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December 23 roundup

by Walter Olson on December 23, 2009

  • AT&T sued for $1 billion for allegedly misclassifying managers [Hyman, American Lawyer]
  • Shaken-baby-syndrome angle deserved more attention in Baucus-girlfriend-for-U.S.-Attorney flap [Kos, Freeland, earlier]
  • Awful: “Holocaust Denier Sues Survivor” [South Florida Sun-Sentinel via Faces of Lawsuit Abuse "worst lawsuits of 2009" poll which you can take here]
  • Bizarre new twist in rogue Philly cop unit story [Balko, earlier here, here, etc.]
  • More on the first “Bruno” lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen [Lowering the Bar, earlier]
  • False accusation as academic career booster: “The Rot at Duke” [Stuart Taylor, Jr., National Journal]
  • Claim: Netflix recommendation algorithm contest exposed a subscriber’s privacy to her detriment [Singel, Wired]
  • No “Continuing Duty to Investigate Accuracy” of Newspaper Article Posted on Web Site [Volokh on Jenzabar case, earlier here and here]


July 30 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 30, 2009

  • Federal judge throws out wrongful-termination suit filed by pants suit judge Roy Pearson, he’ll probably appeal [D.C. Examiner] More: Lowering the Bar.
  • Sebelius signs documents providing lawsuit immunity for swine flu vaccine developers [Orato]
  • How Sacha Baron Cohen keeps from getting sued, part umpteen [The Frisky]
  • More on British Chiropractic Association’s defamation suit against skeptic Singh [Citizen Media Law, Orac/Respectful Insolence; earlier here, here, and here]
  • Next round of lawsuits against Dov Charney’s American Apparel may allege “looks discrimination”, though that’s probably not actually a relevant legal category [Gawker, Business Insider, earlier here, etc.]
  • Demand that Chicago set aside municipal contracts for gay-owned businesses [Sun-Times]
  • “Grandstanding anti-Craigslist politicians still not satisfied” [TechDirt, TG Daily]
  • Judge Kozinski: this is America, behaving disrespectfully toward a cop isn’t a crime [Greenfield]

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Beyond Borat, bringing barristers bounteous business. [WSJ Law Blog]

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Rev. Jeremiah Cummings of Orlando wants $50 million from Lionsgate for his unflattering portrayal on screen, saying Bill Maher and his filmmaking team did not level with him about the kind of movie they were making. However, as Matthew Heller notes, similar remorse suits over Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” mostly flopped, with eight of nine thrown out before the discovery stage.


A “Borat”-suit scorecard

by Walter Olson on November 21, 2008

“The ten ‘Borat’ remorse cases filed against the makers of the hit mockumentary turned out to be an almost total washout for plaintiffs,” notes OnPoint News, which has a handy table of case results.

The “Borat” star, per AFP, “has sold Fox film studios a comedy, ‘Accidentes,’ about an ambulance-chaser-turned-hero, which he will produce and possibly star in, Variety magazine said Tuesday. The film is about a personal injury lawyer who becomes a hero among Los Angeles Hispanics for successfully defending a worker against a wealthy employer, but who in the process becomes the enemy of the city’s elite.” And see Defamer Australia with related graphic: “El Mejor Abogado”.

April 11 roundup

by Walter Olson on April 11, 2008

  • Plenty of reaction to our Tuesday post questioning the NYT school-bullying story, including reader comments and discussion at other blogs; one lawprof passes along a response by the Wolfe family to the Northwest Arkansas Times’s reporting [updated post]
  • Geoffrey Fieger, of jury-swaying fame, says holding his forthcoming criminal trial in Detroit would be unfair because juries there hate his guts [Detroit News]
  • Another Borat suit down as Judge Preska says movie may be vulgar but has social value, and thus falls into “newsworthiness” exception to NY law barring commercial use of persons’ images [ABA Journal]
  • Employer found mostly responsible for accident that occurred after its functionaries overrode a safety device, but a heavy-equipment dealer also named as defendant will have to pay more than 90 percent of resulting $14.6 million award [Bloomington, Ill. Pantagraph]
  • New Mexico Human Rights Commission fines photographer $6600 for refusing a job photographing same-sex commitment ceremony [Volokh, Bader]
  • “Virginia reaches settlement with families of VA Tech shooting victims” [Jurist]
  • Roger Parloff on downfall of Dickie Scruggs [Fortune]
  • Judge in Spain fined heavily and disbarred for letting innocent man spend more than a year in jail [AP/IHT, Guardian]
  • Hard to know whether all those emergency airplane groundings actually improved safety, they might even have impaired it [Murray/NRO "Corner", WSJ edit]
  • “Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value” — tracking down the context of that now-celebrated quote from a Canadian Human Rights Commission investigator [Volokh]
  • Who was it that said that lawyers “need to be held accountable for frivolous lawsuits that help drive up the cost of malpractice insurance”? Hint: initials are J.E. [three years ago on Overlawyered]


December 7 roundup

by Ted Frank on December 7, 2007

  • Speaking of privacy, consider what happens when lawyers get a hold of your email. (When will we see law professors eager to create new causes of action consider the privacy-destroying implications of ediscovery?) [Fulton County Daily Report/; Toronto Globe & Mail; Point of Law] Earlier: Jan. 9 and links therein.
  • Speaking of privacy and reputation, Mary Roberts goes to trial, but Above the Law doesn’t mention our coverage (June 2004; Sep. 2005; Feb. 6; Mar. 19; May 17), and misses the juicy details.
  • Oy: “Woman who ‘lost count after drinking 14 vodkas’ awarded £7,000 over New Year fall from bridge.” News from the compensation culture not entirely bad: damages were reasonable, and the court did hold the woman 80% responsible, the exact opposite of the McDonald’s coffee case. []
  • No good deed goes unpunished: Sperm donor liable for child support, judge rules. [Newsday/Seattle Times]
  • Bad attorney gets fired, sues DLA Piper for discrimination, represents herself pro se, demonstrates firsthand why she got fired: law firm wins on summary judgment. [ABA Journal; update: also New York Law Journal]
  • Romney on tort reform; McCain on medmal. [Torts Prof Blog; Torts Prof Blog]
  • Another day, another Borat lawsuit. I’m still waiting for the consumer fraud lawsuit from moviegoers upset that it was not actually a Kazakh documentary. [Reuters; earlier]


More Tidbits

by Jason Barney on October 26, 2007

Jackpot justice of another kind

A man on the nickel slot machines wins over $1M despite the maximum payout of $2,500. The casino blames computer error. The story shows a picture of the stoic gambler in front of the cordoned-off slot machine.

Etiquette expert pranked in ‘Borat’ sues

Yes, another ‘Borat’ suit, here. As the story points out, why wait so long? Come on, folks, jump on the bandwagon!

Wrong doctor sued, pays out of pocket due to Med-Mal policy deductible

Sue the wrong doctor and drag out the litigation process, all to the detriment of the defendant. The story notes that courts rarely find suits are frivolous because “there’s almost always some grounds for a suit to be filed.” (Update: Jan. 6).


Here’s a Hollywood-themed edition of our irregularly-scheduled roundups:

  • When Sacha Baron Cohen accepted his Golden Globe award for Borat, he famously thanked all the Americans who hadn’t sued him “so far.” Subtract one person from that list; a New Yorker identifying himself as John Doe, who clever people quickly outed as businessman Jeffrey Lemerond, has now filed a lawsuit, claiming that he was humiliated by his appearance in the film. (Has anybody ever tried compiling a list of people who claimed they wanted privacy but filed lawsuits which exposed their secrets to a wide audience?) The Smoking Gun has the complaint. (Previous Borat suits: Dec. 2005, Nov. 9, 2006,Nov. 22, 2006)

  • A Beverly Hills store has settled its lawsuit against Us Weekly for refusing to give it free publicity. (Previously: Sep. 12, 2006, Sep. 22, 2006)

  • Carol Burnett’s lawsuit against the Family Guy gets tossed. (AP) On Point has details and the judge’s opinion. (Previously: Mar. 21.)

  • Two for the price of one: A couple of weeks ago, attorney Debra Opri sued her former client, Anna Nicole Smith-impregnator Larry Birkhead, for unpaid legal fees. Opri was last seen on Overlawyered sending exceedingly large bills to Birkhead, including thousands of dollars in cell phone charges.

    Now, Birkhead is suing Opri for conversion, fraud and malpractice. He claims that she took at least $650,000 of money owed to him for various appearance fees and has refused to return it; he also claims that Opri told him she was going to represent him for free in exchange for the publicity she’d receive, and then turned around and billed him hundreds of thousands of dollars. No, I’m sure this won’t turn into (yet another) media circus. (AP, TMZ.)

  • Judd Apatow, director of the movie Knocked Up, is being sued for copyright infringment by a Canadian author who claims he stole her book for his screenplay.
    A few months in, Eckler says she’s worn out by the litigation. “Here’s what it comes down to: 1) Being a writer, especially a Canadian one, without access to an unlimited bank account, sucks. 2) Copyright infringement is highly technical and difficult to prove. 3) Universal/Apatow know they have resources I do not have, and that every time they simply do not return my lawyer’s phone call, it costs me money.

    She also complains about her treatment at the hands of her first lawyer, who was referred to her by Apatow’s lawyer. (WSJ law blog; commentators at Volokh seem skeptical of the merits of her claims.)

  • Eleven year old boy, Dominic Kay, who directed a 15-minute movie starring Kevin Bacon, settles lawsuit against his neighbor, who helped finance the movie. “Kanter met Kay when her son played with him on a soccer team.” (L.A. Times)


February 9 roundup

by Ted Frank on February 9, 2007

Multi-billion dollar (and down) extortion edition:

  • Merrill Lynch and CSFB appeal extortionate Enron class-action certification. [Point of Law; AEI (Feb. 9); WLF brief]
  • More on the extortionate and lawless $500 billion Wal-Mart class certification. [Point of Law]
  • Mississippi Supreme Court rejects extortionate medical monitoring class actions. [Behrens @ WLF]
  • Lawyer Daniel Hynes tries to extort $2000 from New Hampshire bar holding Ladies’ Night. [Foster's Daily Democrat (h/t B.C.)]
  • Colorado Civil Justice League stops legislative attempt at giveaway to local trial lawyers. [Point of Law]
  • Wisconsin court: family can be sued for babysitter’s car accident when returning home from dropping off child. [AP/Insurance Journal]
  • Fox seeks to dismiss Borat suit on anti-SLAPP grounds. [Hollywood Reporter Esq. via WSJ Law Blog]

  • Passaic County jury: $28M for “wrongful birth.” []
  • Former AG (and Dem) Griffin Bell: “Judicial Leadership Emerging In Asbestos And Silica Mass Torts” [WLF]

  • Utah legislature considering med-mal reform for ERs. “Neurosurgeons in this town have to pay over $90,000 a year just for the privilege of getting out of bed on a Friday night to drain the blood from the brain of a victim of a drunk driver crash. And they say, I’m not gonna do it. Because the patients are sicker. The procedures are sometimes more invasive and more risky with more complications. Why take that risk if they don’t have to?” [KCPW via Kevin MD; Provo Herald]

  • A little-read blog promoting a soon-to-be-pulped fictional account of tort reform is really begging for a link from us, what with three out of the last five posts making amateurish (and often false) personal attacks on this site’s authors or soliciting others to also fling poo. No dice.

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“Candid Camera”

by Walter Olson on January 22, 2007

Apparently the long-running show was sued very little, if at all, by victims of its hidden-camera stunts. Was that because, as host Allen Funt maintained, the show’s spirit was genial rather than sadistic, in contrast to more recent shows? Or because its liability releases (presumably proffered to the victims after the embarrassing stunt had been sprung) were more likely to be upheld? Or just because people then weren’t as primed to sue? (Ann Althouse, Jan. 20).


January 20 roundup

by Ted Frank on January 20, 2007

  • Med mal: does sorry work? [Point of Law]
  • Med mal: Nelu Radonescu v. Naum Ciomu. I think the damages were too low, since the act was intentional. But it’s in Romania. [Metro UK]
  • New San Francisco sick leave law helps workers at big chains (if only in the short term) and lawyers, hurts everyone else. [Point of Law]
  • Vioxx medical monitoring class action to proceed. [Point of Law; Drug and Device Law Blog]
  • And the next Vioxx trial in New Jersey, starting Monday. [Point of Law]
  • Adware displays porn on teacher’s computer, she faces 40 years. [roundup of links at Boing Boing]
  • Fraud in Ohio asbestos case plus slap on wrist for lawyer; no consequences for plaintiff. [Point of Law; Adler @ Volokh]
  • Always open mail from California. [Cal Biz Lit]

  • $100 million legal bill defending oneself against Spitzerism. [WSJ Law Blog]
  • “It would probably be better for the nation if more of the gifted went into the sciences and fewer into the law.” [Murray @ OpinionJournal]
  • Borat accepting Golden Globe: “And thank you to every American who has not sued me so far.” [Above the Law; Throwing Things]
  • OJ’s book contract. [Slate]

  • Contra Doonesbury, Bush administration not hiding age of Grand Canyon [The Daily Gut via Captain Spaulding; Adler @ Volokh]
  • Stephen Colbert “eviscerates” Dinesh D’Souza. [Comedy Central via Evanier]


January 13 roundup

by Ted Frank on January 13, 2007

About to fly away for the Martin Luther King Day weekend; Walter will approve comments, but there may be delays. I leave you with:

  • Judge Senter channels Hugo Chavez: $2.5M in punitive damages in Mississippi for noting that an uncovered storm surge was responsible for the destruction of a $225k house. [Point of Law; Insurance Coverage Blog; Chicago Trib]

  • Public Citizen calls medical malpractice crisis a “hoax.” Are they right? [Point of Law]
  • Mass torts and multiple misjoinders. [Point of Law; Drug and Device Law Blog]
  • Sasha Baron Cohen isn’t exactly sympathetic to the Borat litigation plaintiffs. [LA Times]
  • “High-profile trial looms large for controversial class-action leader” [DC Examiner]

  • Still more on warning labels. [Mass Tort Litigation Blog]

  • New Jersey Dem wants voting rights for idiots. No, really. [CNN/Reuters]

  • I found this tale of a Supreme Court argument poignant [WSJ Law Blog]

  • Harris County courthouse “rocket docket”: delay people with lengthy metal-detector lines, then throw them in jail when they’re late for court. [Kirkendall]

  • Different kind of rocket PSA: Don’t explode fireworks in your hand. [GruntDoc; Unbounded Medicine (gory)]

December 14 roundup

by Ted Frank on December 14, 2006

  • Ford wins an Explorer rollover lawsuit brought by family of unseatbelted accident victim, but press coverage is skimpy. [Detroit News]
  • Milberg Weiss’s claims for $12 million in fees viewed skeptically, cut in half. [Lattman; WSJ]
  • Dog food prank plaintiff Tennie Pierce is “the O.J. of the Fire Department.” Contrary to what one may think, this is apparently meant as a compliment, suggesting a racial divide that can’t be entirely attributable to whites. [LA Times]
  • SDNY Clinton appointee Judge Scheindlin thinks she’s smarter than Judge Easterbrook, throws pension law into mess again. See POL Nov. 12 and Aug. 8 for background. [Business Insurance; Cooper v. IBM]
  • Nifong gets around to releasing DNA results that appear to exonerate indicted Duke lacrosse players. Earlier: Oct. 12, etc. [AP/ABC News]
  • Judge won’t censor Borat DVD, but frat-boy lawsuit goes forward. [Reuters]
  • Criminal speeds away from DC police, hits innocent motorist, DC taxpayers liable for $1M. [WaPo]
  • Similarly: negligent driver veers across three lanes of highway traffic into oncoming vehicle, killing 18-year old; taxpayers liable for $2M because SUV was able to smash through the median. [AP/King County Journal]
  • Today’s Ninth Circuit Follies edition: lawless reopening of final sentences. [Kerr @ Volokh; Bashman; Carrington v. US; Lat]
  • Robert Ramsey files two more lawsuits claiming simultaneous asbestosis and silicosis in Madison County against several dozen defendants. [Madison County Record]
  • UK: 100-pound fine for misfiling trash. [Market Center Blog via Overcriminalized]
  • Inhofe’s take on global warming. [Senate]
  • Trial lawyer puts money where his mouth is. Check back in ten years to see whether it’s lawyers or insurers who are really at fault for medmal insurance crisis. [Point of Law]
  • I blame the fact I joined Friendster for this. [PrawfsBlawg]

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November 27 roundup

by Ted Frank on November 27, 2006

  • In the Supreme Court November 29: Watters v. Wachovia. Also an AEI panel November 28, broadcast on C-SPAN1, 2pm to 4pm Eastern. [Point of Law; AEI; Zywicki @ Volokh]
  • Also in the Supreme Court November 29: Massachusetts v. EPA global warming regulation case. Previously an AEI panel November 21. [Adler @ Volokh; AEI; C-SPAN (Real Media)]
  • Legal cliche: If the facts are against you, pound the law; if the law is against you, pound the facts; if both are against you, pound the table. Table-pounding class of Gerry Spence protegee offers lessons in emotionally creating jury sympathy worth millions. [LATimes]
  • What judicial activism?, Part 7356: Indiana state court judge holds “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act” unconstitutional, complains gun industry supported the law. [Indianapolis Star via Bashman; Indiana Law Blog]
  • Entertaining doctor victory in medmal case. [Musings of a Dinosaur via Kevin MD]
  • Dahlia Lithwick gets something right; if only it was on an issue more important than a suit advertisement. [Slate]
  • Leftover from Thanksgiving: lawyers acting like turkeys. [Ambrogi]
  • Ninth Circuit grants potential standing to monkeys over Kozinski dissent. Earlier: Oct. 21, 2004. [Bashman roundup of links]
  • Gloria Allred joins the Borat pile-on. [LATimes]
  • Speaking of, here’s the future case of Allred v. Kramer. More Allred: Oct. 16. [Evanier]
  • Speaking of Allred nostalgia, and of primates, whatever happened to chimpanzee victim St. James Davis? (Mar. 17, 2005; Mar. 8, 2005) [Inside Edition; "The Original Musings"; CNN Pipeline ($)]
  • More Allred nostalgia: is Veronica Mars‘ Francis Capra the next Hunter Tylo? Discuss. [Prettier than Napoleon]

Yet another Borat suit

by Ted Frank on November 20, 2006

This one threatened on behalf of villagers from Glod, Romania, (a stand-in for Kazakhstan in the movie) who say they weren’t paid or given releases for their participation in the film, an assertion denied by the studio. The Los Angeles Times gives a largely sympathetic platform to their lawyer, Ed Fagan, without managing to mention the disciplinary trouble he found himself in (Nov. 26; Aug. 27, 2005 and links therein). Fagan shamelessly admits that he will simultaneously file suits in California, Florida, and Germany; international judge-shopping at its finest. (Bojan Pancevski, “Villagers to sue `Borat'”, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 19).

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November 19 roundup

by Ted Frank on November 19, 2006

  • By popular demand: Alexis Brennan gives hot chocolate to daughter in carseat, little girl spills drink and burns herself after mom drives away, mom sues Starbucks; press mentions one hot coffee case where plaintiff won, and none of the dozen-plus where plaintiffs had claims thrown out. (This case is distinguishable from the McDonald’s coffee case if the mother’s claim that she specifically asked for a low-temperature drink holds up.) [Indianapolis Star; WRTV]
  • Former placekicker and current Illinois Supreme Court Justice Robert Thomas wins $7 million libel judgment from newspaper that dared to criticize him. Newspaper unable to defend truth of its reporting, because its discovery requests were blocked by claims of “judicial privilege.” [Lattman; Bashman]
  • Copyright trolls inhibit hip-hop music. Is that a bug or a feature? [Tim Wu @ Slate]
  • Judge to class action plaintiffs: tell me about your dealings with Milberg. [Point of Law]
  • “Plaintiff draws $1.26M penalty. Judge sends developer message: ‘Scorched-earth litigation’ will cost you.” [Knoxville News]
  • Second Circuit: Illegal aliens may sue for wages at U.S. levels. [Madeira v. Affordable Housing Foundation; New York Sun; both via Bashman]
  • UK Guy Fawkes crowd forced to resort to “virtual bonfire” because of liability fears over real one. [Evening Standard; apologies for losing the hat-tip]
  • Burlington Northern & Santa Fe to artists: don’t paint paintings of our trains or else. [CL&P Blog]
  • Borat update: “One immediate handicap the two fraternity brothers bring to this legal battle is an inability to find a lawyer who knows how to spell ‘aisle.'” [Slate]
  • ATLA on the offense in the new Congress, but their fifth Congressional target, Heather Wilson, held on to her seat against AG Patricia Madrid (Sep. 13). [Point of Law; Albuquerque Tribune]
  • Reliving deregulation debates. [Wallison @ AEI]
  • Inconsistent Internet gambling ban violates existing treaty, may result in trade sanctions; Congress must now decide whether to annoy anti-gambling Puritans, American IP content providers, or horse-racing and lottery industry. [Slate]
  • Roundup of links on new UK law on derivative suits. [Point of Law]
  • World ends: minorities and women hardest hit, as applied to noneconomic damages. [Point of Law; Roth CPA]