Steve Spurrier’s Mid-Season Resignation

On October 12, 2015, news broke that Steve Spurrier was voluntarily resigning from his position as the University of South Carolina’s head football coach, effective immediately. And just as soon as this announcement was made, every social media outlet was full of Gamecock fans sharing their glowing endorsements of their beloved “Head Ball Coach.” Nothing but praise for the coach that took the Gamecock program out of the ditch and made them contenders in their tough division in the South Eastern Conference.

Initially, there was nothing but love and admiration for the HBC from Gamecock fans; however, some fans have now gone in another direction after analyzing their former head coach’s actions in the wake of his announcement and their conclusion that Spurrier doesn’t care about USC. It’s not only an intriguing topic, but also plausible.

In a recent article posted on a Gamecock fan website, a disgruntled USC fan wrote an article discussing his/her recent epiphany about Spurrier’s departure. The fan’s ultimate conclusion is that Spurrier doesn’t care about USC or the Gamecock fan base. In defense of this heartbroken fan, he/she makes a compelling argument and supports that position with some good evidence. This fan first pointed out that the Spurrier quickly shot down any discussions of him serving in some type of advisory position at USC and the HBC never said anything about how much he enjoyed his time at USC or anything about cherishing his memories at the university.

Further, when Spurrier was asked a direct question about a message he would like to share with the Gamecock fan base, he responded “with absolutely no emotion and classic shrug of the shoulders, he said, ‘I’m no longer the head coach, so I’d just thank them for all they’ve done. I don’t really have a message.’ He thanked the fans for ‘receiving’ him and his family. And with that, he abruptly concluded the press conference, ‘Okay let’s get moving, I’ve had enough here.’”

This fan concluded “that Steve Spurrier doesn’t adore South Carolina like he adores Florida and Duke. But more disappointing was the realization that the Head Ball Coach doesn’t care for the Gamecocks as much as Gamecock nation cares for him. I wonder if he cared at all.”

Another interesting aspect of this relationship is that Spurrier will also continue to be paid his full salary throughout the remainder of the year. As stated in a recent article published by The State, Spurrier is situated to receive more than $920,000 through the end of the year. Not too shabby of a deal for the “Former Head Ball Coach.” A tip of the hat to Mr. Spurrier who will surely go down in the history books as a legendary college football coach, and he was able to make his exit (from a program that could potentially finish the season with a losing record) in nothing but praise and glory.

Certain Meats Accused By The IARC Of Increasing the Risk of Certain Cancers - 22

We regret to inform our readers that various media outlets, including the American Cancer Society Pressroom Blog, have reported that the “International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a part of the World Health Organization, has classified processed meat as a cancer causing agent (carcinogen), and red meat as a probable carcinogen.” These conclusions apparently “are based primarily on evidence showing an increased risk of colorectal cancer” and “also evidence of increased risk of pancreatic and prostate cancer.”

We here at Abnormal Use have questions (after we pick ourselves up off the floor). For starters, how did the IARC reach these conclusions?

According to the WHO, the following is the more detailed basis for the conclusion as to red meat:

After thoroughly reviewing the accumulated scientific literature, a Working Group of 22 experts from 10 countries convened by the IARC Monographs Programme classified the consumption of red meat as probably carcinogenic to humans (Group 2A), based on limited evidence that the consumption of red meat causes cancer in humans and strong mechanistic evidence supporting a carcinogenic effect. This association was observed mainly for colorectal cancer, but associations were also seen for pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

As to processed meats, which include “hot dogs (frankfurters), ham, sausages, corned beef, and . . . beef jerky as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces,” the WHO explains only that “[p]rocessed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.” So, “a Working Group of 22 experts from 10 countries” reviewed “scientific literature” and found “limited evidence” suggestion an “association” between consuming red meat and three types of cancer, and this same group of experts found “sufficient evidence” that the consumption of processed meat “causes” a specific type of cancer? We carnivores at Abnormal Use feel compelled mine down into these conclusions and educate our non-toxic tort lawyer readers on some of these terms that the WHO has used to accuse an American dietary staple of wrongdoing.

First of all, what is a carcinogen?

According to the American Cancer Society, carcinogens are “[s]ubstances and exposures that can lead to cancer.” (emphasis added). It is important to note that “[c]arcinogens do not cause cancer in every case, all the time” and that “[s]ubstances labeled as carcinogens may have different levels of cancer-causing potential.” For example, substances may be carcinogenic only at certain doses or exposure intervals. A person’s genetics may also play in to how carcinogenic a substance is for that person. The IARC places agents into various categories or groups of carcinogens, which are depicted in the image below:


Red meat has been placed in Group 2A and processed meat has been placed in Group 1.

How do scientists determine whether something is a carcinogen?

How do scientists determine the risk of disease presented by exposure to a particular substance? This is known as the field of epidemiology, which is typically defined as “the scientific study of disease patterns among populations in time and space.” Epidemiologists use various tools to assess risk of disease, including case-control studies, and cohort studies.

A cohort study is “a group of people with defined characteristics who are followed up to determine incidence of, or mortality from, some specific disease, all causes of death, or some other outcome.” With a case control study, “the diseased patient is questioned and examined, and elements from this history taking are knitted together to reveal characteristics or factors that predisposed the patient to the disease.” There are other tools used by epidemiologists, but these are the two which are most relevant to this article.

The goal of the epidemiological study (relevant to this post) is to determine the potential effect to a human being of exposure to a particular substance. An epidemiological study could find an “association” between an exposure and a health effect, which is simply “a relationship between two, or more, variables.” For example, a study of 20 murderers who happened to have all been wearing blue shirts might show that more blue shirts are associated with more murders. Causation, on the other hand, “means that the researchers found that changes in one variable they measured directly caused changes in the other,” which would be for example, “research showing that jumping of a cliff directly causes great physical damage.”

There are potential issues that could weaken a particular study. For example, the results of the study could be due to chance. In our blue shirt murderer example, the fact that all of the murders happened to be wearing blue shirts may simply be due to chance; therefore, the association between blue shirts and murder is meaningless. “Confounding” is also an issue which “involves the possibility that an observed association is due, totally or in part, to the effects of differences between the study groups (other than the exposure under investigation) that could affect their risk of developing the outcome being studied.” Another potential issue is bias, which includes “any systematic error in an epidemiological study that results in an incorrect estimate of the association between exposure and risk of disease.” For example, test subjects may have “recall bias” in that they remember some past exposures and forget others. Ideally, a study will control for these issues to strengthen the results of the study. In general, the more these issues are controlled for, the more reliable the results of the study, and vice versa.

How strong is the link between meat and cancer?

As mentioned above, the IARC has concluded that there may be an “association” between the consumption of red meat and the development of certain type(s) of cancer, and the IARC was able to find a causal link between processed meats and certain types of cancer. Obviously, we know that association is not synonymous with causation, and a reading of the full text version of the WHO article raises other concerns with the study linking the consumption of certain meats to cancer.  For example:

  • Data on the association of red meat with colorectal cancer were only available from 14 cohort studies and 15 case-control studies, and positive associations were only found in half of the cohort studies and less than half of the case-control studies.
  • While the experts believe they can rule out chance, bias, and confound as “unlikely” with processed meat, “[c]hance, bias, and confounding could not be ruled out with the same degree of confidence for the data on red meat consumption” because “no clear association was seen in several of the high quality studies and residual confounding from other diet and lifestyle risk is difficult to exclude.”

Additionally, we feel compelled to point out that the dose makes the poison, and according to the IARC, you have to eat approximately a quarter of a pound of red meat per day to increase your risk of developing cancer by 17 percent.  And you have to eat approximately an eighth of a pound of processed meat per day (apparently the equivalent of two strips of bacon) to increase your risk of cancer by 18%. Also, while the IARC suggests that “[m]eat smoked or cooked over a heated surface or open flame contains PAH,” which allegedly “cause DNA damage,” the IARC admits that “little direct evidence exists that this occurs following meat consumption.”

Without more information regarding: sample size; control for bias, confounding, and chance; and other important information, we at Abnormal Use are not inclined to amend our carnivorous habits.

Ron Swanson

For now, though, red meat and processed meats will have to remain in the list of substances accused by the IARC of containing carcinogens, along with substances such as chlorinated drinking water, pickled vegetables (asian), coffee, hair coloring products, extremely low frequency magnetic fields, salted fish (Chinese style), tea, and various others.

Georgia Court Dismisses Defective Sperm Suit

Last week, a Georgia court dismissed a lawsuit filed against a sperm bank and a sperm donor who allegedly engaged in some foul play in selling their product. The suit, filed in March by Canada residents Angela Collins and Margaret Elizabeth Hanson, accused Xytex Corporation of misleading its customers as to the true nature of the sperm’s donor. Specifically, Collins and Hanson alleged that Xytex employees informed them that their donor was “smart, healthy and mature” when in fact he was schizophrenic, dropped out of college, and had been arrested for burglary. We assume Hanson and Collins started looking ahead to their baby’s teenage years and didn’t like what they saw. We also assume that they are unfamiliar with Steve Jobs.

The suit contained causes of action for fraud, negligence, and product liability. In his order, Fulton County Judge Robert McBurney determined that each claim was “rooted in the concept of wrongful birth,” which is not recognized under Georgia law. Nonetheless, Judge McBurney noted the complicated issues presented by the development of reproductive science, stating:

Science has once again – as it always does – outstripped the law.  Plaintiffs make a compelling argument that there should be a way for parties aggrieved as these Plaintiffs are to pursue negligence claims against a service provider in pre-conception services.  After all, the human life that makes the calculus so complicated has not yet begun when would-be parents are working with companies such as Xytex.

We here at Abnormal Use wholeheartedly agree with Judge McBurney’s decision. The viability of wrongful birth claims aside, the birth of a child is always a crapshoot whether conceived naturally or through artificial means.  The beauty of life is its randomness and unpredictability. While we have made strong progress in genetic research, there is no way to accurately predict everything about a new life. Nonetheless, parents love and  care for their children regardless of their child’s health history or their susceptibility to making good or bad life choices. It is a part of life. We can’t outwit it regardless of whether we conceive naturally or through the aid of a sperm bank.

Given the unpredictability of life, we question whether obtaining inaccurate (or even fraudulent) information from a sperm bank should warrant a valid claim. This can of worms none of us wants to open.

Friday Links


Apparently, this villain depicted on the cover of Superman #314 is “Superman’s Judge, Jury, and Executioner.” That’s troubling. However, we find ourselves more intrigued by the promotion that the reader might find him or herself as an extra in the first Superman movie!

Um, did you see the voir dire depicted on this week’s episode of “Modern Family”? Yikes.

Speaking of pop culture, any thoughts on the new “Star Wars” trailer? After the prequels, we are bracing ourselves for disappointment, although we must confess that we are cautiously optimistic in light of everything we’ve seen to date.

Our favorite tweet of the week involves the law of donuts:

Bath Salts Under Siege: Eighth Circuit To Hear Challenge To Analogue Drug Act

Back in 2013, James Carlson, owner of the Last Place of Earth head shop in Duluth, Minnesota, was convicted on 51 counts of peddling synthetic drugs. He was sentenced to 17 1/2 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $6.5 million. Carlson was accused of selling synthetic drugs misbranded as incense, potpourri, bath salts, and glass cleaner, the effects of which mimic illegal narcotics and hallucinogens. Carlson’s defense? The government led him to believe the products he was selling were legal. Carlson feels so strongly that he was in the clear that he has taken his case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

According to a report out of CBS Minnesota, Carlson is challenging the constitutionality of the Federal Analogue Drug Act, 21 U.S.C. § 813, a section of the Controlled Substance Act allowing any chemical “substantially similar” to a scheduled controlled substance to be treated as if it were one of the scheduled drugs. Carlson contends that the law is so vaguely worded that it is impossible to know if one is violating it. At his sentencing hearing in 2014, Carlson claimed that over 1,000 other Minnesota businesses were selling the same products.

The purpose of the Analogue Drug Act was to stay ahead of the curve in combating the ever changing molecular formulas of banned substances. With that said, we have grown weary of phrases like “substantially similar.”  What is and is not “substantially similar” is a question of fact opening the door to pickles like the one faced by Carlson.  Just as federal prosecutors can argue that the substances sold by Carlson are substantially similar to scheduled substances, so too can others argue that they are not.  And, there is your dilemma.

Whether or not the Court determines the statute is unconstitutionally vague, this case is yet another example of the problems of federal drug regulation. Again, the overarching principle – to protect the health and safety of the public – is a good one. But we must ask if there is a better way to go about it? Maybe we wouldn’t have to worry about the existence of “synthetic” drugs if we better addressed how we handle the pure ones.

Back To The Future Day


If you’ve been on social media at all this week, then you know that today, October 21, 2015, is Back To The Future Day. In the 1989 film Back To The Future II, Marty McFly, who we shouldn’t even have to say was played by Michael J. Fox since it is such common knowledge, travels to this very day in 2015. Today, his distant future was our present. How about that?

Much has been written this week about the predictions, some zany, some accurate, that were made in the film. We’re pleased to see that the prediction that all lawyers had been abolished by 2015 did not come to pass. We wonder what Walter Olson thinks about that, though.

Volvo Joins Google In “Accepting Full Responsibility” For Self Driving Cars

The Jetsons

Self-driving cars are inevitable. But when human drivers are no longer operating their vehicles, who is to blame if the “self-driving” vehicle is involved in an accident? Google and Mercedes Benz have reportedly already “accept[ed] full liability if their self-driving vehicles cause a collision,” and now, Volvo has followed suit:

Only a few days after unveiling the user interface for its coming IntelliSafe Auto Pilot self-driving system, Volvo’s president and chief executive Håkan Samuelsson said the company would ‘accept full liability whenever one if its cars is in autonomous mode.’

What does that mean?

Apparently, Volvo will accept liability “for an accident if it was the result of a flaw in the car’s design.” However, “[i]f the customer used the technology in an inappropriate way then the user is still liable,” and of course, “if a third party vehicle causes the crash, then it would be liable.”

We at Abnormal Use struggle to see how this is different than the current state of the law, in which the manufacturer of a vehicle may be liable for an accident caused by a product defect and the driver of the vehicle may be liable if the driver’s negligence causes the collision. However, these proclamations by autonomous vehicle manufacturers may provide clarity in an otherwise uncertain, uncharted area.

Blogger’s Block (A Blog About Nothing)

Our editor has reminded me that it’s time for me to submit a blog post. So, here it is.

I could write about unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones. There has been a good bit of discussion lately about the potential regulatory scheme for drones,  liability for negligent operation of drones, and product liability claims against drone manufacturers. But that would require some research, and I am not inclined to do that just now.

I could provide my nuanced political analysis on the first Democratic presidential debate, but I am confident our editor does not want me to go in that direction.  (Hint:  Ms. Clinton was the clear winner; Senator Sanders was his usual cantankerous self.)

What about religion? I could write about the role of religion in our political system with some GOP presidential candidates relying so heavily on evangelical support for their candidacies. But that would be a double-whammy taboo for the Abnormal Use blog.

What about this? I have been invited to speak to the Greenville County Dental Society about depression and suicide among that profession. According to the CDC, they have the highest per capita suicide rate among all professions. I have no idea why, but if our readers wish to offer any thoughts, I’m listening.

Alas, I suffer from a social media malady known as Blogger’s Block. Catch you next time!

Friday Links


Above, you’ll find the cover of Supernatural Law #38, and we must confess we dig it. “My case has become such a personal issue for my attorney – she doesn’t even notice I’m disappearing!” exclaims a client facing more than legal issues, it seems. We wonder if any of the ethical bodies of the state bars have addressed the issue of a partially disapparating client.

If you’re in Charlotte next week, you might be interested in a CLE that our editor, Jim Dedman, has planned for the Mecklenburg County Bar. It’s called “Bitcoin Basics for Lawyers,” and you can find the program and registration information here. If you’ve ever wondered about the nature of and law governing this cryptocurrency, there’s no better time to learn how it might affect your practice.

We tend to agree with this writer that emojis are ruining civilization. Any thoughts, dear readers?

Our favorite legal tweet of late is from our own Stuart Mauney, who congratulates our own John Cuttino:

iPads at Depositions

There are those moments when you are in the room, waiting for the other parties to arrive at the deposition, when conversations inevitably turn to that topic of topics:  iPads. Who can resist?

Recently, under such circumstances, I had an interesting conversation with a court reporter in which we discussed the possible future usage of iPads during the deposition process.  Certainly, already, lawyers are bringing their deposition outlines and documents to depositions on their iPads, laptops, or tablets.  With utilities like Dropbox and other online file storage utilities, lawyers or their staff members can place sizable PDF files in shared folders and make them accessible to the lawyer at their deposition. (Let’s assume for the purposes of this blog entry that any file sharing security and safety concerns are not at issue, shall we?)

The chief practical advantage of this approach is that the lawyer need not take boxes and boxes and boxes of voluminous potential exhibits to the deposition. Wouldn’t that be nice? Sigh. There have been cases during which I have had to take multiple boxes – each full of red wells, folders, papers, binders, and such – to the deposition.  You’ve got to have your notice of deposition, accident report, witness statements, and other records ready to be admitted into the record. Plus, you must carry with you a number of potential exhibits, as well. You never know what might become relevant; perhaps the witness will make a remark which requires the usage of voluminous medical or employment records as exhibits.  Perhaps you’ve dug up lots of dirt on the witness and want to reserve the right to confront him or her with documents to that effect.

But why are we are we continuing to bring these papers with us to depositions?  Well, the custom is, and the rules generally require, that the deposing lawyer provide copies of each exhibit to any lawyer present at the deposition.  We also need for the witness to be able to physically hold a copy of the exhibit, which, of course becomes the property of the court reporter who attaches it to the deposition in question. Lots of paper, that.

There’s a better way.

For most exhibits, we could simply produce a PDF on our iPads and show the witness the document in that format.  Prior to doing so, we could email a PDF of that exhibit from our iPads to all the lawyers present at the deposition so that they could have a copy to review on their laptops, PDAs or iPads.  Finally, a copy could be emailed to the court reporter to attach to the deposition itself, thereby sparing the need for multiple printouts of these exhibits (particularly when certain exhibits were probably already brought by all of the lawyers present as part of their own preparation for the proceeding).  This certainly seems to be an appropriate approach for exhibits such as notices of deposition, discovery responses, and accident reports, all of which are almost certain to be introduced into evidence, that every attorney in the case already has anyway, and in all likelihood, brought with them to the deposition in the first place.

But what if you want the witness to draw the exhibit?  How can I do so if it is in digital format?  Well, there are even programs that will allow someone using a stylist to draw on a PDF that is imported in that program.

Such issues are easily overcome.

Someday, though, someday, we’ll be able to arrive at the deposition with just our laptop or tablet.

But, alas, that day has not yet arrived.

(This post was originally posted on the now defunct North Carolina Law Blog on Wednesday, April 11, 2012).