for giving defendants a break, Roach’s compulsive behavior only explained her shopping habits, not the offense of submitting falsified expense reports with which she was charged. Her case has been sent back for re-sentencing and Roach faces a 12 — 18 month prison term.

—Source: The Associated Press

G - Spot

Roderick B. Carter won a new trial on federal gun charges on the grounds that "his original jury had too many people with the last names starting with the letter ‘G.’" His lawyer, David O. Markus, argued that this violated Carter’s Sixth Amendment right to a jury of his peers. Of 38 candidates in the original jury pool, 21 had surnames starting with "G" and 14 of those were named Garcia, Gomez, Gonzalez, Guerra, Gutierrez or Goldares. Carter, an African-American, was acquitted by a jury of six blacks, four Hispanics and two whites at his second trial.

—Source: The Associated Press

Chow, Chow, Chomp

Kathy Jordan sued Kevin Lusby after Lusby’s dog bit her in the face. Jordan, a dog groomer, was grooming Lusby’s chow when the attack occurred. A Kentucky court of appeals upheld a lower court’s decision ruling that Lusby was not liable because the dog was in Jordan’s care at the time. Kentucky law states that the owner of the dog is liable for its actions, but defines the owner as anyone who "keeps or harbors the dog or has it in his care" thus, Jordan was the legal owner when the incident occurred. Judge Julia Tackett wrote for the three-judge panel, "When Jordan accepted the dog for grooming, she assumed the risk of being bitten by the dog."

—Source: The Associated Press

[Posted July 19, 2002]

Permanent Ink

David Winkelman and Richard Goddard, Jr. have filed a lawsuit against Davenport, Iowa radio station KORB-FM. They allege that disc jockey Ben Stone announced a contest awarding $30,000 a year for five years to any listener who tattooed "93 Rock" on their forehead. Winkelman and Goddard claim they contacted the radio station to confirm the contest and were sent to a local tattoo parlor where a station representative paid for the tattoos. Alleging the radio station has not paid them the award and that they are "unable to gain employment since getting the tattoos," they accuse Stone of making a "false promise as a practical joke, so that persons who responded to the announcement with the intention of receiving tattoos could be publicly scorned and ridiculed for their greed and lack of common good sense." The radio station denies all allegations. Stone is no longer employed at the radio station.

—Source: The National Law Journal

Canine Custody

Anthony DeSanctis lost his appeal over a custody battle with his ex-wife Lynda Hurley Pritchard in the Pennsylvania Superior Court. When the couple separated in 1996, they had a three-page agreement which addressed the custody and visitation rights of their golden retriever, Barney. The agreement gave Pritchard custody with a generous visitation schedule to DeSanctis. When Pritchard remarried and moved away, she cut off visitation. DeSanctis sued, claiming violation of the agreement and alleging he has "become depressed, has lost business, lost sleep and is, otherwise, psychologically harmed by being denied access to an animal he loves like a child, requiring [him] to seek counseling." Chester County Court Judge William P. Mahon dismissed the suit citing custody battles are "by law limited to children." DeSanctis appealed, but the ruling was upheld. It was noted, however, that DeSanctis does have legal recourse to sue for breach of contract and the monetary value of Barney.

—Source: Associated Press

Overdue and Overdone

Marisa Gohr of Littleton, Colorado, borrowed four books from the Bemis Public Library for a school research project on dolphins. Now Marisa, age 12, has been summoned to appear in Littleton Municipal Court for failing to return one of the books. Bemis Public Library policy is that if overdue books are not returned within several weeks a summons is issued to the delinquent borrower. Marisa returned the book after receiving the summons and paid the $9 overdue fee. Her mother attended the court date to avoid having her daughter miss a day of school, but Judge Jerald G. Kriss insisted that Marisa herself appear since her name is on the summons. Once she appears in court and produces the receipt showing return and payment for the overdue book, Marisa can pay a $15 court fee to have the case dismissed. Marisa, now hesitant to check out any more books from the library, said, "I just photocopy stuff from books."

—Source: Associated Press

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