Appellate Court Goes Bananas!: Banana Lady "Slips" In Credit Union Lawsuit
Our students in the Legal Environment of Business courses often ask us if there is any control to what appears to be frivolous, abusive litigation against individuals and firms, often merely to simply try and pressure money settlements to avoid the expensive legal fees involved in litigation. Every now and then, a litigant crosses the line such that a court rises to protect the integrity of the judicial process and halt for that moment abuses of the system. Such was the case this week from the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in the matter of Conrad (aka “Banana Lady’) v. AM Community Credit Union (Case No. 13-2899, April 14, 2014. Click here for the link to the story as reported by the Chicago Sun-News with link to the opinion by the Chief Judge, Richard Posner.
The “Banana Lady” represents an extreme example of abuse of the judicial system that not only was costly to defendants but in clogging the courts and impeding the effectiveness of the judicial system. It also points out the growing intolerance of Federal courts to questionable if not de minimus attempts to improperly use intellectual property law (in this case copyrights) as a tool to bully questionable settlement payments rather than protect legitimate intellectual property values. This case can be used in classes to emphasize both points and the costs to business of succumbing to settlements that encourage simply more litigation.
In the case of the “Banana Lady,” the Court of Appeals signals its intolerance and opinion (complete with pictures) that such suits will receive from the court the old song, Yes, We Have No Bananas and intolerance for like frivolous and vexatious lawsuit behavior in the future. Those who try in the future will find Federal judges….well… .going bananas!
Editor's Note: I have previously expressed the opinion that "frivolous lawsuits" typically share 3 common characteristics: 1) They are filed without the aid of counsel, 2) there is likely some level of mental illness exhibited by the Plaintiff, and 3) they are flushed out of the system without causing millions of dollars in taxpayer and/or defense expenses.
With respect to the "Banana Lady" case:
1. From Judge Posner's decision: "Proceeding pro se, Conrad has sued several credit unions in this case."
2. From the Chicago Sun-News Article: Banana Lady . . . has a history of making wild claims in her court filings, including comparing her legal opponents to the Unabomber and alleging that they hung out at the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port, Mass.
3. From Judge Posner's decision: The district judge granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the case.
Although the case did go on appeal to the Court of Appeals, it still was disposed of in a reasonably expeditious fashion without closing the courthouse doors to people who believe they have legitimate grievances. Frivolous lawsuits do have the effect of ameliorating what might otherwise become dangerous expressions of rage and frustration. Given the plaintiff's history in this case, Judge Posner's orders are absolutely justified.
Banana Boat Song: