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

Judge’s Shaky Legal Theories Turn Constitution Upside Down
Sending aftershocks through the Southern California legal community, Judge Richard Hubbell of the Los Angeles Superior Court has made a series of shaky judicial moves.

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.

Trial Lawyers Swing for the Fences With Allegation that Baseball Cards are Dangerous to Kids
According to the August 11 San Diego Union Tribune, Los Angeles-based trial lawyer Henry Rossbacher has filed three class action lawsuits alleging that baseball card companies, by printing limited quantities of certain cards, are promoting gambling among children. Rossbacher says that by limiting the quantity of valuable “chase” cards, and by printing the odds of getting one of these cards on the outside of packs, card companies such as Upper Deck Co. and Pacific Trading Card Inc. have established the “functional equivalent of a lottery.” His lawsuit seeks damage awards for all kids who have been lured into buying cards in the past four years.

“It’s just like Joe Camel,” says Rossbacher, “They’re selling a dangerous product to kids.”

California Woman Sues, Saying Mail-Carrying Robot Went Postal
The Martinsburg (WV) Journal reports that a California woman has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, Pacific Bell, for injuries sustained from “Zippy,” the facility’s office mail delivering robot.

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…

Tort D’Jour
Last Call Leads to Lawsuit
A South Dakota woman’s fatal fall from a barstool has led to a $190,000 lawsuit. An Associated Press story, recounted in a recent Ann Landers column, centers around a 1995 incident where a Sioux Falls woman was fatally injured after she became drunk and fell off her barstool. The family of the deceased woman is suing the bar, claiming that the establishment is partially responsible because they continued to serve drinks to the woman after she was intoxicated.

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