Legal Brief: New Stella Awards Announced; It’s Always Someone Else’s Fault; A Health Care Crisis

New Stella Awards Announced
The new Stella Awards have been announced.

Randy Cassingham, creator of the annual Stella Awards for most ridiculous lawsuits of the year, has just announced his 2003 awardees.

#8 is Stephen Joseph of San Francisco, who earned national ridicule for annuncing a plan to sue Kraft for putting trans fats in Oreo cookies.

#7 is Shawn Perkins of Laurel, Indiana, who sued an amusement park for not warning him about the dangers of lightening when he was hit by lightening in the park’s parking lot.

#6 is Caesar Barber of New York City, who fruitlessly sued fast food restaurants so often for selling him fatty food that a judge barred him from filing again.

#5 is Cole Bartiromo of Mission Viejo, California, who was kicked off his high school baseball team after being accused of fraud. Bartiromo said he had planned on a pro baseball career and that being kicked off the high school team had ruined his pro opportunities.

#4 is Father David Hanser, who settled a sex abuse lawsuit with one of his victims and then violated its terms. When the victim complained, Hanser sued him for breaking the settlement’s confidentiality agreement.

#3 is Wanda Hudson of Mobile, Alabama, who was accidentally locked in a storage unit. Although the jury concluded the circumstances leading to the incident were nearly 100 percent Hudson’s fault, it still awarded her $100,000.

#2 is Doug Baker of Portland, Oregon, who sued a dog sitter for $160,000 after his dog escaped the sitter — even though the dog was recovered.

#1 and Winner: The City of Madera, California, which filed a lawsuit against the Taser corporation after police officer Marcy Noriega shot and kiled a suspect , thinking she was holding her Taser.

-by Amy Ridenour

Tort Du Jour: It’s Always Someone Else’s Fault
17-year-old Stephen Pappadake lost his life in April, 2003 when he lost control of his car while, according to police, doing 80 mph in a 30-mph zone and passing other cars illegally, including by crossing the double yellow line and moving into opposing traffic.

Some might think this is just another unfortunate case in which a teenager’s recklessness led to tragedy. But not everyone would agree.

Reports the Westchester Journal News about what happened next: “…a lawsuit filed this month in Putnam County Court seeks to place the blame for Pappadake’s death on the driver of one of the vehicles he passed. The suit, filed on behalf of Pappadake’s estate and his parents, Robert P. and Nancy Pappadake, names a Putnam Valley woman who allegedly drove a Jeep Cherokee that Pappadake passed as the cause of the fatal crash. The lawsuit, filed by attorney Mitchel H. Ashley of the Manhattan firm of Shandell, Blitz, Blitz and Bookson, makes no mention of the police finding that Pappadake was speeding and passing cars illegally before the fatal crash. Instead, it blames Putnam Valley residents Christina Swartzwelder, who was driving the Jeep, and John Swartzwelder, who owns it.”

According to the lawsuit, “The defendants were careless, negligent in the ownership, management, operation and control of their motor vehicle; in allowing and permitting the motor vehicle to be operated at a dangerous and excessive rate of speed under the circumstances.”

Furthermore, says the suit, Pappadake was not at fault.

Sources: “Fatal Crash Prompts Lawsuit,” Westchester NY Journal News, 2/1/04;, 2/4/04

Testimony: A Health Care Crisis
“The number 1 crisis in my state with regard to health care is medical lawsuit abuses.”

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