Legal Brief: Lions and Tigers and… Bolivians; Lawyers’ Latest Litigation Target is All Wet; Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room Leads to Lesson in the Courtroom; Lather, Rinse, Litigate

Lions and Tigers and… Bolivians
A Texas judge has delivered a sharp jab to the funny bone of the Republic of Bolivia after the Bolivian government filed suit against the U.S. tobacco industry in Brazoria County, Texas.

Last month, the Bolivian government filed suit seeking to recover health care costs it claims were incurred treating Bolivians suffering from tobacco-related illnesses.

In an strongly-worded order transferring the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Brazoria County Judge Samuel Kent questioned why the plaintiffs don’t “seem to have a court system their own government [has] confidence in” and why, “given the number of U.S. jurisdictions encompassing fascinating and exotic places the Republic of Bolivia [has] elected to file suit in the veritable hinterlands of Brazoria County.”

Judge Kent went on to dispute the motivation behind Bolivia’s filing in Brazoria County, seeing that there “isn’t even a Bolivian restaurant anywhere near” Brazoria County, let alone a real, “live Bolivian” — which the court seriously doubts residents of Brazoria County have ever seen — “even on the Discovery Channel.”

Lawyers’ Latest Litigation Target is All Wet
Now that the world is safe from smoking and shooting, what might be next on the endangered product list, courtesy of our nation’s avenging trial lawyers? The answer may be no further than your kitchen sink, says trial lawyer extraordinnaire Wendell Gauthier.

In a recent New York Times profile, Gauthier cited the next possible target of trial lawyers: “Have I thought about [other industries to sue] since we branched into guns? Yes. Are there other public issues that in my view merit this type of litigation? Water. We have a problem right now with chemicals that are flooding into the water supply and an industry that again just refuses to address the problem.”

Trial lawyers keeping our drinking water safe? Make mine straight up.

Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room Leads to Lesson in the Courtroom
A recent Associated Press story reports that a New York high school student is being sued by a teacher for smoking in the boys’ room.

Gary Phillips, a math teacher at Liverpool New York’s Liverpool High School, has filed suit against 11th grader Brian Parrillo for smoking in the high school’s bathroom. Phillips alleges that the cloud of smoke he encountered in the boys’ room left him with a sore throat, watery eyes and head congestion. Phillips is seeking $57 for a doctor’s visit and allergy medication he claims he needed after his run-in with the smoke-filled air, in addition to an unspecified amount of punitive damages.

“I was fed up with getting sick,” said Phillips, who says his real motivation in the case is to teach Parrillo a lesson. To that end, Phillips has indicated that any money he wins will go to charity, or to Parrillo’s father.

Tort D’Jour
Lather, Rinse, Litigate
The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports that, citing liability concerns, officials at the Town Center Club of Bonaventure and Century Village in Pembroke Pines, Florida have banned soap from their gym showers. “We do not provide soap in the showers because, God forbid, someone might slip,” explained Tony Gleeson, vice president of the clubhouse at Pembroke Pines.

The Bonaventure Town Center has already paid out $50,000 to settle just such a claim after a resident who slipped in the shower filed suit. Consequently, the clubhouse has removed all soap from its showers and is now posting signs warning bathers not to bring their own.

“What will be good is that we’ll document the people using soap so if they slip, they’ll know the warnings won’t look good in a jury’s eye,” said Bob Fedderwitz, club executive director.

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