11 Sep 1998 Legal Brief: Judge’s Shaky Legal Theories Turn Constitution Upside Down; Trial Lawyers Swing for the Fences With Allegation that Baseball Cards are Dangerous to Kids; California Woman Sues, Saying Mail-Carrying Robot Went Postal; Last Call Leads to Lawsuit
The Los Angeles Times reported August 21 that in a recent “toxic tort,” Judge Hubbell abandoned objectivity, encouraging the jury to punish the defendants and “send a notice out to the world” with their punitive damages verdict. The jury returned a $760 million verdict.
The judge also turned the Constitution and legal procedure on its head when he instructed the jury that the defendants, rather than the plaintiffs, would have to bear the burden of proof in the trial, according to the September 4 San Francisco Recorder.
Judge Hubbell also suggested to defense lawyers that their clients could have warned plaintiffs of possible harmful effects of their chemicals with billboards posted in L.A. reading “Call 1-800 I’M TOXIC,” or by flying the Goodyear blimp overhead with a similar message.
“It’s just like Joe Camel,” says Rossbacher, “They’re selling a dangerous product to kids.”
Pamela Bachman alleges that on December 22, the day before her last day at work, the 500 pound self-propelled delivery droid “went out of control” when Bachman attempted to reach for some mail delivered by Zippy. When Bachman hit a switch to stop the robot, the suit alleges, the postal robot “began to move without warning and pinned Ms. Bachman against a filing cabinet or other furniture.” The suit seeks unspecified compensation for lost wages, medical bills and lost earning capacity
No word yet on whether Zippy was disgruntled at the time…