New Suit Alleges Airline Cost-Saving Headed To The Toilet

Whether it is through added fees or the elimination of amenities, it is no secret that airlines have been looking at ways to save money. Such moves are the cost of doing business, we suppose.  A new lawsuit filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, however, suggests that one airline is taking its cost-saving game to a whole new level. As reported by, five American Airlines workers have filed suit, accusing the airline of cross-using water jugs to transport toilet chemicals.  The water jugs allegedly come directly from the employee break room. The suit contains causes of action for public nuisance, fraud, and conspiracy; it also seeks an injunction for the airline to cease operations until the process is discontinued.

According to the report, the airline assumed the duty of cleaning its lavatories from an outside contractor in 2010.  The lavatories are supposed to be cleaned through the use of two pumps.  One to remove toilet waste from the lavatories and another to return deodorant cleanser, also known as “blue juice,” back into the toilets.  Unfortunately, the intake mechanism for the “blue juice” pump has allegedly broken on many Boeing 757s.  Rather than make the repairs, airline workers are allegedly directed to pour the blue juice into empty, 5-gallon water jugs and manually pour the jugs into the toilet.  Thereafter, workers allegedly return the water jugs to the break rooms without cleaning them. In turn, the water vendor picks the jugs up for re-filling.  And, so the alleged cycle of decontamination goes on.

As is the case with any new lawsuit, we here at Abnormal Use have no idea as to the merit of this case.  On the surface, the allegations certainly don’t seem to describe a sanitary practice.  On the other hand, we don’t know if anyone actually drinks from the uncleaned jugs. We would hope that after they are retrieved and replaced by the vendor that the vendor would also make investigate and/or clean them before placing them back in service.

We have to wonder whether this lawsuit addresses the drinking water itself or the process. In other words, could this be a case of disgruntled employees overburdened with the new task of manually refilling the blue juice?  If not, couldn’t this situation be remedied by having the employees transport the blue juice with a 5-gallon bucket rather than a jug?

Media Still Trying to Cash-In On Hot Coffee Buzz

We here at Abnormal Use have remained quiet on the hot coffee lawsuit front in recent months. While news reports of such suits often arise, we think we know when to stop beating a dead horse. After all, we have written on the subject of hot coffee lawsuits some 48 times, and there are only so many ways we can say that there is nothing unreasonably dangerous about a product meant to be served hot. Certainly, such dedication to the legal topic was foreseeable when Stella Liebeck ordered that 49 cent cup of coffee from a New Mexico McDonald’s 23 years ago.

That said, every now and again we must come out of hibernation.  And, for good reason. Just because a cup of coffee is a component in an accident case, it does not mean that the case is a “hot coffee case” or bears any resemblance to the infamous Liebeck verdict.  It is time the media gets the message.

Last week, ran the following headline: “Dunkin’ Donuts will pay $522k to Somerset woman who tripped, spilled coffee on herself.”  Undoubtedly, the headline was designed to attract readers by drawing upon their passions for the Liebeck case.  Woman spills coffee on herself and gets a big settlement.  Sounds familiar, right?  We understand why a reader might click on that link.

The problem is that the case has little, if any, resemblance to the Liebeck case.  Upon a review of the article, the reader will see that the case sounds in premises liability – not an allegedly defective product. Back in 2012, the woman purchased multiple cups of coffee at a Dunkin’ Donuts. When walking back to her car, she tripped over an exposed spike from a dislodged curb stop. In the fall, she spilled the coffee on her face and neck. She also sustained lacerations on her hand and knee. While she was burned by hot coffee, there is nothing in the report about whether the coffee was abnormally hot or otherwise defective in any respect. In fact, the only quote found in the report comes from the plaintiff’s lawyer, and it, too, makes no reference to the coffee. Specifically, attorney Ed Rebenack said, “Basic property maintenance would have saved Ms. Marsala from years of debilitating injuries.” Clearly, it is a premises – not product – liability matter.

We understand the concept of clickbait. We also understand the need to draw readers to your site. But, for us legal geeks, the headline is painfully misleading to say the least. Yes, the plaintiff obtained a settlement based, in part, due to coffee burns. The case, however, is not a “hot coffee” case at all. Certainly, hot coffee purportedly contributed to the injuries, but Dunkin’ Donuts’ alleged liability rests with the conditions of its premises. The case would have been the same even if hot coffee was replaced with any other object picked up from inside the store capable of causing injuries. For example, if the plaintiff picked up a plastic knife in the store, tripped in the parking lot, and was stabbed by the knife, then the end result could have been the same. (We recognize this is a stretch, but, hey, it’s a hypothetical) Would the headline have read, “Dunkin’ Donuts will pay $522k to Somerset woman who tripped, stabbed herself with plastic knife”?

Absolutely not. Well, maybe, and if it had, we would have certainly written about those facts, as well.

There are some who will use this case as an example of the alleged dangers of hot coffee. Sure, hot coffee can cause burns.  That has never been in dispute. It is the liability for hot coffee that generates all the buzz. As ridiculous as we find those lawsuits, this case is not one of those. This is just a premises case that just so happens to involve a cup of coffee.  A report whose headline should have read,”Dunkin’ Donuts will pay $522k to Somerset woman who tripped on a dangerous condition in the parking lot, sustained injuries that just so happen to involve a cup of coffee.” That’s more like it.

The Case Of The $9 Million Penis: Sell Or Buy?

In what is sure to go down as the worst injury known to man, an Oregonian has filed suit after having his penis amputated as a result of alleged nursing home neglect. As reported by The Oregonian, the 60-year old man checked into the Oregon City Health Care Center on December 26, 2013, to recover from a kidney infection. He repeatedly complained of pain and bleeding around his catheter, but the nursing home staff allegedly failed to address the problem. On January 20, 2014, the man checked himself out of the nursing home against the staff’s advice and sought medical care at a local hospital, where he was immediately treated for sepsis. Because his penis was so infected, surgeons apparently had no choice but to amputate. The man also allegedly suffered from acute diastolic heart failure, kidney damage, breathing problems, and anemia. The man has incurred up to $2 million in medical bills, lost wages, and other economic damages. He is also seeking $6 million for pain and suffering. Not surprisingly, his wife is also seeking $1 million for loss of consortium.

While it is possible there could be some issues with causation if the amputation is related to the kidney disease rather than the alleged neglect, we here at Abnormal Use are much more interested in discussing the man’s damages. For many, the $9 million price tag may actually be considered a bargain. It is certainly a loss that most would never want to consider. There may be no amount of money that can compensate for the loss of a penis – at least for the extrinsic value the man places on it.

On the other hand, we have to wonder whether a penis depreciates in value? Should we be determining value based on some kind of legal rubric that factors in age, past usage, current usage, et cetera? It is certainly arguable that the injury to an older man may not carry the same weight was an injury to a college student, for example. Sure, this argument may sound picky and perhaps a little NSFW, but we are defense lawyers, after all.

At the end of the day, assuming the nursing home is liable, we expect this case to end by way of a hefty settlement. Taking this case to trial would probably be risky.  After all, some portion of the jury will be made up of men, all of which would pay millions to keep from suffering the same fate.

Jessica Alba’s Honest Company Allegedly Not So Honest

Frustrated with the lack of safe and eco-friendly products for her new baby, movie and television star Jessica Alba teamed up with Christian Gavigan to found The Honest Company. With an emphasis on ethical consumerism, The Honest Company produces a number of non-toxic household products including diapers, sunscreen, and personal care items, among others. With such a benevolent name, The Honest Company holds itself to pretty high standards and operates pursuant to the aptly named “Honestly FREE Guarantee.” According to The Honest Company’s website, the following is what such a guarantee means:

We believe the products people use should be safe and non-toxic (surprisingly, many companies don’t!) — not filled with questionable, risky, untested, or harsh ingredients. We also believe it’s better to be safe than sorry when deciding what goes in our products and we’re vigilant about the latest science regarding chemicals and health to ensure we’re being mindfully cautious.

Based on these beliefs, we created our Honestly FREE Guarantee — a core commitment we make to you and your children. And, it’s another way for us to be Honest — educating, empowering and inspiring people to make better choices for their health & families. Providing clear, credible, transparent information. No smoke and mirrors. No confusion.

Unfortunately, a new class action lawsuit filed in California has accused The Honest Company of being not so honest.  According to a report from the Business Insider, the lawsuit, filed by plaintiff Jonathan D. Rubin, alleges that the company’s hand soap, dish soap, diapers, and multi-surface cleaner are “deceptively and misleadingly labeled.” Rubin alleges that even though the company markets its products as being “natural,” in reality the products contain multiple synthetic preservatives. The complaint contains causes of action for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, and violations of several California consumer protection laws. The proposed class is seeking damages in excess of $5,000,000.

In response, Jessica Alba provided Business Insider with the following statement:

Seven years ago, when I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was frustrated by the lack of healthy and safe product options for me and my new family. In fact, prior to launching The Honest Company, I began lobbying Congress to require that ingredients used in everyday products are tested for safety prior to entry into the marketplace.

I started The Honest Company to develop safe and effective products not just for my children, but for families everywhere. I am very proud that we have built this company into an industry leader focused on using natural ingredients and developing products that people love.

We believe that consumers deserve to know what’s in their products — whether it’s diapers for their children, cleaning products for their families or beauty products for themselves. Our formulations are made with integrity and strict standards of safety, and we label each ingredient that goes into every product – not because we have to, but because it’s the right thing to do.

The allegations against us are baseless and without merit. We strongly stand behind our products and the responsibility we have to our consumers. We are steadfast in our commitment to transparency and openness.

I know my children, Honor and Haven, are growing up in a safer home because of our products.

Interestingly, we here at Abnormal Use have made a thorough review of The Honest Company’s website and nowhere did we find any reference to the products being all-natural or made without synthetic preservatives. Rather, The Honest Company claims to be “non-toxic,” a term that it defines much broader than many of its competitors. In fact, as a part of the Honestly Free Guarantee, each product contains a list of the products that are specifically not used in creating the product as well as those that are. It is hard to imagine how such a product could be any more transparent.

We hope this suit turns out well for The Honest Company. We have always liked Jessica Alba and applaud her company’s mission. Honestly.

Sixth Circuit Answers Ancient Abnormal Use Question

Several years ago when discussing the case of Turner v. Taser International, Inc., No. 3:10-CV-00125 (W.D.N.C.), we here at Abnormal Use discussed the scope of TASER’s duty to warn of the risks inherent when shocking someone with 5000 volts of pulsed current.  In doing so, we asked the following:

It stands to reason that being shocked with large amounts of electricity may not be synonymous with a trip to the spa.  According to TASER’s website, however, the 5000 volts of electricity exerted by its product have a lower risk of danger than a 110 volt wall outlet.  TASER bases this conclusion on a taser’s pulsated current versus the continuous current found in a wall outlet.  Even at a pulsated rate, 37 seconds still seems like a long time to be subjected to 5000 volts of electricity – especially in the chest area.

A study recently released by the United States Department of Justice indicated that “there is currently no medical evidence that CEDs pose a significant health risk for induced cardiac dysrhythmia when deployed reasonably.” (emphasis added)  Interestingly enough, the study fails to define “reasonably.”  Regardless of how it is interpreted, the risk of injury is present. The question is what is TASER’s duty to warn?

Now, four years later, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has answered our question.

In Mitchell v. City of Warren, et al., No. 14-2075 (6th Cir. 2015), the Sixth Circuit affirmed a Michigan federal court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of TASER in a case involving the tasing death of a 16-year old. The crux of the opinion centered around TASER’s duty (or lack thereof) to warn of the possibility of death. The Court acknowledged that studies have shown that death is a possibility after being struck with the taser. However, it found that studies showing a possibility of death are insufficient to establish a duty to warn.  Specifically, the Court stated:

The plaintiff must show that a manufacturer knew or should have known its product posed the particular risk at issue in case. . . . We have refused to rely on studies establishing that the product can possibly cause an injury to prove that a product probably caused the injury.

Likewise, in regards to the appellant’s arguments that TASER had a post-sale duty to warn, the Court reasoned, “If Taser had no such duty to warn based on the pre-sale information available, it could not be liable if later studies suggested safer ways to design and market its products.” Based on the lack of evidence in the record that the risk of death was no more than a possibility, the Court held that TASER had no duty to warn of such a risk.

So there you have it. At least according to the Sixth Circuit, TASER has no duty to warn of the possibility of death.

Costco Shrimp Trade: Not Just Another Blood Diamond

Costco, America’s favorite wholesale warehouse, was sued last week in California over its shrimp merchandise. Interestingly, the suit has nothing to do with the actual quality of the shrimp. Rather, the plaintiffs have some serious beef with how the shrimp were procured. According to a report from Bloomberg, Costco is being accused of selling shrimp farmed through slave labor and human trafficking in Thailand. According to the complaint, Costco purchases Thai shrimp, which are fed a diet of cheap fish caught at sea through unpaid, forced labor, and, thus, such purchases help fuel the inhumane industry. The lawsuit, which seeks class status to represent all California customers of Costco shrimp, alleges that the retail giant misleads consumers into believing that it does not tolerate human trafficking and slavery in its supply chain. The plaintiffs seek to compensate the purchasers of the shrimp products and an injunction preventing it from selling the shrimp and requiring Costco to disclose those products with a tainted supply chain.  The case is Sud v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 15-cv-03783, (N.D.Ca. 2015).

Costco has responded that these allegations have been well-publicized for over a year. A previous investigation by Britain’s Guardian newspaper found that Costco supplier, Charoen Pokphand (CP) Foods, was buying fishmeal to feed its shrimp from some suppliers that owned, operated, or bought from fishing boats manned with slaves. CP Foods has since tightened up its regulations. Likewise, Costco has been working with the Thai government to shore up the supply chain and has offered dissatisfied customers full refunds.

We here at Abnormal Use certainly do not condone slavery or human trafficking.  It sounds like Costco doesn’t either (at least now).  Notwithstanding this lawsuit, it at least appears that steps are now being taken to right the ship.

What Costco knew about the tainted supply chain and when they knew it, we do not know. Certainly, those two questions would go along away to determining the merit of this suit. Nonetheless, we question what this proposed class of Costco customers really seeks to gain out of all of this? Refunds? Costco has already agreed to that.  Cleaning up the tainted supply chain?  Costco is already working on that as well. At this point, the only people who have really been damaged are those individuals forced into slavery in the first place.  Unfortunately, they are the only ones who won’t profit from this lawsuit.

Fitbit: Causing Extreme Emotional Distress for Lawyers Everywhere

Fitbit, Inc., the maker of the popular wearable activity tracker, has seen its share of litigation. Back in 2014, Fitbit was hit with a class action lawsuit in California over complaints that the trackers caused skin irritation. Recently, it found itself the target of a second class action suit due to allegedly liberal readings from the tracker’s sleep tracking function. Those lawsuits are all well and good, but they pale in comparison to the new suit on the horizon – the one to be filed by us here at Abnormal Use.

Here’s the skinny. Wanting to join the fitness craze (and advocate for a product featured on this blog), we purchased our very own Fitbit Charge. We followed the instructions to program the tracker and set our goals for daily steps, active minutes, floors climbed, and calories burned. Thinking we were well on our way to Herculean fitness, we even got on-board for the Fitbit challenge known as the “Workweek Hustle.” But, here is the rub. Despite our religious wearing of the Fitbit device and following the instructions to the letter, we finished dead last in the Workweek Hustle! In fact, in the world of Fitbit, we are apparently the laziest of bums incapable of winning any trophies.

The thing is Fitbit fails to account for the all the strenuous activity one goes through with the daily doldrums of being a lawyer, especially during periods of extensive preparation for a federal trial. While other Fitbit users are marching towards Penguin March and Skyscraper badges, we attorneys are made to believe that we have the activity level of a vacationing snail. Such a realization is clearly hazardous to one’s health. We reviewed the packaging thoroughly and clearly Fitbit has failed to warn us of such a danger.

After first notifying the Consumer Product Safety Commission, we plan on filing suit on behalf of all other similarly situated lawyer Fitbit users. Certainly, we will seek an exorbitant amount of damages due to extreme emotional distress, but we are looking for more than a mere monetary settlement. We won’t stop our crusade against Fitbit until all activity trackers add monitors for legal research, motion writing, briefing, telephone calls, and trial preparation. If Fitbit refuses to add trackers that make attorneys feel self-important, then their product shouldn’t even be on the market. We are sure the CPSC will agree.

Sasquatch And Lizard Man Home In The Carolinas

A couple years ago, we here at Abnormal Use reported upon a Bigfoot sighting right here in our Western Carolina backyard. Well, guess what? Sasquatch is back! And, this time, he has been caught on video! According to a report from USA Today, a man vacationing in Henderson County, North Carolina spotted the creature while walking his dog. Thankfully, he had foresight and wherewithal to utilize his cell phone camera. This video serves as the first empirical evidence that the real life Sasquatch looks like the doppelganger of a blurry man in a gorilla suit.


One would think that the Sasquatch discovery is the greatest discovery in the Carolinas since sweet tea. The truth is that the Sasquatch video footage is not even the top achievement of late. Earlier this month, “Lizard Man” was photographed in Bishopville, South Carolina. The seven-foot tall Lizard Man had been in hiding since he infamously took a bite out of a man’s car parked near the Scape Ore Swamp way, way back in 1988. By the looks of the photograph, Lizard Man has found plenty of other sources of food over the last 27 years.


So what does this breaking news have to do with the law?  Back in 2013, we raised these questions in regards to Sasquatch:

Indeed, we are concerned about the ramifications that a population of sasquatch creatures may have on the legal system of the Carolinas.

Many bigfoot encounters take place when the creature is caught stealing chickens from a chicken coop or messing with other small animals. Had this conduct been that of a coyote or other wild animal, the property owner may have no legal recourse. But, what if the tortfeasor is a large, hairy, bipedal humanoid? The creature may be too human-like to be considered an animal, but is it also too non-human to be subject to suit in a Carolina court? Questions like these must quickly be addressed by the North Carolina legislature.

Even if Sasquatch could be sued, he is likely uninsured and judgment proof. Nonetheless, assuming suit is inevitable, he will need legal counsel. We will look forward to that opportunity. After all, Sasquatch has to make for a great witness with that beautiful hair and all.

Now, that the Lizard Man has reared his head in these parts, our legal system may just explode.

CPSC To Go Interstellar Against Space Buckyballs?

Over the last several years, we here at Abnormal Use have chronicled the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s storied fight to ban the spherical desktop magnets known as Buckyballs.  While we often find the CPSC to take draconian measures, its persistent efforts to rid the globe of Buckyballs were way over-the-top. However, the CPSC may have to push its fight to new limits.  As reported by, Buckyballs are allegedly stirring up some trouble in the Milky Way!  For nearly 100 years, astronomers have been perplexed by absorption bands associated with the interstellar gas and dust of the Milky Way. Now, researchers have discovered the first unambiguous evidence through laboratory testing that the bands may be the fingerprints of Buckyballs.  That’s right. Buckyballs!

To be fair, these space Buckyballs are not exactly the desktop magnets we have come to love. Rather, these Buckyballs are soccer ball-shaped carbon molecules otherwise known as fullerenes. They got their name after their resemblance to the geodesic domes created by architect Buckminster Fuller (see Disney’s Epcot). While technically we may be dealing with two different Buckyballs, we imagine the hearts of the CPSC officials’ skipped a beat when they learned Buckyballs of any type had surfaced in outer space. In any event, we fully expect the CPSC to cite the space Buckyballs for failing to warn that they may cause absorption bands in our galaxy.

Perhaps we read too much science fiction, but can you imagine the CPSC war room if Buckyball CEO Craig Zucker had managed to deposit large quantities of Buckyballs in space? The CPSC would certainly issue recalls from all sales of Buckyballs to extra-terrestrial life forms. Zucker would respond by mocking the CPSC’s efforts with some clever propaganda regarding alien tolerance for digesting magnets. Thereafter, the CPSC would fight back by ordering nuclear strikes on the Milky Way. Of course, we would write about each stop in the process.

Sounds about right.

Almond Milk: Not Just Another Dairy Product

Ever wonder how to milk an almond? It is a question we here at Abnormal Use ask every time we mistakenly find ourselves in the middle of a health food conversation and someone urges us to try almond milk. Contrary to our suspicions, extracting milk from an almond is possible.  However, the process may be fudged from time to time according to a new lawsuit.  As reported by Time, Tracy Albert and Dimitros Malaxianis have sued Blue Diamond alleging that its Almond Breeze milk is made with far less almonds than advertised. Interestingly, the Almond Breeze packaging does not list what percentage of the milk is made from almonds; however, its website states that it only contains 2 percent almonds. Based on “extensive” Internet research, the plaintiffs allege that the majority of almond milk contains 25-33 percent almonds. The Almond Breeze packaging contains pictures of almonds and the phrase “made from real almonds,” which allegedly deceives customers into believing that the product is made “mostly” from almonds. (While we can understand how there can be a discrepancy between 2 percent and 25-33 percent if that is what it takes to make authentic almond milk, we question how 25-33 percent equals “mostly” in any mathematical universe.)

We have no idea whether there is a standard recipe for the creation of almond milk. Nonetheless, we question whether consumers can actually be deceived by an artificial milk substitute. As discussed in the Time report, this same almond milk issue has been discussed in the United Kingdom just three short years ago. The U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority stated:

We considered that, whilst consumers might not be aware of exactly how almond milk was produced, they were likely to realize . . . that the production of almond milk would necessarily involve combining almonds with a suitable proportion of liquid to produce a ‘milky’ consistency.

In other words, almond milk is not actually “milk” at all. It takes a certain amount of processing to make consumers think they are drinking milk in the first place. Whether it is 2 percent or 25 percent almond, consumers should simply be amazed that you can, in fact, “milk” an almond.