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Southwest Airlines

I was on the Oregon-based radio show Tuesday evening to discuss the legislative battle over the DISCLOSE Act and the case of the passenger bumped by Southwest Airlines to make way for the second seat needed for an obese teen.

The purported class action on behalf of unharmed (and even un-inconvenienced) customers is looked on askance at Maryland Injury Lawyer Blog (“It is just far beyond silly.”) and by many readers at Consumerist (via P&S)(earlier).

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Because it’s not as if you actually have to have been, like, harmed or anything to get a class action going (AP/USA Today, Apr. 16). Birmingham, Ala. lawyer Lew Garrison is representing four passengers on “claims that include breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and negligent and reckless operation of an aircraft”.

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A New Suspect Class?

by Peter Morin on February 27, 2008

Is Southwest Airline discriminating against the Pretty Girls again?

“I think they were just discriminating against because we were young decent-looking girls. I mean, nobody else on the plane looked like us except us,” she said. “[The flight attendants] were like older ladies. We were younger. Who knows, they could have been just jealous of us because we were younger.”

You can’t make this stuff up.
(, Feb. 27)

H/T Wizbang (with video)


In a major victory for disabled-rights activists, federal judge Marilyn Hall Patel has ruled that the National Federation of the Blind can go to trial against the Target Corp. on charges that its online shopping website should be redesigned to make it easier for blind computer users to use. (Bloomberg, Reuters).

We’ve covered the Target suit Feb. 8 (with enormous reader discussion), Oct. 4 and Oct. 27 of last year. Existing federal court precedent, in the Southwest Airlines case, discourages the most far-reaching demands for web “accessibility”; the Target case, which is being heard before a judge who’s considered relatively liberal, is important because disabled-rights activists hope to use it to counter and eventually reverse the Southwest precedent (see Jan. 8, 2004). For reasons why a victory by the activists might lead to unprecedented infringements on the freedom to conduct business or even publish online, see my May 2000 Reason column and my House testimony of earlier that year, and earlier posts on this site (& welcome Michelle Malkin readers).

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That’s Southwest Airlines, according to plaintiff’s lawyers suing it over a 2005 accident at Chicago’s Midway Airport. (Joseph R. McFaul, Sharks in the Water, Jan. 14).

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For aficionados of one-sided litigation coverage, here’s a lulu from the Associated Press. It’s an article on the lawsuit (National Federation of the Blind v. Target) seeking to establish that companies violate the Americans with Disabilities Act when they do not design their websites so as to make them “accessible” to users who are blind, deaf, lacking in motor skills needed for mouse use, etc. The article fails to mention the courts’ rejection of the disabled rights groups’ position in the Southwest Airlines case, though it’s the major existing precedent on the point. And aside from a ritual and uninformative denial by the retailer defendant Target that it is liable, the article presents as uncontroversial the demand that non-accessible websites be declared unlawful, with not a hint of why anyone might consider it a thoroughly disastrous idea. Oh, wait: the article does incorporate a bit of controversy, by recording worries that a victory for the plaintiffs in the Target case might not go far enough and come out being “read too narrowly. Not every business or Web site is subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act, said [Washington, D.C. lawyer] John D. Kemp”. (Seth Sutel, “Blind Web surfers sue for accessibility”, AP/San Jose Mercury-News, Oct. 24).


In San Francisco, federal judge Marilyn Hall Patel has allowed a lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind to go forward against the Target Corp., charging that the retailer’s website,, is insufficiently “accessible” to blind users. Websites are considered accessible to blind users when they (e.g.) include summaries or transcripts for audio/video elements and alt-text for images, while avoiding designs that require users to rely on graphic elements for navigation. Disabled-rights groups had suffered a serious setback a few years ago in their legal campaign to enforce web accessibility, when a court ruled that Southwest Airlines was not liable for the inaccessibility of its online ticket reservation system to some handicapped users. However, Judge Patel (regarded as relatively liberal by the standards of the federal bench) distinguished that case on the grounds that the Target website had more of a “nexus” to physical Target stores than did the airline’s ticketing site. (“Target can be sued if Web site inaccessible to blind, judge says”, AP/Houston Chronicle, Sept. 7; Bob Egelko, “Ruling on Web site access for blind”, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 8; Sheri Qualters, “Discrimination Case Opens Door to Internet ADA Claims”, National Law Journal/, Sept. 28; Slashdot thread). The ruling, in PDF format, is here (courtesy Howard Bashman, who also rounds up other links).

Longtime readers will recall that I’ve been much involved in the web-accessibility controversy over the years. Some links: my May 2000 column for Reason on the subject; various posts on this site, 1999-2002; my House testimony of Feb. 2000; Jan. 8, 2004. And this site’s earlier coverage of the Target case provoked one of the biggest comments discussions ever (Feb. 28, 2006).

Left over from last month: “An economics professor from California who was arrested because a flight attendant thought she looked like a terrorist has been awarded $27.5m. In a victory for critics of racial profiling, a jury in El Paso, Texas, ordered Southwest Airlines to pay damages to Samantha Carrington for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution after she was bundled off a flight and arrested because flight attendants found her appearance suspicious.” (Salamagundi, Apr. 14; Best of the Fray; Protein Wisdom; “Finding the wrong answer” (editorial), USA Today, Apr. 14). For more links on air profiling, see our aviation page archive.

“A jury on Friday said Southwest Airlines did not racially discriminate against an overweight passenger when she was asked to buy a second seat on her flight.” Nadine Thompson of Exeter, N.H., CEO of a successful cosmetics company, claimed the airline applied its “customer of size” policy in a racially discriminatory manner. On Friday Joel Drake, a Southwest employee, testified that Thompson herself had “accused him of being a ‘motherf—— racist pig’ and wished that his family would die from cancer when he tried to explain the company’s policy to her. …Thompson testified that Drake was bullying her and she felt scared, so words were her only way to fight back. She said she felt cornered and powerless.” (Kathy McCormack, “Jury: Southwest didn’t discriminate against passenger”, AP/Boston Globe, Feb. 10; “Told to buy 2 seats, Exeter woman sues Southwest, claims racial discrimination”, AP/Manchester Union-Leader, Feb. 8). Earlier second-seat suits: Dec. 20, 2000, etc. More: Thompson says she won’t appeal (AP, Feb. 15).


Per the WSJ Law Blog (Feb. 7): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), represented by Berkeley’s Disability Rights Advocates as well as two law firms, has sued discounter Target, alleging that it violates California disabled-rights law because its website is not operable by blind computer users. “The suit charges that the site lacks, for instance, compliant alt-text, an invisible code embedded beneath graphics that allows blind users to decipher images. The suit also contends that because the Web site requires the use of a mouse to complete a transaction, blind customers are unable to make purchases on their own.” As longterm readers of this site know, demands for website accessibility under the ADA and similar laws have been simmering for years; in 2002 a federal court turned down such a claim with respect to Southwest Airlines’ website, and two years ago (Jan. 8, 2004) a NFB activist said disability advocates were biding their time, waiting for the right case to reopen the issue. It sounds as if the Target lawsuit may be that case. (& welcome readers of John Dvorak, who calls us “the always entertaining”).

More: at, one enthusiast for the lawsuit says that it also calls into question the practices of, whose shopping engine, according to this commentator, powers the Target site. As I discovered when I started writing on this subject six years ago, many advocates of “web accessibility” seem quite surprised to learn that anyone actually disagrees with them on the merits of the matter, as opposed to just not being well enough informed about it. And: coverage in’s Recorder (Matthew Hirsch, “Suit Alleges Target Denies Blind Access to Online Shopping”, Feb. 14).


Aero-News.Net (Aug. 23) hopes that’s not going to be the new boarding announcement of Southwest Airlines flight attendants following national attention to the “eenie, meenie” lawsuit (see Aug. 15).

Eenie Meenie Minie Update

by Ted Frank on August 15, 2005

Grace Fuller claims that she suffered two epileptic seizures because a flight attendant used the phrase “Eenie, meenie, minie, mo, pick a seat, we gotta go” to passengers boarding an open-seating flight late; Fuller and her travelling companion, both African-Americans, ascribed racist meaning to the phrase, and sued under a variety of federal and state claims. Some claims were thrown out, and a jury did what a judge should’ve done sooner, and bounced the rest. (Feb. 9, 2004; Jan. 22, 2004 and links therein).

The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court judgment for defendants. After a full trial, and briefing for an appeal, the cost to Southwest Airlines of “Eenie Meenie Minie Moe” was surely in the six digits. But, though the law in questions permit plaintiffs to recover attorneys’ fees if they are successful (surely the only reason an attorney agreed to bring this suit), defendant Southwest Airlines is going to have to swallow the cost of this ridiculous suit. The opinion creates no precedent, so if Sawyer wants to sue someone else for using a nursery rhyme, she can do so in the future. (Sawyer v. Southwest Airlines Co., No. 04-3109 (10th Cir. Aug. 10, 2005) (hat tip to P.N.)).

Eenie meanie minie moe

by Walter Olson on February 9, 2004

The Southwest Airlines case (see Feb. 11, 2003, Jan. 22 of this year) turns out not to be the first time that the childhood counting-out rhyme has been cited as inflicting a hostile environment, with far-reaching repercussions. David Bernstein at Volokh Conspiracy (Feb. 5) prints a letter from a woman who lost her job over it in University City, Mo., near St. Louis. See Jeff Starck, “Can’t wait for end of P.C. age”, Webster Journal (Webster University), Dec. 5, 2002.

Updating the “eenie, meenie, minie, moe” saga featured in this space last Feb. 11: “Southwest Airlines is not liable for a flight attendant who upset two black passengers by using a version of a rhyme with a racist history, a jury determined Wednesday.” Attorney Scott A. Wissel had represented the two women in the Kansas City, Kan. federal trial. (AP/Wired News, Jan. 21)


In October 2002 a federal judge ruled against a claim that Southwest Airlines had violated federal law by failing to make its web site fully accessible to disabled internet users; the judge said a Web site isn’t a “place of public accommodation” covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act because it isn’t a “place” at all. In large part because of that ruling, there hasn’t been the rush that many of us expected to file ADA complaints against online publications and e-commerce providers. But the National Council on Disability, a federal agency, put out a position paper last summer (Jul. 10) aimed at renewing the push to get ADA applied to the Web. And disability rights activists, who are conceding nothing, hope to re-litigate the issue. “‘The Southwest Airlines ruling has set back the process of trying to get Internet sites covered by the ADA,’ said Curtis Chong, who heads the computer science division of the National Federation of the Blind. ‘But one of these days we’ll find a better place to file a better suit and maybe try and get it taken care of.'” If that ever happens, all hell is likely to break out in the online world. (Mark Thompson, “Courts Yet to Make Definitive Ruling on Online Access for the Disabled”, Online Journalism Review, Dec. 10). In its update the magazine quotes at considerable length what I told a Congressional panel in Feb. 2000 (and even runs my picture). Update Feb. 8, 2006: NFB sues retailer Target under California state law.

February 20 – Start that movie on time, or else. Lawyers filed suit Tuesday “against movie theaters that claim in their ads they’ll show movies at a certain time, but, instead, show on-screen commercials at the advertised time, delaying the movie’s start. Theaters are committing consumer fraud when they claim in advertising that a movie starts at a certain time but it really starts a few minutes later because of the ads, said Mark Weinberg, a Chicago attorney who filed the two suits.” But a lawyer in China (of all places) got there first, as we reported Jan. 10. (Dave Newbart, “Pre-movie ads rip off theatergoers, suits claim”, Chicago Sun-Times, Feb. 19; Eric Krol, “If you don’t like commercials at movies, why not sue?”, Daily Herald (Chicago suburban), Feb. 19). (DURABLE LINK)

February 20 – Reforming punitive damages. “The best and most practical reform is to let the jury vote up or down on punitive damages, then have judges set the amount,” argues Douglas McCollam, Washington correspondent of the American Lawyer. Since punitive damages partake of the nature of civil fines, they should also be paid into a public fund, and plaintiff’s lawyers should not be allowed to capture a percentage share of them; instead they should be “paid for their time and reimbursed for their costs, with amounts determined at a fee-award hearing.” (“Damaging Justice”, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 31, 2002, reprinted at Texans for Lawsuit Reform). (DURABLE LINK)

February 19 – They’ll be back for seconds. Syndicated columnist Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune explains why we haven’t heard the last of the lawsuits trying to make food companies pay for obesity. Quotes our editor (“A fast track for fast-food lawsuits?”, Feb. 13). The New York Times‘s “Editorial Observer” is oh-so-impressed with the suits’ logic (Adam Cohen, “The McNugget of Truth in the Fast-Food Lawsuits”, Feb. 3). But Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.) says he plans to introduce legislation in the U.S. Congress to cut off obesity suits against food companies; the AP quotes the Association of Trial Lawyers of America as opposing any such move (Mike Schneider, “Bill would outlaw lawsuits blaming restaurants for obesity”, AP/Naples Daily News, Jan. 28) (DURABLE LINK)

February 19 – “Pass-the-parcel” accounting liability. One company’s newsworthy firing of its CFO may signal that Sarbanes-Oxley is already having perverse effects on the interactions of accounting firms with their corporate clients, according to Asymmetrical Information’s pseudonymous “Mindles H. Dreck” (Feb. 17, and comments). Michael Fox at Employers’ Lawyer (Feb. 16) also has some thoughts. (DURABLE LINK)

February 19 – One solution to the malpractice crunch. “A New York doctor is commuting 1,220 miles to work to avoid the city’s high medical malpractice insurance rates. Dr David Abraham, an ear-nose-and-throat specialist from Long Island, leaves his family twice a month to travel to Minnesota.” According to the New York Post, Dr. Abraham had been paying $70,000 to insure his solo practice and can save up to $40,000 a year with the new arrangement. (“Doctor travels 1,220 miles to work”, Ananova, Feb. 3). (DURABLE LINK)

February 18 – It’s all for the clients. MedPundit Sydney Smith (Feb. 3) says next time you hear the trial lawyers’ association saying that litigation is about protecting the public, rather than about making money, you should keep in mind this page. (DURABLE LINK)

February 18 – “Namibian tribe sues Germany for genocide”. “A Namibian tribe that came close to being exterminated by Germany’s colonial forces nearly a century ago is suing the German government and two companies for £2.6 billion.” The forces of Kaiser Wilhelm committed atrocities against the Herero people in the then-German colony of South-West Africa between 1904 and 1907, as reprisals against the killing of white settlers. Rights activists and lawyers plan to sue the German government and German companies for compensation in — natürlich! — American courts. (Christopher Munnion, Daily Telegraph (U.K.), Jan. 31). (DURABLE LINK)

February 18 – My lawyer says I’m the valedictorian. Outside Boston: “The family of a student who could be denied valedictorian honors at Hull High School, even though she has the best grades, has sued the school district, arguing the top slot should be hers.” The suit filed by Sharisse Kanet’s family “seeks to enjoin Hull from naming any valedictorian until the matter is resolved.” (“Would-Be Valedictorian Sues to Ensure Top Rank”, WHDH Boston, Feb. 16) (DURABLE LINK)

February 17 – Pet custody as legal practice area. Everything you could want to know about the rapid rise of who-gets-Fluffy litigation, including the tale of a San Diego woman’s $146,000 (in fees incurred) courtroom battle to get custody of Gigi, a greyhound-pointer mix: “At trial, the court entertained a ‘day-in-the-life of Gigi’ video proffered by the wife’s divorce attorney, which showed Gigi sleeping under the wife’s desk while at work, walking in the park, and playing on the beach.” (Quentin Letts, “Fur better or fur worse”, Daily Telegraph (U.K.), Feb. 16; law firm of Blumberg Lorber Nelson LLP, “Who Gets Fido? Pet Custody in Divorce Cases”, undated; (DURABLE LINK)

February 17 – Inmate entitled to disability payments. “A Beverly Hills lawyer doing time for sinking his yacht to collect the insurance money won a judgment against two insurance companies that canceled his monthly disability payments because they suspected him of committing fraud. … The companies stopped paying [Rex K.] DeGeorge his $8,200-a-month disability payments in 1999, saying he faked his ailments and continued to work as a lawyer. DeGeorge filed the claims in 1990, saying he was disabled because of a heart condition and brain damage caused by an auto accident. … The jury also found DeGeorge remains disabled, forcing Equitable to continue paying him $4,700 a month for the rest of his life. … DeGeorge was sentenced last year to 7 1/2 years in federal prison for sinking his 76-foot yacht off the Italian coast to collect on his $3.5 million insurance policy, which prosecutors said was inflated through a series of phony sales transactions. He is appealing his conviction.” (“California Inmate Wins Disability Case”, AP/ABC News, Feb. 15) (DURABLE LINK)

February 14-16 — Tried to outrun Coast Guard in chase. Last month a Cuban smuggling boat tried to outrun a pursuit by the U.S. Coast Guard and instead capsized; the 34 persons aboard were rescued and most were repatriated to Cuba. Now a lawyer for relatives of the Cubans is suggesting that the Coast Guard may have been overly aggressive in pursuit of the boat and thus responsible for its capsizing. A spokesman for the Coast Guard begs to differ: the boat “was grossly overloaded … and being captained by criminals with a ruthless intent.” (Elaine DeValle, “Video on Cubans’ boat that capsized sought by lawyer”, Miami Herald, Jan. 28). (DURABLE LINK)

February 14-16 – Take care of myself? That’s the doc’s job. “Physicians, lawyers, insurers, juries — all absorb criticism for the rising cost of medical premiums, a surge that has provoked the cry for tort reform. Meanwhile, patients remain generally blind to their own culpability in the crisis.” The story of how one Ohio man’s bad habits contributed to his demise, and how his widow then prevailed in a $4.7 million suit against the physician who treated him for prostate cancer but did not push him to seek a cardiologist’s help as well. Quotes our editor (Martin Kuz, “Cash Diet”, Cleveland Scene, Feb. 12) (see Sept. 18-19, 2002). (DURABLE LINK)

February 14-16 – Politico’s law associate suspended over “runner” use. “Louisiana’s highest court has suspended a former law associate of a since-disbarred and imprisoned state senate president for her role in the use of ‘runners’ to solicit personal injury clients for the senator’s law firm.” An official with the state bar says he has seen a sharp increase in offenses involving the use of “runners”, who drum up injury cases. (“Louisiana Cracks Down on Client Solicitation”, National Law Journal, Feb. 13). “At the former O’Keefe law firm, more than $1 million was paid annually to ‘runners’ who hustled car accident cases. One runner, caught on hidden camera, explains how the scheme worked. ‘Say look, you ain’t say you hurt, if you say no, ain’t nothing there for you, understand what I’m saying? Because you can’t collect nothing if you ain’t hurt, you understand? If anyone say they ain’t hurt ain’t gonna make no more money,’ he said. [Attorney Stephen] Bernstein ran the day-to-day business for attorney Michael O’Keefe, who bankrolled the entire operation and fronted the money to pay the runners, [reporter Richard] Angelico said. O’Keefe is serving 19 and-a-half years in federal prison on other charges. Although O’Keefe never performed any legal work, one lawyer who worked at the firm said that 60 percent of all legal fees flowed into O’Keefe’s pocket.” (“Feds Charge ‘Canal Street Cartel’ Lawyer, The New Orleans Channel, Oct. 16, 2000). “O’Keefe served in the state Senate from 1960-84, the last 12 years as president.” He was convicted for his role in a scheme that skimmed millions of dollars from an ailing medical malpractice insurer. (Joe Gyan Jr., “Ex-legislator O’Keefe appeals conviction, argues witness lied”, Baton Rouge Advocate, Aug. 21, 2002) (see Sept. 13, 1999, July 31, 2001). (DURABLE LINK)

February 13 – “Florida Jury Awards $100M for Pool Accident”. A case summarized by one of our readers thusly: “And the money goes to: the parents who left a 2 year old alone by the pool.” The plaintiff’s attorneys, in mock trials, “were careful about the composition of the jury. They were cautious of young, new parents who might be too critical of the father’s inattention”. (Dee McAree, National Law Journal, Feb. 10). (DURABLE LINK)

February 13 – ABA endorses asbestos litigation reform. What next — a blue moon, a month of Sundays, the freezing over of Hell? The nation’s largest lawyers’ group, the American Bar Association, can no longer be counted among consistent opponents of limits on litigation now that it’s voted to back restrictions on asbestos suits; it may also endorse measures to require that nationwide class actions be heard in federal rather than state court. Read, and rub your eyes: “ABA leaders argued that lawyers should accept blame for a crisis in courts overwhelmed with 600,000 asbestos claims, as well as the bankruptcies of dozens of companies that were sued. ‘This is not tort reform, it’s scandal reform,’ said Terrence Lavin, a Chicago plaintiffs’ attorney,” whom this site hereby nominates our Man of the Week. “‘I have watched helplessly as some, but not all, members of the asbestos bar have made a mockery of our civil justice system and inflicted financial ruin on corporate America.'” (Gina Holland, “Lawyer group wants to restrict asbestos suits “, AP/Chicago Sun-Times, Feb. 12). And over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Juan Non-Volokh catches out National Public Radio in a very funny bit of reportorial inconsistency — at the least — relating to asbestos litigation and this nation’s Public Enemy #1. (Feb. 12). (DURABLE LINK)

February 13 – “Illegal art”. An exhibit of artwork that could land its owners or creators in court, mostly consisting of parodies or adaptations vulnerable to attack by intellectual property owners. (via Jesse Walker, Reason “Hit and Run”, Dec. 9). (DURABLE LINK)

February 12 – Feinstein set to back Bush malpractice plan. California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, often at odds with the Bush administration, has emerged as an unexpected ally of the President on the issue of medical malpractice and plans to introduce a federal bill mirroring the provisions of MICRA, the California law. “Feinstein said she agreed with much of Bush’s speech. ‘There is no question about malpractice,’ she said. ‘Before 1975, California had one of the highest malpractice insurance rates in the country.’ In 1975, the state enacted the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act that capped pain-and-suffering judgments at $250,000. … Cases filed in California are also subject to caps on legal fees. The percentage of jury awards allowed for attorney fees decreases as the settlement increases, with lawyers collecting only 15 percent of any award of $600,000 or more. According to the California Medical Association, the state law has kept physician insurance rates considerably lower than in most other states.” (David Whitney, “Bush likes California medical suit law”, Sacramento Bee, Jan. 17; Feinstein press release, Jan. 16). (DURABLE LINK)

February 12 – Most overrated American judge ever? Aaron Haspel at God of the Machine levels pretty much that charge against Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (Feb. 9). “Robert Musil” comments. (DURABLE LINK)

February 12 – “Grieve for Fido, but don’t litigate”. A bill pending in the Colorado legislature “would allow dog and cat owners to sue animal abusers and veterinarians and seek damage awards for ‘loss of companionship’ of up to $100,000. … [W]hatever the emotional distress of losing a dog or cat, we don’t think the courts should treat it the same way it treats injury to or death of, say, a child, a best friend, or a nonmarital partner. … would spur the statewide growth of the ‘pet lawyer’ industry, and we would soon see its ads in newspapers everywhere: ‘Have you lost a pet lately?'” (Rocky Mountain News (editorial), Feb. 11) (DURABLE LINK)

February 11 – By reader acclaim: “Sisters Suing Southwest Over ‘Racist Rhyme'”. “A judge has set a trial date in a discrimination lawsuit filed against Southwest Airlines by two black passengers who were upset when a flight attendant recited a version of a rhyme with a racist history. … [F]light attendant Jennifer Cundiff, trying to get passengers to sit down, said over the intercom, ‘Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; pick a seat, we gotta go.'” (AP/Fox News, Feb. 10; Robert A. Cronkleton, “Rhyme at center of lawsuit against Southwest Airlines”, Kansas City Star, Feb. 10). (DURABLE LINK)

February 11 – Welcome The Lawyer (U.K.) readers. Great Britain’s leading legal periodical, The Lawyer, in its Jan. 20 issue (not online, alas) accords generous coverage to “the rather wonderful US website, which chronicles the excesses of litigation culture on the other side of the Atlantic” as well as our editor’s new book The Rule of Lawyers (“picking up rave reviews …delivers a withering attack on lawyer greed … a full-blooded attack on the massive class action culture that pervades US society”).

“The most popular section of the vast site is the ‘Whatever happened to personal responsibility‘ section. A few headlines offer a flavour of the kind of stories posted there: ‘Patient sues hospital for letting him out on the night he killed‘; ‘Rough divorce predisposed him to hire hitman‘; and ‘Pitcher hit by line drive sues maker of baseball bat‘. Before we get too smug, though, there is an increasing contribution from the UK, such as ‘Stop clowning around, clowns told‘, which came from The Times last year. It tells the sorry tale of UK clowns terrified that unappreciative patrons would sue them over injuries from thrown pies and water-squirting. Does it worry Olson that is read as a comic site as opposed to a platform for his more earnest law reforming? Not at all. “I try to make sure it’s humorous. Otherwise, frankly, you’d just cry,” he says.”

In other recent publicity, TechCentralStation columnist Duane Freese reviews The Rule of Lawyers together with Catherine Crier’s The Case Against Lawyers, emphasizing our proposal that the litigation business be required to submit to more disclosure and transparency (“Legal Tyrannies”, Feb. 6). And in the New York Post, William Tucker flays Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for the way Spitzer has gone to court to defend the exorbitant fees being collected by tobacco lawyers representing New York state (“Spitzer vs. N.Y.”, Feb. 4). (DURABLE LINK)

October 30-31 – “Give It Back to the Indians?” Just out: our editor has an article in the new issue of City Journal (Autumn) on how the sad history of Indian land claim litigation in the Northeast — in which, over the past 25 years, the courts have allowed tribes to revive territorial claims thought to have been resolved as long ago as the presidency of George Washington — may prefigure the misery in store if our legal system gives the go-ahead to lawsuits over slavery reparations. (DURABLE LINK)

October 30-31 – Deflating Spitzer’s crusade. Long but incisive article by Michael Lewis challenging the much-bruited notion that Wall Street skullduggery was mainly responsible for the boom and bust in tech stocks, and specifically deflating the pretensions of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who’s positioned himself at the forefront of the resulting legal crusade. Among Lewis’s key points: 1) the boom was no mere artifact of Wall Street hype, big firms like Merrill Lynch having mostly followed the investing public into tech mania rather than leading them there; 2) the line between visionary rethinking of current business practice and hallucinatory speculation was nowhere near as clear at the time as it seems in hindsight; 3) the supposedly occult conflict of interest between research and underwriting was hidden in such plain sight that anyone paying half-attention to the Street should have been aware of it; 4) the boom — even given its bust — did a great deal of social good; 5) the quest to clean up the stock-touting process obscures from the public the real lesson it would do well to absorb, which is that stock-picking advice from brokerages is generally useless whether sincere or not; 6) it’s not hard to read emails as establishing guilt if you let lawyers cherry-pick a few of them out of thousands while dropping their context. (Michael Lewis, “In Defense of the Boom”, New York Times Magazine, Oct. 27). For a contrasting view, calling Lewis’s article “nonsense”, see Peter Eavis, “The Billboard: Boom Boom”, New York Press, Oct. 28. On how Spitzer came into possession of the Merrill Lynch emails that enabled him to stage-manage much of this summer’s news flow, see Nicholas Varchaver, “Lawyers Target More Than Merrill”, Fortune, Jun. 10 (a plaintiffs’ lawyer evidently sent them over after settling a suit with the brokerage; the resulting Spitzer-driven publicity brought a bonanza of new cases to the lawyer’s door). (DURABLE LINK)

October 30-31 – Mistrial in Providence lead-paint case. “The six-member jury sent a note to the judge shortly after 2 p.m. that it could not reach a unanimous decision on whether the paints constituted a public nuisance.” (“Mistrial declared in landmark lead paint trial”, Providence Journal, Oct. 29; AP/, Oct. 30). “Four jurors [on the six-person panel] sided with the paint companies and two voted for the state. … About one minute after the mistrial became public, the stock prices of several defendants began shooting up …. The Sherwin-Williams Co. alone increased in value by nearly half a billion dollars.” (Peter B. Lord, “Trailblazing lead paint trial ends in deadlock”, Providence Journal, Oct. 30). So it’s back to surface-prep work for the closely watched effort to cover the world with litigation (see Oct. 28), and trial lawyers can’t be happy about the fact that their chief ally in the matter, Rhode Island attorney general Sheldon Whitehouse, will be departing office shortly. Have they painted themselves into a corner? Whitehouse for his part blames the paint companies for being “litigious”, recalling the famous French saying: “It is a very vicious animal. When attacked, it defends itself.” Update: see also “The Hand of Providence” (editorial), Wall Street Journal, Oct 31, reprinted at Texans for Lawsuit Reform site. (DURABLE LINK)

October 30-31 – “Nannies to sue for racial bias”. Great Britain: “Familes who hire nannies, cleaners and gardeners in their own homes face being sued for racial discrimination under a major shake-up of race relations laws. … Under plans to be published by the Home Office in the next fortnight, the Race Relations Act is expected to be tightened to include private householders as part of sweeping changes expected to trigger a flood of new tribunal cases. Householders could be taken to tribunals if they behave in a racist manner towards domestic help, for example, by refusing to hire a black carer for children. … The only exemption would be if they can show a ‘genuine occupational requirement’ to hire someone of a particular racial group — such as an elderly Muslim woman who wanted a home help who was also a Muslim. Critics will argue that the change could cause a legal nightmare for ordinary families, who could face bills for damages running into thousands of pounds unless they read up on the intricacies of employment law.”

Initial opposition to the new proposals appears to be tepid at best: thus the Conservative party’s shadow industry minister merely voices doubts about whether the measure is “likely to be effective,” while a spokesman for the Confederation of British Industry “said it would broadly welcome the changes,” though the CBI did express misgivings about another of the proposals in the antibias package, under which “for the first time the burden of proof in all employment tribunals would …be shifted so that it is effectively up to employers to prove they are not racist, rather than workers to prove that there was discrimination, so long as there is a prima facie case to answer.” (Gaby Hinsliff, The Observer (U.K.), Oct. 20). (DURABLE LINK)

October 30-31 – Monday: 13,555 pages served on October 28 was one of our busiest days yet on the site, with traffic boosted by reader interest in our link roundups on the Moscow hostage episode (especially the WSJ‘s “Best of the Web” mention) on top of the 4,000-6,000 pages that we’re accustomed to serve on a more ordinary weekday. Thanks for your support!

P.S. Oops! Our unfamiliarity with our new statistics program led us to overcount: the Oct. 28 figure should have instead been 9,800 pages served, and the “regular” range 3,500-5,000. Still pretty good. (DURABLE LINK)

October 28-29 – Welcome WSJ Best of the Web readers. Readers looking for our earlier coverage of the Moscow theater siege will find it here and here.

MORE COVERAGE: Among accounts of the theater storming based on firsthand interviews are Alice Lagnado, “As dawn neared, a light mist suddenly came down”, Times (U.K.), Oct. 28, and Mark MacKinnon, “‘All they had to do was push the button'”, Globe and Mail (Canada), Oct. 28. The Bush White House declined to blame the Russian authorities for the hostage toll, saying responsibility rests with the captors: “The Russian government and the Russian people are victims of this tragedy, and the tragedy was caused as a result of the terrorists who took hostages and booby-trapped the building and created dire circumstances,” said spokesman Ari Fleischer. ( “White House: Blame Lies With Captors”, AP/Yahoo, Oct. 27). Other commentaries: Kieran Healy (Oct. 27), Mark Kleiman (Oct. 27); Mark Riebling reader comments. (DURABLE LINK)

October 28-29 – Ambulances, paramedics sued more. “A growing ambulance industry is learning that malpractice suits are not just for doctors anymore. … [one defense lawyer] says there’s a tough lesson to be learned in all ambulance cases. ‘You can do everything right, and you can still get sued.'” Includes a revealing quote from a Boston plaintiff’s lawyer about how he tries to get jurors so upset at alleged bumbling by ambulance operators that they “make short work” of the crucial question of whether that conduct was actually responsible for the patient’s injury. (Tresa Baldas, “Mean Streets”, National Law Journal, Oct. 23). (DURABLE LINK)

October 28-29 – Anticipatory law enforcement. Following the lead of some other jurisdictions, the city of Cincinnati has adopted new ordinances targeting men who patronize prostitutes (“johns”) by allowing the city to seize their cars. The ordinances don’t take effect until next month, which hasn’t kept the city police department’s vice unit from carrying out a significant number of car impoundments already, 13 in one week. “Even though the ordinances haven’t gone into effect yet, [Lt. John] Gallespie said the cars were impounded ‘for safekeeping.'” (Craig Garretson, “Police seize ‘johns’ cars”, Cincinnati Post, Oct. 21). (DURABLE LINK)

October 28-29 – R.I. lead paint case goes to jury. Rhode Island’s lawsuit against the lead paint industry, a concoction of ambitious trial lawyers and the politicians they love, has now gone to a jury after a two-month trial that’s been curiously underpublicized considering the case’s implications for American industry (“Jury deliberates for second day in lead paint case”, AP/CNN, Oct. 25). The state “is pursuing the novel claim that the defendant manufacturers and distributors of lead paint or lead created a public nuisance and should be held responsible for cleaning up what’s remaining in thousands of buildings in the state. The first phase of the trial will consider only one question — whether the presence of lead paint in Rhode Island buildings constitutes a public nuisance.” If the jury votes in favor of that theory, later phases of trial will consider such issues as fault and damages. (Margaret Cronin Fisk, “Rhode Island to Try First State Suit Over Lead Paint”, National Law Journal, Aug. 19).

Perhaps the best journalistic treatment we’ve seen of this travesty is found in a Forbes cover story from last year that is available now in fee-based archives (Michael Freedman, “Turning Lead Into Gold”, Forbes, May 14, 2001). The article explores how the nation’s richest tort law firm, Charleston, S.C.-based tobacco-asbestos powerhouse Ness Motley, moved into Rhode Island and quickly made itself the state’s largest political contributor, around the same time as it was picking up a contingency fee contract from state attorney general Sheldon Whitehouse to represent the state in the lead paint litigation. (Whitehouse proceeded to run for governor this year, but lost narrowly in the Democratic primary). To date, while trial lawyers have recruited numerous cities, counties and school districts around the country to sue paint makers, they have not persuaded any other states to join Rhode Island in its action (see our commentary of Jun. 7, 2001). At the same time, there are plenty of reasons to mistrust the contention that a “lead poisoning epidemic” can somehow be blamed for educational failure and crime among young people in inner-city neighborhoods like South Providence, R.I. Levels of lead exposure once typical of American children have now been retrospectively redefined as “poisoning”, thus ensuring the sense of a continuing crisis (see our commentary of Jun. 8-10, 2001). See also Steven Malanga, “Lead Paint Scam”, New York Post, Jun. 24. Update Oct. 30-31: judge declares mistrial after jury deadlock. (DURABLE LINK)

October 28-29 – Looking back on EEOC v. Sears. Among the most monumental and hard-fought discrimination lawsuits ever was the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s years-long courtroom crusade against Sears, Roebuck during the 1980s over the statistical “underrepresentation” of women in some of its employment categories, such as hardware and commission sales. (Sears won, and the case became one of the Commission’s most humiliating defeats.) In one of the controversies spawned by the case, Barnard College historian Rosalind Rosenberg was attacked by many colleagues in the field of women’s studies for supposedly betraying women’s equality by allowing her scholarship to be used in the retailer’s defense. Now John Rosenberg, who was formerly married to Rosalind Rosenberg and who also worked in the Sears defense, offers a partial memoir of the episode (Oct. 25) on a new weblog titled Discriminations in which his focus will be “on the theory and practice of discrimination, and how it is reported and analyzed.” (The piece begins with an introductory riff concerning UC Irvine history professor Jon Weiner, one of those assailing Rosalind Rosenberg in the mid-1980s controversy; Weiner recently caused many a jaw to drop by stepping forward in the Nation to defend disgraced Arming America author Michael Bellesiles.) (via InstaPundit). (DURABLE LINK)

October 28-29 – Satirical-disclaimer Hall of Fame. Lawyer-driven warning labels and disclaimer notices are easy to play for laughs, and readers often bring funny satires to our attention (like Dave Barry’s). Few are worked out in as much detail, however, as this splash page on the website of The Chaser, an Australian humor magazine (scroll down): “Maintain good posture at all times while reading … may cause paper cuts … Please avoid mixing The Chaser with water and glue, which could … cause some readers to be caught in a papier mache death trap. … The Chaser is flammable. Do not set fire to your copy of The Chaser, whether with a match, cigarette lighter … [or] shining a magnifying glass on a particular little spot. … Do not shred The Chaser and use it as confetti. … We make no guarantees as to the longevity of any marital unions formed whilst using The Chaser in any part of the ceremony …”. And a whole lot more — give it a look. (DURABLE LINK)

October 26-27 – Moscow hostage crisis, updated. According to Russian authorities, at least 118 hostages were killed and more than 700 were freed after security forces stormed the theater; most of the 50 terrorist captors were also killed and all or nearly all of the rest captured. After the terrorists started executing hostages, the crowd of captives had begun to flee in panic; security forces had also pumped a kind of sleeping gas into the theater. (“Moscow Hostage Death Toll Up to 118″, AP/ABC News, Oct. 27; “Russian forces storm siege theatre”, BBC, Oct. 26; Moscow Times). Contradicting earlier accounts from authorities, “Moscow’s chief physician said Sunday that all but one of the 117 hostages who died … were killed by the effects of gas used to subdue their captors.” (AP/Washington Post, Oct. 27). “If the theatre had not been stormed, all hostages would have been killed, the Interfax journalist who was among the hostages, Olga Chernyak, said.” (Interfax/Moscow Times, Oct. 26, and scroll for more entries). More links: AP/ABC News, Oct. 26; Washington Post, Oct. 27; BBC, Oct. 27; Damian Penny. Dilacerator offers a commentary (Oct. 26), as does Natalie Solent (Oct. 27). Thanks to InstaPundit and Eugene Volokh for their links to our extensive coverage below.

More: London’s Telegraph reports that it “has learned that a number of Arab fighters, believed to be of Saudi Arabian and Yemeni origin, were among the group that seized control of the theatre. ‘There were definitely Arab terrorists in the building with links to al-Qa’eda,’ said a senior Western diplomat. … Russian officials said that the hostage-takers had made several calls to the United Arab Emirates during the siege.” (Christina Lamb and Ben Aris, “Russians probe al-Qa’eda link as Moscow siege ends with 150 dead”, Sunday Telegraph (UK), Oct. 27). Although the Moscow terrorists (like those who carried out the hijacking of United Flight 93) had magnified public terror by allowing their captives to use cell phones to call their families, the tactic once again backfired, because the resulting exchange of information made it easier to thwart the terror plans: see Preston Mendenhall, “Cell phones were rebels’ downfall”, MS/NBC, Oct. 26. And Russia’s Gazeta reports that: “A 27-year-old resident of Chechnya has been detained by Moscow law enforcers on suspicion of having carried out the October 19 car bomb attack on a McDonald’s restaurant” in which one was killed and seven injured. Authorities had previously sought to blame the bombing on gangland rivalries, but “in the light of the recent events in Moscow, the prosecutor’s office does not rule out that the explosion may have been a terrorist attack.” (“Suspect detained in McDonald’s blast inquiry”,, Oct. 25). (DURABLE LINK)

October 25-27 – Updates. New developments in cases we’ve followed:

* “Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Charles E. Ramos on Tuesday froze further payments on a $625 million arbitration award to the six law firms that represented New York state in its litigation against the tobacco industry until he finishes reviewing the reasonableness of the sum.” (Daniel Wise, “Judge Freezes $625M Tobacco Award to Law Firms”, New York Law Journal, Oct. 23) (see Jul. 30-31).

* “The Canadian Transportation Agency has dismissed the complaint of an obese Calgary woman who argued her size was a disability and that airlines shouldn’t make her pay extra for a larger seat. ‘Being unable to fit in a seat should not be enough evidence of the existence of a disability as many people experience discomfort in the seat,’ the agency said in a decision released Wednesday. Calgary law professor Linda McKay-Panos, who described herself in documents as ‘morbidly obese,’ launched the process in 1997 after having to pay Air Canada for 1.5 seats because of her size.” (Judy Monchuk, “Federal board nixes Calgary woman’s bid for seat-price break for obese flyers”, Canadian Press, Oct. 23)(see Dec. 20, 2000). And in the United Kingdom, a “woman injured while squeezed next to an obese passenger on a trans-Atlantic flight has been given £13,000 ($20,000)” by Virgin Atlantic Airways. (“Woman squashed by plane passenger”, CNN, Oct. 22).

* In Paris, a panel of three judges has declared French writer Michel Houellebecq not guilty of inciting racial hatred after he was sued by four Muslim groups for delivering remarks contemptuous of Islam (“French author cleared of race hate”, BBC, Oct. 22)(see Aug. 23-25, Sept. 18-19).

* “A three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals has tossed a $29.2 million civil court judgment against The Jenny Jones Show, after deciding the syndicated chatfest should not be held liable for protecting a guest who was gunned down after revealing he had a crush on another man.” (Josh Grossberg, “‘Jenny Jones’ Vindicated”, E! Online, Oct. 23). The case is another setback for controversial Michigan attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who promptly launched a characteristically intemperate attack on the appeals judges (Stephen W. Huber, “Court tosses $29M award against ‘Jenny Jones Show'”, Oakland (Mich.) Press, Oct. 24) (see May 31, 2001). More: Michigan’s LitiGator (Oct. 25).

* “Voting 2-1, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority’s (SEPTA) physical fitness test for job applicants of its transit police force is perfectly legal — even though it has a ‘disparate impact’ on women — because it serves as a true measure of ‘the minimum qualifications necessary for the successful performance of the job.’ …the plaintiffs claimed that the test discriminates against women because it requires all applicants for the SEPTA police force to run 1.5 miles in 12 minutes.” (Shannon P. Duffy, “3rd Circuit Rules Fitness Test for Police Force Applicants Legal”, The Legal Intelligencer, Oct. 16) (see Sept. 15, 1999, Oct. 5-7, 2001). “Interestingly, two female appellate judges joined in the opinion rejecting this claim of sex discrimination, while a male appellate judge dissented,” notes Howard Bashman (Oct. 15).

* In Australia, a judge has ruled against the Pentecostal worshiper who sued claiming a “church had been negligent by not providing someone to catch her when she was ‘slain in the spirit'” during a 1996 service, causing her to fall down and strike her head on a carpeted concrete floor. (Kelly Burke, “Church not liable for Lord’s early fallers”, Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 19)(see Oct. 1-2). (DURABLE LINK)

October 24 – Pa. statehouse race: either way, Big Law wins. “In a race that will easily break Pennsylvania gubernatorial spending records, the top givers are lawyers, by far. … [Republican Mike] Fisher has received $125,000 since June from two law firms he named, as attorney general, to handle a state lawsuit against tobacco companies.” (see Jan. 10, 2000). “But the firms, which split $50 million in legal fees, have hedged their bets by also donating $107,000 to [Democrat Ed] Rendell.” And the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association has endorsed Rendell, who is considered less likely than Fisher to support curbs on medical malpractice lawsuits. (Tom Infield and Rose Ciotta, “Lawyers top givers to Fisher, Rendell”, Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 22). As mayor of Philadelphia, Rendell also made himself a booster of the abusive campaign of municipal litigation against gun manufacturers, though he held back from filing an actual suit given the unpopularity of such a move with the non-urban voters needed to win a statewide race in Pennsylvania (see Dec. 22, 2000). (DURABLE LINK)

October 24 – Suit: schoolkids shouldn’t attend rodeo. Two animal rights groups have filed suit “asking a San Francisco Superior Court judge to keep Bay Area schoolchildren from going to the free Grand National Rodeo day for students, which will be held at the Cow Palace on Thursday and may be repeated next year.” As many as 9,000 students are expected to attend the event. “Gina Snow, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Unified School District, said children are only allowed to attend with parental permission, and that the decisions to participate are made by individual teachers.” Attorney David Blatte of Berkeley “focuses all his work on ‘animal law'”. (Dan Reed, “Suit: Rodeo bad for kids”, San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 23). And Matthew Scully’s new book Dominion, a conservative’s defense of animal welfare, “asks all the right questions about animal rights, even if it doesn’t canvass all the possible answers”, according to the summary of a review by Christopher Hitchens in The Atlantic (“Political Animals”, Nov.) (DURABLE LINK)

October 24 – “California Court Upholds $290 Million Injury Jury Award Against Ford”. “The California Supreme Court let stand on Wednesday a $290 million personal injury jury award levied against Ford Motor Co. stemming from a Bronco rollover accident in 1993. The justices, without publicly commenting, decided at their private weekly conference to uphold what Ford, in court briefs, called the nation’s largest personal injury award ever affirmed by an appellate court.” (Quicken/AP, Oct. 23; Mike McKee, “California Justices Let Stand $290M Award Against Ford”, The Recorder, Oct. 24). When the original trial verdict was reported, we looked in some detail (Aug. 24 and Sept. 17-19, 1999; see also Aug. 27, 2002) at the very curious influences that held sway during the jury’s deliberations, including one juror’s lurid dream revealing Ford’s guilt, and another’s misrecollection of a “60 Minutes” episode which purportedly proved the company’s bad faith. (DURABLE LINK)

October 24 – Russia’s fight, and ours. “Gunmen identifying themselves as Chechens took more than 700 people hostage inside a Moscow theater Wednesday night, threatening to kill some of the hostages and telling police they had mined portions of the building.” (“Chechen gunmen seize Moscow theater”, CNN, Oct. 23; Michael Wines, “Chechens Seize Moscow Theater, Taking as Many as 600 Hostages”, New York Times, Oct. 24 (reg); AP/ABC, “Rebels Take Moscow Audience Hostage”, Oct. 23). “Local media said children, Muslims and foreigners who could show their passports were allowed to leave the building. The reports could not be confirmed.” (Natalia Yefimova, Torrey Clark and Lyuba Pronina, “Armed Chechens Seize Moscow Theater”, Moscow Times, Oct. 24). Chechen militants have repeatedly seized civilian hostages in groups of hundreds and even thousands, as well as claiming credit for railway-station bombings in Russia (“Chechen rebels’ hostage history”, BBC, Oct. 24; “Chechen rebels hold at least 1,000 hostages in hospital”, CNN, Jan. 9, 1996; Adnan Malik, “Hijackers Free Women and Kids”, AP, Mar. 15, 2001; “Separatists’ history of hostages and horror”, Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 24). Since 9/11 U.S. officials have been less inclined to dispute “Russia’s long-standing claim that the Chechen rebellion, which spills over into neighboring Caucasus republics, is not just a local independence movement, but has become a full-blown subsidiary of the global Islamic terror network headed by [Osama] bin Laden.” (Fred Weir, “A new terror-war front: the Caucasus”, Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 26). Also see, on the al-Qaeda-Chechnya connection, Mark Riebling and R. P. Eddy, “Jihad@Work”, National Review Online, Oct. 24, and BBC, Oct. 23. The Moscow Times has a list of the names of the Westerners who are being held hostage, who include three Americans, two Britons, two Australians, and a Canadian, as well as various others (Kevin O’Flynn, “Europeans, Americans Inside Theater”, Oct. 25). Asparagirl (Oct. 23) wouldn’t be surprised if it happened here.

More: In “footage aired by Qatar’s al-Jazeera satellite TV”, a chador-clad woman who said she was one of the Chechen hostage-takers said: “We have chosen to die in Moscow and we will kill hundreds of infidels.” (“We’ll kill hundreds of infidels: Hostage-taker”, AFP/Times of India, Oct. 24). “‘I swear by God we are more keen on dying than you are keen on living,’ a black-clad male said in the broadcast believed to have been recorded on Wednesday.” Another hostage-taker, while denying that the terrorists were operating as part of al-Qaeda, told the BBC: “We have come to die. …we want to be in paradise.” (BBC, “Hostage-takers ‘ready to die'”, Oct. 25). The Russian press is treating the unfolding events as “Russia’s Sept. 11″. (BBC, Oct. 25). In an echo that Americans will find familiar, “Many channels have broadcast chilling messages from the hostages themselves, calling from their mobile phones.” (“Distant war comes to Moscow”, BBC, Oct. 24).

According to London’s Evening Standard, the terrorists are disinclined to release any more of their foreign hostages because they suspect that international interest in the episode might wane if they did so. (“Britons still held in Moscow siege”, Oct. 25). Reportedly one of the American hostages, Sandy Alan Booker, 49, who was vacationing in Moscow, hails from Oklahoma City, Okla. (“Chechen Gunmen Threaten to Begin Killing Hostages at Dawn”, AP/FoxNews, Oct. 25). Update: Russian security forces storm theater, ending siege, with more than 100 hostages killed along with most of the captors: see Oct. 26.

FURTHER: Some London, Broadway and European theater owners have stepped up security, but Andre Ptaszynski, chief executive of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s chain of 14 London theaters, virtually boasts of not taking such threats seriously, explaining that an outrage by the Irish Republican Army against the West End is considered unlikely; apparently Ptaszynski is unable to think of any other groups that might harbor terrorist designs on London. (Matt Wolf, “Some Theaters on Alert After Siege”, AP/Yahoo, Oct. 25; “London theatres increase security”, BBC, Oct. 25 (via Jen Taliaferro). Riebling and Eddy, in NRO, note: “the tactics of Chechen jihadists are regarded by the FBI as a possible indicator of al Qaeda methods in the U.S.” (DURABLE LINK)

October 23 – Batch of reader letters. We’ve been remiss in keeping up with the inbox, but here are eight letters on subjects that include lawyers’ penchant for doing things expensively, a sane damage award in Ireland, Enron’s lawyers, lawsuits over avocados and anchovies, suitable targets of gamblers’ suits, George W. Bush’s record on tort reform, whether free speech should have a racism exception, and Western wildfires. More letters are on deck for later, too. (DURABLE LINK)

October 23 – Artificial hearts experimental? Who knew? “The widow of artificial-heart recipient James Quinn yesterday sued the maker of the device, the hospital where it was implanted, and the patient advocate who helped Quinn decide to have the surgery.” The 51-year-old man survived more than eight months after receiving the mechanical heart last November, but his “initially remarkable recovery was followed by months in the hospital.” The suit says Quinn had “no quality of life and his essential human dignity had been taken from him.” “Irene Quinn said yesterday that she and her husband did not know what they were getting into when they joined the clinical trial. They thought the machine would save his life, she said. She said they should have been told more about what earlier patients had experienced and that it should have been made more clear just how experimental the device was.” (Stacey Burling, “Widow sues artificial-heart maker”, Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 17; “Lawsuit over artificial heart”, CBS News, Oct. 17; MedRants, Oct. 18). (DURABLE LINK)

October 22 – “Judge: Disabilities Act doesn’t cover Web”. An important ruling, but one that’s unlikely to be the last word, on a controversy we’ve covered extensively in the past: “A federal judge ruled Friday that Southwest Airlines does not have to revamp its Web site to make it more accessible to the blind. In the first case of its kind, U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz said the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies only to physical spaces, such as restaurants and movie theaters, and not to the Internet.” Quotes our editor who mentions the possible headaches the ADA could pose even to a modest site like this one, if it turns out to apply to the web. (Declan McCullagh, CNet/, Oct. 21)(opinion). More: Matthew Haggman, “Judge Tosses Suit That Said ADA Applies to Business Web Sites”, Miami Daily Business Review, Oct. 25. (DURABLE LINK)

October 22 – “Nanny Bloomberg”. This site’s editor also has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today on the New York mayor’s crusade against smoking in bars. It’s available only to online subscribers of the Journal, unfortunately. (DURABLE LINK)

October 22 – “‘Penney’s prevails in shopper suit”. A Tennessee Court of Appeals judge has upheld a lower court’s rejection of a $600,000 lawsuit by Carolyn and Robert L. Wells against the retailer J.C. Penney. Mrs. Wells had told the court that she had been shopping for collectible crystal figurines on sale at a Penney store in Shelby County when an ill-mannered fellow shopper wrested two crystal bears from her hands, inflicting injuries on her shoulder, neck and back. However, Judge Holly K. Lillard said that the confrontation, which “demonstrates the dangers of the cutthroat arena of after-Christmas bargain shopping,” was one whose particulars the store could not have foreseen. (Tom Sharp, AP/, Oct. 12). (DURABLE LINK)

October 21 – Rethinking grandparent visitation. Among the litigation-encouraging developments in family law in recent years has been the rise of laws enabling grandparents to sue demanding rights to visit their grandchildren even against the wishes of a fit parent. But both courts and lawmakers are growing disenchanted with such laws. One Seattle attorney charges that grandparents with time on their hands engage in “recreational litigation”. (Annie Hsia, “About Grandma’s Visits …”, National Law Journal, Oct. 14). (DURABLE LINK)

October 21 – “Judicial Hellholes”. After surveying its members, the American Tort Reform Association presents a report describing the most frequently identified “Judicial Hellholes”, localities in which litigation abuse is common and civil defendants find it hard to get a fair trial. On the list are Alameda, Los Angeles and San Francisco counties, California; notorious counties in Mississippi, Illinois, and Texas; and others. Is your hometown court on the list? (“Bringing Justice to Judicial Hellholes 2002″, report in PDF format). (DURABLE LINK)

October 21 – “Our friends are at war, too”. “The first soldier to die in combat in Afghanistan was an Australian. … We’re not just fellow infidels, but brothers on a field of battle that stretches from Manhattan to Bali. If the American media don’t understand that, then the American president needs to remind them.” (Mark Steyn, “Our friends are at war, too”, Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 20). See Oct. 14; also Tom Allard and Mark Baker, “PM’s vow: we’ll get the bastards”, Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 21; Tim Blair, “Killing terrorists wipes out terror”, The Australian, Oct. 17; Virginia Postrel (scroll to Oct. 17 and Oct. 16 posts). (DURABLE LINK)

October 21 – “Demand for more ugly people on TV”. “Lecturer Trond Andresen of the Norwegian Institute of Technology in Trondheim accuses the media of discriminating against the ugly and emphasizing beautiful people whenever possible. Andresen wants higher ugly quotas on television. ‘Ugly people should be spotlighted in the media in the same way that the media wishes to emphasize persons from ethnic minorities,’ Andresen, a lecture at the Department of Engineering Cybernetics, said to newspaper Bergens Tidende.” (Aftenposten, Oct. 17). (DURABLE LINK)

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