“We’re gonna play the Sue Me, Sue You Blues……”

When the late, great George Harrison wrote these words in a song on his excellent “Living in the Material World ” album back in 1973, I doubt very much that he was thinking of his native Liverpool. I doubt even that he had any place in Britain in mind …..

He was surely singing about life here in the good ole U.S. of A, which has long been the Mecca of totally frivolous litigation. In fact judging by the reams of ‘disclaimer’ forms that you are obliged to sign at every turn here – you could be forgiven for thinking that the majority of people live their lives in constant fear of being sued by someone ! Some of the statistics here are mind-boggling:

The U.S. has only five percent of the world’s population but seventy percent of the world’s lawyers

U.S. industry spends hundreds of billion dollars annually on litigation costs and efforts to avoid liability

The US has thirty times more lawsuits than Japan, one of America’s primary trade competitors

 What’s really puzzling here is that whenever I talk to people, and express my amazement at the amount of litigation and the sheer number of totally frivolous lawsuits – they all nod their heads vigorously in total sympathy with what I have said. Yet at the drop of a hat, the first person they run to at the slightest provocation is their lawyer ! It’s as if they simply cannot make the connection between their seeking legal redress for the most absurd of reasons – and the lawyer jokes that everyone laughs at down at the pub…. Now it is true that Americans do have a good many more rights to defend than we Brits, who don’t even have a written constitution – but the financial costs that this adds to almost every aspect of life here are often crippling. Healthcare is but the most glaring example of this…..

As with most cities here I imagine, the most visible representatives of everything that is worst about the legal system are the bottom-feeding personal injury lawyers…. Their smiling faces are everywhere – on massive billboards as you drive about town, and on our TV screens in the evening, each of them trying to be more aggressive than their rivals in saying how THEY could get you LOADS-A-MONEY ! Now I know that there are genuine occasions when people do need to seek redress for accidents they have had, particularly where real negligence has been involved, and they are out of pocket financially as a result…. but the tort system of compensation is seen by many (and particularly the lawyers that benefit from it) as a very large cash-cow to be endlessly milked, filing the most absurd lawsuits to the detriment of society as a whole….. 

I am one of the least violent and aggressive people that you could ever meet, but there is one notable character here whose face is on TV an awful lot, that makes my hackles rise every time I see him – and engenders in me a desire to kick him as hard as I can in the testicles should I ever meet him (Las Vegas residents will know who I mean !).

I should add at this point that I have good friends and family who are involved with the law here, but all of them are diligent, honourable professionals who share the same rather dim view that I have about the gutter-trawling tactics of some of their brethren.

Now we can always use a good laugh, so courtesy of a great website I have found called “Power of Attorneys” – I’d like to share with you a few of the more frivolous lawsuits that have been filed.

 

 

Meredith Berkman, seeking $50 million, filed one of the first anti-fat lawsuits against the manufacturer of a snack food named Pirate’s Booty. It looks like eating too much Pirate’s Booty had added too much booty to Ms. Berkman’s booty.

In December, 2001, the Good Housekeeping Institute tested Pirate’s Booty, which is basically flavored puffed rice, and found that it contained 147 calories and 8.5 grams of fat, while its label said it contained only 120 calories and 2.5 grams of fat.

The manufacturer, Robert’s American Gourmet Foods (a subsidiary of Keystone Foods), blamed the problem on a change in its manufacturing process and immediately recalled the product from store shelves.

Nearly four months after the recall, Berkman filed a $50 million class-action lawsuit against Robert’s Foods, claiming “emotional distress” and “weight gain…mental anguish, outrage and indignation.” The complaint claims to represent all consumers who ruined their diets and had to spend more time at the gym because they ate mislabeled Pirate’s Booty.

 

The parents of a man found naked and dead on the back of a killer whale at SeaWorld Orlando are suing the marine park, alleging the dangerous orca was portrayed as a huggable stuffed toy, according to a lawyer representing the family.

Patricia and Michael Dukes of Columbia, S.C., filed suit September 10, 1999 in Orange County Circuit Court seeking several million dollars for pain and suffering at the loss of their only son, Daniel, 27, a drifter who drowned in July in a whale tank at the Florida theme park.

Attorney Patricia Sigman said SeaWorld is legally liable because it portrayed the killer whale as human loving. 

After the naked corpse of Daniel Dukes was found in a tank with a killer whale at Florida’s SeaWorld, park officials determined that he had drowned after slipping past security and trying to swim with the whale. 

Claiming that the park should warn visitors that the animal could kill people who enter the water — aside from referring to it as “killer” whale.

 

Caesar Barber, a maintenance worker who weighs about 270 pounds and stands 5-foot-10, and his lawyer claim McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC jeopardized his health with their greasy, salty fare. He filed a class action lawsuit on Wednesday in the New York State Supreme Court in the Bronx on behalf of an unspecified number of other obese and ill New Yorkers who also feast on fast food.

Barber’s lawsuit is the first broad-based action taken against the fast food industry for allegedly contributing to obesity. He claims the fast food restaurants, where Barber says he used to eat four or five times a week even after suffering a heart attack, did not properly disclose the ingredients of their food and the risks of eating too much. 

“They never explained to me what I was eating,” Barber whined on ABC’s Good Morning America. 

His lawyer, Samuel Hirsch, said the multibillion-dollar fast food industry has an obligation to warn consumers of the dangers of eating from their menus. “It’s a question of informing the consumers,” he said. “[The companies] profited enormously.”

Among the claims made by the lawyer include: the fast food chains were negligent in selling food high in fat, salt, sugar, and cholesterol content, the lawsuit claims, despite studies showing a link between consuming such foods and obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, elevated cholesterol intake, related cancers, and other health problems. Blah, blah, blah … 

Since Barber has suffered injuries – he has had two heart attacks and is diabetic from scarfing down the burgers, fries and fried chicken — the lawyer contends that Barber and his class action cronnies are entitled to unspecified damages at a jury trial. 

A food industry spokesman says he is surprised Hirsch can make his legal argument with a straight face.

“He must be aware that fully two-thirds of all foods consumed in America are consumed in people’s homes. Is he proposing that we sue America’s moms?” said John Doyle, co-founder of Center for Consumer Freedom, a restaurant industry group. 

More troubling is the implication the lawsuit makes about the abilities of Americans to choose what they eat, Doyle said. “To win his suit he has to convince a jury or a judge that people are too stupid to feed themselves or their children. If people are so stupid, should they be allowed to vote or go to work in the morning?” 

 

Now all of us having guffawed at these patently ridiculous attempts to extort money – there is a common thread running though much of this…. All of these plaintiffs have “suffered” because of their own crass stupidity – yet expect someone else to pick up the tab. No-one seems prepared to take responsibility for their own actions, which troubles me greatly…

In almost any other country on the face of the planet (certainly in Britain) – these cases would never be accorded the dignity of being heard in a court of law… The presiding judge would probably start laughing very loudly – right up to the point that he slapped the plaintiff’s lawyer with a hefty Contempt of Court citation for wasting the court’s valuable time. Yet here, lame-brained judges and juries positively connive in this process by allowing such cases to be heard at all, and then awarding breathtaking amounts of financial compensation that bear no relation to the damage that was actually done.

This does actually affect me personally in a very real way. One of the things I would like to do here is to become a personal tour guide, specialising in conducting groups or individuals on walking tours here in Vegas. I very much enjoy the opportunities I have had to show visiting friends and relatives around here, and think it is something I might be quite good at. However – one large cost that I am going to necessarily incur here is liability insurance. Now tour guides the world over need to be adequately protected like this – but it is the scale of things and the potential stupidity of clients here that poses the problem.

Let’s suppose that I was escorting a small group of people down the Las Vegas Strip, and we came to a halt at one of the many cross streets that you encounter, waiting for the “Cross” signal. One of the party – a goodly distance away from where I was standing – dashed out into the road without waiting for the light, and was mown down by a fast-moving Chevy…. The greasy personal injury lawyer would come after ME, despite their client’s stupidity, and my total inability to prevent an adult from taking this incredibly rash action….

In no other country is such dumbness so richly rewarded !

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