Since its first publication in April 2007, the Southeast Texas Record has written about hundreds of Hurricane Rita-related lawsuits, asbestos injury claims, class actions against refineries and countless other civil suits filed in Jefferson County.
But by far, the story that created the most interest and received the most hits on the Record's Web site in 2007 was a medical malpractice case about a botched episiotomy.
"Episiotomy delivers doctor to court, settlement reached" was first posted on www.setexasrecord.com on April 16, 2007. The case dealt with a Nederland woman who began complaining of abdominal pain after giving birth and discovered feces in her vagina.
"Before the medical malpractice trial of a Jefferson County doctor began on Monday, April 16, prospective jurors were warned the content of the trial -- complications following an episiotomy -- may turn even the strongest of stomachs," wrote Record reporter David Yates. "Apparently, the defense thought the details were too gruesome for jurors to digest. The case was settled the next day."
While jurors were spared the gruesome details, the "icky" story received almost 90,000 hits the first week as it made its way around the World Wide Web. Ten months later, the story still receives around 100 hits a week, usually ranking in the top 10 most-viewed stories. Apparently, the unfortunate woman's tale has found its own audience in cyberspace.
But, aside from the fans intrigued by the gross-out factor, a substantial number of readers visited the Record Web site for its coverage of local litigation.
Frequently in the top 10 is the recent patent infringement case listing from the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas. Marshall's federal court has become known as the "Rocket Docket" for its stream-lined handling of patent cases from around the country.
"Legally Speaking," a column by Dallas attorney John Browning, is also a regular as the No. 2 or No. 3 most viewed story for the week. Using humor and compassion, Browning has covered topics as serious as the 9/11 attacks and as insane as the judge who sued his drycleaner for losing a pair of pants.
A November "Legally Speaking" column, "Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction," dealt with a preacher being sued for a boring sermon, a kid's party clown sued for blowing bubbles that were too slippery and other wacky suits. It received almost 10,000 hits.
A suit by a fireman for having to strain to buckle his seatbelt and one by a lawyer suing Ford for a not-so-tough truck also scored high on the hit meter. In October, a federal suit by a postal carrier who hit her head on an overhead door and sued Wal-Mart received several thousand hits in two weeks.
At year's end, the most popular story is about a man who sued the International House of Pancakes after tripping over a floor mat. IHOP failed to respond to the suit, so the plaintiff was awarded a $1 million default judgment.
Without a doubt, 2008 is sure to see its share of cases both bizarre and tragic, and The Record will be there to cover it.