Monday, January 27, 2014

Spotlight on Frivolous Lawsuits

I have previously expressed the opinion in this blog that frivolous lawsuits are good for America. Others may have different opinions. In recognizing that frivolous lawsuits exist, I am by no means buying into the industry-fueled tort reform propaganda that the nation is somehow awash with frivolous lawsuits that cost taxpayers billions of dollars. But, I am recognizing reality.  These lawsuits exist.  They are usually filed pro se.  They are usually filed by people with apparent mental illness. They are summarily dismissed from the court system at the earliest possible review by a judge. Yet, the media reports on these lawsuits as if they were representative of the state of the civil justice system and attract the attention of judicial resources in the same degree as legitimate claims. Certainly the media can claim to be "just reporting the facts." But misrepresentation by omission is just as harmful to legal legitimacy as intentional falsehoods. The experience of the reporting on the McDonald's Coffee Case should have taught us something as a society. It takes an educated and  knowledgeable reader to draw the proper conclusions from the facts reported.

UConn is promoting "Business Literacy" as a point of emphasis in our courses.  I think one of the principal contributions that a Legal Environment course can make toward that end is to produce students who can read through sensational reporting of civil justice issues to discover the real impact of what is reported.

See similar posts, here and here.

So, that brings us to the frivolous lawsuit du jour.  The Oregonian reports:

A 26-year-old Portland pimp has filed a $100 million lawsuit against Nike, claiming the shoe manufacturer is partially responsible for a brutal beating that helped net him a 100-year prison sentence.
Sirgiorgiro Clardy claims Nike should have placed a label in his Jordan shoes warning consumers that they could be used as a dangerous weapon. He was wearing a pair when he repeatedly stomped the face of a john who was trying to leave a Portland hotel without paying Clardy's prostitute in June 2012.

Pro Se?
In his three-page complaint handwritten from the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton, Clardy claims that Nike, Chairman Phil Knight and other executives failed to warn consumers that the shoes could be used as a weapon to cause serious injury or death.

Mental Illness?
A psychologist declared him an anti-social psychopath who was 100 percent likely to commit violent crimes again. And Clardy disagreed so loudly -- making such a scene -- that he was removed from the courtroom.

Costing taxpayers millions of dollars?
In the coming days, the suit will be served to Nike, which will then have an opportunity to respond.

In this case, all the facts are there.  But our students need to able to understand the legal and social implications of the facts.

On the other hand, the 1:30 second news report below from Bloomberg 8 fails to include the "pro se" fact or the likely mental illness. It also mis-characterizes the civil suit as a defense in his criminal case.

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