Idiocy By Proxy Is Indefensible

The dog days of summer are here, and the school year is over.  Kids love this time of year; for parents, it’s a mixed blessing – no more responsibility for getting the kids to school at the crack of dawn, but also, they must face the long, hot days and fill them with activities, camps, and play dates. The end of the academic year is marked in most schools by end-of-year recitals, plays, and fundraisers of all types.  Perhaps you can go and bid in a silent auction on Precious Boy or Girl’s priceless works of “art” – colorful swirls done with fantastically dirty fingers.

Or, perhaps you are out of town, so you proxy bid.  If this is your method of bidding, perhaps you should set a ceiling on those bids.

Enter Jon and Michelle Heinemann, who send their Precious Boy (who is 5 years old) to Cathedral School of St. John the Divine in Manhattan.  Out of town for the silent auction, they gave their proxy to make sure they would be the highest bidder on a painting done by Precious Boy and his classmates.

The price tag at the end of the day?  $50,000.00.  For a finger painting.

Furious, they have sued the school, saying that one of the teachers kept increasing the bids artificially so that the Heinemanns would have to pay some big bucks for Precious Boy’s creation.  They are suing not only to recover the price they paid for the painting, but for costs to send their children to another school, and a chauffeur to get them there.

Right.

There are several things we love about this story, which we found on Gawker here.  First, it’s that a couple of people who think they’re really smart may just have been outsmarted, and they are too fancy to admit it.  Second, it’s this line, as reported by Gawker:

Because the Heinemann’s were out of town, and had given instructions to a proxy to be the highest bid, they believed the largest possible damage for a finger painting (which are priceless) would fall around $3,000.

Because $3,000.00 would have been reasonable for a finger painting.

Finally, we love that the Heinemanns are also claiming that Precious Boy has been treated unfairly by the school since the auction went sour, claiming that he has had to do such things as hold the door for other students. Maybe I’m just a public school kid who didn’t know any better, but when I was five, it was cool to do such menial tasks as hold doors and erase blackboards for teachers.

A few other fun facts:  Jon Heinemann appears to be in finance in New York, running investment money management funds.  Here’s a website for The Heinemann Fund.  Michelle Heinemann was featured in something called “Black Tie Magazine” [pdf], which called her a “modern day Renaissance woman” and informed readers that she maintains several homes.  The Google has much more on this couple, if you’re curious.  Finally, according to its website, tuition  at Cathedral School of St. John the Divine in Manhattan for the upcoming school year rounds out at $38,425.  At least it includes lunch.

Guns and Products Liability in Alabama

Maybe I’m naive.  Maybe I just haven’t felt the need to carry a firearm for personal protection in my everyday life.  Maybe I’m just not from Alabama.  But this case confuses me.

Out of the Northern District of Alabama comes the case of Avery v. Cobra Enterprises of Utah, Inc., C.A. No. 2:11-cv-02870, 2013 WL 2532320 (N.D. Ala. May 23, 2013).  The facts are simple.  James Avery was given a Cobra Model C32 derringer by his son.  Beginning in 2004, Mr. Avery began carrying the derringer every day for protection.  As the Court notes, Avery “regularly carried it without the safety engaged.” Here’s a picture of the gun at issue:

Now, you can guess where this is going.  One day, Avery returned home from running errands.  He got out of his car carrying not only the derringer (safety off), but magazines (the reading kind), wallet, keys, and soda bottles.  He got as far as the trashcan, but when he tried to open it, he dropped the gun.  The gun hit the ground and discharged, shooting Avery in the abdomen.

Avery sued Cobra Enterprises, the manufacturer of the derringer, asserting several theories of products liability; however, the only claim that survived to the summary judgment stage was a claim for breach of implied warranty of merchantability.  Under Alabama law, one of the requirements is that a product must be “fit for the ordinary purposes for which such goods are used.”

Avery’s lawyers did something clever with this claim after Cobra filed a motion for summary judgment.  They claimed that “ordinary purposes” include not only those uses intended by the manufacturer or seller, but those which are reasonably foreseeable.  Their argument is that the manufacturer of a firearm should have reasonably anticipated that a carrier of the derringer might need to fire the gun so quickly, that “a pause to disengage the two safety features [of the derringer] would destroy the defensive advantage he was buying.”

The Court basically called this out as the “wild west” argument, but unbelievably, denied Cobra’s motion for summary judgment, in part on this basis:

This is analogous to the reasoning of hair trigger artists of the Old West.  It may be an uphill battle for the Averys to convince a jury that there exists such a reasonable expectation, either by seller or by user, but on the current state of the evidence, the Averys will be afforded the opportunity to put their theory to the jury test.

Unbelievable.  One other point should be made about Avery, lest you think that he, like me, was simply naive about the way guns work and how they can be safely handled on an everyday basis:

Avery had experience with firearms throughout his life. He went hunting for the first time at age 6, used a pistol around age 8, handled a semi-automatic handgun around age 18, and has carried a pistol permit since the age of 18. He also served in the Navy where he received formal firearm training. He had experience both with firearms that have manual safeties and firearms that have no safeties at all. He had no experience with a derringer until he acquired the one at issue. Upon receiving any new firearm, he always examined it himself to figure out how it works, but he does not typically read the instruction manual right away. He said he “probably … looked over” the derringer’s manual at some point while he owned it. Avery July 18, 2012 depo at 53. He testified that he knew a firearm could discharge if mishandled, but he did not know that a firearm could be expected to discharge if dropped while fully loaded with the safety off.
I’ll withhold further commentary here, except to say that I hope that the jury gets a well drafted contributory negligence charge from the Court.  Sharpen your pencils, counselors.

Courtney v. Nissan Motor Co., Ltd: Case Update

In 2010, we blogged about the then-recent decision in Courtney v. Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., in which a Florence County, South Carolina jury awarded $2.375 million to a young girl burned when the Nissan SUV in which she was riding wrecked; the minor’s seat happened to be situated on top of the gas tank.  Our commentary included the following analysis:

The plaintiff set forth causes of action for strict liability and breach of warranty, arguing that Nissan failed to ensure the crashworthiness of the vehicle because a small metal bracket was likely to puncture the fuel tank in the event of a side collision. The plaintiff reportedly utilized experts from Texas, Utah, California and Japan, among others, to testify to such issues as the alleged foreseeability of the bracket’s puncturing of the fuel tank. Nissan, in turn, argued that the tank rupture was due to the severe and unique circumstances of the collision, which had placed extreme, concentrated energy at the location of the bracket.

The jury apparently was able to overlook two important challenges to the plaintiff’s case: (1) the SUV had complied with all federal standards; and (2) it was the driver of the Nissan Xterra who admittedly was at fault in causing the accident. The plaintiff’s position, according to her attorney, was that if the vehicle had been built according to European standards rather than U.S. standards, whereby the bracket would have been placed no closer than 100 millimeters from the fuel tank, then the fire would not have occurred.

Not surprisingly perhaps, Nissan appealed.  Recently, the South Carolina Court of Appeals took up the case and issued this opinion affirming the jury’s award.  One of the issues on appeal included whether the circuit court erred in denying Nissan’s post-trial motion for JNOV based on the plaintiff’s failure to provide a feasible alternative design as required by Branham v. Ford Motor Company, 390 S.C. 203, 701 S.E.2d 5 (2010).  (See Abnormal Use’s coverage of that case here).

Importantly, the Court of Appeals was tasked in Courtney to determine if Branham applied retroactively, or prospectively only, since Branham came out after the jury’s award in Courtney.  The Court held that Branham did, in fact, apply retroactively, based on principles long-held in South Carolina jurisprudence:

Turning to the instant case, we recognize that in South Carolina, “[t]he general rule regarding retroactive application of judicial decisions is that decisions creating new substantive rights have prospective effect only, whereas decisions creating new remedies to vindicate existing rights are applied retrospectively.”

The Court of Appeals decided that the Courtney case fell into the latter category, since the risk-utility test had been employed in the products liability context for a long time, if not exclusively.  Thus, having decided that Branham applied in this case, the Court then took up the question whether the plaintiff’s alleged failure to provide an alternative design entitled Nissan to JNOV.  The jury determined that the plaintiff failed to prove a feasible alternative design in a post-verdict interrogatory that, according to the Court of Appeals, should never have been put before the jury in the first place, since “[o]ur supreme court has previously held that ‘[i]t is improper in a law case to submit factual issues to a jury in the form of non-binding ‘advisory interrogatories.’” (internal citations and quotations omitted).  Since the interrogatory was not dispositive of liability, it didn’t really matter what the jury found, one way or the other, in the Court’s estimation.  We see this as the Court saying, in essence, “no harm, no foul.” Finding that the jury’s answer to the interrogatory was dispositive of, well, nothing, the Court affirmed the denial of Nissan’s motion for JNOV.

When Reading A Judge’s Ruling Is Actually Fun

Every so often, the blog gods shine down upon their minions and grant them a post that, almost literally, writes itself.  This is one of those posts.  While perusing Yahoo! News the other day, I ran across this story.  Go ahead.  Click on the link.  You’ll be glad you did.

Was I right?  A copy of the full opinion can be found here [PDF].  It’s well worth a full reading.

I’ve often thought that being a judge might sometimes get a little dry, and that writing legal opinions (or, rather, reviewing the opinions that my clerk wrote) might become mundane.  But every once in a while, a case lends itself to a bit of creative writing.

This ruling is simply hilarious.

I was also a bit curious about its author, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery, so I looked him up.  According to his official bio on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas website, Judge Biery was appointed by President Clinton [withhold additional commentary here] and he enjoys basketball and gardening.  His Wikipedia page already has a citation to this fun ruling.

Law is serious business.  No one denies that.  Further, it is possible that the town of San Antonio and the strip club at issue do not find the judge’s lighthearted opinion at all amusing.  Perhaps they feel that their litigation is not being taken as seriously as they believe it should.  But for the rest of us, this opinion proves that lawyers–and judges–are not sticks-in-the-mud all the time.  And that’s a good thing!

New annoying noisemaker to replace Vuvuzelas in 2014 World Cup

Soccer fans are loud.  Really loud.  A rowdy bunch in general, fanatics of teams all over the world have been known to engage in all sorts of bad-boy behavior.  They throw things from the stands, things like flares and burning mopeds that could seriously hurt someone on the field or down below.  They murder fans of other teams, just because.  And they engage in riots that end up with people dead, and others sentenced to die.  Heck, there’s even a Wikipedia page devoted to “football hooliganism.”

My point is, soccer fans are not, as a rule, shrinking violets.

And yet, there was one thing that caused soccer fans all over the world to beg for mercy.  To lunge for their remotes in a frantic search for the mute button or, for those [un]lucky enough to be at games during the South Africa World Cup in 2010 in person, to wish for earmuffs.

The Vuvuzela.

Looks harmless enough, but these things are brutal.  They’re loud.  They make your ears bleed.  And, thank the heavens, they were eventually banned by UEFA, the Union of European Football Associations.

Not to be outdone, Brazil has apparently come up with its answer to the Vuvuzela, another [slightly less] annoying noisemaker which Brazil claims to be part of its cultural heritage.  They are called Caxirolas.  Please don’t ask me to pronounce it.  Time Magazine recently published an article about them, which is how we learned about them.  This guy was nice enough to model them:

Designed to sound like rain, we think that the sound, once magnified by all of the fans, will be more like the sound of millions of cicadas swarming the stadium than a calm afternoon shower.

But then, we’re talking about soccer fans.  They never opt for “calm.”

The Derrick Rose lawsuit and emotional distress claims in South Carolina

Here at Abnormal Use, we’ve been involved in many cases in which the plaintiff alleges intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress as a cause of action.  Cynical defense attorneys that we are, we are often skeptical–or even dismissive–of these damages, because they are so subjective and easily exaggerated.  Recently, we came across some stories about a lawsuit in which a fan sued Derrick Rose for emotional distress.  Yes, you read right.  A fan is suing a player on a pro sports team because he doesn’t like what was going on with the team and one player in particular.

Some background.  Derrick Rose is one of the stars–or the star–of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.  Last year, during the 2012 playoffs, Rose blew out the ACL in his knee, requiring surgery and some time off from playing to heal, rehab, and recover.  There has been some scuttlebutt recently about the fact that Rose, who has been cleared by doctors to return to the Bulls since March 9, hasn’t taken the floor.  Moreover, it doesn’t look like he’s going to play for the remainder of the season, even though the Bulls could definitely use him.

All of this must be a little upsetting to Bulls fans.  Fans are probably frustrated, maybe even a tad bit angry at Rose.  But only one has decided that Rose’s failure to return has caused him such distress and emotional turmoil that he wants Rose to be held–yep, you guessed it–legally liable for that distress.

Meet Matthew Thompson, a 25-year-old Bulls fan from Peoria, Illinois.  He’s apparently been so upset by Rose’s absence that he’s put on a little weight.  So, as reported by the Houston Chronicle (along with several other news outlets), he’s suing Derrick Rose.  Because that’s what we do in America!

Common sense, if not legal training, shows that this lawsuit is just ludicrous.  But it’s also a good time to review the law of negligently inflicted emotional distress claims (since, we assume, Rose did not intentionally blow out his own knee just to hurt Thompson’s feelings).  Let’s assume the suit was brought in South Carolina.  The South Carolina Supreme Court considered the limits of recovery for bystander emotional distress in Kinard v. Augusta Sash & Door Co., 286 S.C 579, 336 S.E.2d 465 (1985).  The Kinard Court held that a bystander may recover for his or her emotional injuries under the following conditions:

(a) the negligence of the defendant must cause death or serious physical injury to another;
(b) the plaintiff bystander must be in close proximity to the accident;
(c) the plaintiff and the victim must be closely related;
(d) the plaintiff must contemporaneously perceive the accident; and
(e) the emotional distress must both manifest itself by physical symptoms capable of objective diagnosis and be established by expert testimony.

Id. at 582-583.  Of course, we don’t know all the facts.  Thompson may have been sitting in the front row when Rose blew out his knee.  Thompson and Rose may be closely related.  We seriously doubt, however, that either of these conditions would be met by Thompson’s case.  We are confident, however, that Thompson could find some doctor somewhere to attribute the cause of his weight gain to the disappointment Thompson feels at the Bulls’ predicament.  In any case, we are curious to see how this case proceeds, if it proceeds at all.

All we know is that if this case survives, or if Thompson is paid one penny by Rose to settle the lawsuit, it could potentially open the floodgates.  This will be especially true in Chicago, where long-suffering Cubs fans will retain counsel faster than their team can race to the bottom of the NL Central.

Dear Expert Witnesses: Please tell me you’ve actually done this before, before we do a deposition. Thanks. Sincerely, The Plaintiff.

A few years ago, we wrote about a case involving an expert who didn’t conduct testing prior to rendering his opinions, thus ensuring that he could actually get the results he wanted to support his “findings.”  Today, we feature another episode in the sitcom we’ll call ”The Expert Who Wasn’t.” In Ho v. Michelin North America, Inc., No. 11-3334 (10th Cir. March 29, 2013), the plaintiff, Melinda Ho, appealed a district court order excluding her proposed tire expert and granting summary judgment to Michelin.  In 2007, Ms. Ho was injured in car accident when a car driven by Linda Lange suffered a left front tire belt and thread detachment, forcing the car into the oncoming lane of traffic and injuring Ho.  She brought a products liability case against Michelin, alleging defective design, defective manufacture, failure to warn, breach of warranty, and negligence. Thus began a comedy of errors, at least as far as the plaintiff’s experts were concerned.

Ho identified two experts to testify about the cause of the tire failure.  The first, Patrick Cassidy, a Ph.D. chemist, testified that the age of the tire was a major issue, and that age had “an effect” in the cause of the tire failure.  However, he testified that there were a number of potential causes of the failure, and that he would not testify that the age of the tire caused it to fail.

Internal monologue by the plaintiff’s attorney during deposition:  “Then WHY am I paying you?”

Cassidy also testified he had no scientific evidence that the tire was defectively manufactured and, although he identified a potential design defect, he could not testifiy that it caused the failure.  He admitted he was not a warnings expert and could not testify about that issue.  Also, not helpful to the case of the plaintiff’s attorney.

Enter expert number 2, William Woehrle.  After a Daubert hearing, was also excluded.  The Court, helpful as always, reminded us about the four, non-exclusive Daubert factors used in testing an expert’s admissibility in federal court:

1.  Whether the opinion at issue is susceptible to testing and has been subject to such testing;

2.  Whether the opinion has been subjected to peer review;

3.  Whether there is a known or potential rate of error associated with the methodology used and whether there are standards controlling the technique’s operation; and

4.  Whether the theory has been accepted in the scientific community.

Here was the problem with Woehrle: he rested his opinion essentially solely on his credentials working in the tire industry for 40 years and 30 years of teaching accident investigation.  He had no experience designing tires, and the testing he did was minimal at best, and it was not the most accurate testing available for the product.  Furthermore, Woehrle’s methodology and general claims and opinions were “contrary to the generally accepted engineering literature.”  Such obstacles could not be overcome.

In the end, both of Ms. Ho’s experts were excluded by the trial court, a decision that the Tenth Circuit upheld.  Moreover, without expert testimony, the plaintiff’s case failed, and summary judgment for Michelin was affirmed.

Taking Issue With “Blame The Lawyers”

While killing time recently, I ran across this rant posted on the Opinion page of CNN.com, written by Dean Obeidallah, who is apparently “a political comedian,” and a former attorney, among other things.  Well, we don’t think he was trying to be funny in this column.

In fact, I take issue with his tone.

Obeidallah’s basic point is that—wait for it–America is too litigious.  Certainly not new material.  He uses a recently-filed lawsuit against the TV doctor personality “Dr. Oz” as the latest evidence for this theory.  Apparently, a diabetic man is suing Dr. Oz because the remedy Dr. Oz suggested caused the man to suffer burns on his feet.  Of course, as Obeidallah notes, the gentleman seems to have ignored some of the basic instructions for the remedy.  You can read more about the lawsuit here.  Obeidallah then continues his column by providing a list of other “ludicrous” lawsuits (although we noticed that he does not mention the infamous Stella Liebeck McDonald’s Hot Coffee case).

Obeidallah’s verdict on the reasons for our litigious society?  A perfunctory “Blame the lawyers” slogan, especially plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyers, who hope for a quick settlement “so that they can do as little work as possible before seeing their own payday,” and “taking a questionable case that will reap you some media coverage and money.”

Now, we here at Abnormal Use have worked with–and against–a number of hard-working, honorable plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyers who are not just good, but great, attorneys.  We’ve also worked with some who didn’t quite hit the mark.

But we’ve met and worked with just as many great and not-so-great lawyers on our own side of the bar.

Despite his anger, Obeidallah does make one point that we don’t see often in such analysis.  There are a “growing number of lawyers out there struggling to make ends meet,” he says.  He might be on to something.  According to a recent Wall Street Journal column, there are approximately 21,800 new legal jobs each year for the approximately 44,000 law school graduates.  Those numbers don’t crunch.  Hungry lawyers, Obeidallah suggests, might be more willing to take a questionable case simply to keep their practices afloat.

There is, of course, a larger conversation in the legal community these days—about the role of law schools, the quality of legal education, and the available jobs for graduates and seasoned lawyers alike.  We will continue to monitor these issues, comment upon them, and invite your input, as well.  We hope that the tone of these discussions remain civils, and don’t always have to be accompanied by column headings as abrasive as Obeidallah’s “Dr. Oz suit is another reason people hate lawyers.”

We think these heavy subjects deserve a more nuanced approach than that.

WSJ Article Highlights Heavy Hitters In The Courtroom – And The Gym

As if being a Supreme Court Justice wasn’t reason enough, Justices Ginsburg and Kagan have just given us a new reason to admire them.  In a Wall Street Journal article published on March 19, 2013, these two judicial heavy-hitters show that they can bring it in the gym as well.

The article focuses primarily on personal trainer Bryant Johnson, who counts not only Justices Ginsburg and Kagan as clients, but U.S. District Judges Thomas F. Hogan, Ellen S. Huvelle, Emmet G. Sullivan and Gladys Kessler.  His is a great story of American entrepreneurship.  By day, Johnson is a records manager in federal court’s clerk’s office.  A veteran and fitness guru, he began training a friend from the clerk’s office and built his resume of VIPs from there.  In the evening, he drives over to SCOTUS and works out with some of the greatest legal minds of the day.

Justice Kagan boxes with Johnson for her workouts.  Justice Ginsburg likes to work on her pushups:

“When I started, I looked like a survivor of Auschwitz,” Ginsburg said in an interview. “Now I’m up to 20 push-ups.”

This is a fun article, and it makes an important point about judges being real people who, like us, get haircuts, go to the grocery store, and gain weight if they sit behind their desks too long with no exercise.  As they move through their own lives, they interact with “ordinary” people.  I have actually lived this story on a much smaller scale–during my first year in practice, I was introduced by a colleague to a state circuit judge as we sweated side-by-side on Stairmasters.  I knew who he was, of course, but he didn’t know me.  We decided not to shake hands that day.  I have also run into another judge in a local CVS, who gave me a wink after checking out my holey jeans and arms full of baby diapers and a pint of ice cream.

Even though these moments are awkward, they have the wonderful and important effect of bringing the Bar closer. They make my city and state an even better place to practice law.  These moments also illustrate to all that the judges are part of the community.  These are important messages in today’s society when our profession doesn’t always conujure up the Atticus Finch vision of lawyers.

At The Corner Of Products And Family Car Trips

Last weekend, I spent nearly 10 hours in the car to travel to and from Greenville, South Carolina to Savannah, Georgia.  My father turns 65 in a few days, so my husband and I packed up our two boys, ages 3 and 11 months, and loaded the family truckster for a weekend of sugar and celebration. Ten hours of car riding in three days is a lot for little guys to handle, and they become restless and bored along the way.  So, about halfway through each leg of the trip, I found myself crawling between two VERY large carseats in the back to help feed/entertain the boys.  Along the way, I started to think about the products that I already possessed that made these tasks easier, and the ones that I wish had already been invented.  I thought I’d share that list with you.

The “Haves”

1.  The in-car DVD system. Before I actually had children, I vowed never to own a car that had a DVD system for the back seat.  When I was a kid, I had to entertain myself with books, crayons, and generally annoying my brother.  Why couldn’t my kids make do with the same?  Well, when we bought the family truckster, the DVD system came standard, so I didn’t have a choice.  And, in the past three years, I have learned a very valuable lesson.  While I may not be able to see anything on the screen from the front seat, the DVD system has NOTHING to do with the kids.  It’s for the PARENTS!  We still have restrictions on how much of the trip can be “TV time,” but I found myself very thankful for the DVD yesterday when we were stuck in traffic.

2.  Child window locks. The 3-year old has a mischievous streak.  Enough said.

3.  Baby mirror. When angled correctly, a mirror hanging from the back seat can allow the baby and the driver to see each other, or the baby to see himself.  Hours (okay, at least minutes) of fun, especially if you put a hat on the baby.

The Wish List

1.  Automated “peek a boo” parent. My 11 month old is still sitting backwards, and he isn’t very interested in DVDs yet anyway, so he got very bored very quickly staring at the backseat.  As a result, I spent a lot of my time hiding behind my hands/his hands/blankets/stuffed animals and playing peek-a-boo with him.  It would be nice to have something that could do that for me, at least for a little bit.  Because while I got a bit tired of that game, he never did.  Don’t get me wrong – I loved playing with him for a little while, but by hour three, I was exhausted!

2.  Extended trailer hitch changing table (with optional heater). Let’s face it.  No parent wants to change his or her child in a rest area or fast food restaurant bathroom, even with those fold-out Koala tables.  Gross.  But with two kids and two adults, plus all of their stuff, there wasn’t any flat place in the car to change the baby, either.  Plus, it was early March, and quite chilly–no person, baby or not, wants his bare rear end exposed to 40 degree weather!  My solution?  Some sort of table that extends from the car, flat and just big enough on which to change a baby.  It would appear the same way as, say, automatic running boards that appear from the bottom of the car when it is turned off.  Key feature?  A heating element for those bare bottoms.

3.  New York City cab-style impact-resistent glass divider between front and back seats. When you get two boys together, there is a reasonable chance of something flying from the backseat to the front seat, square into the back of Dad’s head, or rolling under Mom’s feet as she tries to pass that 18-wheeler.  A nice optional feature would be soundproofing for meltdowns/temper tantrums that just cannot be quelled.

4.  Teleporter. Beam me up, Scotty!  A teleporter would really obviate the need for all of this other stuff.  Simply load up the car, punch in a destination Delorean-style (yes, I am aware I am mixing pop culture references, thank you), and race toward the downed power line.  Not only would this allow us to miss all the drama of the 10-hour trip, but it would have allowed us to spend more time with the birthday boy, my dad.

Yet, this wish item falls not at the top of my list, but the bottom.  Some of my fondest memories, believe it or not, were on family trips when my brother and I were hostages in the back seat, forced to find our own fun and (gasp!) talk to my parents.  In fact, we all reminisced about some of those trips this past weekend, laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe.  I think they made my brother and I closer to our parents, and to each other.  I hope that these trips do the same for my sons.  Nevertheless, if you take away my DVD player, I may have to hurt you.