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

Have You Read The Darwin Awards?

Kim Komada of Rancho Palos Verdes, California was assisting Mark Scrivens back his boat into the driveway of her in-laws’ home. Wearing flip flops, she used her foot for traction against the boat and slipped and fell down a flight of stairs, breaking her right foot. She sued her in-laws, claiming that the steps were slippery and were missing a handrail. The defense asserted that "the handrail may not have prevented injury, because, according to building code, it could have been placed on either side of the stairway." The defense also played a tape from an answering machine message Komada left saying "It was just me being stupid," presumably before she hired a lawyer. The jury agreed and found the defendant not responsible for damages.

—Source: The National Law Journal

[Posted December 21, 2001]


Mi Casa es Su Casa

Rufus Stancil, a Washington, DC landlord, pleaded guilty to 70 of the 429 building code violations he was charged with this month in D.C. Superior Court. District Attorneys Sharon Styles-Anderson and Nicole Hughes Waid proposed a "common-sense justice" deal in which Stancil, after spending 2 consecutive weekends in jail, will have to live for two months beginning Christmas Eve in his rat-infested building that tenants claim provides no heat or working refrigerators. Stancil agreed to this unconventional sentence in lieu of up to 17 years in prison and up to $21,000 in fines. Stancil’s attorney, Bernard Grimm, claims that Stancil believes that his sentence will "express his commitment" and "show that [the building’s] condition is not as bad as tenants suggest."

—Source: The Washington Post

[Posted December 21, 2001]


Father Knows Best?

Lynn Rubin of Union City, California, has filed a $1.5 million suit against the New Haven Unified School District after his son, Jawaan, a sophomore at Logan High School was cut from the varsity basketball team. Coach Blake Chong asked Jawaan to attend try-outs for the varsity team, but returned him to junior varsity three days later. Jawaan’s father believes that his son’s basketball skills "put him head and shoulders above the JV team" — especially since his older brother plays for UCLA and his cousin is a rookie with the NBA’s New Jersey Nets. Ruth McKenna, superintendent of the school district, said that 23 boys competed for 13 spots on the varsity team, Jawaan being among the ten who did not make the varsity cut. Rubin, charging that the school district is "messing up" Jawaan’s future and "potential earnings as a professional player," claims that "arbitrarily moving (Jawaan) back and forth from JV to varsity without conferring with me and his mother" caused undue hardship on the family.

—Source: The Associated Press

[Posted December 14, 2001]


This Job Is Killing Me!

George Moss sued Zenith Insurance Company after rejection of a workers’ compensation claim he filed following a heart attack. In September, 2000, Moss, a mobile home park maintenance employee, was asked to "investigate a bad smell" in one of the mobile homes where he found and disposed of a severely decomposed, maggot-infested possum. Moss claims the vile task brought on the heart attack, alleging it was a "greater factor… than any underlying heart condition or disease." The defense claimed that his "pre-existing heart disease" was a major factor contributing to his heart attack and denied his claim for workers’ compensation. In November, a jury found that the "heart attack was compensable."

—Source: The National Law Journal

[Posted December 14, 2001]


Ex-Sponging the Record

Maria Tovias sued Mercy Health Center in Texas, over complications following abdominal surgery performed in 1999. Nine months after the surgery Tovias complained of "continuing abdominal pain" and "fluid build-up" which was found to be caused by a laparotomy sponge left in her stomach. The hospital and surgeon claim all surgical sponges were accounted for, insisting the procedure for counting sponges after the surgery was done three times, and cannot explain how the sponge ended up in her stomach. The plaintiff’s own expert stated in testimony that there is a "difference between negligence and medical mistakes that don’t rise to the level of negligence." Nevertheless, a jury awarded Tovias $470,900.

—Source: The National Law Journal

[Posted December 14, 2001]


Dwarf Seeks Right To Be Tossed

David Flood, a radio personality in Tampa, Florida has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court challenging a 1989 Florida ban on "dwarf tossing" — barroom contests where dwarves are thrown across a room for the farthest distance. Flood, known as "Dave the Dwarf" on WFLZ, claims that the ban is unconstitutional because it violates his equal protection rights and that he should be allowed to "decide for himself whether to participate in the barroom contests." Flood told the Tampa Tribune, "As soon as you have a physical handicap… all of a sudden they treat you like you don’t have a mind of your own. Just because I’m 3-foot-2 doesn’t mean I can’t make decisions."

—Source: St. Petersburg Times

[Posted December 7, 2001]


The $7.5 Million Ballot

Jane Baker, a Pennsylvania state representative, reassured her constituents in a televised debate during her 2000 election campaign that she was "up to the task of representing them" despite being struck by a drunk driver while walking down the road earlier that year. Now, a year after the election, Baker filed a law suit against the driver of the car that hit her, claiming that she has "trouble remembering names, even those of associates, and cannot follow conversations in which more than one person is involved… She cannot remember a storyline after putting down a book." She also informed two doctors just two months before the election that she was having "out of body experiences." Her constituents don’t understand how she can represent them when she must have her chief of staff read legislative bills to her. In addition, based on her claims of "physical and multiple cognitive defects" in her lawsuit, she has not sponsored a single bill. Baker is asking for up to $7.5 million in damages because, according to her suit, she will be "virtually unemployable if she is not re-elected."

—Source: The Morning Call


City’s Trash is City’s Treasure

The city of Edmonds, Washington, is suing Sydney Locke to return pieces of a 60 year old totem pole. Locke took the pole from the trash last year after the Edmonds Arts Commission determined it had no value and was covered in lead paint. It had been chain sawed into pieces and thrown into a dumpster after 12 years of standing in front of a public safety complex. City Attorney W. Scott Snyder claims Locke removed city property from the trash bin and suggests that Locke is only interested in possession of the totem pole as a gesture or rebellion against the city government based on previous interactions with Locke and the city. Locke has offered to settle the case and return the totem pole in exchange for an apology from the city and $10,000 in legal expenses. Locke has also filed a countersuit.

—Source: Associated Press State and Local Wire

[Posted December 7, 2001]


Batter Up

In 1998, at age 10, Alyssia Benejam was awarded $1 million dollars by a Wayne County Circuit Court for an injury from a broken baseball bat at a 1994 Detroit Tigers game. She was sitting near home plate behind a screen when a piece of broken bat either curved around the screen or was deflected by a seat causing injury to her hand. The Michigan Court of Appeals has now overturned that verdict and held that "a baseball stadium owner is not liable for injuries to spectators that result from projectiles leaving the field during play if safety screening has been provided beyond home plate." They quoted a ruling from another court that "[n]o one of ordinary intelligence could see many innings of the ordinary [baseball] league game without coming to a full realization that batters cannot and do not control the direction of the ball." James Elliott, Benejam’s lawyer, plans to appeal this ruling to the Michigan State Supreme Court.

—Source: The National Law Journal

[Posted November 30, 2001]


Order In the Court

Judge Charles Jones of Louisiana’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wanted his cousin, Vanessa Green, to be hired for a new position with the court, bypassing advertising or interviewing for the position. Judge Steve Plotkin insisted that a court committee advertise and interview potential candidates. Judge Jones allegedly confronted Judge Plotkin, accusing him of being racist and conspiring against him. According to Judge Miriam Waltzer’s eyewitness account, Jones threw a punch at Plotkin who hit back. The altercation ended when Jones lifted Plotkin and threw him at a table causing head injuries. The Louisiana State Supreme Court has suspended Jones for 30 days without pay. Chief Judge William Byrnes commented that the judges "would have to work on their problems… I don’t want people to think there are a bunch of crazies up here."

—Source: The Associated Press

[Posted November 30, 2001]


Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Nancy Zelno of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was fired from her job as a teacher at a drug and alcohol treatment facility for "immoral conduct" after receiving her third conviction for drunk driving. She sued her employer for wrongful termination claiming that "no students had been corrupted and her ability to teach hadn’t been affected." The state education chief supported her termination in accordance with a statute on teacher immorality and intemperance. A state appeals court upheld the facility’s decision.

—Source: USA Today

[Posted November 30, 2001]


Cruising for Cash

Zwerling Schachter & Zwerling settled a class action lawsuit against Renaissance Cruises Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Florida for accusations of inflating port charges. With the settlement of $2.9 million distributed to the 80,000 plaintiffs in the suit paid in $10 - $60 travel vouchers with the cruise line, the only remaining issue was the court’s ruling on the request of $1.4 million in legal fees. Judge Robert Lance Andrews cut the request to $294,000 to be split between Zwerling and 4 other firms involved in the case. In a gesture to chastise the attorneys for greediness and using class action lawsuits as "cash cows that ultimately don’t yield much for plaintiffs," Judge Andrews also ordered that a quarter of the fees be paid in the same $10 - $60 denomination vouchers awarded to the plaintiffs. Andrew rejected an additional 13 firms’ claim that they also were entitled to additional legal fees, commenting that although class action suits can be useful, the lawyers in this case did not "blaze the litigation trail. Rather, they jumped onto a stagecoach that was already moving" from the work of other attorneys and government agencies.

—Source: Broward Daily Business Review

[Posted November 16, 2001]


A Timesheet for Office Trysts

Anne Frank of Easton, Connecticut has filed a lawsuit against the town of Greenwich, Connecticut where she worked as a clerk in the parks and recreation department. She is suing for over $25,000 in wages for extra work she had to take on while her boss was having an affair with his secretary. Frank alleges that she documented the time spent on the responsibilities she took on to cover for them during their rendezvous and was told she could use the hours as compensatory time. The department director refused to honor that agreement so Frank is now suing the city for the money she claims is due to her in salary.

—Source: The Associated Press

[Posted November 16, 2001]


No One Likes a Party Pooper

Kim Dunbar of South Bend, Indiana allegedly embezzled approximately $1.4 million from her former employer, Dominiack Mechanical Inc. It is also alleged that of that amount, $20,000 was used to finance a skybox party at a Chicago Bulls game replete with food, beverage and transportation. Jerry Dominiack, owner of Dominiack Mechanical, sued the attendees of the party, claiming that they "should pay their pro rata share for the party because they enjoyed the benefits of the alleged embezzlement even if they were not complicit in it." After the trial court dismissed the "unjust-enrichment claim," Dominiack appealed. On October 23, 2001, the Indiana Court of Appeals stated it "could not rule as a matter of law that the guests’ retention of the benefits they received from the embezzlement was just."

—Source: National Law Journal

[Posted November 16, 2001]


Ignorance is Bliss

Paul Bloebaum of Troy, Illinois, wanted to try skydiving. He went to Archway Skydiving Center where he took lessons, initialed 25 paragraphs of a release waiver and signed the waiver acknowledging that he "understood the risks and would not hold the center responsible if anything went wrong." Bloebaum has filed a lawsuit after being injured from his jump to void that release. He alleges his parachute lines became tangled and he was unable to pull an emergency chute in enough time to slow his fall and thus shattered bones in his left shoulder and injured his leg. The skydiving center claims that his injuries result from trying to untangle the parachute lines after he landed. Bloebaum said he knew there was a risk but never gave a second thought to the release and admits he did not read it thoroughly.

—Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

[Posted November 9, 2001]


Ambulance Breaks for Doughnuts En Route to ER

Larry Wesley filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, the city of Houston, after being fired from his job as an ambulance driver. In July, 2000, while Wesley was transporting an injured youth to the Ben Taub Hospital, he stopped for doughnuts. After receiving a complaint from the boy’s mother, then-Fire Chief Lester Tyra fired Wesley. That decision was upheld by both The Firefighters’ and Police Officers’ Civil Service Commission with no appeal by Wesley. However, Wesley filed the discrimination suit against the fire department claiming that he was not reinstated like other EMS drivers caught making personal stops because of his race. At this time, U.S. District Judge Lee Rosenthal has rejected a request by the city of Houston to throw out the case, but has given Wesley 30 days to amend his suit to name the city as the defendant instead of the fire department. Judge Rosenthal has thrown out Wesley’s claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress "because state law protects municipalities from such claims."

—Source: The Houston Chronicle

[Posted November 9, 2001]


Kindergarten Kourt

In John Bradshaw v. Unity Marine Corporation, Inc., Judge Samuel Kent was asked to "grant summary judgment for Phillips Petroleum Company in an action brought by a seaman injured on a docked ship." After reading both sides’ papers, Judge Kent could not contain his disappointment with the attorneys’ work so he expressed his opinion in his granting of the motion. He called them "amateurish," and concluded that "both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact complete with hats, handshakes, and cryptic words to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the court would be so charmed by their childlike efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed." Kent also recommended a different choice of crayon color, preferring Brick Red to Goldenrod as it "is much easier on the eyes." Houston lawyer Harold Eisenman, a member of the "secret club," commented, "The judge has a creative side which he exercises from time to time."

—Source: The American Lawyer


All Dressed Up, Nowhere to Go

In Coshocton, Ohio, Jason Householder and John Stockum were convicted of criminal damages after throwing beer bottles at a woman in a car. Coshocton County Municipal Judge David Hostetler handed out their sentence on October 18, 2001: Either spend 60 days in jail, or walk through downtown Coshocton dressed as women for one hour. The two men chose to parade around in dresses, wigs and makeup. They were also ordered to pay a $250 fine.

—Source: Reuters


This is a Stick Up — Give Me All the Money and Call Your Lawyer

Sandra Allingham of Des Moines, Iowa has filed a lawsuit against Iowa State Bank claiming that "officials put her in danger during a robbery" because the bank allegedly did not properly train its employees to protect customers from harm. Ms. Allingham was a customer in the bank last October when three gunmen held up a bank branch and escaped with an undisclosed amount of cash. Ms. Allingham also alleges that bank officials knew the branch was being cased by the robbers and did nothing to prevent the robbery. She is asking for an undisclosed amount for "mental and/or emotional distress she suffered during the robbery, as well as for injuries from an unspecified assault."

—Source: Des Moines Register


Lawsuit Locomotion

Dionne Fresch of Peoria, Illinois has filed a lawsuit against the Santa Fe Southern Railway for negligence. In 1998, Ms. Fresch was homeless and sleeping on the railroad tracks under a brown blanket when a train ran over her, injuring her legs. She alleges that the railroad "failed to keep a lookout for people on the tracks and failed to stop or reduce speed," and that the railway "should have known" she was lying under a blanket on the tracks. The engineer claims procedure was followed when the train, going only eight miles an hour, honked its horn 300 feet from the crossing. Railway manager Bob Sarr said Ms. Fresch’s claims are "categorically untrue and inappropriate."

—Source: Albuquerque Journal


Duck! Duck! GOOSE!

Nolan Lett sued his former employer, Aramarck Corporation in Oak Brook, Illinois after breaking his wrist on his second day on the job. Lett attempted to enter the building but was accosted by wild Canadian geese. In his effort to flee, Lett fell and broke his wrist. Steven Dyki, representing Lett, said that Aramarck Corp. was responsible because the "setting of the Aramarck building was a ‘high-goose’ area" with short grass and a pond which attracted the geese for feeding and drinking. Noteably, the Illinois Department of Resources publishes information about geese attacks, saying "most of the injuries associated with goose attacks are related to falling, rather than being struck by a wing or bitten." Lett was awarded $17,767.54 for his injury. Aramarck attorneys declined to comment on the case or the award.

—Source: The Chicago Sun Times


Lawsuit Full of Hot Wind

While watching a skydiving event, high school student Doung Huynh ran onto a football field and was unable to get out of the way of Jeff Hughes, one of the divers, who was landing on the field. Huynh received a concussion from the collision and filed suit against Hughes for "jumping in excessive winds" and another parachuter, Richard Linden, who organized the event, for violating "FAA guidelines by not providing ground-to-air communications." Attorneys for the parachuters "maintained there was no evidence of excessive wind" and "blamed the school for letting students run out onto the field where the parachuters were landing." The Dallas, Texas jury found in favor of the skydivers.

—Source: The National Law Journal


Soft Serve Melting over Legal Heat

Mister Softee, Inc., has filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York against alleged multiple soft-serve imposters for trademark infringement. Mister Softee claims a number of vendors are violating the Lanham Act and common law of unfair competition by using names such as "Master Softee," "Mister Soft," "Mister Cones" and "Mister Happy Times." Mister Softee, Inc. also alleges in the claim that these "vicarious vendors attempt to confuse the ice-cream public." They are seeking monetary damages and an injunction to block the other distributors from infringing Mr. Softee trademarks.

—Source: The National Law Journal


Three Cheers for… Court

A group of 92 cheerleaders in, represented by attorney John P. Karoly, Jr., recently won an injunction against a ban of certain cheerleading stunts, including some mounts and tumbling moves. The Colonial League had banned the routines, claiming they are "dangerous and unnecessary" and cheerleaders are in attendance at games only in a "supportive role." To protest the ban, cheerleaders from Catasauqua, Pennsylvania threw cardboard cheerleader cutouts during their football season-opener game. In their suit, the cheerleaders claim the league violated the Sunshine Act and are requesting they be allowed to perform "for the remainder of the present football season or at least until a full hearing on this matter may be had."

—Source: Associated Press State and Local Wire


Losers Keepers, Finders Weepers

While paving Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner’s ranch driveway in Idaho, former handyman Gregory Corliss found a buried jar of gold coins dating between 1857 and 1914. Corliss, claiming their value to be over $1 million sued Wenner on the common law principle of "finders-keepers." A three-judge panel of the Idaho Court of Appeals affirmed a district court ruling that Corliss was not entitled to possession of the coins, ruling the state is not one "that accepts the finders-keepers rule, also known as treasure trove" and the coins were buried in property belonging to the property owner. Chief Judge Alan Schwartzman wrote, "the rule of treasure trove is of dubious heritage and misunderstood application, inconsistent with our values and traditions."

—Source: The Columbus Dispatch

[Posted October 19, 2001]


AND… IT’S… OUTTA HERE!

Alex Popov has hired an attorney to go to court alleging that Patrick Hayashi is in receipt of stolen goods. Mr. Popov is the "unlucky" baseball fan who claims to be the first person to catch the ball hit for Barry Bonds’ 73rd home run. Mr. Hayashi is the "lucky" one who snatched the ball through the pile of other fans scrambling to grab the souvenir that could be worth over a million dollars. Mr. Popov and his attorney, Rosemary McCarthy have publicly reached out through the media to Mr. Hayashi hoping he will "do the right thing and give it back" and avoid a lawsuit. They have even visited with Jorge Costa, Senior Vice President of Ballpark Operations for Pacific Bell Park, the scene of the "crime." When asked about the visit, Mr. Costa replied, "I don’t even know why this guy’s here. Once Major League Baseball identifies the individual with possession of the ball, that’s the end of that."

—Source: The San Francisco Chronicle

[Posted October 12, 2001]


Suing for a Wake-Up Call

Scott Bender, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has filed a lawsuit against the flight attendants on his February 19 U.S. Airways flight for negligence. Mr. Bender claims he fell asleep on his flight from North Carolina to Birmingham, Alabama and awoke in a dark, empty cabin believing the plane had crashed. "He literally woke up and didn’t know if he was alive or dead," commented Richard Frankowski, Mr. Bender’s attorney, in The Birmingham News. Mr. Bender alleges that the flight attendants were negligent for not waking him and not thoroughly checking the cabin before shutting off the lights and disembarking. Mr. Bender claims in his suit "mental and emotional anguish, lost wages and out-of-pocket expenses."

—Source: The Associated Press

[Posted October 12, 2001]


Contestant Smokin’ Over BBQ Contest

Jim Woodsmall of Johnston, Iowa is suing the Kansas City Barbecue Society for fraud and negligence after his entries received low scores in one of that group’s annual contests. Mr. Woodsmall claims that his restaurant has suffered financially after the Society did not rate his BBQ pork ribs, beef brisket and chicken with scores as high as he felt he deserved. Mr. Woodsmall has competed in previous competitions, placing high -- which he believes adds prestige and increases business to Jumpin’ Jim’s BBQ. Carolyn Wells, Executive Director of the Society said, "some competition participants have complained about their ranking, but not to the point where they would file a lawsuit." Mr. Woodsmall commented "I say Jumpin’ is my name and cooking is my game. I compete aggressively."

—Source: Des Moines Register


A Doctor, Not a Rocket Scientist

Carlos Medrano, a physician from Houston, Texas filed an injury liability suit against Rapp Management after claiming to have suffered severe injuries due to the company’s negligence. Dr. Medrano was jogging through a condominium complex and attempted to run under a staircase. He misjudged the height, ran into the staircase, broke his right ankle and ripped the skin off his scalp requiring over 60 stitches. Dr. Medrano alleged that the management company was liable for failure to raise the height of the staircase to bring it up to code. The doctor sued for $25,000 in medical bills and $250,000 in lost income. Rapp Management defended that the staircase met code and was not a pedestrian area so the company was not responsible for any modifications and Dr. Medrano should have "watched where he was going." The lawsuit was settled in August for $20,000.

—Source: The National Law Journal

[Posted October 5, 2001]


Nudist Convention Too Hot to Handle

Eli Tyler of El Cajon, California is suing the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) for "misrepresenting to spectators that fire-walking was safe." While at an AANR convention at the DeAnza Springs resort in Jacumba, California, Tyler participated in a fire-walking ceremony after allegedly being warned of the dangers and agreeing not to sue. He suffered severe burns and nerve damage and claims that independent contractor Fred Gilbert, who was in charge of the demonstration, was negligent for "using the wrong type of wood, starting the fire-walk before ash formed on the wood and failing to have medical personnel present." Mr. Gilbert is also named as a defendant.

—Source: The San Diego Tribune


Your Future Has Many Court Dates Ahead

Twenty years ago, Dave Piscitelli of Brigantine, New Jersey went to the yellow pages to find a fortune-teller to help with his marital problems. He went to Sole Mio Balaam Nicola at the Woolworth’s on the Atlantic City boardwalk with hopes of "the golden words of truth and the key to truth and happiness." After 20 years, he sued the 90 year-old fortune-teller for fraud, claiming that he had been donating cash, trips and gifts to Ms. Nicola in return for removing a curse from him that she claimed he was under. Mr. Piscatelli alleged he had suffered a nervous breakdown and held Ms. Nicola responsible because he left his wife after the fortune-teller told him that if he did not he would be "attacked by snakes." The suit was headed for trial but the parties have reached an undisclosed settlement.

—Source: The Associated Press State and Local Wires


Struck Out on the Pitching Mound

Cheryl Reeves, 19, of Bucks County, Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit against her former softball coach alleging his "bad coaching" resulted in her not receiving a college scholarship. Ms. Reeves claims that during private pitching lessons, Roy Jenderko taught her an illegal style of pitching that made her ineligible to play college softball. She also alleges that he played favorites with the other team members causing her emotional distress. Middletown Athletic Association, also named in the suit has stated that they believe the lawsuit that is asking for $700,000 in damages and loss of future earnings is "ridiculous."

—Source: The Washington Times


"Fuhgeddaboudit"

The American Italian Defense Association (AIDA) tried to sue the producers of HBO’s The Sopranos for violating their right of "individual dignity" outlined in the Illinois’ state constitution. The group alleged cultural defamation through the series’ portrayal of the Soprano family. The AIDA was not asking to curtail the right to free speech for AOL Time Warner Entertainment, HBO’s parent company, nor are they seeking any monetary damages. They just wanted to "use court resources to get a judgement that the show offends the dignity of Italian Americans." Cook County Judge Richard Siebel said "fuhgeddaboudit" in his recent ruling which said the "association had no standing to sue as it had not suffered any injury from the TV series and that the show’s producers had a constitutional right to create and broadcast its depiction of a fictional New Jersey Mafia family."

—Source: The Los Angeles Times

[Posted September 28, 2001]


Time To Face the (Polka) Music

Alan Law was found guilty of disorderly conduct in Cambridge, Ohio for playing loud music with the windows open while driving his truck. Municipal Judge John Nicholson ordered him to pay a fine of $100, or listen to four hours of Frankie Yankovic’s greatest polka hits. Mr. Law chose to listen to the Cleveland polka player and can now whistle "The Blue Skirt Waltz" and "Who Stole the Kishka." Judge Nicholson explained that his ruling was based on the golden rule of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you. You may enjoy listening to your music, but many people do not want to hear your music."

—Source: The Associated Press

[Posted September 21, 2001]


Putting the Brakes on a Runaway Train

Kristopher Huie, of Texas, wanted to visit his friends and family, so he swiped a Union Pacific Corp freight train. He was able to start the engine, but when he had problems releasing the brake he made the mistake of radioing train dispatchers for help. Mr. Huie received "assistance" from a passing conductor and engineer, who held the suspect while waiting for the sheriff’s department. Asked about his destination, Huie replied, "Wherever the train takes me." Sherrif Bob Alford of Johnson County arrested the novice conductor, who now faces felony theft charges.

—Source: Reuters

Date: September 21, 2001]


Suing Mom over Spilt Coffee

Teresa Reed of Murphysboro, Illinois has recently filed a lawsuit over an alleged burn from scalding coffee. Ms. Reed claims after purchasing the coffee, back in December 1998, she placed it in a cup holder in her mother’s car, where it spilled over and caused a burn on her ankle resulting in a scar. She is suing the owner of the McDonald’s franchise where she purchased the coffee; Cobb Manufacturing, the cup maker; Wal-Mart, which manufactures the cup holder; and her very own mother, Carol Sanders, who Ms. Reed claims "owed a duty of care for the safety of others riding in her vehicle." Ms. Reed is asking for $450,000 in damages.

—Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

[Posted September 21, 2001]


Take Me Out To the Ballgame
(With My Lawyer)

An unnamed woman is suing the Atlanta Braves baseball team and player Andruw Jones after allegedly being hit in the face with a baseball. Jones caught the third out of the inning and in a growing tradition, threw the ball into the outfield stands to hopeful fans as a souvenir. Jones was informed by his agent of the pending suit despite a warning that "objects may come into the stands" printed on all Braves tickets. John Schuerholz, General Manager of the Braves, confirmed that parent company AOL Time Warner is aware of the legal action.

Source: The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

[Posted September 21, 2001]


Ring Around the Electric Dog Collar

Boomer and his owners, Andrew and Alyce Pacher, of Vandalia, Oh. have filed a lawsuit against the Invisible Fence Company. The couple alleges that the invisible fence used on their property caused physical and psychological damage to their pet golden retriever. After continued attempts at running away were not thwarted by the electronic shocks given by the invisible fence system, the Pachers claim a consultant from the Invisible Fence Company suggested increasing the voltage and adding a second collar for Boomer to wear. The Pachers claim that this did not discourage their pooch and only resulted in second degree burns under his collar when he crossed the invisible fence. The Pachers are seeking more than $25,000 in damages and are being represented by former Dayton mayor and ex-lieutenant governor of Ohio, Paul Leonard.

—Source: ABA Journal

[Posted: September 7, 2001]


It’s a Cat Eat Dog World

Richard Espinosa of San Marcos, Ca. is seeking a lawyer to take his case against the city of Escondido. Mr. Espinosa claims he was physically injured and emotionally traumatized when his dog, Kimba, a mixed breed labrador retriever was attacked by L.C., the Escondido public library’s resident cat. Kimba suffered minor cuts in the alleged attack. Mr. Espinosa submitted a claim that the city council rejected, for $1.5 million in damages (which included $46.49 for veterinary bills for Kimba and $38 in chiropractic care bills for Mr. Espinosa) with the City of Escondido. Mr. Espinosa is also seeking to have the cat declawed and warning signs posted outside the library. L.C. is currently on an "indefinite vacation" and staying with a library employee. The cat is also a suspect in attacks on Georgie, a terrier mix and a schnauzer named Toto.

—Source: The San Diego Tribune

[Posted: September 7, 2001]


Slippery When Wet

Mary Lee Sowder of Rocky Mount, NC has filed suit against a Roanoke, Va. Petsmart store and its former manager, Kelly Carruthers. Ms. Sowder alleges that while shopping in the store that welcomes leashed pets accompanied by their owners, she slipped and fell on doggie slobber left by Ms. Carruthers’ pooch. Ms. Sowder claims that employees were negligent for not properly cleaning or warning customers of the dangerous dog drool. She is asking for $100,000 for her injuries.

—Source: The Washington Times

[Posted 2001]


Caution! Milk Thirsty Goats Ahead

Barbara Anne Hayes, a camp counselor in Long Island, New York took five small children to the Long Island Game Farm. She alleges that while she was in the petting-zoo nursery attempting to buy bottles of milk for the children to feed the baby goats, she was attacked by a group of goats. Ms. Hayes claims in an effort to snatch the milk bottles, the greedy goats jumped on her back and around her waist, knocked her down and pushed her into a broken fence. She sued the petting zoo, claiming that the farm was aware that goats swarm around the milk stand and attack visitors. The farm claimed that there was never any report of an incident to them, no mention of the alleged goat attack in the hospital report and no witness or proof of a broken fence or rampant adult goats in the nursery. The jury found in favor of the defendant, declining an award of damages to Ms. Hayes.

 —Source: The National Law Journal

[Posted 2001]


Man in Hot Water Over Kava Tea

Sione Olive, a 26-year old Pacific Islander, has been ordered by a San Mateo, California court to stand trial on a charge of driving while under the influence -- of kava tea. Mr. Olive was stopped by police officers after allegedly driving erratically. He failed a field sobriety test but passed a breathalyzer test and was arrested only after telling police he had consumed 23 cups of kava tea. Mr. Olive’s attorney, Hugo Borja, has said he will appeal the court’s decision. The general statute prohibits against driving while intoxicated, whether by alcohol, Valium or glue, but does not specify prohibiting driving while under the influence of kava tea. "They can’t tie kava tea to an alcoholic beverage or drug," Borja said. Kava tea is used by many South Pacific cultures in social or religious rituals.

—Source: Associated Press

[Posted August 21, 2001]


The Doctor, the Lawyer and the Mis-Matchmaker

Dr. Paul Dantzig, a dermatologist from Scarsdale, New York, has filed suit against a Manhattan matchmaker he paid to find him a wife. The doctor allegedly negotiated a $50,000 deal with Janis Spindel of Serious Matchmaking Inc. to help him find a mate. He specified that he was looking for a woman interested in commitment and marriage, and she must fit his requirements of "well-educated, upscale, professional Jewish woman from a good family with integrity and good values, under the age of 45 and shorter than 5-foot-8." Of the eleven dates he went on that were set up by Serious Matchmaking Inc., Dr. Dantzig claims none of the women met his specifications. He filed suit against Ms. Spindel for breach of contract. He is seeking the return of his $50,000 fee and punitive damages of $150,000. In response, Ms Spindel said, "I can lead a horse to water, but I can’t make him drink."

—Source: Associated Press

[Posted August 21, 2001]


Pop! Goes the Lawsuit

Brenda Hurff of Washington Township, New Jersey, has filed suit for $100,000 in damages after a fire was started in her kitchen by "unattended food." Apparently, Mrs. Hurff had put a cherry Pop-Tart in her toaster and had forgotten about it, as she left home to take her children to school. When she returned, about 20 minutes later, she found firefighters extinguishing her flaming kitchen. Despite the warning on the Pop-Tart box not to "leave the toaster appliance unattended due to possible risk of fire," Mrs. Hurff is suing Kellogg’s and Black & Decker, maker of the toaster, for damages. "I never thought a Pop-Tart could turn into a blow torch. Did it pop? Did it not pop? Who knows?" said Mr. Mauro C. Casci, the lawyer representing Mrs. Hurff

—Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer


This Little Piggy

A Dallas, Texas, self-employed roofer and drill-team rider for the Shriners, sued the Hella Shrine Temple for an injury that occurred in a motorcycle accident. The plaintiff was apparently injured after colliding with another Shriner rider during drill-team practice, severely fracturing his right foot, resulting in a toe amputation. The plaintiff alleged the Shriners provided "improper training and failed to provide safety measures to abort a drill," and sought $165,000 in damages. The jury found the plaintiff to be only 30% negligent and awarded $115,997 in damages.

Source: The National Law Journal

[Posted 2001]


"Toy-Yoda"... Oh What a Feeling!

Hooters waitress Jodee Berry of Panama City, Florida, thought the prize for selling the most beer in one night was a brand-new Toyota automobile. After being blindfolded and brought to the parking lot of the establishment to be presented with her prize, she discovered it was actually a toy "Yoda" figure from the Star Wars film. Not amused by her manager’s joke, she filed a lawsuit against Hooters’ parent company, Gulf Coast Wings, Inc., alleging breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation and seeks damages for the cost of a new Toyota.

Source: The Associated Press State & Local Wire

[Posted 2001]


Falling for $100,000

After falling off of a borrowed mountain bike, Mr. Shapiro sued his friend who owned the bike, along with Sid’s Bike Shop who had made repairs to the bicycle, in New York Superior Court. Mr. Shapiro alleged negligence, breach of warranty and products liability because he should have been given instructions and warnings about riding the high performance bicycle. They settled the case for $100,000.

Source: National Law Journal

[Posted 2001]


Extra Protection Toothpaste

A Shelton, Connecticut man is suing Colgate-Palmolive Inc. after finding a used condom in his Colgate "Great Regular Flavor Toothpaste." Joseph DeMarco claims that after pressing the handle of the toothpaste stand up dispenser, a condom filled with semen came out. Mr. DeMarco alleges that this incident is responsible for the heart attack he suffered almost a year later, along with insomnia, rashes, fears of having contracted a sexually transmitted disease and an inability to brush his teeth. Colgate claims that a thorough investigation has found the packaging to be "tamper-proof" and unlikely to have had the prophylactic put in the tube during manufacturing. After Colgate preformed a DNA test on the condom that didn’t match Mr. DeMarco’s, the company requested DNA samples from all of Mr. DeMarco’s male acquaintances that would have access to his bathroom.

—Source: Associated Press

[Posted 2001]


Wal-Mart Sued for "Brainwashing"

In a class-action lawsuit filed in Clinton County, Iowa, former employees of Wal-Mart allege they were brainwashed into working overtime without pay. Acknowledging that it is "about the money," they are suing in District Court for lost pay and other damages on behalf of all Iowa Wal-Mart employees who are subjected to the pressure of completing projects in unreasonable amounts of time and forced to work overtime to complete them. In their lawsuit they claim employees are "brainwashed to work mindlessly for mother Wal-Mart" and are forced to sing the Wal-Mart song during almost every shift.

—Source: Associated Press

[Posted 2001]


Personal Injury Lawyer Sues Yellow Book for Damages

Harvey W. Daniels, a personal-injury lawyer in Greensburg, Pa., is suing the publishers of the Westmoreland County Yellow Book because he believes that a badly reproduced picture of him in his ad has scared away potential clients. Mr. Daniels also claims to have suffered embarrassment over the picture by his fellow lawyers who have teased him about the allegedly grotesque photo. In addition, his suit alleges negligence and breach of contract due to the failure to mention in his ad that he is a personal-injury lawyer. He is suing for $500,000 in punitive damages and unspecified compensatory damages.

—Source: Associated Press

[Posted 2001]


Man Sues Employer for Wrongful Termination

In Denver, Co., Richard M. Young has filed a lawsuit against his former employer, Ohio Casualty Insurance, for discrimination against his mental illness. While Young was on a 30-day medical leave for severe situational depression, he kept police officers at bay for six hours by brandishing a weapon and threatening to commit suicide. According to his complaint, Mr. Young was terminated a few days after the incident when his company considered his suicide note a letter of resignation. Mr. Young claims that under the Americans with Disabilities Act the company is required to accommodate him since he has a mental illness, and just because he wanted to kill himself did not mean that he no longer wanted to work for Ohio Casualty. Mr. Young seeks compensation for back and future wages and also punitive damages.

—Source: Rocky Mountain News

[Posted 2001]


Sony Sued over Imaginary Film Critic

Two moviegoers have filed a class action lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Sony Pictures for running advertisements praising movies by a non-existent film critic, David Manning. Omar Rezec and Ann Belknap filed the suit on June 7, 2001, on behalf of all "tricked" moviegoers who went to see "A Knights Tale" because the ad included quotes from the imaginary critic claiming the lead actor was "This year’s hottest new star." Sony has suspended two executives without pay for 30 days. There has been no specification of requested damages.

—Source: Associated Press

[Posted 2001]


Judge Dismisses Hood Drawstring Injury Lawsuit

Mr. Lee Epler of Philadelphia, Pa., sued jacket manufacturer Jansport Inc. after injuring himself while attempting to adjust the elastic cord of the hood of one of their jackets. Apparently, the cord slipped out of his hand and snapped toward his face, striking him in his left eye, which caused permanent damage to his optic nerve. U.S. District Judge Robert F. Kelley tossed out the suit after finding the jacket’s elastic cord was not unreasonably dangerous. Judge Kelley wrote in his 20 page opinion, "This court assumes that the average ordinary consumer is well acquainted with the propensity of all manner of elastic items to recoil after they have been extended and released."

—Source: Law.com

[Posted 2001]



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