Legally Speaking: Every rose has its legal thorns

John G. Browning Oct. 24, 2007, 4:43am

For most of us, the sight of a bouquet of flowers is a happy one, guaranteed to brighten our day. Ask certain individuals, however, and the idea of flowers conjures up only one image – the courtroom.

Leroy Greer is one such person. In April 2007, Mr. Greer sent the love of his life a dozen red roses, a stuffed animal, and a card that read: "Just wanted to say that I love you and you mean the world to me! Leroy."

Unfortunately, the love of his life and Mr. Greer's wife happen to be two different people.

A few weeks after Greer placed the order, Internet florist sent a discount coupon and a thank-you card to his home. His wife got the card and, puzzled, called the company to find out the specifics of the transaction. When she asked for a copy of the receipt, the florist faxed it to her; the receipt detailed the $100 cost of the order as well as the message on the card.

Not surprisingly, Mr. and Mrs. Greer wound up in divorce proceedings, with Mrs. Greer sending her cheating husband a copy of the receipt with a handwritten note on the bottom. It read "Be a man! If you got caught red-handed then don't still lie."

As it turns out, Mr. Greer has a lot to learn about being a man and accepting responsibility for his actions. Greer decided that it was's fault that he was getting divorced, and so he filed a lawsuit in August against the company in federal court in Houston, claiming that the Internet florist had breached its privacy policy and misrepresented that it would keep his indiscretion from third parties such as his wife.

Greer demanded $1 million in damages in his lawsuit for what he characterized as a breach of contract, deceptive trade practices, economic injury, and mental anguish. In true, "pot calling the kettle black" fashion, Mr. Greer – who broke his wedding vows to his wife – is upset that the flower company allegedly broke a promise to him.

But did they? According to's privacy policy, the company does not make a customer's e-mail address available to third parties without the customer's consent, and offers the customer the option that customers who "prefer not to have personal information about you or your message or gift recipients shared with third parties" can "let us know by email, writing, or calling us." There was no evidence that Greer took such action, beyond requesting that the bill be sent to a different address.

Greer isn't claiming that but for the revelation about his affair, he wouldn't have landed in divorce court. Instead he believes that the evidence of his adultery has led his wife to seek an unequal division of the marital property. Under any interpretation, such claims are on shaky legal ground.

A company like could properly release information to a spouse, relying on her apparent authority to act on his behalf. In addition, a court could view an agreement to keep an affair secret as an unenforceable contract, since it arises out of a bad act; a similar justification was used to dispose of a lawsuit brought by a woman who sued Michael Jordan, claiming he promised to pay her $250,000 to keep quiet about his infidelity with her.

The judge evidently didn't even need to look that far. Earlier this month, Judge Nancy Atlas dismissed Mr. Greer's case, ruling that the online "terms of use" that Greer had agreed to called for any claims and disputes to be brought exclusively in New York ( is based on Long Island). Because of this "forum selection clause" – found in the same place as the privacy policy on which Greer relies so heavily – the cheating husband can only file suit in New York and nowhere else.

Just in case you thought common sense might intervene in Mr. Greer's life at some point, his lawyer Kennitra Foote has said they will be filing in New York "in the next couple of weeks."

If you thought litigation over flowers blooms only in Texas, then think again. In October, a New York lawyer sued the Upper East Side florist who supplied the flowers for her August wedding.

Elana Glatt (who practices under her maiden name of Elbogen) and her husband David claim that Posy Floral Designs supplied the wrong color flowers, substituting pastel pink and green hydrangeas for the dark rust and green hydrangeas she had specified for her 22 centerpieces. Not only did the pastel colors clash with the linens, wedding cake and other decor, according to Ms. Glatt's lawsuit, but the flowers were wilted and brown, and arranged in dusty vases without sufficient water.

The lawyer/bride, whose in-laws spent $27,000 on the flowers alone, accused the florist of a whole host of "distressing and embarrassing" offenses, including a "bait and switch" scheme of substituting cheaper flowers than those promised. The damages sought by this bridezilla for the "humiliation" of not getting what she wanted? A cool $400,000.

Stamos and Paula Arakas, the owners of the florist shop, are stunned by the lawsuit. They claim that they did their best to match the color of the hydrangeas with a photo provided by Ms. Glatt, but that they had explained that with the lighting at the reception and the uncertainties of nature, the colors might not look exactly the same.

The Arakas' point to a history of satisfied customers, including Ms. Glatt's sister the year before. The florists claim that Elana Glatt was out of control, ordering elaborate arrangements that her future mother-in-law, Tobi Glatt (who was paying for the flowers) would then downsize.

Mr. Arakas also contends that the bride "sent us 200, 250 e-mails changing things up until the last minute," and that "we did everything they wanted." He also noted that before filing the $400,000 lawsuit, Glatt had sent them a series of e-mail messages demanding a refund but that he did not respond because it "felt like extortion."

The lawsuit and resulting coverage in the New York media has brought some unwelcome attention to the young lawyer and the large law firm that (as of this writing) employs her. Besides looking like a spoiled "bridezilla," it's come out that Ms. Glatt is purportedly delinquent in paying her New York Bar attorney registration, leading to the question of whether she is even permitted to sign her name to pleadings as an attorney.

Perhaps she should have considered having another lawyer represent her. I can just see how the late Johnny Cochrane would have characterized the case – "If the flowers were rust, then this lawsuit's a bust."

Stamos Arakas probably had the best observation of all "My father used to tell me 'Don't deal with lawyers," the embattled florist said. "Maybe he was right."

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