Readers often ask if some of the more bizarre cases, litigants, and lawyers featured in “Legally Speaking” are made up. They’re not.
Not only am I not creative enough to come up with such examples, I don’t have to—for the simple reason that our legal system is already packed with more crazy but true stories than I could hope to invent. Consider the following:
Something is Fishy about This Lawsuit
Don’t invite Cameron Roth out for sushi anytime soon. The Tennessee man has filed a lawsuit against the operators of a Tennessee haunted house, claiming that he choked on a live fish that he ate at their establishment, causing him to be hospitalized for four days.
The strange part is that Mr. Roth had paid a $15 entry fee to compete in the Frightmare haunted house’s live fish-eating contest, during which he was supposed to eat two live bluegill fish.
Roth choked when the first fish got lodged in his throat, a fact he blames on the operators’ failing to remove any of the spines from the fish (but how can they be “live” fish if you remove their spines?).
Roth seeks $150,000 in compensatory damages and $400,000 in punitive damages.
If entering a live fish-eating contest and then complaining that the fish had spines isn’t assumption of the risk, then how about the lawsuit brought against Playboy Enterprises and radio host Kevin Klein by Playboy model Liz Dickson recently?
The comely Ms. Dickson was one of the Playboy models “hosting” the Playboy Golf Finals event on March 30, 2012, when she agreed to take part in a stunt. The stunt called for her to be photographed lying on her stomach with her buttocks exposed while Klein hit a golf ball from a tee that was placed between her, um, cheeks.
But the stunt went awry when Klein struck her buttocks instead, “causing her injuries and damages,” according to the lawsuit.
Although video of the incident shows Dickson laughing it off, now she’s clearly “teed off.”
Maybe the Dog Ate His Homework?
Richard Masten, the executive director of the Miami-Dade County Crime Stoppers, was recently in a Florida court, ordered to hand over an anonymous tip that led to a cocaine possession case. But Masten either decided to defy the court’s order, or perhaps he just was hungry.
On videotape, in the courtroom Masten instead swallowed the evidence, a sheet containing information that could provide the tipster’s identity.
Masten, a former police chief in Florida, says “We promise the people who give us information to solve murders, serious violent crimes in this community, that they can call us with an assurance that they will remain anonymous and that nothing about them or their information would ever be compromised.”
Judge Victoria Brennan was not amused. She fined Masten $500, and ordered him to turn over the information sought or face two weeks in jail for contempt.
He Won’t Roll Over, Either
There’s no limit to the talent of Scottsdale, Ariz., attorney Mark Goldman’s bull terrier, Walter. Walter has an “honorary law degree” and his own photo on the website of Goldman’s law firm.
But apparently Walter also helps sniff out scam artists. It seems an increasingly common scam in which fraudsters approach an attorney asking him to represent a fictitious company to “collect a debt” was directed to Goldman’s law firm. The scam artists tell the lawyer to take a generous cut of the “proceeds” (a false check) before forwarding a very real cashier’s check from the law firm’s (now artificially higher) bank account.
But Mark Goldman got rather suspicious when the “lawyer” the scammers targeted was Walter. Needless to say, Goldman’s law firm didn’t bite.
The Rapping IP Lawyer
Lawyers have resorted to all kinds of advertising to attract clients. Houston-based attorney Eric P. Mirabel is looking to take that concept to a new level—and perhaps dispel the notion of intellectual property attorneys as boring or staid— with a rap video.
Yes, a rap video starring our very own patent law gangsta Eric P. Mirabel, or “EPM.”
The video, which has to be seen to be believed, is on Mirabel’s website along with lyrics that are actually footnoted.
Sample lyrics include “You want patents? /You don’t have to yearn that/’cause I know IP, my record affirms that.” And “I twist up what’s written/use it as ammunition/I’ll gut your position or I’ll win by decision.”
Word to your mother—if this approach actually works, I may have to put on some bling and change my name to “the Notorious JGB.”
And Now For Something Completely Different
I’ve written before about judges who sprinkle “Star Trek” references, rock lyrics, and even Dr. Seuss shoutouts into their judicial opinions. Now, courtesy of one alert “Legally Speaking” reader, comes a Colorado federal judge with a fondness for Monty Python.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Sidney Brooks was clearly a bit frustrated with one party in a bankruptcy proceeding who failed to give the court reasons for its request for certain sworn testimony, and then referenced the “reasons above” in making the request.
In a footnote, Judge Brooks found such reasoning reminiscent of the “reasoning” used to determine if a woman is a witch in the movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and even quoted the film’s hilarious exchange between peasants getting ready to burn an innocent woman suspected of witchcraft, and the “learned” knight who corrects them.
Now, if Judge Brooks could find a way to work in the Black Knight, a giant killer rabbit, and a holy hand grenade . . . .