SCUTPA: Adverse to the Public Interest?

Welcome back. In my last post, I was discussing how the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act has become a standard tool for increasing the scope and expense of litigation. As if litigation needed to get any more expensive. In my concluding remarks, I offered an example of how SCUTPA can – and very often does – require defendants to become their own hangman. This is accomplished by the use of discovery to compel the disclosure of information a defendant may have in its possession relating to other similar claims, thereby providing the plaintiff with the playbook they may need to sustain an unfair trade practices claim that would otherwise be completely and utterly meritless. At the very least, it may substantially cut down the amount of legwork a plaintiff has to do for himself.

You may be thinking to yourself, Ok, if this is true, what company would be so silly as to keep records of other similar claims on file? Lots of them. And it’s not because they’re silly. It’s because they’re responsible. Regardless of whether we’re talking about the manufacturing of goods or the delivery of services, companies that are engaged in commerce responsibly keep track of how useful their goods or services are. And that’s measured by the number of complaints they may receive, as well as the type. Complaints about ineffective goods or services may be relevant to the quality control department; complaints about ineffective goods or services that hurt people may be relevant to quality control and risk management.

In any event, keeping records of claims/complaints is a good business practice. From the societal perspective, we want our businesses taking critical looks at themselves and their goods and services to figure out How can we make this better? How can we make this safer? That analysis is not done in a vacuum. It’s done in the crucible of the American market where only the strong survive.

And that’s why unfair trade practices acts – like SCUTPA – do more harm than good. If unfair trade practices acts can be used to expand discovery to include a company’s confidential information regarding other similar claims, especially in cases where the plaintiff is on a fishing expedition, that creates a strong disincentive – a chilling effect even – for companies to accumulate the information needed to perform the self-critical analyses we want them to do. The practical effect of this should be apparent. Goods and services are probably improved upon – in terms of effectiveness and safety – more slowly than they otherwise would be, if companies had the latitude to engage in self-critical analysis more freely without fear of having their own confidential information used against them in a court of law.

Certainly, there is a societal interest in allowing parties to engage in broad discovery against each other in the course of litigation. But that interest is not unlimited. And it should be more strictly limited in circumstances where more compelling societal interests – such as better, safer, more competitive goods and services – are at stake.  Ironically, one of the fundamental elements of an unfair trade practices claim is that the defendant’s business practice had an adverse impact on the public interest.  However, the law gives no consideration to the adverse public impact caused by unreasonably excessive discovery.

My next few posts will take a look at what could be done to make SCUTPA more equitable for plaintiffs and defendants, as well as what the South Carolina Supreme Court may have already done to rein in SCUTPA-related discovery abuses.

CPSC: Exploding Toilets Not Just an Urban Legend

Independence Day may have passed, but for millions, the fireworks are still ongoing – in their bathrooms.  And, no, this is not a cheap excuse for potty humor.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a recall of the Sloan Flushmate III Pressure-Assist Flushing System after receiving over 300 reports of exploding toilets.  According to the CPSC, the flushing system installed in approximately 2.3 million toilets nationwide can burst under increased pressure, shattering the tank.  At least 14 people have reported impact and laceration injuries from pieces of exploding porcelain. Ouch.

The recall comes in light of several news reports over the past year of unexplained toilet explosions.  Last September, two federal employees were injured by shards of porcelain when two toilets exploded in the General Services Administration building in Washington D.C.  In March, students from the University of Chicago reported that toilets were exploding in their dormitory.  It is unknown whether these incidents are related to the Flushmate, but we imagine it may become the scapegoat for government bureaucracy and inhumane freshman living conditions.

While the CPSC did not comment on the relative severity of any such incidents, explosions are not something one typically expects from the inner sanctum of the bathroom abode.  Exploding toilets are supposed to be the product of urban legend and children of the ’90s toting M-80s (See, e.g. Problem Child).  At this time, no details are available as to the cause of the pressure build-up in the Flushmate, but we can not refrain from utilizing a few jokes to help tell the story.

If the reports of injuries are accurate, we here at Abnormal Use expect the Flushmate may be the future target of some product liability litigation.  While not enough facts are known to accurately comment of the validity of any manufacturing defect claims, it is difficult to foresee many inherent defects in the product’s design given the relatively few complaints compared to the millions of products sold over a decade.   And, as for failure to warn? We can only imagine the allegations of the well-drafted complaint:

Manufacturer failed to adequately warn that toilet may become explosive with use.

Obviously, if there are true injuries involved, this should be no laughing matter.  However, there is something about the combination of toilets and explosions that brings out the child in us all.  Now, with news of the recall and the likelihood of potential litigation, the exploding toilet is no longer the stuff of urban legends.

Friday Links

Oh, no! It’s Friday the 13th! Yikes! We shouldn’t even bother writing today due to fearful superstition. But intrepid bloggers that we are, we shall persevere. So, above, you’ll find not a comic book, but the movie poster for Friday The 13th, Part II, released way, way back in May of 1981. By the way, there are a series of Friday the 13th comic books, based on the films, but their covers were far, far too violent to post on a family friendly products liability blog such as ours. Trust us. (By the way, we’ve mentioned Friday the 13th, the day, not the film, previously on Friday Links, but we don’t think we’ve dedicated an image to it before today.).

Friend of the blog Max Kennerly of the Litigation and Trial blog responded to our earlier post this week on food product warnings. In so doing, Max, a Plaintiff’s lawyer, contends that we “said something careless.”  Ouch. To see Max’s full post, click here.

Our old friend Professor Alberto Bernabe of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago and the Torts blog discusses the recent Farias case from the 11th Circuit. That’s the one on bilingual product warnings. You’ll recall that we blogged about it here. In the past, we’ve had a back and forth discussion with Professor Bernabe on these issues, and he’s collected a series of links in his post to those discussions.

Whoa! We made last week’s Legal Blog Watch! Click here to take a look at that!

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Critical Thoughts on Depositions of Asbestos Plaintiffs

We recently ran across a blog entry regarding the death of an asbestos/mesothieloma plaintiff whose lawyers and doctors contend that a 25-hour deposition sought by the defendants killed him. The blog quotes this disturbing L.A. Times column by Michael Hiltzik, entitled, “Mesothelioma victims deserve better than wasteful legal maneuvers.”  Here’s the relevant portion of Hilztik’s piece:

Here’s the horrific question now: Did asbestos industry lawyers deliberately drive Johnson to his death by putting him through a brutal series of depositions so their clients would save money?

That’s what his family, his doctor and his lawyers assert. Despite affidavits from his doctor stating that 12 hours of depositions over a few weeks would be about as much as the 69-year-old’s health could stand, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge allowed the companies he was suing a total of 25 hours.

Johnson put off returning to the hospital so he could appear at every session, including the last, on Jan. 23. His face contorted in pain, he gasped out answers to questions from the last of the dozens of defense attorneys in attendance. Less than 40 minutes later, he collapsed.

The very next day he died at Hoag Memorial Hospital in Newport Beach. With him died his family’s claims for pain and suffering, mental anguish and bodily disfigurement, reducing their potential recovery in or out of court by as much as 70%, in the assessment of his attorney, Roger Worthington. What’s left are chiefly claims for medical bills and lost wages and for his wife’s loss of his companionship.

Johnson’s family, his lawyers, and his doctor have no doubt that the defense lawyers stretched out the legal process through what the family contends in court were “delay tactics and stalling,” in the expectation that he would die before he reached the finish line.

This is a very serious allegation, and the column in question, in suggesting that the conduct of the defense attorneys may have played a role in the death of the plaintiff, did not provide a full context of mesothieloma products liability cases and the litigation thereof. The column – which notes that California allows 20 hour depositions in asbestos cases – suggests that the default rules in federal court (7 hours) may have been more appropriate.  However, the default rule is exactly that – a default – which can and should be modified when necessary.  A civil case involving a single plaintiff, a single defendant, and a single trauma merits less discovery – and shorter depositions – than one in which a plaintiff’s entire career history must be explored in detail.  To offer context, we must explore why asbestos depositions merit more time than those in other, simpler cases.

First and foremost, a typical asbestos plaintiff sues dozens and dozens and dozens of product manufacturers.  (Hiltzik does note that the plaintiff in question initially sued 65 companies in his products liability suit, a number which was later reduced to 44 defendants). Sometimes, these plaintiffs also sue outside contractors who would have worked at plants where they, the plaintiffs, once worked.  All of these defendants are different – - they are makers of entirely different products, and on many occasions, their products are similar enough to where questioning is needed to distinguish which products a plaintiff actually worked with or near.  It goes without saying that each defendant in a case is entitled to explore the allegations against it in any lawsuit brought by a plaintiff.  However, this task is made very difficult in asbestos cases because of the nature of the claims being made.

It is critical to note that asbestos plaintiffs often claim that they were exposed to asbestos over the course of a multi-decade career.  It is not unusual for a plaintiff to allege that he was exposed to products over a 40 or 50 year career during the span of his life.  (Hitzlik reports that the plaintiff worked “as a carpenter, auto mechanic and plumber from 1961 until 1990.”). Because each work site during a plaintiff’s career is the potential exposure site, those sites must be explored in detail.  Further, because many of these plaintiffs typically worked at manufacturing or energy production plants, even if they worked for a single corporation during a long span of time, they often worked at many different plants and facilities owned and operated by their former employers, and each plant or facility may house or contain very different products. This information is critical to defendants because it may be that at a particular time at a particular location their products were unavailable or non-asbestos containing. Obviously, when there are 20 to 30 to 40 defendants, and each defendant has a different set of questions to ask about a different set of products, a deposition will be lengthy.  First, the counsel taking lead on the deposition will survey the plaintiff’s entire career to determine where he alleges he was exposed to asbestos.  That lead counsel will typically ask specific questions about the products his client manufacturers and leave to the other lawyers the task of asking about their own client’s products.  Once the lead lawyer completes his examination, the other lawyers take their turn.  Cutting off the deposition at seven hours would leave many lawyers without the opportunity to ask any questions whatsoever despite the fact that their clients have been sued.

So what are the potential remedies if a plaintiff is too ill to be deposed? Typically, the plaintiff himself is the only individual who can testify with some level of certainty as to where he worked and when.  It’s hard to find witnesses who can testify about products used at a facility decades and decades ago. So, how would defense counsel learn that information if not directly from the plaintiff? Plaintiff’s counsel could alleviate this issue by being more specific in the complaint and discovery responses drafted on behalf of their clients.  Unfortunately, many state court – and even federal court – complaints in asbestos cases simply list each defendant and then generally allege that at some point during the plaintiff’s career and/or life he was exposed to products manufactured by those defendants.  The complaints rarely  allege which products manufactured by those defendants the plaintiff worked with or near, nor do they generally list the specific time frames or locations where a particular defendant’s products are at issue.  This leaves the defendants without much information to investigate the claims against it. Further, the plaintiff’s written discovery responses are typically unhelpful, as well.  Again, written discovery may allege the type of product manufactured by a corporate defendant which the plaintiff worked with or near – a valve, a boiler, a gasket, a sealant, or something of that variety – but it still typically does not provide any more specific information than that (including the years that the plaintiff would have worked around that type of product). As another way to shorten the need for a lengthy deposition, plaintiff’s counsel could sue fewer defendants – perhaps they could sue the defendants whose products they know may have been at issue rather than those they simply suspect do.

It may be that the plaintiff does not know the particular model or brand of the products they worked with or near; but many asbestos plaintiffs’ firms have done a bit of research into these issues and typically represent clients who worked at the same locations.  It seems as if plaintiff’s firms prosecuting mesothieloma asbestos cases either have to high a volume or to enumerate a specific products at issue or maintain a philosophy of suing everyone and then the defendants prove their way out.  Either way, the only way that a defendant can learn whether its products were at issue is to ask the plaintiff directly.

So, as noted above, there are many, many reasons why asbestos depositions last longer than more traditional ones. Perhaps, Plaintiff’s counsel in these cases could provide a bit more information about the allegations in their complaints earlier in the process to obviate the need for extensive questioning, but if present trends continue, that certainly seems unlikely.

(Hat Tip: Max Kennerly).

The South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act: Used and Abused

Prepare yourselves, faithful readers. This week’s post from Yours Truly actually offers substantive legal content. Or at least what passes for it under the Buckingham blog standard, which admittedly, is exceptionally low. This post addresses the South Carolina Unfair Trade Practices Act. It seems like almost every law suit I defend these days includes a SCUTPA cause of action. I don’t think it’s because there’s an onslaught of companies out there engaging in unfair or deceptive trade practices. No, I think it’s just because SCUTPA is overused. Extremely overused. To the point where I might be caught off guard if I got a complaint that didn’t assert a SCUTPA claim.

There’s a couple of reasons, I think, why the unfair trade practices act is tossed around so freely. The first two reasons are fairly obvious. Reason No. 1: The statute is one of the few vehicles through which a party can recover attorneys’ fees. Reason No. 2: The statute also authorizes treble damages. For those of you who are fortunate enough to live a life outside the legal profession, “treble” is more than just a musical clef. At law, “treble” means triple. Whatever damages you have, multiply it by three. By themselves, reasons 1 and 2 are incentive enough to bring a SCUTPA action. But wait! There’s more.

Reason No. 3: It’s easy to allege a violation of SCUTPA. All you have to do is claim that the defendant engaged in an unfair or deceptive trade practice (which is not clearly defined), that you were damaged by the practice, and that the practice had an adverse impact on the public interest. To allege that, you only have to claim that the practice was repeated, or that it is merely capable of being repeated. Add a pinch of righteous indignation and voila! You’ve tripled a defendant’s exposure! Whether you can actually prove unfair trade practices at trial, well, that’s a horse of a different color, one that you won’t have to ride for at least 18 months down the long road of litigation.

Theoretically, this is a tremendous advantage for plaintiffs. Settlement negotiations are based on a party’s risk. To the plaintiff, the risk is that trial will result in a defense verdict. To the defendant, the risk is that trial will result in a plaintiff’s verdict for the maximum amount of exposure. Therefore, by increasing a defendant’s amount of exposure, a plaintiff is also increasing the settlement range.

From the defense perspective, a frequently asked question is whether SCUTPA actions can be dismissed at an early stage of litigation. Regrettably, the answer is “maybe, but probably not.” Motions to dismiss are intended to test the legal sufficiency of pleadings. In other words, the court reviews whether the complaint uses the magic words needed to state a valid cause of action. As noted above, for SCUTPA claims, there are only a few magic words needed, and they’re not clearly defined. The statute doesn’t meaningfully define an “unfair or deceptive trade practice.” Furthermore, on a motion to dismiss, the deck is kind of stacked against defendants. The law requires courts to view the complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiffs. Also, plaintiffs needn’t offer proof in support of their allegations at the dismissal stage. Consequently, unless there’s some legal deficiency with the way a plaintiff has brought their SCUTPA action, the action is around to stay for awhile.

Which leads to Reason No. 4 of why SCUTPA actions are so prevalent these days: the long, arduous process of discovery. The scope of discovery is defined by the allegations of the complaint. Just as SCUTPA actions allow plaintiffs to increase the amount of a defendant’s exposure, they also allow plaintiffs to increase the scope of discoverable information. After all, a plaintiff must prove that a defendant engaged in other similar conduct, or that their policies make it likely that the defendant will engage in other similar conduct in the future. This information is critical to a plaintiff’s SCUTPA action, especially if he never previously had that information. And where better to obtain that information than from the defendants themselves? Consequently, SCUTPA is used as a tool for plaintiffs to embark upon fishing expeditions against defendants.

Let’s take this to a practical level. Suppose a person claims to have been injured by a defective product. They sue the manufacturer for negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty – the holy trinity of products liability. Without a SCUTPA action, the plaintiff is limited ordinarily to discovery against the defendant on design and manufacturing issues. However, with SCUTPA, the plaintiff can arguably obtain discovery – from the defendant – on other similar claims that have been brought against it by other, unrelated individuals. Essentially, the law requires the defendant to become his own hangman. I’ll let you be the judge of how fair – or unfair – that is.

This post is already long enough. But there’s plenty more to talk about. In the coming weeks, I’m discuss why allowing such broad discovery is adverse to the public interest. Thereafter, I’ll suggest how SCUTPA can be fixed. Perhaps it goes without saying, but the opinions expressed in this post are just the thoughts of one simple lawyer. I certainly don’t have all the answers. But I know something’s broken when I see it. And I also know that there’s just not that much unfair and deceptive business going on in South Carolina.

Of Lima Beans and Peanuts: The Law of Adulterated Food

I recently enjoyed a container of “Hand-Cooked Virginia Peanuts” made by a noted Virginia company with the word “peanut” prominently in its corporate name. Thus, on the container itself, easy to see and discern, there were two prominent references to “peanuts” – one in the product name, and one in the name of the manufacturer. Yet, while I was eating those yummy, yummy peanuts, I noticed this disclaimer written on the container: “CONTAINS PEANUTS.” Really?  I thought I was eating lima beans! Given that I had now seen the word “peanuts” written sideways, upside-down, and in six different languages, I decided to read further: “Manufactured on shared equipment in a facility that processes peanuts.” There it is again! Peanuts.  (By the way, with whom do they “share” their equipment?)

You know what this means? Sometime, somewhere, somebody ate some peanuts that he did not know were peanuts, became ill, and almost died. Then he hired a lawyer.  (Before you get all fired up about my insensitivity to peanut allergies, my own son is allergic to peanuts. Further, I had my own anaphylactic reaction to fire ants, which could be the subject of another whole blog post.). Whatever the case, I am reminded of how far we have come in the area of product safety warnings. Of course, consumers must be adequately informed of a product’s features and tendencies. But, come on, now! I really did know I was not eating lima beans.  I don’t even like lima beans.

In many states, including South Carolina, there are laws about adulterated or misbranded food. Indeed, in our state it is found at section 39-25-10 of the South Carolina Code, and titled “South Carolina Food and Cosmetic Act.” I suppose there’s some interesting legislative history which would explain why they combine food and cosmetics in the same statute. But that’s for another day. For good measure, we note this  statute does not include any commodity subject to packaging or labeling requirements imposed under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act or the eighth paragraph of the “Bureau of Animal Industry” section of the Virus-Serum-Toxin Act. Who knew? The statute does prohibit the manufacture or sale of food or cosmetics that are adulterated or misbranded. A food is deemed to be adulterated if it contains any poisonous or deleterious substances which may render it injurious to health. Food is deemed misbranded if the labeling is false or misleading.  There is more to the statute, but I will leave the details for your late reading pleasure. Nothing on peanut warnings, mind you.

While I am not a regular consumer of cosmetics, perhaps some of our readers would be interested to know that the section on adulterated cosmetics “shall not apply to coal-tar hair dye, the label of which bears the following legend conspicuously displayed there on: ‘Caution-This product contains ingredients which may cause skin irritation on certain individuals and a preliminary test according to accompanying directions should first be made. This product must not be used for dying the eyelashes or eyebrows; to do so may cause blindness.’” Moreover, under this particular paragraph, the term “hair dye” shall not include eyelash dyes or eyebrow dyes.  Further, a cosmetic is deemed adulterated if it consists of “any filthy, putrid or decomposed substance”.  I am not making this up.

In the meantime, I think I’ll go back and have some more peanuts. But I better read the warning first to make certain.

Disclaimer: Consult the laws of your own state for regulations governing the adulteration or misbranding of products containing lima beans.

Yes, Join Your Local Bar Association

As we’ve previously mentioned, our editor Jim Dedman is now contributing one post a month to the North Carolina Law Blog.  Last week, his most recent submission was published at that site.  The topic: “Yes, Join Your Local Bar Association,” a response to a recent Lawyerist post by writer Sam Glover. Here’s how Jim’s post begins:

Not too long ago, Sam Glover at Lawyerist asked, “Why should I renew my bar association membership?”  In the post, Glover relates that his dues statement for his state and local bar membership totaled $528, and the cost prompted some thought on his part as to whether he should continue his association with those entities. An interesting question: In this day and age, is the cost of dues worth the benefits of membership in a voluntary bar association?

The short answer: Sure.

A relatively straightforward beginning, that. But get this: the post also references the long ago days of yore when lawyers actually congregated together at roster meetings, docket calls, and, dare we say, trials. We often hear the older lawyers recall those times fondly, and when they tell the tales of those days, it seems that there was something kinder and gentler about the practice back then. Perhaps when lawyers were brought together in such circumstances and came to know each other in person and as individuals, it was at least somewhat more difficult to adopt inflexible and intractable positions in petty discovery disputes. The article goes on to say that perhaps participation in one’s voluntary bar association might foster a similar sense of camaraderie, at least in the sense that members meet other practitioners from other sides of the bar outside the confrontational litigation setting.

Perhaps that’s just a bunch of nostalgia, but maybe that’s worth some annual dues, too. Click here to read the full piece.

Friday Links

It’s been a while since we mentioned She-Hulk, the lawyer superhero. Above, you’ll see the cover of She-Hulk #8, published not so long ago in 2004.  Note that She-Hulk, clad in her lawyer attire and carrying her law books, finds herself on a crowded elevator with a number of heroes, including Howard the Duck and Matt Murdock (a blind lawyer who moonlights as the superhero Daredevil). We wonder if the occupants of that elevator are all traveling to She-Hulk’s law office as a part of the same case. If so, that is some litigation we would like to see.  (To see our previous coverage of She-Hulk, please see here, here, here, and here.).

Happy birthday to Walter Olson’s Overlawyered blog, which turns 13 years old this week, if you can believe it. Let us tell you something: that is quite an accomplishment. In fact, we here at Abnormal Use were early readers of Overlawyered, and we can remember perusing its pages in the law school library in 2000. We wish Walter and the site our most sincere congratulations, and we must confess that we are now looking forward to our own site’s 13th birthday in January 2023.

It’s been a big week here at Abnormal Use and Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A. with us adding not one but two new partners into the mix in South Carolina.  We’d like to welcome Todd R. Davidson to our Greenville office and Curtis Ott to our Columbia office. Todd, with 23 years as a transactional attorney, joins our office’s Business and Commercial Group, while Curtis, with 20 years of experience litigating commercial, transportation and product liability cases, joins our Litigation Group.

We hope and trust that you had a fine and fun Fourth of July holiday this past week (despite the challenge of having the holiday fall on a weekday rather than the weekend!). To keep the celebration going, we direct you to The Charlotte Observer’s collection of photographs of the fireworks display from downtown Charlotte, North Carolina this past Wednesday evening. It was something to see. Check it out!

Don’t forget! You can follow Abnormal Use on Twitter here and on Facebook here! Drop us a line!

A Tribute to the late Andy Griffith

Shazam!  The folks at Abnormal Use are saddened to learn of the death of the great Andy Griffith, who played Sheriff Andy Taylor on the famed “The Andy Griffith Show,” on which he starred from 1960 to 1968. In addition to that role, Griffith starred in director Elia Kazan’s film, A Face in the Crowd (1957), and was nominated for a Tony award for his Broadway performance in “No Time for Sergeants.”  Griffith played the lead character in “Matlock,” a legal drama which aired on television from 1986 to 1995.  He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor of music degree in 1949.  In addition to his career as an actor, he was a Grammy Award-winning singer.  After Griffith left The Andy Griffith Show in 1968, he starred in many television films, playing the villain in “Murder in Coweta County.”  He also appeared as an attorney in the NBC mini-series “Fatal Vision” in 1984.  Many will also recall his comedy routine, “What It Was Was Football”.

In tribute to Griffith, we have prepared this obituary for Sheriff Taylor, his most famous character.

Sheriff Andy Taylor was a resident of Mayberry, North Carolina.  During his years as Sheriff of Mayberry, he was a widower and father to Opie Taylor, his son by his first wife.  He later had another son, Andrew Jackson Taylor, Jr., after he married Helen Crump.  Andy’s Aunt Bee was his housekeeper and helped raise Opie.  Andy enjoyed using his favorite fishing pole, “Eagle Eye Annie”, and even used the pole to barter with Mayor Roy Stoner to obtain a beautiful bed jacket for Aunt Bee’s birthday.  After dating for several years, Andy eventually married school teacher, Helen Crump.  Opie had previously referred to her as “Old Lady Crump” when she forced Opie and some of his school friends to memorize historical dates.  As a result, Opie and his friends formed a local club, The Mayberry Minutemen.  Andy later left Mayberry and was an agent for the State Bureau of Investigation.  He then retired as a postal inspector in Cleveland before returning to Mayberry.

Before marrying Miss Crump, Andy had several other girlfriends, including Ellie Walker, the “Lady Druggist”.  He also dated several nurses, including Mary Simpson and Peggy McMillan.  Helen was his true love and they shared many double dates with loyal deputy, Barney Fife, and his girlfriend, Thelma Lou.  They enjoyed picnics at Myers Lake and parking at the duck pond.  Mayberry residents still talk about the time Barney helped “rescue” Andy and Helen when they got trapped in the cave.

In addition to serving as Sheriff, Andy was also the Justice of the Peace.  Barney was his only deputy, unless Barney deputized some temporary help, including town drunk Otis Campbell, mechanic Gomer Pyle, and barber Floyd Lawson.  Andy also performed marriage ceremonies, including Charlene Darling and Dud Wash.  Before doing so, he had to deal with Ernest T. Bass and his rock-throwing tendencies.  After Barney took a job in Raleigh, Andy trained a new deputy, Warren Ferguson.

Sheriff Taylor usually did not wear a gun, although Barney always had his pistol and one bullet in his pocket.  When Barney bought a car from Mrs. “Hubcabs” Lesh, Andy helped Barney capture the scam artists who sold him the car.  It was one of the rare occasions Andy authorized Barney to actually put the bullet in his gun.

In addition to monitoring Barney’s attempts to arrest jaywalkers (especially Emma Watson), Andy’s law enforcement duties included chasing down the local moonshiners.  These included Rafe Hollister, who was discovered to have a talent for singing.  Barney helped Andy nab the Morrison sisters, who were making moonshine in their greenhouse.

Andy enjoyed playing his guitar and singing with Barney, or other local characters, including Jim Lindsey, who later played with Bobby Fleet and His Band with a Beat.  Andy also played the guitar with the Darling family when they came to town.  He liked playing checkers and hanging out at Floyd’s Barbershop.  He had a good relationship with local businessmen, including Emmett Clark (Emmett’s Fix-It-Shop), Orville Hendricks (undertaker and television repair), Charlie Foley (grocery store), and Wally, down at Wally’s Filling Station.

Andy was known throughout the community for his honesty and integrity, and for his good heart.  Andy allowed bootlegger Sam Muggins to celebrate Christmas in the jail over the objection of Ben Weaver.  He ate Aunt Bee’s homemade pickles even though they tasted like kerosene.  He helped a Mayberry resident prove that his bad luck was not a jinx.  When struggling door-to-door salesman, Bert Miller, was complaining of his sore shoulder, tired feet and the sound of ringing doorbells, Andy helped him stay in business against the strong-armed tactics of Ben Weaver.  Certainly, his kind treatment of Otis Campbell deserves special recognition.

The town of Mayberry and the State of North Carolina mourn the loss of one of its finest citizens.

“When a man carries a gun all the time, the respect he thinks he’s getting might really be fear.  So I don’t carry a gun because I don’t want the people of Mayberry to fear a gun. I’d rather they respect me.”

(Stuart Mauney previously memorialized actor George Lindsey, who played Goober Pyle on “The Andy Griffith Show,” on the occasion of his death earlier this year.).

Happy Fourth of July from Abnormal Use!

Who knew that they made a comic book adaptation of the 1972 patriotic film musical, 1776? We certainly didn’t until we began preparing to draft this post for you, our dear readers, who we hope are enjoying a well earned day off to celebrate our nation’s birthday. Whatever you’ve decided to do with your day, we here at Abnormal Use and Gallivan, White & Boyd, P.A. wish you a fun and safe holiday.

(Last but not least, click here to see our first Fourth of July post back in 2010, complete with Greenville, South Carolina fireworks, and here for our post from last year, featuring a very, very patriotic and inspiring Superman comic book cover).