Guardian advances litigation urban legends

by Walter Olson on November 12, 2010

The venerable British newspaper — at least someone there in charge of selecting pictures and captions — seems to have fallen for an old bit of fiction about an insurance customer who supposedly tried to collect on the loss of his cigars via fire, as an example of “odd American lawsuits.” One wonders why papers fall back on hoary email legends when they could have readily found hundreds upon hundreds of genuine examples of odd American lawsuits right here.

Incidentally, the reader who makes it through the underlying opinion piece (by Neil Rose) does eventually learn that the cigar fable is one of a class of stories “most of [which] are apocryphal or didn’t get anywhere, such as the case against the dry cleaners.” This is not really up to snuff as a way of warning readers off the cigar tale, and it’s grossly misleading as a description of the Roy Pearson dry-cleaners pants suit, which Pearson kept going for years at a very real and serious cost to his targets, the Chung family. Much of the point of the Neil Rose article seems to be to assure British readers that the American way of litigation may be safely emulated, since its costs are not really so bad. If that’s the argument, shouldn’t the piece convey a fairer picture of those costs?

{ 2 comments }

1 gitarcarver 11.12.10 at 6:45 pm

In the Guardian’s comments, a reader takes Neil Rose to task for what you are noting.

Rose responds in a classic “I know what I said but what I said was not actually what I said.”

2 Walter Olson 11.14.10 at 11:21 am

Actually, I read that Guardian commenter as taking Rose to task for (inter alia) mentioning the Liebeck hot coffee case without reciting it in its fully approved Litigation Lobby version. Rose pleads in response that he would have recited that full version if not for lack of space.

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