30 Jun 1997 Legal Brief: Mental Health Standards a Stress; Milk-A-Lawsuit; Attorney Calls for “Revolution” in the Legal Profession; Tort D’Jour
Mental Health Standards a Stress
Investor’s Business Daily reports that although most courts are keeping high standards in lawsuits against employees by workers claiming to be mentally ill, there still are some bizarre claims to consider:
1) A customer service representative was hired to handle the telephone in an eye-care products firm and sued his employer when he felt too stressed to answer the phones.
2) A waitress in Alabama claims she suffered public attacks because she couldn’t cope with the restaurant’s crowds (her suit was thrown out of court).
The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission has been swamped with disability-related complaints, ranging from stress to schizophrenia. One problem is that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to consider an employee’s “special needs” — a nebulous term ripe for misinterpretation and exploitation.
This time it’s a milk drinker filing a lawsuit against the dairy industry because he says his lifetime of milk drinking clogged his arteries. The Houston Chronicle reports on June 10 that Norman Mayo, 61, believes milk should have a warning label similar to those on cigarettes because “it is just as dangerous as tobacco.”
Even the wholesome dairy industry is not immune to people looking for some deep pockets to dig into as they try to find a, dare we say, a new “cash cow.”
Attorney Calls for “Revolution” in the Legal Profession
Recognizing that lawyers have an uphill battle in restoring the public’s faith in their ethics and standards, San Francisco attorney Harrison Sheppard suggests in the San Francisco Chronicle on June 4 that a revolution is needed in the profession, one where “peacemaking, not adversarial skills must be emphasized.” Legal training and practice focused on conciliation instead of attack would be a refreshing change and is fundamental if our society expects to reverse the aggressive style so routinely employed today, Sheppard says.
Sheppard allows that it would be a challenge for lawyers to “think, and to act, as peacemakers first, peacemakers second, peacemakers third, and as warriors only in the very last resort,” but he believes its vital that they do so. “Ancient and modern history show,” he says, “that when conflict among sharply differing factions in democratic societies grows, and legal institutions become inadequate to resolve them peacefully, the result is either authoritarian government or mob rule. American democracy may survive and prosper in the 21st century only if we lawyers learn to do more than ever before to help harmonize our miraculous American diversity.”
Once again, thanks to Ann Landers for providing another laugh for her millions of readers as they enjoy their morning coffee. This time, a California resident offered a story about a group of four robbers who entered a Hayward, California bar brandishing weapons, hassled the patrons and robbed the establishment. After police shot and wounded one of the gunmen, two others ran back into the bar to take some hostages. One of the masked gunmen was stabbed with a pocket knife by his hostage and was killed when the knife hit an artery.
A typical cops and robbers story… until you hear the punch line: the family of the dead robber later sued the bar claiming it did not provide a “safe environment” for the thief.*