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The Rogak Report: April Fool's Edition

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    Dear Readers: Traditionally, for my April 1 Rogak Report each year, I make up wacky lawsuit stories. The problem is, many real lawsuits are so wacky that it
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2004
      Dear Readers:

      Traditionally, for my April 1 Rogak Report each year, I make up wacky
      lawsuit stories. The problem is, many real lawsuits are so wacky
      that it has been hard for readers to tell that I made them up. So
      this year, I am reporting some REAL bizarre and outrageous lawsuit
      stories. According to my sources, these are all true. Enjoy.

      Larry Rogak
      Bird Brained Lawsuit

      They say that birds of a feather flock together. That may be true,
      but at least a Florida judge has pooh-poohed a man's attempt to hold
      his bird-friendly neighbors responsible for excessive droppings in
      his yard.

      After years of chasing birds out of his fruit garden and scraping
      droppings off his boat, Edward Renna filed a bird brain small claims
      lawsuit against his neighbors, Marian and Chuck Butler, who
      reportedly feed neighborhood birds with 40 pounds of seeds each week.

      Renna, a contractor, asked the judge for an injunction to prevent the
      Butlers from feeding the birds. Oh, by the way, he also sought $5,000
      in damages to his fruit trees, boat and dock, as well as the mental
      anguish he purportedly suffered scooping poop.

      Apparently, he did not meet the "bird-en" of proof.

      While Hernando County Judge Peyton Hyslop did acknowledge that the
      Butlers' ample bird feedings likely contributed to Renna's poop
      problem, he said Renna did not prove that the Butlers were the sole
      source of the problem.

      Hyslop declined to award damages and ordered each side to pay its own
      court costs.

      Source: Court TV, "Man sues neighbors for feeding birds," February
      13, 2004.

      Airline Ruled Liable for Distress on Turbulent Flight

      When an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to New York
      encountered severe turbulence in 1995, terrified passengers were
      hurled from their seats, and some were sure they were about to die.
      Those 28 seconds of terror were worth $2 million.

      The jury in the lawsuit ruled that the airline was responsible for
      the psychological impact of the twenty eight seconds of terror.

      One of the lawyers for the passengers said the damages were the
      highest ever awarded by a jury for purely emotional rather than
      physical injuries in a lawsuit over airline turbulence.

      Evidence presented at trial showed that the aircraft was flying at
      about 37,000 feet about 25 miles west of Minneapolis when it
      encountered a severe thunderstorm. The seatbelt sign was off.

      Passengers who were not wearing seatbelts were thrust from their
      seats, and the plane was forced to make an emergency landing in
      Chicago. The suit contended that American had ample warning of the
      storm but failed to turn on the seatbelt sign.

      Although the turbulence lasted no more than twenty eight seconds (the
      airline contended it was in fact much shorter than that) the
      passengers made it sound as if they felt it would never end. Garry
      Bonner of Hackensack, N.J., a singer who was a co-writer of "Happy
      Together" for the Turtles, testified that the plane rose and fell
      repeatedly, and then made a dive, as if it had lost power and was
      falling out of the sky. "Everybody started gasping for breath," he
      said. "I could hear everybody gasping."

      Now $2 million richer, maybe they're all happy together once again.

      Source: The New York Times

      Angry Anna Fans Sue Penthouse for $8.99.

      Two Chicago attorneys have filed a class action lawsuit against
      Penthouse magazine, saying their two clients shelled out $8.99 each
      for a copy of the magazine to see tennis sensation Anna Kournikova
      without her racket and tennis outfit. Don't these lawyers have
      anything better to do with their time than to sue over eight dollars
      and ninety nine cents? And a class action lawsuit to boot?

      Allegedly, the plaintiffs were "distressed" to find out the naked
      woman was not Kournikova and they each want their money back.

      Critics of the burgeoning class action law practice say lawsuits like
      these routinely offer chump change for the plaintiffs but in many
      cases provide million-dollar bounties for their lawyers.

      The two Chicago attorneys who filed the suit are Aron D. Robinson and
      Boris Parad. Their clients, Vadim Levin and Alex Sheyngis, are of
      Russian descent and according to the lawsuit, bought copies of the
      magazine hoping to see more of their fellow countrywoman.

      As early as April 26, Kournikova had warned Penthouse that the photos
      taken by a jewelry salesman of a naked woman on a Florida beach were
      not her. But the magazine went ahead with a campaign hyping the issue
      and printing 1.2 million copies of the magazine, double the usual
      run, the lawsuit states.

      "The sales and circulation of Penthouse magazine have been
      diminishing," the suit states. "At its peak, circulation was
      approximately 5 million a month. More recently, circulation has
      declined to about 650,000 per month."

      Penthouse went ahead with distributing the magazines until Kournikova
      and the woman actually photographed, Judith Soltesz-Benetton,
      daughter-in-law of fashion designer Luciano Benetton, both sued.
      Penthouse reportedly settled out of court with both women, issued
      apologies and destroyed what few copies of the magazine that had not
      been sold.

      The suit filed was filed in the class action hotbed of America -- in
      Cook County Circuit Court. The lawsuit seeks damages for the deceived
      customers and, of course, attorneys' fees.

      Source: Chicago Sun-Times

      Baseball, Apple Pie and ... Lawsuits?

      For a youth league baseball coach, what could be worse than going 0-
      15? Ask Rodney Carroll.

      Soon after Carroll guided the Brunswick (Ohio) Cobras to a winless
      season in 1999, a summons arrived, informing him that he was being
      sued for $2,000 by the father of his catcher.

      The complaint? Poor coaching. Carroll's incompetence, the lawsuit
      claimed, cost the team a trip to a tournament in Florida.

      "I didn't understand it," says Carroll, 43, a street-maintenance
      worker who had volunteered for two years. "I wanted to be a coach
      just to help kids."


      A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On

      A Florida woman, who was taken off an airplane in Dallas and asked to
      pull a vibrating sex toy out of one of her checked bags, has sued
      Delta Airlines citing public humiliation. The woman, who was already
      on board awaiting takeoff with her husband, had her name called over
      the airplane's PA system and was then asked to walk with airport
      officials down to the tarmac.

      When advised by a security agent that something was vibrating in one
      of her bags, she told the agent that it was an "adult toy" that she
      and her husband had purchased on a trip to Las Vegas. Unlike most
      toys, I guess batteries were included in the purchase.

      She claims that she was forced to open her bag and take the vibrating
      toy out of the luggage – and here's the humiliation part of the
      lawsuit – she had to hold it up for visible viewing. She was then
      allowed to repack and return to her seat for the flight back to

      The lawsuit alleges that passengers on the side of the plane facing
      the unveiling of the out of control "toy" saw everything (gasp!!!!!)
      and that three male Delta employees "began laughing hysterically" and
      made "obnoxious and sexually harassing comments."

      The woman told a newspaper that she didn't want to be embarrassed any
      more than she already had been … then promptly filed the lawsuit –
      which promptly made her the butt of talk show hosts' jokes around the

      (The Dallas Morning News – July 28, 2002)

      'Jackass' Sued by a Real Jack Ass.

      A Montana man has sued media giant Viacom, saying the MTV
      show "Jackass" plagiarized his name, infringed on the trademark and
      copyright o his name and defamed his good character.

      The plaintiff's name is Jack Ass. That's right, that is now his legal
      name. He changed his name from Bob Craft to Jack Ass in 1997, he
      says, in order to raise awareness about the dangers of drunken

      "Jackass," which premiered on MTV in 2000, features a group of guys
      performing ludicrous and sometimes dangerous stunts. It was made into
      a movie in 2002.

      In the suit against Viacom, which owns MTV, Jack Ass claims the
      conglomerate "is liable for injury to my reputation that I have built
      and defamation of my character which I have worked so hard to

      This Jack Ass, not to be confused with the TV version, says he
      changed his name after his brother and a friend were killed in a
      single-vehicle car accident several years ago. He now works to
      promote responsible choices and designated-driver programs.

      He claims that "Jackass" committed "trademark and copyright
      infringement on my legal name" and on a cartoon character, called
      Andi Ass, that he created to help spread his message.

      He's seeking at least $10 million in damages.

      Source: CNN.com

      2-4-6-8, Who Do We Appreciate?

      Two high school baton twirlers, who were cut from the majorettes
      program at North Haven High in Connecticut, haved filed a lawsuit
      suing the coach, the athletic director and the high school principal,
      claiming the majorette coach violated their civil rights by cutting
      them from the team without just cause.

      The mothers of the twirlers hired a lawyer to argue that, under the
      14th Amendment, being a majorette is a noncompetitive activity that
      shouldn't exclude anyone. "We're just protecting our rights," said
      one of the mothers.

      U.S. District Judge Alfred Covello let the principal off the hook,
      saying she was not properly notified of the lawsuit. The case is now
      proceeding against the coach and the athletic director.

      The mothers say they do not want money or any other kind of
      compensation besides restoring the girls on the team. "Just treat
      them fairly," said Dolores Tata, one of the mothers involved.

      But the girls have no case, argues Robert Rhodes, a Halloran & Sage
      attorney representing the defendants. The girls tried out and didn't
      make the squad because they simply weren't good enough, he
      says. "This lawsuit is nothing more than legal blackmail," Rhodes

      The road from high school gym to federal courtroom is marked with all
      the signposts of teen-age pettiness. As a freshman, one of the girls,
      Rebecca Mickolyczk, says she saw the majorettes on the football field
      and decided to try out. "It grabbed our attention," adds the other
      girl involved, Stephanie Tata.

      They made the team for their sophomore year. According to the girls,
      they had an understanding that once they made the majorette squad,
      they were on for good, and would not have to try out for the rest of
      their high school career.

      When it came time for tryouts again their junior year, the coach
      informed the team that everyone would have to audition, including the
      kids already on the squad. The girls agreed, fully confident they
      would make the team again. But when the list was posted, they found
      out they were wrong.

      They got cut from the squad, even though both girls say they were
      just as good at twirling -- if not better -- than the rest of the

      Their mothers met with the school athletic director, who informed
      them that the girls were cut because of safety reasons -- the coach
      did not want more than 16 girls on the squad, due to the dangers of
      careening batons on a gym floor.

      But that's not what Tata and Mickolyczk think. In their lawsuit, they
      say the coach cut them at the bidding of the clique of girls they
      didn't get along with.

      "[The coach] changed the manner of selecting team members for the
      purpose of eliminating team members who were unpopular with their
      classmates or who had otherwise fallen into disfavor with the team's
      captain's and leaders..." the lawsuit says. "In fact, [the coach's]
      true motive and intent were to remove [Tata and Mickolyczk] from the
      team as part of a malicious and bad faith effort to injure [the
      girls] by removing [them] from the team."

      Majorettes is not a competitive sport like basketball, Dolores Tata
      says, so the girls shouldn't be subjected to the same standards.

      The idea that the coach cut the girls to appease others on the team
      has no merit, Rhodes says. The team had more girls than they could
      handle and had to let some go. At the tryouts, the coach kept
      detailed score sheets on each majorette, the lawyer says, and Tata
      and Mickolyczk just couldn't cut it.

      "This version of events is proposed by a couple of high school kids
      who have to have a reason why they were cut from the team," Rhodes
      says. "It can't be because they're not good enough."

      Dolores Tata and Kathi Mickolyczek say they simply would like to
      settle the case and have their daughters reinstated. But Rhodes says
      his clients have no interest in settling, because they don't think
      they did anything wrong. Besides, if they settle, Rhodes says it
      could open the floodgates for other lawsuits -- every time a kid gets
      cut from a sport, their parents might go to court.

      A Big Fax Boo Boo

      It looks like a Hooters restaurant located in Augusta, GA, has
      gone "bust", having recently filed for bankruptcy protection in the
      wake of a $12 million judgment entered against it in a class action

      The class action lawsuit centered around a third party, hired by
      Hooters, that sent out unsolicited fax advertisements to hundreds of
      folks. Lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the 1,321
      recipients, each of whom received six fax advertisements from Hooters.

      Hooters initially tried to have the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds
      that it was the third party, not Hooters, who actually sent the
      facsimile transmissions, and that the law prohibits only interstate
      transmissions, not transmissions within a single state, as occurred
      in Hooters' case.

      A Georgia appeals court rejected these arguments, as have other
      courts, paving the way for trial, where a jury ultimately held that
      Hooters violated the law. The plaintiffs opted to receive statutory
      damages, which amounted to $4 million.

      Because the jury also found that Hooters had knowingly violated the
      law, the judge had discretion to triple this amount, and did so --
      pushing the total to $12 million. While each plaintiff in the lawsuit
      will receive about $6,000 for those pesky six faxes received, the
      lawyers will rack up over $4 million in fees.

      A Jarring Experience.

      A West Virginia convenience store worker was awarded a whopping
      $2,699,000 in punitive damages after she injured her back opening a
      pickle jar, this according to a report in the Charleston Daily Mail.

      The 'injured' worker also received $130,066 in compensation and
      $170,000 for emotional distress.

      A State Supreme Court Justice, Spike Maynard, called this award
      an "outrageous sum." In his dissenting opinion, he wrote, "I know an
      excessive punitive damages award when I see one, and I see one here."

      The court, however, upheld most of the punitive damages. Net result:
      $2.2 million.

      A Little Too Much Booty.

      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.

      Gambler Says Casinos Allowed Him to Lose a Million While Drunk

      A California man is suing the Las Vegas Hilton and Mandalay Bay Hotel
      and Casino, claiming the casinos were negligent in allowing him to
      gamble away more than $1 million while he was intoxicated.

      According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court, executives of
      the Las Vegas Hilton and Mandalay Bay supposedly knew Stephen Roel
      was drunk as a skunk and yet extended him hundreds of thousands of
      dollars in credit anyway.

      Roel claims in his suit that he had been a customer of the Hilton for
      more than 15 years in September 1999 when he made arrangements for a
      weekend at the casino.

      Among other odds and ends, the lawsuit states the following:

      In exchange for his gambling at the casino, Hilton executives agreed
      to pay for his roundtrip flight from San Diego, his lodging, food and

      Roel, who was known to be a skilled and knowledgeable player, had a
      $50,000 credit line at the casino, which he rarely went over,

      However, on the weekend of Sept. 29-30, Roel was drinking heavily and
      betting "irrationally and erratically" from the time he walked in the
      door with $117,000 and dumped it all on a blackjack table,

      Despite the fact that executives should have known or knew Roel was
      drunk, they extended him a credit line of about $840,000, and finally
      (big surprise),

      Hilton executives' behavior violated their own policy and the
      regulations of the Nevada Gaming Commission.

      According to the lawsuit, someone affliated with Mandalay Bay
      arranged for Roel to stay at that hotel-casino the same weekend. Once
      he was there, executives extended him a line of credit despite
      knowing he was drunk. That credit line was for more than $100,000,
      the lawsuit states.

      Mandalay Bay executives continued to extend Roel credit after his
      wife and sister flew in and asked them not to accept his bets, extend
      his credit line or serve him drinks, the lawsuit states.

      Roel, who entered a treatment center since that weekend, is seeking
      unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, recovery of the money
      he bet that weekend and forgiveness of the debts. He also wants the
      Hilton and the Mandalay Bay to be precluded from seeking criminal
      prosecution and from reporting him to TRW.

      Come on, Stephen, did you also stumble into the casino? And if you
      would have won a million dollars in your drunken stupor, would you
      have given it back? Fat chance.

      (Source: Article by Kim Smith of Rolling Good Times Online,

      A Whale of a Lawsuit.

      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

      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 -- just doesn't hold water, does it?

      (Source: San Antonio Express News)

      Birds of a Feather Sue Together.

      The California Supreme Court in August of 2002 made it more difficult
      for bystanders to sue physicians for emotional distress.

      The case, Bird v. Saenz, stemmed from a Nov. 30, 1994, incident in
      Los Angeles County hospital.

      On that day, Janice Bird, the adult daughter of Nita Bird, brought
      her mother to the hospital for outpatient surgery.

      About an hour to 90 minutes into the surgery, something went wrong
      with the procedure. About that same time, one of Bird's sisters
      arrived at the hospital. The two daughters then witnessed doctors
      rushing their mother to emergency surgery.

      According to court papers, Janice Bird saw her mother "being rushed
      down the hallway." Nita Bird was bright blue and her bed was on an
      angle so that her head was almost touching the ground.

      The daughters sued, NOT for malpractice, but because they had to
      witness the incident. These women sued the doctors and the hospital --
      the same doctors who were rushing to assist their mother -- for
      causing emotional distress to THEM.

      The case went all the way to the California Supreme Court, where the
      court ruled against the girls.

      Source: AmedNews.com, Septemeber 2, 2002, "Women 'distressed' by
      seeing doctors rush to help mom."

      Busted Up Side the Head

      Bennie Casson filed a lawsuit in Belleville, Ill., against PT's Show
      Club for its negligence in allowing a stripper to "slam" her breasts
      into his "neck and head region" as he watched her, a little too close
      to the stage.

      Casson claims in his lawsuit that dancer Susan Sykes (aka "Busty
      Heart"), who claims to have show business's biggest chest at 88
      inches, gave him a "bruised, contused, lacerated" neck.

      Carson has filed suit claiming that the "gifted" performer slammed
      her breasts into his head and neck, causing "emotional distress,
      mental anguish and indignity."

      The $200,000 lawsuit states that Carson was "bruised, contused,
      lacerated and made sore" by Heart's breasts, which reportedly weigh
      in at 40 pounds apiece.

      Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

      Couple Seeks $5Million for Lost Cat

      According to an Associated Press news story, a couple has sued Air
      Canada for $5 million, claiming the airline lost their tabby cat
      during a flight from Canada to California.

      Andrew Wysotski and Lori Learmont, formerly of Oshawa, Ont., traveled
      to San Francisco with their 15-year-old cat, Fu, and four other cats
      last August.

      They claim Air Canada, its cargo-handling company and San Francisco
      International Airport personnel, are guilty of negligence, negligent
      infliction of emotional distress, fraud and false advertising.

      "It's not about the money," Wysotski said. "It's more the attention
      to the problem than the money."

      Ever noticed when people sue for megamillions, it's never about the

      Doughnut Lawsuit Results in a Big Doughnut for the Driver

      A former Houston ambulance driver, who was given the heave ho after
      he stopped for doughnuts while transporting a patient to Ben Taub
      Hospital, filed a lawsuit against the city for intentional infliction
      of emotional distress.

      The driver, Larry Wesley, claimed that had he been white rather than
      black he would not have been disciplined so severely.

      Thankfully, the federal judge overseeing the ridiculous lawsuit has
      dismissed all of Mr. Wesley's discrimination and equal-protection

      Wesley, who is black, alleged that he was treated unfairly because of
      his race. In his lawsuit, Wesley claimed EMS drivers of other races
      caught making unscheduled stops were not fired or were later

      Wesley's attorney said Mr. Wesley stopped for juice and a doughnut
      because he was not feeling well. Well how about the patient in the
      back of the ambulance there, Larry?

      Wesley stopped for doughnuts in July 2000 while he was taking an
      injured youth to Ben Taub Hospital. The boy's mother filed a
      complaint that led then Fire Chief Lester Tyra to fire Wesley, a 20-
      year veteran.

      Source: The Houston Chronicle.

      Down and Dirty Dancing

      A strip club in Vancouver, Canada has been sued by a man who is
      claiming he was injured by a "reckless" exotic dancer who kicked him
      in the head.

      The aggrieved party, Greg Bonnett, is seeking unspecified damages
      from the Barnet Motor Inn, claiming the club failed to post
      appropriate signs warning the public of the risk of sitting too close
      to the stage.

      Bonnett was in the New Westminster club on Nov. 29, 2000 when a
      female dancer swung around a pole and kicked him, fracturing his
      nose, according to the lawsuit filed in British Columbia Supreme

      The man's lawsuit also seeks damages from the dancer, mysteriously
      identified only as "Jane Doe," for allegedly "dancing in a negligent
      and reckless manner."

      Hey sport, why not try out the Bob Uecker seats in the back row the
      next time?

      (Source: Reuters 11-29-01)
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