Hey, first principles first. This Cranky blog strongly favors class action liability law suits. The New York Crank is firmly convinced that law suits are often the best protection we have against some of society’s biggest and scummiest thugs – corporate America.
But even before we get to corporations, consider medical malpractice insurance rates. President Bush would have had you believe, when he was railing against high insurance rates for medical malpractice, that the cost of your medical care is through the roof because sleazy lawyers are suing doctors left right and center.
There are a few little holes – say, the size of an Iraqi car bomb crater – in that argument. First of all, the primary cause of increased medical malpractice insurance rates, when they happen, is bad investing of premium dollars by insurance companies.
The truth is, the number of malpractice suits has remained pretty stable while the cost insurance has risen. The reason: when insurance companies don’t make enough money from their investments, they keep their profits up by raising their rates. Check some of the story out here:
The good news about medical malpractice suits is that hospitals and doctors are on notice that if they screw up – through carelessness or plain incompetence – the malpractice lawyers will sue them from here to hell. And that awareness helps protect you from sloppy or unethical medicine whenever you step into a doctor’s office or a hospital.
Moreover, even if malpractice rates were up because of an increase in successful law suits against doctors (which I repeat, is not, not, not at all the case) the government ought to be going after improper peer review and licensing procedures for physicians, not the consumer’s right to seek redress. And doctors aren’t the only example.
Think of all those cars that used to explode when rear-ended – until auto makers got sued into building safer cars. Think of the poisonous pharmaceuticals – Thalidomide’s history of deforming fetuses comes to mind – and of manufacturers who’d gladly dispose of chemical waste by letting it leach into your drinking water, if a whole bunch of us couldn’t get together and sue them into kingdom come.
Okay, all that said, there’s an old principle of English common law that says something like this: “Even the lowliest whore in the Strand may sue a prince or an earl.” Meaning that anyone can sue anyone else for anything in the world. You may lose your lawsuit, but you can’t be stopped from suing.
For example, a judge who belongs in a nuthouse may cheerfully and frivolously sue a hapless drycleaner. Such appears to be the case of a Washington D.C. judge, Roy Pearson, who is suing his neighborhood dry cleaner over a pair of pants. He’s demanding for his “lost” pants – which the dry cleaner claims were returned to him – a mere $65 million. Yup, you read that right. Sixty-five million bucks. For a pair of pants.
This would be a huge joke, if not for the fact that the husband-wife-and-son dry cleaners, Jin Nam Chung, Ki Chung and their son, Soo Chung, have had to pay lawyers every step of the way to stave off financial ruin. They’re just about ruined anyway, even though their last offer to settle the suit – just to get rid of the madly suing judge and his insane flap over a pair of pants – was $12,000.
You want to address inequities in the legal system here? It has nothing to do with your right to seek a class action suit against a deep-pocketed corporate malefactor. It has a lot to do with the right of a malefactor to keep forcing you to pay for legal expenses to defend yourself until he destroys you financially regardless of the facts, or who’s right or wrong. Blame the lowly-whore-in-the-Strand principle of law. Incidentally, for Judge Pearson, there appears to have been no significant out-of-pocket costs. This particular denizen of the Strand is representing himself.
The solution has already been invented – in England, the same country that invented the whore-in-the-Strand principle. Losers pay all legal costs. To which I might ad, the same jury that tries the case ought to be able to assign punitive damages to victims like the Chung family. That would discourage Pearson’s kind of venomous frivolity fast.
As it is, I do hope the local bar associations in the area will demand that the judge step down from his bench – and that they disbar him, rip his robes off his back, and roundly boo him as he runs down the street in his shorts.
He also gets a psychic ding from the fortune teller on the block where The New York Crank’s offices are located. Specifically: May he have recurring nightmares that the entire planet is pointing fingers at him and jeering. And when he exits from his home each day, may he see his nightmares coming true. And may many of the jeering populace show up at his disbarment proceedings. Ding!
For more about this horror story paste this in your browser and bristle at it:
Incidentally, the propensity to sue people for telling the truth seems to extend not only to lowly whores in the Strand but to wealthy divorcees in Santa Barbara who buy newspaper companies with their divorce settlement checks. Check out this nasty story (You may have to register first):
Finally, there’s, Nancy Grace. If you don’t know who she is, print out her photograph, below, and take it back to Mars with you.
The scowl you see is every bit as nasty as the TV manner of this former prosecutor manqué. How manqué? Well, consider this entry from Wikipedia:
"In a 2005 opinion, a panel of the 11th Circuit Court of appeals said Grace 'played fast and loose' with her ethical duties and failed to 'fulfill her responsibilities' as a prosecutor in the 1990 triple murder trial of Herbert Connell Stephens. She failed to turn over evidence that pointed to other suspects to his defense. The court noted that it was 'difficult to conclude that Grace did not knowingly' elicit false testimony from a police investigator that there were no other suspects despite strong evidence to the contrary."
Why she didn’t end up on trial for obstruction of justice and malicious prosecution beats me, in light of the above. Nancy’s modus operandi seems to be, find them guilty first, hang them second, determine the facts third – or now that they’re hanged, why the hell bother?
Alas, although the Georgia jurisdiction where she once practiced evidently sleazy law on behalf of the people has said good riddance to her, she has been welcomed into the open arms of CNN.
For a while I thought I was the only one who happened to notice she had a habit of trying cases on-air, without benefit of a defense attorney, or a judge, or a jury. But finally, some of the press has picked up on her, by virtue of a suicide by a woman named Melissa Duckett.
Grace, according press reports, lured Duckett, the mother of a missing child, onto TV with considerably less than fully truthful promises about the purpose of the interview. Then Grace badgered Duckett if Grace were – well, describing Grace as prosecutorial would be on the mild side. She acted more like the waterboarding supervisor at Abu Garib.
Result: Duckett, who was never charged with anything, tried for anything, found guilty of anything, or had any compelling evidence against her regarding her daughter’s death that I know of, committed suicide at her grandparents’ home. Next day, Grace aired the interview anyway. A real sweetheart, this Nancy Grace. She’s all eye of newt and toe of frog, if you ask me.
Anyway, you’ll find some of the horrifying details, as reported by the Associated Press, here:
And even more if it, here:
My local midtown fortune teller, who has been spending some of her evenings sitting on a bridge chair outside of her place of business now that the weather has turned warmer, agreed to a superduper psychic ding for Nancy Grace.
“May the estate of Melinda Duckett, which has filed a law suit against Grace, trounce her so badly and make her such a liability to her own and other networks, that she’ll have to open a dry cleaning store to survive.
"And may she then get sued by a nutty judge."