“A Texas law firm has sued a former client over a negative Yelp review, posted after the firm sued the client for attorney fees.” Joseph Browning of Austin had comprehensively denounced the firm as “disorganized, deceptive, manipulative and largely disrespected,” “selfish and incapable of showing empathy towards their clients,” and one that “will take everything you’ve got,” in a review that the law firm described as defamatory and “blatantly false.” [ABA Journal]:
The new suit, [attorney Kirk] Fulk said, “is not about the money. I would be shocked and amazed if [the firm’s name partners] even got their filing fees back from Mr. Browning. It’s purely a matter of principle and personality. They don’t want their names slandered.”
“If we don’t get a dime, that’s OK, if we can make a difference and save some lives,” said longtime Overlawyered favorite Willie Gary, one of the lawyers representing a woman awarded $23 billion-with-a-b in punitive damages by a Florida jury for the lung cancer death of her husband, a longtime smoker. [USA Today] I’ve covered earlier stages in the long-running Florida Engel tobacco litigation, which included a $145 billion punitive damage verdict later thrown out, in articles here, here, and here, as well as Overlawyered coverage; more on Willie Gary.
More: Jacob Sullum on the illogical basis of the jury’s decision.
The lawyer who filed a $100 million claim with the state of Connecticut over the Newtown shooting “said the lawsuit isn’t about the money,” though he’s withdrawn it at least for a while following a public outcry. [Greenwich Time, earlier, background on Not-about-the-Money-ism] More: Lenore Skenazy.
Because the best way to show that it’s Not About the Money is to ask for $200 million [TMZ]
One of the examples given: “It’s not about the money, but…” [Erin McKean, Boston Globe]
Updating our Apr. 29 item: “A law professor who sued two former students for defamation has dropped his suit after the school’s interim dean said there is no evidence he is a racist. Law professor Richard Peltz of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock told Inside Higher Ed that he sued to get his reputation back. ‘This suit was never about money,’ he said. ‘I feel that now with the university’s support, I am on the road to repairing my reputation.’” (Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal, Nov. 17).
Prof. Obbie (LawBeat) wonders (Oct. 7) whether an NPR interviewer could have been bolder in challenging the owner of Rin Tin Tin Inc. when she asserted that her trademark lawsuit against a Hollywood studio was not about the you-know-whats.
A veterinary malpractice suit aims to overturn Georgia’s adherence to the traditional rule barring damage recovery for intangible pet companionship value. Not that it’s about you-know-what: “Money is not the object here,” says Kathryn Sutton about 13-year-old miniature Schnauzer Marshall. (D.L. Bennett, “Animal rights drive dog lawsuit”, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sept. 15). Earlier here, here, here, here, here, etc.
Championship bodybuilder Doug Burns, who sued the government of Redwood City, Calif. over an incident in which police scuffled with him not realizing that his erratic behavior was the result of insulin shock, defended his decision to file a suit but agreed that the dollar amount assigned was over the top. “The lawyers jacked up the amount, because they always expect to settle for less. ‘Something like this shouldn’t have a $5 million dollar price tag on it. I should have had a better look at the amount. It’s my fault,’ Doug told [blogger Amy Tenderich]“. (Diabetes Mine, Jun. 22).
Canada: “The family of Tim McLean is suing Greyhound, the RCMP and the man suspected of committing the gruesome killing of the 22-year-old man aboard a bus in rural Manitoba in July.” (CBC, Sept. 2).
From the “Not About the Money” files; reader D.W. writes:
Seguin is about 35 miles east of downtown San Antonio. The deceased student/athlete was an adult, chose to run on a busy street despite ample on-campus facilities, and chose to run with traffic instead of facing it. The story doesn’t say, but the street in question is actually US90, possibly the heaviest traveled street in town aside from I-10. So naturally it’s the university’s fault she was struck and killed. Oh well, it could have been worse, at least they were only held 5% responsible.
(Ron Maloney, “Jury finds TLU partially responsible”, Seguin (Texas) Gazette-Enterprise, Aug. 29; more background here and here).
Or, so says a family’s suit against a funeral home and crematorium. It never ceases to crack me up how some people can take a modest, legitimate claim and blow it up into a claim for financial independence.
53-year-old Pamela Grant died unattended, was autopsied and later cremated despite a fax by the funeral home to the crematorium instructing it to hold off. You see, the family says they wanted to view the body before cremation and place mementos with it. They were deprived of that chance and filed suit against the funeral home for $3M and the crematorium for $450K.
Now, there’s certainly a legitimate complaint here but I see little to justify the sky-high demand. Naturally, the plaintiffs’ attorney is high-minded saying “his clients sued because they wanted to send a message to the businesses that their behavior was unacceptable.” Translation: it’s not about the money.
The jury got it right, awarding $48K from the crematorium to the Grant children and nothing from the funeral home. That’s a far cry from the $3.5M demand and right in line with what the crematorium’s defense counsel suggested to the jury. (“Missed goodbye to cost crematory, not Oregon City funeral home”, OregonLive.com, Aug. 15).
I’ve finished my week as guest blogger and will pass the torch back to Walter Olson. Walter, thank you again for the opportunity here on Overlawyered.
Problem #1: children abused by clergy decades ago are demanding recognition from the civil justice system; it’s not about the money they say, but justice.
Problem #2: simply reviving 35-year-old tort claims that are otherwise barred by the statute of limitations, aside from the basic unfairness and loss of legal certainty to others, encourages fraud on and error by the judicial system.
Solution, in Ohio S.B. 17, passed in May 2006:
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No, this case isn’t going to get messy: in 2004, a Long Island couple went to a fertility clinic to help them get pregnant with a biological child. Apparently, the clinic botched the procedure by using the wrong sperm (Oops!); the couple figured it out when they noticed that the child was black and they weren’t.
So they sued the clinic for malpractice and infliction of emotional distress. (Just for good measure, they sued their obstetrician, who had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual fertilization; the court dismissed that claim. Gee, I wonder why medical malpractice insurance rates are so high.) The court rejected the emotional distress claim, ruling that (as most courts do) a baby being born is not an injury to the parents, but it allowed the malpractice claim to proceed.
Speaking of emotional distress, the judge handling the case quoted the parents as saying things every child wants to hear from her parents:
“[W]e are reminded of this terrible mistake each and every time we look at her.”
“We are conscious of and distressed by this mistake each and every time we appear in public.”
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