Friday Links


As we complete this week’s coverage of the twentieth anniversary of the Stella Liebeck McDonald’s hot coffee trial, we thought it might be fun to revisit some of our past hot coffee and food related posts. But first: Above, you’ll find the cover of McDonaldland Comics #102 which we felt we had to share in light of this week’s theme. We’re not entirely certain what Ronald McDonald is doing on the cover, but surely, he is being contributorily negligent. And with that, we return to the Liebeck case one last time this week to direct you to some links to our favorite blog posts on that and other hot food and beverage cases.

So, without further ado, here they are below (including the posts that ran this week on the subject):

The McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case: Revisiting The Eyewitness Trial Testimony” (Jim Dedman, August 13, 2014).

20 Years of McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case Rhetoric” (Nick Farr, August 12, 2014).

20 Years Ago This Week: The Stella Liebeck McDonald’s Hot Coffee Trial” (Jim Dedman, August 11, 2014).

The Stella Liebeck McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case FAQ” (Jim Dedman, January 25, 2011).

Spill the Beans: The Truth Behind Susan Saladoff’s “Hot Coffee” Documentary” (Nick Farr, January 24, 2011).

Abnormal Use Cited in Today’s New York Times on ‘Hot Coffee’ Documentary” (Jim Dedman, June 26, 2011).

Film Review: Susan Saladoff’s “Hot Coffee” Documentary” (Nick Farr, June 27, 2011).

Statutory Construction: What is a “Documentary” Film?” (Jim Dedman, October 13, 2011).

Thoughts on “Hot Coffee” Director Susan Saladoff’s Appearance on “The Colbert Report”” (Nick Farr, October 26, 2011).

The McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case: Distinguishing Between Facts and Theory” (Nick Farr, March 19, 2013).

Photograph of the Day: The Canadian Hot Coffee Warning?” (Nick Farr, April 24, 2013).

The New York Times Reflects On Post-Liebeck Life” (Nick Farr, November 7, 2013).

Hot Queso Jurisprudence in Pennsylvania” (Jim Dedman, December 12, 2013).

Liebeck v. McDonalds Restaurants: The Original Coffee Product Liability Case” (Jim Dedman, April 24, 2014).

Friday Links


Above, you’ll find the cover of McDonaldland Comics #101 which, really, has no apparent legal theme. However, we bring this comic book cover to your attention today because it is the 20th anniversary of the infamous Stella Liebeck McDonald’s hot coffee trial. That’s right, dear readers! Twenty years ago today, on August 8, 1994, that fateful trial began. The case would soon become the most well known American civil trial. Next week, we’ll be discussing the case in much more detail. In fact, we’ll have a week’s worth of coverage!

Apparently, there is a new brewery in the Carolinas called Legal Remedy Brewing Company. How about that?

We dug this article by Jena McGregor from The Washington Post simply entitled “The out-of-office reply, deconstructed.” We’ve been receiving a lot of these lately, and we’re pleased to learn that there is a philosophy of sorts to crafting them.

According to Scientific American, the State of California is now legislating the ability to operate driverless cars. Reports Corinne Iozzio:

The law is finally catching up to driverless cars. As of September 16, the state of California—home of auto newcomer Google—will require test drivers to have a special license, like a trucker or school bus driver. They will need to be employees or contractors of the car manufacturer, complete safety training, and have clean road records. Carmakers themselves will have to apply for a testing permit annually, install manual controls and override systems in each car, submit incident reports and secure $5 million in insurance.

By the way, remember back in 2011 when Scientific American name checked the Abnormal Use law blog? Yes, we do, too.

Oh, and our favorite tweet of late came from our GWB’s own Ron Tate, who commented upon a recent deposition experience:

Friday Links


 Okay, so how’s this for a legally themed comic book cover? Above, you’ll find the cover of Uncanny X-Men #23, published just a weeks ago in 2014. The cover is simple: It depicts “The Last Will and Testament of Charles Xavier,” who we all know to be the leader of The X-Men. What is his testamentary intent? Did he comply with all of the formal prerequisites required of the execution of a will? Who were the witnesses to its execution? We assume that with such a fancy cover page that it is not a holographic will. We’ll review the issue and report back dear readers. In fact, this is the same comic book issue that we mentioned last week due to the fact that a part of the narrative is set in Charleston, South Carolina.

Here’s some news: In this month’s ABA Journal, our editor Jim Dedman offers two contributions to its “12 Movies With Pivotal Lessons Featuring Lawyers” article. As a part of that piece, he was asked to choose a significant legal scene from a film and identify some of the lessons that lawyers can learn from it. Of course, he chose to write about the expert witness sequence in My Cousin Vinny (a film to which we here at Abnormal Use dedicated a week’s worth of posts on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary back in 2012). As for his other contribution, he chose to discuss the wonderful Wilford Brimley scene in Absence of Malice.

Here’s how he describes the scene in Vinny:

In the final trial sequence, Vinny calls an unsuspecting Mona Lisa to the stand to testify as an expert witness for the defense. In so doing, he draws an objection from the prosecutor (Lane Smith), who rises to question Mona Lisa’s expertise. He then conducts a brief voir dire of Mona Lisa—which, curiously, takes place in the jury’s presence—to determine whether she is indeed qualified to testify. Impressed by the depth of her automotive knowledge, the prosecutor withdraws his objection and the judge permits her to testify. Through her testimony, Vinny wins an acquittal for his clients.

As for Absence of Malice, he sets the scene as follows:

No summary can do the final sequence justice; it must be seen to be fully experienced. As Gallagher’s efforts to “get even” begin to come to fruition, Wells convenes a meeting of all of those involved in the Gallagher affair—including the federal prosecutor, the district attorney (to whose campaign committee Gallagher has made anonymous contributions so as to cast doubt upon him), Carter and the newspaper’s lawyer—in an office conference room. The federal prosecutor attempts a mock cross-examination of Gallagher to prove his revenge scheme, but Wells takes over the meeting and queries Carter about her source into the investigation of Gallagher. Carter admits she received the information from the federal prosecutor, and following that admission, Wells—after commenting on the First Amendment and the purported reporter’s privilege—tells everyone where they now stand.

You’ll need to visit the ABA Journal‘s site to see the potential lessons from these films. You can read the Absence of Malice article here and the My Cousin Vinny article here.

By the way, we once tried to interview Mr. Brimley about his fateful scene, but alas, it was not in the cards. But it resulted in an interesting story about our attempts to do so, which you can revisit here.

Friday Links


We here at Abnormal Use are somewhat embarrassed to admit that we were once fans of the television show, “Alf.” But, hey, we all have some mortifying secret from the 1980′s, right? Accordingly, we direct you to the above cover of Alf #33, published way, way back in 1990. Note that the cover depicts a wanted poster for Alf who is, apparently, sought by the law for “illegal entropy” and, our favorite, “impersonating a USDA inspector.” We wonder who defended our favorite alien life form at his criminal trial, but perhaps we will never, ever know (not having read this issue or mustered the energy to seek it out 24 years later). Alas, Alf.

We’ve written a bit about the products liability implications of driverless cars, but what about the criminal law? Apparently, according to Techdirt, the FBI believes that driverless cars will aide criminal enterprises. We’re thinking, perhaps, that the FBI has forgotten about all of the driverless cars that have assisted law enforcement, like KITT from “Knight Rider.”

As a law firm with three offices in the Carolinas, we were surprised to learn that part of the latest X-Men comic book takes place in Charleston, South Carolina. Apparently, aliens attack the city. For more on that, see here.

Did you hear that Duran Duran has sued the company it hired to run its fan club? If we had filed that lawsuit, we would have concluded our complaint with the phrase “(Save A) Prayer For Relief.” But we’re music nerds.

Are you following Abnormal Use on the Facebook? If not, you can do so by clicking here!

Friday Links


“I accuse the JSA of treason!” exclaims Batman on the cover of America Vs. The Justice Society #1, published not so long ago in 1985. Technically, wouldn’t the proper caption be “United States v. The Justice Society?” We here at Abnormal Use don’t practice in the federal criminal courts, but we seem to recall that it is always the “United States” listed as a party in that type of litigation. And does Batman have enough evidence as required by the U.S. Constitution? Whatever the case, here is the somewhat confusing plot summary from, of course, Wikipedia:

The series was set on Earth-Two and began with the discovery of Batman’s diary (The pre-Crisis Earth-Two Bruce Wayne had been murdered by a criminal named Bill Jensen prior to this adventure as indicated in this story) which indicated that the Justice Society was guilty of treason during World War II and conspired to cover-up their treason after the war was over. The group is put on trial and their history is reviewed. All the historical adventures involving the JSA are remembered, and details are added. It eventually reveals that the diary is a hoax created by Batman in an effort to have the JSA apprehend Per Degaton at a future time that Batman believed he would not be alive for.

Here’s what the drummer of the band Tool told Rolling Stone about the litigation his band is facing: “We’re going to trial and we want to crush them. But every time we’ve gotten close to going to trial, it gets postponed and we’ve wasted money and time and it has just drained our creative energy. We bought an insurance policy for peace of mind, but instead we would have been better off if we never had it and just dealt with the original lawsuit.”

GWB’s own Stuart Mauney has been appointed to a one year term as a member of the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs Advisory Committee. The ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs has the mandate to educate the legal profession concerning alcoholism, chemical dependencies, stress, depression and other mental health issues. Don’t forget:  You can follow Stuart on Twitter here. (Oh, and speaking of Stuart, you should go back in time and read his “Burned At Mediation By My Own Facebook Post!” blog entry from 2012.

Finally, there was a great turnout last night at the North Carolina Legal Geeks event at Charlotte, North Carolina’s Unknown Brewing Company. North Carolina attorney Clark Walton spoke to the group about digital and smartphone forensics. If you’re into legal technology issues, you might consider following @NCLegalGeeks on Twitter.

Friday Links


As our editor recently tweeted, we here at Abnormal Use recently stumbled across the comic book cover above, that of Avengers #228, published way, way back in 1983. “At Last! The Trial of Yellow Jacket!” the cover proclaims. If you only know The Avengers from the recent films, you may be unfamiliar with Yellow Jacket a/k/a Hank Pym a/k/a Ant Man a/k/a as Giant Man a/k/a Goliath. He’s also the creator of the villainous robot Ultron (who will apparently be the main menace in the upcoming Avengers film sequel). Anyway, the producers of the Avengers films didn’t see fit to include Pym in the films, despite his status as a founding member of the group in the comics. Let’s just say, though, that he had some issues, as you might suspect from the cover above. Visible in the courtroom are She-Hulk, Captain America, Hawkeye, Thor, and Janet Pym a/k/a The Wasp, whose troubled marriage to Hank was explored in the comics for years. Here’s a summary of the issue we located:

While both the Avengers and the general public anxiously await the outcome of Hank Pym’s trial for treason, Egghead again reforms the Masters of Evil and sends them to the courthouse to free Hank. During the resultant battle with the Avengers, the newly recruited Radioactive Man unleashes a gamma ray burst which changes the She-Hulk back to Jennifer Walters, thus turning the tide in his allies’ favor. Despite the heroes’ best efforts, their opponents succeed in spiriting Hank away, while deliberately leaving behind a brainwashed Shocker to assert that the former Avenger planned his own escape. Now believing that he can never be cleared, the captive Hank is seemingly coerced into aiding Egghead’s latest scheme.

An Avenger on trial for treason, eh? How about that? In fact, we once wrote about this trial back in early 2013. For that edition of Friday Links, please see here.

In case you missed it, South Carolina Bar President Cal Watson penned an editorial entitled “Lawyers fight for America’s founding principles” for The State newspaper. You can read it here.

You know, we write a lot about McDonald’s litigation and hot coffee, but we’ve never written about bears at McDonald’s.

Friday Links (Fourth of July Edition)


Happy Fourth of July, dear readers! We assume that you, like us, are out of the office today, but we certainly felt obligated to prepare a patriotic edition of Friday Links for today! We hope that everyone has a safe and festive holiday weekend, and we encourage everyone to pause briefly to remember what happened 238 years ago today. In the spirit of the day, above, you’ll find the cover of Roger Rabbit #15, published not so long ago in 1991. We wonder if the children of today know of Roger Rabbit or still watch the classic 1980′s film, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? We certainly hope so. To visit our prior Fourth of July posts (and see some other spirited comic book covers), please see here, here, here, and here.

As always, we will return to regular posting on Monday.

Friday Links


We here at Abnormal Use never meant to cause you any sorry and we never meant to cause you any pain. (Those are lyrics we’re paraphrasing, as if you didn’t recognize them!). This past Wednesday, June 25, 2014, was the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Prince and The Revolution’s Purple Rain album. So, of course, we had to mention that on the blog this week. Above, you’ll find the cover of Rock N’ Roll Comics #21, published not so long ago in 1991. We encourage you, our dear readers, to revisit this album over the weekend and report back to us on Monday with your thoughts. Being law nerds, we decided to turn to the case law and see how often, if at all, the courts have referenced “Purple Rain.”

Although we harbored some initial doubts about dedicating a post to an album by Prince, in the end, we figured we would throw caution to the wind. So here we go.

If you plug the phrase “Purple Rain” into Westlaw, 17 cases appear in the results. Most of those cases reference night clubs, recreational drugs, or commercial tanning products named “Purple Rain.”

But we thought we’d share the three we found most interesting.

A relatively recent North Carolina federal court case, Controversy Music v. Mason, No. 5:09–CV–488–BR (E.D.N.C. June 24, 2010) involved a copyright action in the default judgement setting). The relevant paragraph:

Plaintiffs are the exclusive copyright owners of the three musical recordings—“Purple Rain”, “Yo, Excuse Me Miss”, and “Please Don’t Go”—specified in this case. Plaintiffs filed their complaint on 10 November 2009, alleging that Defendant infringed upon the specified copyrights by giving unauthorized public performances of their works on both specific occasions and in an ongoing manner at Club International, owned by Defendant. Plaintiffs allege that Defendant’s actions constituted willful violation of their rights, because the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), of which Plaintiffs are members, advised Defendant several times of his potential liability for copyright infringement. By way of the instant motion, Plaintiffs seek statutory damages of $5,000 for each of the three copyright infringements, reasonable costs and attorney’s fees in the amount of $2,650.71, and a permanent injunction against Defendant prohibiting him from publicly performing any of the copyrighted materials in ASCAP’s repertory without authorization.

In CBS Inc. v. Pennsylvania Record Outlet, Inc.,  598 F.Supp. 1549 (W.D. Pa. 1984). The record store defendant was sanctioned for continuing to sell imported Canadian copies of Purple Rain – and other albums – after representing in a consent decree that it would not do so. The opinion has several references to agents of the Plaintiff buying copies of Purple Rain – and albums by Dio and Twister Sister – on various dates in 1984.

Back in 1989, the Amarillo Court of Appeals in Texas issued its opinion in Guss v. State, 763 S.W.2d 609 (Tex. App. – Amarillo, 1989, no writ). In that case, the defendant-appellant, charged with murder, appealed an issue relating to jury destruction. The defendant’s alias was “Purple Rain.” In fact, the full style of the case is Lisa Guss, A/K/A “Purple Rain,” Appellant, v. The State of Texas, Appellee.

So, dear readers, we recommend that you read the aforementioned three cases and find your cassette tape of Purple Rain and enjoy the weekend.


Friday Links

“Chaos in the Court!” proclaims the cover of Marvel Team-Up #51, published way, way back in 1976. In that issue, Spider-Man and Iron Man join forces to defeat a villain in a courtroom. Look closely in the top right hand corner and you’ll see the judge at his bench desperately attempting to dodge the bad guy. We can only assume that the people depicted fleeing at the bottom of the cover are lawyers or other courtroom personnel. We may need to investigate how this one turned out, but we suspect superhero battles violate the court’s local rules. If you’re curious, you can find a summary of this issue here.

You need to read about this odd lawsuit involving Eddie Murphy.

An interesting – but likely doomed – argument: “Attorneys for two people convicted in a federal mortgage fraud case are asking for a new trial, in part because they say their clients’ rights were violated when prospective jurors who did not meet the dress code at the federal courthouse in Orlando were turned away by security.” For more, please see this news article by Lyda Longa of The Daytona Beach News-Journal.

If you’re feeling some nostalgia for New Coke, you might be in luck. Click here for a trip down memory lane. (Or, if you’re a young associate, and you’ve never heard of New Coke, click that link, as well.).

Don’t forget! We here at Abnormal Use are at the North Carolina Bar Association Annual Meeting in Wilmington, North Carolina today! If you see us, say hi!

Friday Links


Oh, my. It’s Friday the 13th, which means that we must pause in apprehension to consider the implications of such a frightful day. It also gives us an opportunity to talk about scary movies. Above, you’ll find the cover of Friday The 13th: Fearbook, published not so long ago in 2006 by Avatar Press. Trust us when we say that it one of the few Friday The 13th comic book covers we felt comfortable sharing with you, our dear readers. The rest, of course, were NSFW. On a similar occasion, back in 2013, we wrote:

It is Friday the 13th. Yikes. We thought about using the cover of one of the many Friday The 13th comic book adaptations in today’s post, but they were all too violent.

Very true. Earlier that year, we exercised a similar level of restraint:

By the way, don’t forget that today is Friday the 13th. Be careful out there, folks. (Please note that we resisted the urge to post the cover of a Friday The 13th comic book adaptation.).

In 2012, we posted a relatively tame Superboy cover but warned:

Today is Friday the 13th.  Beware.

All that said, on Friday, July 13, 2012, we dedicated our Friday Links post to the Friday The 13th film series, so please see here for that.

On an unrelated note, Plaintiff’s lawyers are now using Google Glass to create point of view “day in the life” videos for their clients to play before the jury. For more on that development, see here.

The TortsProf Blog notes that New York University law professor Cathy Sharkey has posted two new pieces to SSRN, including Tort-Agency Partnerships in an Age of Preemption and Agency Coordination in Consumer Protection. For more on that, please see here. We mention this, of course, because way, way back in March of 2011, we interviewed Professor Sharkey, and you can revisit that piece here.

Big news! Yoko Ono has settled a lawsuit!

Kevin Underhill’s funny book, The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance, is now available as an e-book. See here for our interview with Kevin about this project.