June 19, 2007

Anyway, I Had Some…

…rather involved pro bono work over the last few days that demanded more time than I’d bargained for, I hope no more of that occurs for some time. Now I can hopefully get back to the business of posting.

On reading Monday’s Jewish World Review, I ran into a few columns that really highlighted the idiocy epidemic that has apparently descended on America and the world.

On the domestic front, Jeff Jacoby definitely rang the bell on the topic of frivolous lawsuits and the consequences of same, citing that most famous of ongoing cases in point, Pearson versus the dry cleaners.

As everyone this side of Mazar-e-Sharif must know by now, Pearson is the administrative law judge in Washington, D.C., who in 2005 sued his dry cleaners for $65 million over a missing pair of pants. He later reduced his claim to $54 million, and the case was tried in D.C. Superior Court last week.


But Pearson’s ludicrous lawsuit, and the legal system’s willingness to indulge it, is no joke to Jin and Soo Chung, the owners of Custom Dry Cleaning. The legal bills they have incurred in fighting this lawsuit have wiped out their family’s savings. Three times they have offered Pearson a settlement, most recently for $12,000. Three times Pearson has refused.

This Pearson critter is a real piece of work.

Lawsuits cost Americans hundreds of billions of dollars each year. Legal fear — the fear of being sued, and the lengths to which US businesses, institutions, and municipalities go to avoid legal risk — makes life more expensive, more frustrating, and less free for all of us. “I think we may class the lawyer in the natural history of monsters,” John Keats wrote. But that was in 1819. Imagine what he would have said if he had met Roy Pearson.

A number of years ago, I was a member of a casino security department. About half of our job had to do with the sort of stuff one might expect a security department in a casino to take care of. The other half was protecting the business from fraudulent, frivolous and overstated lawsuits. As one of the several investigators found on each shift, while I handled the usual suspects like embezzlement, pilferage, theft from customers and such, the majority of my work dealt with investigating any incident that might, no matter how slim the odds, lead to a lawsuit.

Unfortunately, too few businesses do this. Someone has a mishap and sues them, and the defendant has no documentation or properly processed physical evidence to bring to court to refute whatever tale the plaintiff has to tell.

When someone sued us, it was another story entirely. There were often weeks when I logged as many as 40 hours in overtime just writing reports. They contained pages of mounted, labeled photos I’d taken, chain-of-custody-of-evidence documents, witness statements, diagrams, refusal of care and release of liability forms, numerous pages of my own written observations, adendums directing our attorneys to videotapes, etc, etc. Between three shifts, there were about a dozen of us doing the same thing. Whew!

As a security shift supervisor, I had to attend management seminars on PC techniques for conducting job interviews, which included acting them out. It was fun “interviewing” the senior casino shift manager, we had some great laughs. We learned that on an application, the best way to protect yourself against discrimination lawsuits is to avoid asking any questions about age, gender or personal limitations or impairments (the best they could offer was “is there any reason you don’t feel you can fulfill the job requirements as they have been explained to you?”)

“Impaired” is a word with many applications.

Some bonehead gets falling down drunk while out drinking and gambling by himself and goes flying down an escalator, a crash & burn, perhaps a 7 on a scale of 10. He’s not drunk, he’s impaired.

In court, you take the stand. You can’t say he was intoxicated, drunk or even, believe it or not, shitfaced. If you even hint that you believe he had somehow succumbed to the effects of an alcoholic beverage or ten, his lawyer will immediately demand to inspect the medical credentials that qualify you to render such an opinion. This will provide him with license to diddle with the rest of your testimony.

You have to say what you had to write in your report: The subject’s words were slurry and there was an odor that smelled like alcohol on his breath.

It can all be pretty tedious, and we have six digits’ worth of parasites with Law degrees to thank for that.

Sexual harrassment was another issue. Any charges of same had to be dealt with by whichever security supervisor had the watch when the report arrived.

Luckily, I was a member of the in-house old boy network, which spanned all departments and always got all the scuttlebutt in a timely fashion. I headed off a lot of problems like that before they became official, and as such knew when a BS case came in. Those got,

“On 9 Nov 94 at approximately 1940 hours, such-&-such restaurant waitress so-and-so came to the security office and filed a sexual harrassment complaint against food runner so-and-so… Statements by Ms X and Mr Y are attached.” And that’s what I sent upstairs.

“Seth, where’s the rest of your investigation?”

“That’s it. Maria’s pregnant and claims it’s Hector’s. Hector says it isn’t. Maria has a highly active and diverse night life. Hector refuses to shack up and take responsibility for the baby. That’s gospel, but I’m not putting it in writing. Maria’s trying to punish Hector. Deal with it.”

We once had a woman in the security dept who got “injured” her first day on the job and “held the casino hostage” for nearly a year with one litigious issue after another. She got two pit bosses, both of whom were good friends of mine, in major trouble via BS. We finally found out that she was a doper and found a legal way to dump her.

To cut to the chase, we saved the casino several million dollars a year in greed motivated lawsuits.

Yes, we do have a problem in this country that revolves around parasitic trial lawyers. They cost companies precautionary funds that might otherwise create employment, impose budgets that detract from spending on company business.

Luckily for trial lawyers in general, I’m not ruling America. If I were, those cockroaches would all be taken out and slowly drowned.

by @ 1:22 am. Filed under Legal Eagles
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3 Responses to “Anyway, I Had Some…”

  1. Ken Taylor Says:

    It’s not just trial lawyers. Remember ambulance chasers like John Edwards and Weezles like Mike Nyfong fit into this category also! By the way based on what I read above, you got my vote!

  2. Shoprat Says:

    And the likes of Ted Kennedy complain about tort reform, claiming it hurts the little guy. We need a way to discipline such lawyers and make ridiculous law suits hurt the plaintiff worse than the defendant. Could they counter-sue for frivolous lawsuit? If not they need to be able to.

  3. Seth Says:

    Ken –

    As crime in many neighborhoods causes people to live in fear, the wanton nature of these greedy lawyers and their clients (scum who would rather cheat money out of others than work for it themselves) has created a fear of lawsuits. Seems like gang bangers and “officers of the court” have a lot in common.

    Shoprat –

    You can sue for anything (winning is another story), so it seems to me that suing someone for the legal fees one has incurred because of their frivolous lawsuit should be completely acceptable.

    If it were up to me, the minute someone like Pearson lost his idiotic suit, the judge would require him to reimburse the defendants for every dime they’d paid their attorneys and add on maybe $20,000.00 for their trouble.