Friday Links

Above, you’ll find the cover of Gravity #1, published not so long ago in 2005. The cover has little, if anything, to do with the law, but we had to share it. Mainly, we chose this cover because we really, really want to go see the new Alfonso Cuaron film, the science fiction thriller Gravity, which stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney and hits theaters today. Now, we should say that the new film has nothing to do whatsoever with this comic book. They are not related in any way. But we’re so fixated on the new film that we can justify posting this cover today. In fact, we’d never actually heard of the super hero Gravity before, but Wikipedia tells us:

Greg Willis is born and raised in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. During the summer after his high school graduation, while on board his family’s yacht, Greg is sucked into a mysterious black hole. He is found hours later by his parents, unharmed. After the incident, Greg finds that he is able to manipulate the gravitational force around his body and nearby objects. Looking to take advantage of his new powers, Greg moves east to New York City to study licensing and merchandising at New York University, and becomes a marketable member of the superhero community known as Gravity.

That said, we’re much more interested in the movie than this would-be superhero. Oh, well.

Buzzfeed presents: “21 Strange And Offensive Things That Happened To Lois Lane.” Yikes.

The October 2013 issue of the G-Bar News is out, and you can find it here.  As you may recall, the G-Bar News is the official publication of the Greenville County, South Carolina Bar association.

Apparently, the federal government shutdown is affecting craft beer! Check out this article from the Beer of SC blog.



McDonald’s Coffee Cup Change: Good for the Environment or Potential Legal Fodder?

Last week, McDonald’s announced it was switching from polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) to double-walled paper cups for hot beverages in all of its restaurants. The move is made in response to changing consumer preferences and an increase in environmental consciousness. There’s nothing wrong with that, we suppose. However, whenever McDonald’s acts, it seems as if someone is there to tell us that it is bad. If you are asking why this is reportable news, then let us catch you up on the last 20 years of legal pop culture. For starters, McDonald’s coffee cups (and its coffee) are no strangers to publicity. Ever since Stella Liebeck infamously spilled a cup of McDonald’s coffee into her lap back in 1992, McDonald’s coffee has been parodied in major television shows such as “Seinfeld” and has been the cover story of an HBO documentary on the civil justice system. Always a topic of debate among lawyers and non-lawyers alike, it should come as no surprise that when the fast food chain announced a change in material for its hot beverage containers, the news sent the interwebs into a flutter.

The major significance of the announcement is not the reasons for the change, but rather the effect the change may have on future litigation. Inevitably, someone will spill coffee from one of the new cups onto himself and claim that the spill would not have occurred but for the double-walled paper construction. While we have no idea whether there is a financial difference between paper and polystyrene, we wouldn’t be surprised to see an argument in the future that McDonald’s is sacrificing consumer safety in favor of increased profit margins. Such an argument is likely a complete farce, ignoring the valid reasons behind the change. Unfortunately, this is the climate in which McDonald’s and other businesses face.

The environmental impact of a switch away from polystyrene cannot be understated. Given the billions of cups of coffee sold by McDonald’s, the impact is significant. Nonetheless, any change, albeit a good one, made by McDonald’s regarding its coffee production, will undoubtedly find its way into the allegations of a complaint. Remember, you heard it here first.

Insane Clown Posse Allegedly Not the Good Guys We All Thought

Growing up in the ’90’s, we were always fascinated with the Detroit-based rap duo known as the Insane Clown Posse (“ICP”). Their music was not particularly good, but something about the band’s “wicked clown” personas always intrigued us. Apparently, there is more to ICP than some circus makeup and the honor of being named GQ‘s “worst rappers of all time.” In a complete shocker, reports have surfaced that they are also alleged sexual harassers. Consider us floored.

As reported by the ABA Journal, the band’s ex-publicist (and “in-house counsel”) has sued ICP and its record label, Psychopathic Records, alleging that she was sexually harassed and belittled in the workplace. The suit contains a plethora of allegations against the band, including giving Pelligreni a sex toy, ordering her to use unsafe unisex bathrooms, and calling her demeaning names. In addition, ICP allegedly took advantage of her legal background and named her “in-house counsel” so that her knowledge of the corporate wrongdoing at issue would be protected by the attorney-client privilege. Interestingly, she was also asked to reveal other protected information for media-related purposes.

Being a publicist for a celebrity must be a tough gig. We imagine working for two guys known as “Shaggy 2 Dope” and “Violent J” just increases those difficulties. At this point the Plaintiff’s allegations are just that; however, if true, it is safe to say her work environment was far more substandard than that of her colleagues. Look for ICP to grace the cover of GQ‘s next big issue, “Worst Bosses of All Time.”

As lawyers, we have to wonder why Pelligreni decided to forego life as a lawyer for that of a publicist. Big law may not be all the glam it appears on the surface, but we doubt too many senior partners are passing sex toys off as annual bonuses. Hindsight is 20/20, we suppose.

20th Anniversary: Malice (1993)

Twenty years ago today, on October 1, 1993, the film Malice was released to theatres. Directed by Harold Becker, written by Aaron Sorkin and Scott Frank based on a story by Sorkin and Jonas McCord, the film centers around a brilliant surgeon who becomes entangled in a medical malpractice suit.  It’s a mess of a film with so many plot contrivances and melodramatic turns that we couldn’t do it justice with a brief summary. In fact, check out the plot summary on the film’s Wikipedia entry and you’ll see just what we mean. Starring Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, and Bill Pullman, the film resonates with lawyers – even two decades later – due to a scene in which Dr. Jed Hill (the surgeon in question, played by Alec Baldwin), exclaims during a deposition that he believes himself to be God. You remember that scene, right? Courtesy of IMDB, here’s the dialogue in question:

I have an M.D. from Harvard, I am board certified in cardiothoracic medicine and trauma surgery, I have been awarded citations from seven different medical boards in New England, and I am never, ever sick at sea. So I ask you; when someone goes into that chapel and they fall on their knees and they pray to God that their wife doesn’t miscarry or that their daughter doesn’t bleed to death or that their mother doesn’t suffer acute neural trauma from postoperative shock, who do you think they’re praying to? Now, go ahead and read your Bible, Dennis, and you go to your church, and, with any luck, you might win the annual raffle, but if you’re looking for God, he was in operating room number two on November 17, and he doesn’t like to be second guessed. You ask me if I have a God complex. Let me tell you something: I am God.

(You can watch the full scene here.). Now, we remembered the scene a bit differently before we revisited it for this blog post.  We had always thought that Dr. Jed Hill was the deponent, but that’s not the case. Rather, it is his superior at the hospital, Dr. Martin Kessler (played by George C. Scott), who is being deposed in the matter. For some reason or another, Dr. Hill, the defendant in the suit, is present at this deposition. It is during an off the record break in the proceedings that Dr. Hill makes his famous speech. (In an episode of “30 Rock” aired years and years later, Jack Donaghy, makes reference to this scene and confesses he once referred to himself as God in a deposition.).

We’re not the only ones who have blogged about this film lately.  Check out Alex Craigie of the At Counsel Table blog’s post, “Why It’s Critical To Get a Stipulation To Go ‘Off The Record’ In Deposition,” which uses this very scene as an example.

We leave you with the opening paragraph of film critic Roger Ebert’s review, published 20 years ago today:

Malice is one of the busiest movies I’ve ever seen, a film jampacked with characters and incidents and blind alleys and red herrings. Offhand, this is the only movie I can recall in which an entire subplot about a serial killer is thrown in simply for atmosphere.

If you’re up for a messy and crazy movie from the early 1990’s, this may be the one for you.