A Lawsuit… Or A House of Cards?

Issue Sixteen
February 12, 1999
The National Center for Public Policy Research
Amy Moritz Ridenour, President
20 F Street NW, Suite 700 , Washington, D.C. 20001
Phone (202) 507-6398
Fax (301) 498-1301
[email protected]

http://www.nationalcenter.orgContents:* A Lawsuit… Or A House of Cards?
* Americans May Not Trust Lawyers… But TV Certainly Does
* Department of Justice Spends Up to $60 Million on One Lawsuit
* Tort D’Jour: This is a Case for the Birds… and the Bees
A Lawsuit… Or A House of Cards?The February 1 Ottawa Citizen highlights another case of brave trial lawyers bringing a dangerous industry to heel: In this case, the National Hockey League and the NHL Players Association.

It seems that the outlaw hockey industry was involved when equally notorious trading card companies placed more valuable trading cards randomly into trading card packages.

Lawyers filing the suit claim the varied value of cards in card packages promotes gambling among children.

The lawsuit was filed in California by the U.S.’s largest class-action firm, which previously had filed a class action suit against RJ Reynolds, claiming that the Joe Camel character was aimed at children. Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA and the Walt Disney Company were also named as defendants in the suit.

In other suits, filed last year, the card companies themselves were targeted.

Says the Ottawa Citizen: “If the legal action sounds farfetched, it does not really matter. In the lucrative business of class action lawsuits, often it is enough to mount a plausible case in the hopes of winning out-of-court settlements from defendants who don’t want to risk a judgement or who’d rather avoid a long and expensive legal battle.”

Ironically, Columbia University Law Professor John Coffee told the paper, it is the law firms themselves who are actually engaging in gambling. They do so, he says, by financing lawsuits themselves in the narrow hope of scoring a large settlement or award.

Americans May Not Trust Lawyers… But TV Certainly DoesIf Americans don’t like lawyers, and they say they don’t, they aren’t getting these ideas from television.

According to a January 1999 report from the Media Research Center, TV portrays lawyers as very upstanding citizens. Lawyer characters committed only 1% of TV crimes, compared with businessmen (29.2%), career criminals (9.7%), doctors (4.1%), government officials (3.9%), police officers (3.5%), soldiers (2.1%), blue collar workers (1.8%), and teachers (1.2%). Even scientists are portrayed as less ethical than lawyers (1.4%).

Department of Justice Spends Up to $60 Million on One LawsuitCitizens Against Government Waste, the anti-pork government watchdog group, released a report February 9 estimating that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has spent up to $60 million in taxpayer dollars in its antitrust case against Microsoft. That’s half as much again as Ken Starr’s critics say he’s spent.

On January the President announced that DOJ will sue tobacco companies, despite DOJ’s announcements last year that it has no grounds for doing so. It’s anyone’s guess how much that suit will cost.

Tort D’JourTort D’Jour: This is a Case for the Birds… and the BeesFrom the February 3 Albuquerque Journal comes the ridiculous case of a man who had sex with his girlfriend and then sued her, claiming that the girlfriend “stole his semen and converted it to her own use without his permission” because she became pregnant.

The lawsuit by Peter Wallis against Kellie Smith alleged fraud, breach of contract and “conversion of property” — Wallis’ semen.

Plaintiff Wallis’ lawyer claimed that Wallis’ semen was merely “loaned” to the defendant, prompting the defendant’s lawyer to ask: “What were the terms of the loan? What were the interest rates?”

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.