Legal News
 


Bizarre court cases, funny court cases, tort reform, weird court cases, humorous court cases



The Jester's Courtroom Archive:

2002


 

Tales Stranger than Fiction:


Divine Right of Cowboys

Former Dallas Cowboy Deion Sanders has been vindicated of accusations that he did not pay a car repair bill in full.  In 1991, Sanders’ 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible was towed to Phil Compton’s repair shop, Magrathea, Inc.  Compton alleged that when he returned the car, Sanders’ wife “answered the door, took the keys and invoices, started the car to make sure it was working and went back into the locked house, refusing to return keys or invoices.”  When Sanders went to pay the $4,265.57 bill, he handed Compton a check for $1,500.00 and reportedly told him, “Praise Jesus.  I follow what in my heart I am told to pay.”  Last Monday, a Dallas judge, after hearing Sanders’ representative testify that a $1,500 price ceiling had been agreed before the repairs began, exonerated the former Cowboy.  “Let’s be honest.  A $4,000 bill, I could have written a check a long time ago,” Sanders remarked.  “But it’s the principle.  I’m tired of getting ripped off.” 

—Source: USA Today

[Posted July 18, 2003]


“Not Just a Bimbo”

Former stripper Janet Clover of Palm Coast, Florida, is suing Viacom, Pamela Anderson and Stan Lee over TNN’s new cartoon series, “Stripperella.”  Clover, who is acting without any legal counsel, claims that she, not Lee, is the concept’s “true creator.”  Clover, currently unemployed but training to be a nurse, claims she approached Lee with the idea during a private dance session at a Tampa strip club last year. When asked for further details, Clover told the Daytona-Beach News-Journal, “I can’t remember much about Mr. Lee, little bits and pieces come back.  You know, I meet a lot of men.”  The title character of “Stripperella” (a.k.a. Erotica Jones), whose voice is performed by Pamela Anderson,  is, as TNN advertises, an “exotic dancer by night, and a sexy superhero by … later night.”

Clover claims she is “trying to get this off TV because it’s not [Lee’s] idea  … He’s going to know I’m not just a bimbo.”  Viacom, Anderson and Lee have thus far given no public responses to the suit.

—Sources: Associated Press, Orlando Sentinel

[Posted July 18, 2003]

 


Live Long and Litigate

Video game maker Activision is suing entertainment giant Viacom for breach of contract. Activision alleges that Viacom has allowed the "once proud Star Trek franchise to stagnate and decay." Activision points out that since it bought the rights to Star Trek games in 1998, Viacom has produced only one movie and allowed two of the three Trek television series to go off the air while the remaining one suffers from poor ratings and limited viewership. According to Activision, such poor stewardship of the Trek franchise constitutes a breach of Viacom’s contractual "fundamental promise to continue exploiting the Star Trek franchise consistent with its practice at the time the agreement was signed in 1998." Correspondingly, the game developer claims, the exclusive rights to Star Trek video games on which it spent $20 million have been devalued.

Viacom, in turn, accuses Activision of "trying to use the courts in an effort to renegotiate a deal it made in 1998," calling the allegations "without merit." Indeed, Viacom claims in a press release that Star Trek is "perhaps the greatest intellectual property franchise ever to emerge from television," as one can see by "simply turning on a television set or walking into a book, game or video store."

Activision has terminated the agreement and seeks to recover past and future damages from Viacom.

—Source: USA Today; Activision, Viacom press releases

[Posted July 11, 2003]


PETA Skewers the Colonel

PETA this week filed suit against Kentucky Fried Chicken and its parent company, Yum! Brands Inc., alleging that KFC lied to the public about its treatment of the 700 million chickens slaughtered each year for its restaurants. The suit is the latest action taken by the radical animal rights group in its ongoing campaign designed to force the restaurant chain to adopt PETA’s vision of more humane policies.

KFC, which denies the charges, accuses PETA of committing "corporate terrorism" and claims to have initiated a policy of making surprise inspections at its poultry facilities and created an "Animal Welfare Advisory Council." The company states that its humane policies make it an industry leader, and has called the suit "one in a continuing series of publicity stunts."

PETA’s campaign against KFC comes on the heels of a controversial campaign called "Holocaust on your plate," which compared humans in Nazi concentration camps to livestock, as well as PETA’s ever-popular "running of the nudes."

—Source: Associated Press

[Posted July 11, 2003]


What Is Behind Door #1?

Cedrick Makara of New York City, sued Newmark Realty and 40 Worth Associates for negligence, which he claimed caused a bathroom injury to his thumb.  Makara, a NYC claims examiner, used a bathroom the door of which had no knob, only a hole “where the knob should have been.”  He claimed when he put his hand in the hole to leave the bathroom and pulled open the door, another patron pushed the door in to enter, severely injuring Makara’s thumb.  The injury was so severe he required surgery on his tendons and missed work for six months.  A jury recently awarded him nearly $3 million – $2 million for past and future pain and suffering, $200,000 for future medical expenses and $750,000 to his wife, Sharon. 

—Source:  New York Daily News

[Posted June 27, 2003]


Grave Robbing?

Dorothy VerValen, of Kalispell, Montana, has filed a negligence suit against the city of Sultan, Washington.  VerValen claims that when she went to visit her grandfather’s grave at Sultan Cemetary she sank down onto what remained of the 53-year-old coffin, fracturing her left foot.  At the time, VerValen weighed 375 lbs.  Robert Butler, the lawyer representing VerValen, accuses the city of “know[ing] sinkholes happen, especially in pre-1960 graves” and that they are “not doing anything to prevent it from happening.”  Diana Blakney, who represents the city of Sultan, challenged Butler’s accusation that it is the city’s responsibility.  Citing the state Recreational Use Act and claiming since the cemetery is open 24 hours and does not charge a fee, the city believes visitors are “generally responsible” for their own safety.  VerValen is seeking unspecified damages for “injuries, legal costs and emotional distress.”

—Source: OregonLive.com

[Posted June 20, 2003]


Big East or Big Babies?

Five “Big East” schools – University of Pittsburgh, West Virginia University, Virginia Tech, Rutgers University and University of Connecticut – have filed a lawsuit against University of Miami, Boston College and the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), alleging a conspiracy to destroy their athletic programs.  The lawsuit claims the ACC’s expansion plan – which would remove Syracuse University, Miami and Boston College from the current conference – would ruin the schools’ multi-million dollar football programs.  The schools invested heavily – including $90 million by University of Connecticut to prepare its facilities in advance for membership in the conference in 2005 – based on the belief they were members of strong conference.  University of Miami president Donna Shalala was even quoted on March 6, 2002, stating that Miami had no intention of leaving the “Big East” conference.  Despite bylaws outlining the terms for leaving the conference, which include a year’s notice and a $1 million fine but do not prohibit teams from leaving, the schools are forging ahead with their lawsuit seeking financial damages for potential lost revenue from television deals and Bowl Championships.  They are also asking for an injunction to prohibit Miami and Boston College from leaving the conference.  Syracuse University, which is also part of the proposed expansion, is not mentioned in the lawsuit because there is no record of the school committing to stay in the “Big East.”

—Source: KansasCity.com

[Posted June 20, 2003]


Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Filmmaker Spike Lee has filed a lawsuit against Viacom, Inc., for trademark infringement and “right of publicity” over the change in name of The National Network (TNN), to “Spike TV.”  Lee argues that the new name could be perceived as his endorsement or creation of the “First Network for Men,” which will feature shows such as “Stripperella,” voiced by Pamela Anderson, a “Ren and Stimpy” adult cartoon and other testosterone-geared subjects.  Viacom President Albie Hecht, also named in the lawsuit, has been quoted as saying “Spike TV” would imply “cool” and “aggressive” to viewers.  Hecht has admitted that his role models are “Spike the macho vamp[ire] in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; [and] directors Spike Lee and Spike Jonze,” all of which inspired the name choice.  While Hecht denies specifically naming the station after Lee, he wanted the new name to convey an attitude of a “smart, sexy, active, irreverent, slightly aggressive and unapologetic male.”  Lee contends those qualities directly project his own image.  Lee has been granted a temporary injunction prohibiting TNN from using the name "Spike TV." He is seeking undisclosed monetary damages.

—Source: Findlaw.com

[Posted June 13, 2003]


Yo Quiero Mucho Dinero

Joseph Shields and Thomas Rinks sued Taco Bell charging “failure to pay for use of” a character they alleged to have created.  Shields and Rinks claimed they were the original creators of the talking Chihuahua used in Taco Bell’s 3-year advertising campaign which ended in 2000.  The marketers alleged Taco Bell initially approached them with an interest to turn their cartoon Chihuahua into a live character and that they worked with the company for a year developing the talking pooch.  Vada Hill, Taco Bell’s chief marketing officer at the time, claimed no knowledge of any Chihuahua character other than one created by TBWA Chiat Day, the advertising agency which had a $200 million deal for the 1997 to 2000 ad campaign.  Shields and Rinks began legal proceedings in 1998, and this past month, in U.S. District Court in western Michigan, a jury awarded the marketers more than $30 million in damages.  A spokesman for Taco Bell said the company plans to appeal. 

—Source:  USA Today

[Posted June 13, 2003]


Another Fool for A Client

Cole Bartiromo, of Mission Viejo, California, has filed a lawsuit against his former high school.  Bartiromo accuses Trabuco Hills High School administrators of violating his civil rights when they kicked him off the varsity baseball team after he was charged in 2002 by the Securities and Exchange Commission for multiple internet fraud schemes.  Bartiromo appealed the school’s decision, alleging the athletic director told him that his presence made the baseball team “look like idiots” as a result of the news attention his criminal charges were attracting.  He alleges his right to due process was denied in the appeal process when no teachers who supported him were on the review panel.  By not being permitted to play on the team in his senior year, Bartiromo believes he was prohibited from playing in front of professional scouts and recruiters, barring him from a potentially lucrative baseball career.  Bartiromo, now 18 and representing himself, is seeking $50 million in damages. 

—Source:  The Los AngelesTimes

[Posted June 6, 2003]


No Pity For This Fool

The television and movie star known as Mr. T has filed a lawsuit against Best Buy, Inc. for unauthorized use of his image.  Mr. T, who is now promoting long distance telephone service in television commercials featuring the puppet ALF, former pro-wrestler Hulk Hogan and former Pittsburgh Steeler Terry Bradshaw among others, claims Best Buy’s November, 2002 ad campaign made him “look like a fool.”  The ad, which featured a digitally altered scene from “Rocky III” portraying Mr. T boxing with a “middle-aged, balding, out-of-shape [Best Buy salesman], has the “likelihood of injuring Mr. T’s business reputation and of diluting the distinct quality of Mr. T’s professional persona,” claimed the lawsuit.  Mr. T, born Laurence Tureaud, is seeking an unspecified amount of damages in Los Angeles Superior Court.

—Source:  Reuters

[Posted June 6, 2003]


But Did He Have a Hall Pass?

Eileen Blau filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Camden, New Jersey against Daniel Allen for compensation of “severe and multiple injuries, some of which are permanent in nature” caused in an accident two years ago.  Blau, an elementary school teacher at E.T. Hamiliton School claims Allen, then age 11, “negligently and carelessly” knocked her over while he was running at an “excessive rate of speed” to catch his bus home.  Blau had filed a claim with the Allen family’s homeowners insurance at the time of the incident, but when it had not been settled by February, 2003, she filed the lawsuit seeking damages for “medical care and curtailed activities.”  Allen’s mother knew about the teacher’s actions, but kept them from her son.  Young Daniel found out about the lawsuit in March when a sheriff’s deputy arrived at his home to serve the now 13-year-old boy with a summons.  “I’m sorry I ran into her,” he said.  “I don’t think she should be suing me.  I didn’t want to hurt anybody.  It was an accident.”  At the time of the incident he apologized and had cried when he found out the teacher had been hurt.  A spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association says he has never heard of a student being sued by a teacher before.  Allen’s mother commented:  “I think it’s terrible a teacher can sue a student….  When you send a kid off to school you expect him to be supervised and taken care of.”

—Source:  SouthJerseyNews.com

[Posted May 30, 2003]


Between a Rock and a Wet Place

Krystal Water Park in Evans, Georgia, is closing its doors to families and children looking for cool summer fun this year.  Ken Owens, the water park owner, was forced to shut the family entertainment park down after his liability insurance increased from $8,000 a month to $58,000 a month.  The 700% increase is not known to be for any incident that occurred at the park, but due to the insurance company’s need to protect itself from costs associated with increasing litigation.  Knowing an admissions price increase to cover the insurance premium would be prohibitive to his customers, Owens instead decided to close.

—Source:  Augusta Chronicle

[Posted May 30, 2003]


Guilty Until Proven Guilty

Two of the students who allegedly participated in the violent hazing of female junior students at Glenbrook North High School in Illinois have filed a lawsuit to end their 10-day suspensions from school.  The school district allows three days for students to appeal a suspension.  The appeals process allows students to argue their case with their parents and lawyers and provide additional information which is ultimately reviewed by school officials who would decide if the suspension will be upheld.  That not being sufficient for the two students, lawsuits were filed last week asking for an emergency injunction against their suspensions.  “You are entitled to an education so when someone takes that right from you without giving you due process, they have violated [your] due process rights,” said Naomi Valas, an attorney representing one of the accused girls.  However, Lawrence Weiner, a lawyer for the school district, argued against that claim before Judge Julia Nowicki.  “This is one of the students that’s on the video [of the hazing].  This is one of the students rubbing some substance we believe to be excrement [on another student].  She wasn’t just an innocent bystander.”  While the suspensions would disallow the students from attending the prom and graduation ceremonies, they would be permitted to take their finals off-campus and graduate.  Those students who did not meet their required credits to graduate would be able to complete their studies elsewhere.  Criminal charges against the accused students have also been filed.

—Source:  Multiple News Sources

[Posted May 22, 2003]


Pompous Circumstance

U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson ruled this month that Moorestown, New Jersey, school officials could not force a disabled senior to share the honor of class valedictorian.  Blair Hornstine filed a discrimination lawsuit against the school district seeking $2.7 million in damages when she was told she would be sharing the tribute with Kenneth Mirken.  Due to the special curriculum given to Hornstine, which allowed her extra time to take tests, an exception from physical education and individual attention that had not been afforded to Mirken who scored the highest grades in the regular curriculum school officials decided to make them both valedictorian.  The school insists to have only wanted to “level the playing field,” but Hornstine claimed it would diminish her honor.  Judge Wolfson agreed, saying Hornstine would then be known as “the disabled valedictorian, not the valedictorian.”  Moorestown High School senior Alli McGuigan – one of the many students who supported the school district’s decision – believes the lawsuit will forever taint their high school memories.  “It’s a shame to think that Moorestown’s Class of 2003 will go down in history as the class that had to pick its valedictorian in a courtroom.”

—Source:  Philadelphia Inquirer

[Posted May 22, 2003]


Singing the Blues

Johnny and Edgar Winter, legendary blues musicians, have filed a lawsuit against DC Comics, alleging its 1995 comic book series “Autumn Brothers” illegally exploited their image and depicted them in a “less-than-flattering light.”  The brothers claim the comic book portrayed them as villainous, half-human, half-worm creatures that played off their albinism.  Legal experts say the “Autumn Brothers” series may fall into the protected area of satire, despite the brothers’ desire to protect their images and the considerable income they earn from advertising.  As Tyler Ochoa, a Whittier Law School professor explains:  “It’s unquestionably vicious satire.  But that’s the price that all of us endure as part of the First Amendment.”  A California state court had thrown out the suit, but after DC Comics used the brothers for advertising, an appeals court overturned the ruling.  The case is now before the California Supreme Court.

—Source:  San Francisco Chronicle

[Posted May 22, 2003]


“Bada Bing

Sean Penn has filed a $10 million lawsuit against movie producer Steve Bing, claiming “wrongful termination, labor code violations and failure to pay guaranteed compensation.”  The actor alleges Bing reneged on an oral contract for a role in the movie “Why Men Shouldn’t Marry,” due to Penn’s public opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq.  Penn says Bing’s actions were reminiscent of “the dark era of Hollywood blacklisting.”  Bing denies the accusations, denying ever having entered into an oral agreement over the now-defunct movie, and has counter-sued Penn for $15 million.  His suit accuses Penn of “never intend[ing] to appear in the movie” and “attempt[ing] a shakedown by threatening to humiliate and embarrass him if he didn’t give Penn $10 million.” 

—Source:  Findlaw.com

[Posted May 16, 2003]


Stealing (Away from) Home

Mark and Scott Brengi, of Windsor Locks, Connecticut, were both injured while playing softball in an adult softball league at Brainard Park in Enfield, Connecticut.  Mark Brengi claimed he tore ligaments in his left foot while sliding into third base, and his brother, Scott, claimed he broke his left foot and ankle one week later sliding into second base.  The brothers sued the town, alleging it “failed to maintain its softball fields,” did not provide “detachable bases” and should have barred players from sliding.  Enfield’s insurance company settled both claims for a total of $135,000, despite the town’s lawyer stating, “[They] chose to slide into [the] base when it was unnecessary and entailed risk of injury.”  Frank Jedziniak, a former professional baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies and a resident of Enfield, also questioned the town council on the settlement for injuries that he believes were the brothers’ own fault.  “I really don’t know if they know how to slide,” he said. “They probably jumped to the base.  You’re supposed to slide before you hit the base.”  The town now bans all non-residents from using their recreational facilities and has replaced the anchored bases with ones that break away on impact. 

—Source:  Hartford Courant (Connecticut)

[Posted May 9, 2003]


The Lion’s Rohwer

Rolf Rohwer, of Scotland, has filed a federal lawsuit against bullet manufacturers Federal Cartridge Co., of Anoka, Minnesota, and Trophy Bonded Bullets, Inc., of Houston, Texas.  While Rohwer was on an African big game hunting safari he used a new type of ammunition, which he claims failed to stop a charging lion that attacked and injured him severely.  The bullet – a .458 Winchester Magnum, 500 grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claw – was advertised for use in big game hunting.  Louis Franecke, Rohwer’s lawyer in San Rafael, California, alleges the ammunition was ineffective on the lion, stating, “This bullet is not suitable for killing a charging lion.”  The bullet, which is designed to expand on impact and kill big game animals such as rhinoceros and hippopotami, passed through the thin skin of the lion.  Rather than stopping the charging lion, the shot enraged the beast which mauled Rohwer, a wildlife biologist.  Officials with Federal Cartridge had no comment on the suit.  Rohwer has since returned to big game hunting according to his website.

—Source:  Star Tribune (Minneapolis – St. Paul)

[Posted May 9, 2003]


Fuzzy Math

Barry Van Rensler, a Philadelphia-area attorney, is being audited by the Pennsylvania State Auditor General’s Office for billing discrepancies.  Since 1987, Van Rensler has been paid more than $2.8 million for representing Upper Darby School District and five other area school districts.  The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reviewed bills he submitted to the school districts last year, for which he was paid almost $500,000, and discovered he had billed the Upper Darby School District for one 81-hour day and three 25-hour days.  When confronted by a reporter from the newspaper, Van Rensler claimed they were innocent mistakes and subsequently reimbursed the school district for the erroneous charges, with interest.  However, a preliminary investigation prompted by the newspaper article revealed multiple past instances of Van Rensler billing the school district for working in excess of 24 hours a day, including two 75-hour days.  In addition to parents and school board members calling for his resignation, Van Rensler could face criminal charges based on evidence discovered by the investigative team performing the audit.

Source:  The Philadelphia Inquirer

[Posted May 2, 2003]


Twinkle Toes

Oscar Novick, of West Babylon, New York, has filed a lawsuit against the New York Dinner Theater of Manhasset for injuries he allegedly received during an audience participation gala.  The 69-year old plumber and Home Depot employee attended the Home Depot employee holiday party with his wife.  During the show, which was held in the lumber department of the Farmingdale store, a female performer asked Novick to dance with her.  He initially declined, but after some cajoling and with his wife’s approval, he allowed himself to be pulled to the dance floor.  Novick alleges that after dancing wildly with him, the woman attempted to dip him, lost control and dropped him on the floor.  Novick returned to his seat for the remainder of the show, but later that evening was treated for a fractured ankle he claims occurred as a result of the fall.  Novick said of the incident, “I was embarrassed.  Everybody was laughing….  The nurses and doctors at the hospital – even they were cracking up.”  He is seeking $5.5 million in his personal injury lawsuit. 

Source:  Newsday

[Posted May 2, 2003]


“If I Can’t Control My Hair, How Can I Control My Life?”

Geremie Hoff, of Creve Coeur, Missouri, sued an Elizabeth Arden salon for emotional distress, counseling, depression and loss of income.  Hoff went to the salon in August, 2001 for a chemical hair straightening process which she claimed caused her hair to fall out, leaving her with bald spots.  She alleged that she was severely traumatized, becoming “depressed and reclusive,” which forced her to retire early from her teaching position at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and quit her overseas tour guide job.  A jury found the salon negligent and awarded Hoff $6,000. 

—Source:  Associated Press

[Posted April 25, 2003]


Sometimes Size Does Matter

Joseph Connor, of New Haven, Connecticut, has filed a lawsuit against McDonald’s for discrimination and violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act.  Connor, who weighs 420 pounds, alleges that he was rejected for employment with McDonald’s because the company perceived him to be “morbidly obese.”  He claims that his obesity is a “disability” and the restaurant chain discriminated against him because of his weight.  Lawrence Peikes, attorney for McDonald’s Corporation, argued to dismiss the case on the grounds that Connor’s obesity is not a “physical impairment” that falls within the special circumstances scope of the ADA.  U.S. District Court Judge Stefan R. Underhill refused to dismiss the lawsuit, concluding that Connor should be allowed the opportunity to prove his allegations of discrimination. 

—Source:  Associated Press

[Posted April 25, 2003]


Enquiring Minds Want To Know”

Rosie O’Donnell is considering suing the National Enquirer for defamation.  The tabloid published a story in the April 15, 2003 edition claiming O’Donnell’s live-in partner, Kelli Carpenter, had left her and taken their 4-month old daughter.  O’Donnell’s attorney, Bert Fields, says the Enquirer knew it was “all a pack of lies and… and was told it was a pack of lies.”  O’Donnell issued a statement in which she claimed she was thinking of suing since, although not being the first “malicious and untrue” story printed about her, this story has caused “tremendous pain” to her and her family.  “Printing that I am 310 pounds is one thing.  Printing that my partner and our newborn daughter have left is another.  I will not tolerate such a hurtful and slanderous lie,” she stated.  Fields has indicated the lawsuit could proceed even if the Enquirer retracts the story.

—Source:  Reuters

[Posted April 11, 2003]


Mr. Money Bags?

Cornell Curry, of New York, has filed a lawsuit against Partnership for the Homeless and Peter’s Place.  Curry, who is homeless, left a bag containing his possessions at Peter’s Place, a shelter in which he intended to stay.  However, before being able to retrieve his bag, he was arrested and jailed for three weeks for public urination.  When he returned to the shelter, his bag was gone.  Peter’s Place admitted to throwing out a bag of Curry’s belongings, which they allege consisted of three pieces of dirty clothing.  Curry claims the bag contained an $18,000 star sapphire ring, irreplaceable family photographs dating back to 1937, $200 in cash and a $4,000 gold watch.  The shelter requested that the lawsuit be dismissed but Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Rosaly Richter ruled to allow Curry to go forward with his suit, saying, “It is simply too early to resolve whether the plaintiff did, in fact, leave the bag in the defendant’s possession and whether the plaintiff also shares some responsibility for the alleged loss.”  Curry is seeking $2 million in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages.

—Source:  New York Daily News

[Posted April 11, 2002]


Lights… Camera………

Miriam Fisch, of Chicago, Illinois, has filed a class-action lawsuit against movie theater chain Loews Cineplex, on behalf of all their customers, for deceptive business practices.  Fisch claims when she went to a scheduled 4:45 pm showing of “The Quiet American” the theater ran commercials, delaying the actual movie start time to 4:49 pm.  Douglas Litowitz, Fisch’s attorney, believes it is “ludicrous” for movie-goers to pay to watch commercials they could see at home for free and the nationwide eligible plaintiffs are owed “lost time” damages.  Matthew Kearney, of the Cinema Advertising Council, says the lawsuit is “ridiculous” and “everyone knows…  [there will be] some advertising before the main feature starts.”  Loews did not comment on the case.  The class-action is seeking up to $75 for each plaintiff in addition to an injunction requiring the theater to advertise separate times for running of ads and actual movie start times. 

—Source:  Daily Variety

[Posted April 4, 2003]


“Money, Money, Money, Money…  Money”

G & I Construction Corporation of Queens, New York, has filed a lawsuit against Liza Minelli and David Gest.  G & I claims Gest and Minelli have refused to pay the balance due for extensive renovations done to their Manhattan apartment.  Apparently “dissatisfied” with the work done, the complaint alleges Gest and Minelli have an outstanding balance of $137,000 of the agreed total of $250,089.  The couple has posted a $150,000 bond to remove the lien against the apartment and G & I won’t deliver and install the custom-made closets until the dispute is resolved.  In addition to the balance due from the job, G & I is seeking $50,000 in legal fees. 

—Source:  The New York Post

[Posted March 28, 2003]


Suing for Sport

Hazel Norton, of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, joined a class-action lawsuit after reading a report by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration linking her prescription medication, Propulsid, to 80 deaths nationally.  While not claiming she was injured by the drug, she reportedly thought by joining the lawsuit she “might get a couple thousand dollars.”  What she did not know was that she would actually be suing her own doctor, Kirk Kooyer, whom Norton always believed to be “a good doctor, very intelligent” and always made her feel “comfortable.”  Norton originally believed she would be suing the drug manufacturer, but her lawyers told her it would be better if she sued Dr. Kooyer and to allow the case to remain in Mississippi, bettering her chances of a favorable outcome.  She objected, and Kooyer was eventually removed as a defendant.  Nonetheless, Dr. Kooyer has seen his medical malpractice insurance premiums rise 85%.  While he originally went to the Mississippi delta to “serve the poor,” he has since moved his practice to the less litigious state of North Dakota.

—Source:  The Clarion-Leader (Jackson, MS)

[Posted March 21, 2003]


Master $

Geneva Burger, of Pomona, California, filed a lawsuit against rap recording label Cash Money for suffering anxiety and embarrassment.  Burger, age 80, claims she did not know she was being taped during a phone conversation with one of her grandson’s friends when she asked, “When people get hooked on pot, can they get sick if they don’t get it?”  The tape was subsequently distributed and eventually used by Master P, executive producer of a 1998 Cash Money “crude gangsta rap CD” which featured Snoop Dogg.  Believing that no remorse was shown by multi-millionaire Master P and that he displayed no intention of preventing a future similar situation from occurring, Superior Court Judge R. Bruce Minto awarded Burger $105,000 in damages.

—Source:  Associated Press

[Posted March 21, 2003]


“A Fool For a Client”

Andrew Burnett, convicted of killing a bichon frise on a California highway during a fit of road rage, has filed a lawsuit against the dog’s owner, Sara McBurnett, and the Mercury News.  Acting as his own attorney, claiming mental anguish and post-traumatic stress disorder, Burnett alleges that McBurnett minimized the severity of the accident to prevent him from claiming injuries and made defamatory comments about him to the media.  He accuses the Mercury News of “knowingly and maliciously” printing McBurnett’s false statements.  James Chadwick, attorney for the Mercury News, said, “This is pretty much the definition of a frivolous lawsuit.”  Burnett claims he has suffered “mental pain and anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, fright and shock, and mortification.”  He is seeking $1 million in damages, including loss of wages.

—Source:  San Jose Mercury News

[Posted March 14, 2003]



Fear and Consequence

Anne Stanley, of West Moreland County, Pennsylvania, is suing her doctor, Latrobe Area Hospital and Olympus America for emotional distress based on fear.  Stanley alleges that during two medical examinations her doctor used a defective bronchoscope – a medical instrument distributed by Olympus – that could have exposed her to a possibly fatal bacteria and she had to “cope with the fear” of not knowing whether or not she had been exposed.  She is asking a jury for $90 million in damages.

—Source:  Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

[Posted March 14, 2003]



Heal Thyself

Gloria DeFrancesco, of Cleveland, Ohio, filed a lawsuit against TV evangelist Ernest Angley, his ministry and six of his volunteers.  DeFrancesco alleges she was “roughed up” by ushers when she attempted to bring her 94-year old wheelchair bound mother to the stage for a “personal healing” by Angley.  DeFrancesco claims her retina was detached as a result of injuries sustained.  Raymond Spangler, a spokesman for the evangelist, claims DeFrancesco is embellishing the injuries she claims she suffered after she was unable to get a cash settlement.  He counters that she started the altercation when she struck an usher “twenty times in the gonads” with the point of an umbrella while she and her mother were waiting to get on stage.  Spangler states further that he witnessed DeFrancesco repeatedly bang her head on her car dashboard and window after she was removed from the premises.  DeFrancesco is seeking over $25,000 in damages. 

—Source:  Akron Beacon Journal

[Posted March 14, 2003]


“Victor/Victoria”

In 1998, when Victor Moseley claims he learned of the existence of Victoria’s Secret, he changed the name of his lingerie and sex toy shop from Victor’s Secret to Victor’s Little Secret.  On July 30, 2001, in V Secret Catalogue Inc. v. Moseley, the Sixth U.S. Circuit of Appeals found that Victor Moseley’s adult shop diluted the Victoria Secret trademark “by associating the Victoria’s Secret name with sex toys and lewd coffee mugs.”  This ruling, in accordance with the 1996 Federal Trademark Dilution Act, authorizes injunctive relief, but not compensation, unless there is proven “actual dilution” of the trademark.  The Sixth Circuit decision sided with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, but not with the Fourth and Fifth Circuit decisions on the issue.  Victoria’s Secret Catalogue appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously this week that the giant retailer did not prove its trademark was diluted by the adult shop’s name.  Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that Moseley’s Victor’s Little Secret shop “neither confused any consumers or potential customers, nor was [it] likely to do so….  [T]he mere fact that consumers mentally associate the junior user’s mark with a famous mark is not sufficient to establish actionable dilution.” 

—Source:  Compiled from multiple news sources

[Posted March 7, 2003]


“Money, Money, Money, Money”

TV music channel VH1 has filed a lawsuit against Liza Minelli’s husband, David Gest, alleging his “unprofessional, erratic and deceitful conduct” forced the cancellation of the couple’s “staged reality” show, “Liza & David.”  VH1 claims Gest’s behavior went so “far beyond the acceptable bounds of show business eccentricity” it was “unrelenting[ly] obstructionist.” In the suit, VH1 lists Gest’s demands, including: 30 times the amount of Minelli’s wardrobe, network expenses for a $60,000 apartment for his hairstylist, having a sofa reupholstered, and forcing a crew member to stick her head in the oven “to make sure it was spotless.”  The company claims reluctance to sue, but went ahead after Gest filed a $23 million suit against MTV Networks for breach of agreement when the show was cancelled.

—Source:  Los Angeles Times

[Posted March 7, 2003]


Counting Sheep

A Massachusetts Appeals Court recently rejected Robert and Anne Krasnecky’s claim of emotional distress and loss of companionship after their neighbors’ dogs killed their seven sheep in 1993.  The Krasnekcys believe that the sheep were part of their family and asked for $140,000 in damages from the dogs’ owners.  A lower court denied their emotional distress and loss of companionship claim, offering fair market value for the sheep as compensation.  When the Krasneckys failed to present any economic value of the sheep, the judge awarded them $1.  Appeals Court Judge George Jacobs upheld the lower court’s decision that loss of companionship only applied to humans.  The dogs’ owners offered to settle out of court for $10,000.  The Krasneckys rejected that offer and their lawyer, Steven Wise, says they plan on appealing to the state Supreme Court.

—Source:  Associated Press

[Posted February 28, 2003]


A “C-Minus” Lawsuit

Brian Delekta, a student at Memphis High School in Memphis, Michigan, has filed a lawsuit against his principal, the school’s superintendent and all seven school board members to change the grade he received for a work-experience class.  Delekta worked as a paralegal at his mother’s law office and successfully completed the school district’s work program requirements.  He was given credit for an “A,” but Delekta believes he earned an “A+” which would further increase the 11th grader’s chance to become class valedictorian.  In addition to the grade change, Delekta’s suit is asking for a restraining order to block the release of the class rankings until the case is settled.

—Source:  CNN.com

[Posted February 28, 2003]


"For the Want of a Nail..." 

Ann Laerzio, of Macomb County, Michigan has filed a lawsuit against Octavia Hair Design for loss of income, pain and suffering.  Laerzio alleges when she went to Octavia in 2001 to have a broken acrylic nail repaired, a beautician at the salon “nicked” her right index finger.  She claims that the injury resulted in an infection which required multiple surgeries and has left the finger deformed.  Melinda Opatik, owner of the salon, believes that her newly opened business was “targeted” for a lawsuit.  Laerzio, who paid $5 for the nail repair, is seeking $500,000 in damages.

—Source:  Macomb Daily

[Posted February 21, 2003]


When A Bagel Isn’t A Bagel

John and Cecelia O’Hare, of Panama City Beach, Florida, have filed a lawsuit against a McDonald’s franchise restaurant claiming negligence and violation of “implied warranty that the food sold was reasonably fit for human consumption.”  The O’Hares allege that an “improperly prepared bagel” purchased at the McDonald’s caused severe damage to Mr. O’Hare’s teeth and bridgework resulting in Mrs. O’Hare losing the “care, comfort, consortium and society of her husband.”  Tracey Johnstone, owner of the franchise, claims she has no idea what could have been wrong with the bagel commenting, “It’s a bagel.”  The O’Hares are seeking unspecified damages in excess of $15,000. 

—Source:  KansasCity.com

[Posted February 21, 2003]


It Does Matter if You Win or Lose

Hamilton County, Ohio Commissioner Todd Portune has filed a lawsuit against the NFL Bengals and the National Football League alleging they violated their lease agreement with the Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.  Portune, filing the suit as a private citizen without the support of the other commissioners, has also named 31 other NFL franchises, alleging fraud, anti-trust conspiracy, breach of contract and civil conspiracy.  Portune claims that a “sweetheart deal” was made between the city and the Bengals for a new 65,000 seat stadium to be funded by taxpayers through a sales tax surcharge.  According to Portune, the deal, which was intended to keep the team in Cincinnati, is “…grossly one-sided in the Bengals’ favor:  the team owes nominal rent, receives virtually all stadium-related revenues, and pays essentially no construction, operations, maintenance or improvement costs.”  In return the Bengals promised to “field a competitive team.”  However, they have not been to the playoffs since 1990 and finished the 2002 season in last place.  In a statement released by the team, “The Bengals are confident the claims are without merit and will vigorously defend the action.”  The NFL also refutes the charges stating that “…[Portune’s] approach is not constructive and will not succeed.”  Portune is demanding the team renegotiate the lease with the 3 year-old stadium in addition to obtaining an $80 million loan from the NFL to assist in paying off the stadium debt. 

—Source:  Associated Press

[Posted February 14, 2003]


Hello Pot, This is Kettle Calling

The American Bar Association (ABA) will support possible federal legislation limiting certain claims regarding asbestos lawsuits.  ABA President Alfred P. Carlton said, “Asbestos litigation presents unique challenges for this country’s civil justice system and requires a national solution.”  The policy-making body of the group recommended supporting legislation that would require claimants to meet specific medical criteria before filing suit.  Mary Alexander, president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America wrote to the ABA in opposition of such a move, saying:  “The American Bar Association, which has never supported the wholesale pre-emption of state tort law, should not now reverse that historic position on behalf of a hurried resolution of asbestos cases that clearly favors defendants over plaintiffs….  Tens of thousands of valid asbestos claims, perhaps more, would be wiped out… even though the invalidated claims presently qualify for compensation under the laws of all fifty states.”  Despite the ABA’s previous opposition to federal pre-emption of state civil laws, many believe that this legislation would help with the growing claims over the last two years for non-cancerous lung tissue injuries ­ which have already put 20 financially stable companies into bankruptcy ­ to allow fair compensation for asbestos related injuries and relieving the court system of premature claims by plaintiffs who are not disabled by asbestos-related disease.

—Source:  Reuters

[Posted February 14, 2003]


Caveat Emptor

Robert Grace, an attorney and legal newspaper publisher in Los Angeles, California, has filed a lawsuit against online auction house eBay, Inc. and memorabilia dealer Tim Neeley, for libel.  Neeley had successfully bid on eBay for six vintage magazines from Grace, but alleges the items arrived late and in poorer condition than advertised.  Through the feedback section eBay provides for users to express their experiences in the transactions, Neeley said Grace “should be banned from eBay” and was “dishonest all the way.”  Grace demanded eBay remove the statements that he claims are damaging to his reputation.  EBay executives refused and have declined to comment on the case.  A warning on eBay’s website states, “You are responsible for your own words....  You should be careful about making comments that could be libelous or slanderous.  You will not be able to retract or edit your feedback,” and also warns that users could be held responsible for consequences of comments made.  Grace claims he is only suing because “…eBay’s policy needs to be revised….”  In addition to demanding that buyers and sellers register as businesses in California and use a filter for words like “fraud, liar, cheater, scam artist, con man,” Grace is seeking punitive damages in the amount of $100,000 from Neeley and $2.5 million from eBay.

—Source:  Reuters

[Posted February 7, 2003]


The Town of Imperfect

Shannon O’Brien of Tacoma, Washington, has filed a lawsuit against drug store chain Walgreen’s.  O’Brien, a 35 year-old with a terminal brain tumor, used the drive-thru pharmacy of her local Walgreen’s to fill her Percocet prescription.  According to the complaint, when the pharmacist was unable to get immediate verification from O’Brien’s physician, he assumed the prescription was a fake, called the police and had her arrested on the spot.  O’Brien was released on bail the same evening of her arrest and was eventually able to have the felony prescription-fraud charges dropped when her doctor confirmed the prescription’s legitimacy with the county prosecutor’s office.  Regarding her ordeal, O’Brien commented, “I was hysterical, crying, very upset and very embarrassed….  They could have checked my records.  I’ve had the same medication every month.”  Damages being sought have not been specified.

—Source:  The Seattle Times

[Posted February 7, 2003]


A “Cutting–Edge” Issue

Anita Flatt is suing, on behalf of her son, Josiah, the doctor and the hospital that performed a circumcision on Josiah when he was born in 1997.  Flatt consented to the procedure in writing and is not claiming that any mistakes were made, but now alleges that she was not informed thoroughly enough of the possible pain, complications and consequences – which could include permanent penile damage.  The hospital’s lawyers believe the lawsuit is “an attempt to abolish circumcision…” and change public policy through the court system so that “only a competent male once he reaches adulthood, and not his parent, should be able to consent to circumcision.”  In a statement issued by the hospital and Dr. Sunita Kantak, who performed the circumcision, the charges were refuted.  “Anita Flatt was given information about circumcision, and she asked to have her son circumcised.  The circumcision was done because she requested it.”  Judge Cynthia Rothe-Seeger did not dismiss the suit, despite the unusual circumstance that nothing “went ‘wrong’ during the procedure.” The unknown amount of compensation being sought is for five-year old Josiah’s “diminished sexual sensation injury.”

—Source:  The New York Times

[Posted January 31, 2003]


Take the Money and Run

Joseph Bisignano, of West Des Moines, Iowa, has filed a lawsuit against Mary Toon alleging fraud and breach of contract.  He claims that he spent more than $300,000 on Toon during a 2-year relationship, including the purchase of a 9.2 carat diamond ring, a fur coat and personal loans. Bisignano says Toon knew he was “developing a warm affection for her and used his affection…  to persuade him to purchase certain items…  and to lend her money.”  He alleges in court documents that Toon engaged in discussions of marriage he believed to be so serious that he purchased a Vera Wang designer wedding gown.  Toon is counter-suing, stating that she ended the relationship when she discovered Bisignano stalking her, claiming he knew she had no intention of marrying him.  She further claims he threatened to “do anything to compel or force [her] to continue to see him” after she ended the relationship.  Bisignano’s third ex-wife, Suzanne, was surprised by the relationship with Toon, claiming she and Bisignano were still romantically involved and discussing reconciliation.  Attorneys on both sides refuse to discuss the case.

—Source:  The Des Moines Register

[Posted January 31, 2003]


The Goose That Laid the Golden Legal Egg

Darlene Griffin, of West Palm Beach, Florida, has filed a lawsuit against West Palm Beach County for injuries she received at Okeeheelee Park.  Griffin claims that while in the park a three-foot tall goose lunged at her son.  When she jumped in front of her son to protect him, the goose bit her on the foot and in the ensuing struggle she fell and broke her tailbone.  She alleges the county knew the goose had a “history of being territorial and aggressive,” but did not post any warning signs in the park.  The county asserts that it has no obligation to post signs warning visitors to the park of “obvious conditions.” 

—Source:  CNN.com

[Posted January 31, 2003]


Legal Idol

Drew Cummings has filed complaints with state and federal agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, against Fox Television’s reality show “American Idol” alleging violation of anti-discrimination laws.  Cummings, a 50-year old visiting professor of film and television at Miami-Dade Community College was prohibited from participating in Miami Beach auditions because the show’s rules do not allow contestants to be over the age of 24.  In his statement, Cummings said, “Age discrimination runs rampant in the entertainment industry and corporate America.  It’s time someone did something about it.”  State and federal officials have 180 days to review Cummings’ complaint, after which he can file suit.

—Source:  Associated Press

[Posted January 24, 2003]


Feeling HOT, HOT, HOT

Marcus and Elaine Long of Houston, Texas, are suing McDonald’s for breaching an “implied warranty” that its food is “wholesome.”  Mr. Long, diagnosed with cancer of the brain, colon, lung and spine, can no longer wear his dentures and eats soft foods only.  For the past year he has consumed three sausage, egg and cheese McBurritos every morning.  He alleges that one morning, one of the burritos was so “oversaturated with black pepper” it caused him to have a two-month long nosebleed, damage to his vocal cords and an infection in his mouth.  Mrs. Long claims that when she returned to the McDonald’s from which she purchased the burrito, the manager informed her they had “spice[d] up the bland burritos with a little pepper” but refused to refund her money or compensate her with a free Happy Meal.  Leonard Cruse, the attorney representing the Longs, claims Mr. Long was “seriously injured” by the burrito which was “unfit for human consumption.”  Dr. Leslie Botnick, an oncologist who has no personal knowledge of Long’s medical case commented, “Black pepper is a onetime event….  It’s not gonna be there on a daily basis….  If you buy a burrito, it’s sometimes gonna be hot.  That’s what burritos do.  Pepper does not promote cancer” and further stated that when a patient with cancer bleeds, it is usually due to a bleeding tumor, not a burrito.  Don Clark, president of the McDonald’s franchise, released a statement denying wrongdoing and said Long was the only customer to complain.  The Longs are seeking unspecified damages for “gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.” 

—Source:  Houston Press

[Posted January 24, 2003]


Cheering for Dollars and Sense

Jenny Lawson, a foreign exchange student from Ecceleshall, England, is suing the Des Moines, Iowa school district for negligence.  Lawson, a cheerleader at Roosevelt High, broke her leg in two places after she collided with another cheerleader during a wrestling meet.  Lawson alleges in her suit that the school district was negligent for not “providing an absorbent mat and encouraging more than one cheerleader to jump at once.”  Drew Bracken, attorney for the school district, claims he knows of no such requirements and as with any sport, there is always a risk of injury.  Lawson is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

—Source:  Des Moines Register

[Posted January 24, 2003]


Tortious Interference

New Jersey Assemblyman Anthony Impreveduto (D – Hudson) is seeking legal action against the National Football League for failure of officials to call a pass-interference penalty.  The New York Giants, who at one time had a 24-point lead over the San Francisco 49’ers, lost their bid to advance in the NFC playoffs as a result of their 39-38 loss.  In a letter to George Zoffinger, president of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority (which runs Giants Stadium), Impreveduto wrote, “New Jersey taxpayers may have been cheated of tax revenue from players’ income and other Giants-related enterprises had the team advanced to the playoffs.”  The NFL’s director of officiating, Mike Pereira, apologized to the Giants, admitting the officials denied the Giants a chance to kick a field goal, which if successful, would have won the game.  Impreveduto is asking the league to hold the 2006 Super Bowl at Giants Stadium as restitution for the mistake.  Detroit is already guaranteed the 2006 Super Bowl and NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue stated that they are bound by NFL rules to hold the 2007 game in a “domed stadium or a city where the average January high temperature is at least 50 degrees.”  Zoffinger would not comment on whether or not legal action will be pursued.

—Source:  Associated Press

[Posted January 17, 2003]


Poo - Poo

William Ramos of Leonia, New Jersey, has filed a complaint against Rick Heckman, alleging that when Heckman’s dog defecated on the grassy strip next to the street, he was trespassing on Ramos’ property.  Ramos cites a municipal code that states “permission of the owner of private property” must be obtained for “disposal of canine waste.”  While Municipal Prosecutor Mark Fierro believes Ramos’ claim could have merit since he is required to maintain the area, Heckman argues that most people believe the grassy section next to the curb is public.  Municipal Judge John DeSheplo will rule as to whether the grass strip between the sidewalk and the street is Ramos’ private property.  Heckman commented, “If [the judge] rules against me, it effectively outlaws dog walking in Leonia….” 

—Source:  CNN.com

[Posted January 17, 2003]


Power, Slander and Justice?

Former U.S. Representative Gary Condit (D – CA), has filed a lawsuit against best-selling author and celebrated columnist Dominick Dunne for alleged slanderous comments linking Condit to the murder of former intern Chandra Levy.  Condit’s attorney, L. Lin Wood, claims that “Dunne was one of the major contributors to a media frenzy that transformed allegations of sexual misconduct into false accusations of involvement” in the kidnapping and murder of Levy.  The lawsuit states that during a nationally syndicated radio show, in print and socially, Dunne commented that Condit was a suspect, may have been behind Levy’s disappearance and that Levy had “stumbled into a noxious ring of prostitution, sex slaves and Middle Eastern sheiks in Washington, DC….”  Condit claims that he “has suffered emotional distress and mental pain,” along with a “permanent impairment to his ability to obtain or maintain gainful employment” as a result of Dunne’s actions.  Condit is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.

—Source:  Los Angeles Times

[Posted January 10, 2003]


“Comes Now, Plaintiff, Jack Ass”

Viacom International Inc. is being sued for trademark and copyright infringement and “injury to a reputation… and defamation of [a] character… created” for their MTV show “Jackass.”  Jack Ass of Montana began a personal crusade against drunk driving after his brother was killed in an accident seven years ago.  Five years ago he changed his name (from Bob Craft) to better publicize the web-based campaign’s cartoon mascot, Andy Ass.  Jack Ass, who filed his own 6-page complaint from his one room shack, dubbed the “Jack Shack,” does not have cable and only receives one television channel using rabbit ears for reception.  He claims MTV is “plagiarizing” and “defaming” his name with the television show that encourages, among other things, jumping head-first into an oscillating ceiling fan and eating “yellow snow.”  Johnny Knoxville, one of the creators of “Jackass,” commented, “What do I care?  I can’t wait to get served the papers.  What could be more American than just suing the living shit out of someone for no reason at all?”  Jack Ass is seeking $10 million in damages.

—Source:  The New Yorker

[Posted January 10, 2003]


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