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Thread: No suits by lawbreakers, please

  1. #1

    No suits by lawbreakers, please

    DEROY MURDOCK: No suits by lawbreakers, please
    Copyright © 2003 Nando Media
    Copyright © 2003 Scripps Howard News Service

    Scripps Howard News Service

    NEW YORK (January 23, 1:10 p.m. PST) - A southbound Manhattan subway car ran over Seong Sil Kim on May 3, 2000. While she survived, her right hand did not, save for her thumb. According to the New York Law Journal, she also endured skull fractures and facial lacerations. Kim sued New York City and won $9.9 million.

    But don't cry for Seong Sil Kim. She did not slip onto the tracks from a rickety platform, nor was she shoved into harm's way by convicts who fled state custody.
    In fact, Kim was lying on the tracks, inside a tunnel at least 30 feet north of the 34th Street station, awaiting the E Train. After consulting her family and dismissing her denials, the NYPD concluded that Kim suffered post-partum depression and was attempting suicide.

    Kim's actions were criminal. As Section 1050.6 of New York's Public Authorities Law states: "No person may ... interfere with the safe and efficient operation of the facilities or conveyances of the Authority." Section 1050.7 prohibits "any act which causes or may tend to cause injury or harm to oneself or to any other person ..."

    Kim embodies a small but important aspect of America's runaway lawsuit culture: People who break the law, get hurt, then sue for huge jackpots.

    Shuttering this shabby corner of the litigation casino would be a fine way to launch the tort-reform revolution.

    Say hello to a few more lawless litigants:

    - Disturbed, Angelo Delgrande shot and wounded his parents and himself in a June
    1995 dispute. He then received surgery at a Westchester County, N.Y. hospital. That night, he yanked the tubes and monitoring devices from his body, then leapt off the second story of an adjacent parking garage in a suicide bid. He is now paraplegic. Delgrande sued the hospital for failing to treat his depression and keep him indoors.
    Last October, he won $9 million.

    - Neither a fence nor a lock could keep Ed O'Rourke from breaking into a Tampa Electric substation in 1996. He drunkenly climbed aboard a transformer that greeted him with 13,000 volts. In March 2000, he sued the power company, plus six bars he says got him hammered.

    - Snohomish County, Wash., police caught Mincho Donchev breaking into mountain cabins while armed with knives and handguns. When this Bulgarian escaped murderer resisted arrest, a police dog mauled his foot, costing him two toes. He sued and scored $412,500 in February 2000.

    - An Oakland, Calif., bank robber was unaware the bag of cash he stole contained a time-delayed tear-gas canister that went off, scorched him and sped his arrest. He sued the bank and the cops for $2 million for burning him.

    "Idiotic! Unaffordable!" said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, denouncing the
    Kim case. He told the American College of Trial Lawyers last Oct. 18 that Gotham's $560 million "tort tax" for Fiscal Year 2001 represented a 2,300 percent increase in judgments and settlements since 1978.

    Bloomberg proposes "Predominance of Fault" legislation to stop plaintiffs from receiving damages when they are more than 50 percent responsible for incidents in question. Great idea. Dreadful phrase. Why not "Balance of Blame?"

    This entire situation "defies all logic," says Catherine Crier, Court TV anchor and author of "The Case Against Lawyers." Foiling criminals who collect "is an excellent piece of the puzzle," the former federal judge adds by phone. "It will probably be more effective to start out slowly and address obvious wrongs on the overall path to tort reform."

    This problem shrivels beside bigger tort outrages, like the bankruptcy of some 30 companies that paid at least $10 billion in settlements since the 1970s, many of them to plaintiffs in asbestos cases who show no symptoms of asbestos-related ailments. Still, this jailhouse millionaires phenomenon has profound moral significance.

    "If you can cash in after committing a crime," Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Walter Olson asks me, "why should people injured by garden-variety recklessness hesitate to cash in, too?" Olson's Web page, www.overlawyered.com, and his brand-new book, "The Rule of Lawyers," chronicle the legal profession's termite-like impact on America.

    "It is important for courts to send the message," Olson adds, "that if you have broken the law, you may have to live with the consequences, even those you didn't plan on."

    http://www.tribnet.com/24hour/opinio...-5341436c.html

  2. #2
    Senior Member Josh's Avatar
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    I realize that this was posted almost two months ago but I'm on my tort reform kick. I just wanted to say that this is the kind of propaganda that leads people to believe that these frivolous happen all the time. I would have to see proof that anyone of these people ever actually got any money. If they did in fact get an award then it is with out a doubt the exception to the rule. I'm sure everyone here could tell you about the McDonald's case where then woman spilled coffee in her lap. Well, I read the facts of this case and it wasn't like anything I had heard before. My point is that these "frivolous lawsuits" have become urban legends at best. And this propaganda is leading to tort-reform nationwide. It's very sad.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Josh's Avatar
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    There is a lot of hype about the McDonalds' scalding coffee case. No
    one is in favor of frivolous cases of outlandish results; however, it is
    important to understand some points that were not reported in most of
    the stories about the case. McDonalds coffee was not only hot, it was
    scalding -- capable of almost instantaneous destruction of skin, flesh
    and muscle. Here's the whole story.

    Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was in the passenger seat of
    her grandson's car when she was severely burned by McDonalds' coffee in
    February 1992. Liebeck, 79 at the time, ordered coffee that was served
    in a styrofoam cup at the drivethrough window of a local McDonalds.

    After receiving the order, the grandson pulled his car forward and
    stopped momentarily so that Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her
    coffee. (Critics of civil justice, who have pounced on this case, often
    charge that Liebeck was driving the car or that the vehicle was in
    motion when she spilled the coffee; neither is true.) Liebeck placed
    the cup between her knees and attempted to remove the plastic lid from
    the cup. As she removed the lid, the entire contents of the cup spilled
    into her lap.

    The sweatpants Liebeck was wearing absorbed the coffee and held it next
    to her skin. A vascular surgeon determined that Liebeck suffered full
    thickness burns (or third-degree burns) over 6 percent of her body,
    including her inner thighs, perineum, buttocks, and genital and groin
    areas. She was hospitalized for eight days, during which time she
    underwent skin grafting. Liebeck, who also underwent debridement
    treatments, sought to settle her claim for $20,000, but McDonalds
    refused.

    During discovery, McDonalds produced documents showing more than 700
    claims by people burned by its coffee between 1982 and 1992. Some claims
    involved third-degree burns substantially similar to Liebecks. This
    history documented McDonalds' knowledge about the extent and nature of
    this hazard.

    McDonalds also said during discovery that, based on a consultants
    advice, it held its coffee at between 180 and 190 degrees fahrenheit to
    maintain optimum taste. He admitted that he had not evaluated the
    safety ramifications at this temperature. Other establishments sell
    coffee at substantially lower temperatures, and coffee served at home is
    generally 135 to 140 degrees.

    Further, McDonalds' quality assurance manager testified that the company
    actively enforces a requirement that coffee be held in the pot at 185
    degrees, plus or minus five degrees. He also testified that a burn
    hazard exists with any food substance served at 140 degrees or above,
    and that McDonalds coffee, at the temperature at which it was poured
    into styrofoam cups, was not fit for consumption because it would burn
    the mouth and throat. The quality assurance manager admitted that burns
    would occur, but testified that McDonalds had no intention of reducing
    the "holding temperature" of its coffee.

    Plaintiffs' expert, a scholar in thermodynamics applied to human skin
    burns, testified that liquids, at 180 degrees, will cause a full
    thickness burn to human skin in two to seven seconds. Other testimony
    showed that as the temperature decreases toward 155 degrees, the extent
    of the burn relative to that temperature decreases exponentially. Thus,
    if Liebeck's spill had involved coffee at 155 degrees, the liquid would
    have cooled and given her time to avoid a serious burn.

    McDonalds asserted that customers buy coffee on their way to work or
    home, intending to consume it there. However, the companys own research
    showed that customers intend to consume the coffee immediately while
    driving.

    McDonalds also argued that consumers know coffee is hot and that its
    customers want it that way. The company admitted its customers were
    unaware that they could suffer thirddegree burns from the coffee and
    that a statement on the side of the cup was not a "warning" but a
    "reminder" since the location of the writing would not warn customers of
    the hazard.

    The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages. This amount
    was reduced to $160,000 because the jury found Liebeck 20 percent at
    fault in the spill. The jury also awarded Liebeck $2.7 million in
    punitive damages, which equals about two days of McDonalds' coffee
    sales.

    Post-verdict investigation found that the temperature of coffee at the
    local Albuquerque McDonalds had dropped to 158 degrees fahrenheit.

    The trial court subsequently reduced the punitive award to $480,000 --
    or three times compensatory damages -- even though the judge called
    McDonalds' conduct reckless, callous and willful.

    No one will ever know the final ending to this case.

    The parties eventually entered into a secret settlement which has never
    been revealed to the public, despite the fact that this was a public
    case, litigated in public and subjected to extensive media reporting.
    Such secret settlements, after public trials, should not be condoned.
    -----
    excerpted from ATLA fact sheet. ©1995, 1996 by Consumer Attorneys of
    California

  4. #4
    Good job on doing your research, Joshua. I have argued that the cases that make it to the media are slanted and twisted into hyperbole for talk radio fodder. The actuial facts in so many of these cases are never disclosed properly, so in many cases there is something that is missing that would explain the damage award's propriety.

    In other situations, such as the cigar story- you know, person insures cigars against fire, smokes them and gets the insurance claim only to be counter sued for arson- the story is urban legend.

    Think before you read or speak ill of anything is Joshua's point, I would assume.

    "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked..."
    - Allen Ginsburg

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