“Man Sues Couple He Kidnapped”

by Walter Olson on November 30, 2011

Jesse Dimmick, who invaded the home of Jared and Lindsay Rowley at knifepoint and held them for some time against their will, is now suing them for allegedly reneging on a promise to hide him from the police. He’s also suing the city of Topeka, one of whose officers shot him during his apprehension. [Capital-Journal via Lowering the Bar]

{ 17 comments }

1 Turk 11.30.11 at 11:26 am

As with most pro se claims, they make for easy human interest fodder, but don’t tell us anything at all about the legal system.

2 blhlls 11.30.11 at 1:00 pm

It does tell us something in that further resources will be expended in putting an end to the case, even though it is ludicrous. The fact a case should legally be dismissed does not eliminate the costs to the defendant of obtaining that dismissal under our system. How much weight that information should have in the discussion of how to maintain public access to the courts without unreasonably penalizing the innocent is a matter of debate, but the fact the defendants must deal with such a case is relevant to the discussion.

3 Mark Phaedrus 11.30.11 at 1:54 pm

I would tend to disagree with Turk. One of the for-better-or-worse-but-definitely-true aspects of our legal system is that virtually anyone can file a lawsuit against virtually anyone at very little expense (by filing pro se and avoiding attorney costs, and sometimes even by claiming indigency and avoiding filing fees and court costs). The defendant is then obligated to incur considerable fees and effort to defend himself (and attempting to defend a case pro se creates a very real risk of losing even against a baseless claim, since it’s so easy for a novice to mishandle a procedural requirement). And even if the case is ultimately dismissed, there is generally little if any chance for the defendant to recover any of these costs.

4 Squirrels 11.30.11 at 2:05 pm

Oral contract under duress? Won’t stand.

5 Ron Miller 11.30.11 at 2:33 pm

I agree. I read the story with interest, too. But there are 311 million people in this country. Anyone can file a lawsuit and there is nothing we can do to him for filling an insane lawsuit other than throwing him back in jail (and no one is suggesting that). There are probably scores of these that get filed and never get reported. But it is not exactly an indictment of our our legal system. Because no one has ever proposed a system where goofballs can’t file lawsuits.

6 mjs 11.30.11 at 5:21 pm

The fact that such an abuse of the legal system is available to any criminal alone speaks volumes.

7 JJ 11.30.11 at 7:37 pm

I have reviewed a couple of pro se malpractice cases as an expert for the defense. In my state the plaintiff doesn’t have to reveal his experts, or even whether he has any, until the trial. The insurance companies sure treat them like any other case. They still have a defense attorney, and they still pay me to review it. The cases never go anywhere, but money is still spent.

8 asdfasdf 11.30.11 at 8:25 pm

It’s a time-honored tradition to poke fun at prisoners’ bizarre pro se suits. To interject a bit of reality here, the suit in question was a counterclaim, as anyone who read the article (which excludes, as is typical for blogs, 99% of commenters) would know. Moreover, the counterclaim denies that original plaintiffs were held at knifepoint, so I suspect this denial would be taken as true for 12(b)(6) purposes. Obviously there is no system that can prevent a person who is sued from making an improper counterclaim. And I highly doubt this counterclaim required more than a de minimis amount of time to defend, since the original plaintiffs had already retained the attorney in their suit against the original defendant/counterclaim plaintiff.

9 asdfasdf 11.30.11 at 8:27 pm

Counterclaim plaintiff’s filing.

10 Bill Poser 12.01.11 at 1:06 am

Hiding a fugitive is a crime. It is black letter law that a contract to commit a crime is invalid. There never was any contract so there can be no breach.

11 Ron Miller 12.01.11 at 7:45 am

JJ, I hear ya. But what exactly is Plan B? Who is the insane pro se plaintiff gatekeeper? I think Brown would have gotten stopped in his tracks, Plessy v. Fergerson was pretty on point. Any legal system – be in here on in the USSR (did they fold?) – has to deal with this kind of problem.

12 Ron Miller 12.01.11 at 7:48 am

One more thing: certainly, to JJ’s point, there are some reforms that do make sense. Starting a trial without knowing who the other parties experts are going to be is, in my opinion, a bad idea. Reasonable restrictions can help mitigate the harms. But there will always be crazy people filing crazy lawsuits under any possible system we can envision.

13 No Name Guy 12.01.11 at 1:34 pm

Ron @ 5
“But there are 311 million people in this country. Anyone can file a lawsuit and there is nothing we can do to him for filling an insane lawsuit other than throwing him back in jail (and no one is suggesting that). There are probably scores of these that get filed and never get reported. But it is not exactly an indictment of our our legal system. Because no one has ever proposed a system where goofballs can’t file lawsuits.”

Loser pays would sure go a long way toward deterring many of these merit less suits.

Potential defendant to potential plaintiff: “Go ahead and sue me, losers. I’ll bankrupt YOU instead of you bankrupting me.”

14 Hugo S. Cunningham 12.01.11 at 2:50 pm

We could establish a doctrine of “every dog is allowed one bite” (ie. is allowed one frivolous lawsuit). If a lawsuit is found frivolous, then the “vexatious litigant” would be required to put up a meaningful deposit ($500 and up?) before filing another lawsuit.

As a backstop, if the “vexatious litigant” pleaded absolute indigence, he could persuade a DA to file a meritorious lawsuit on his behalf, on the understanding that the DA would repay all the defense’s costs (and pay a political price) if this lawsuit were dubious.

15 Smart Dude 12.01.11 at 8:02 pm

The usual poster child for Loser Pays.

No one of course is listening. No one ever does. The innocent suffer once again.

16 Turk 12.02.11 at 1:31 pm

The reason crazy claims tell us nothing about the legal system is that, no matter what system is in place, the claim would be made anyway.

You can’t legislate away crazy, b/c crazy doesn’t care about the rules. In addition, crazy is usually quite poor or incarcerated.

You just have to hope you can get it to the judge’s attention as quickly as possible so that the case is dismissed.

17 Karen Eliot 12.03.11 at 1:23 pm

Whenever I hear about frivolous lawsuits, it’s always about the poor and the crazy. However the most damaging and expensive suits are those that kill innovation and those that make it impossible for citizens to work for meaningful and necessary change through the legal system. SLAPP suits are infinitely more damaging to America then suits like the above.

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