Existential Lessons Learned From World’s Worst Search Party

Search parties are a wonderful thing.  A search party is an organized group of people who have joined together to find something or someone that is missing – human compassion and selflessness at their finest.  Notwithstanding the good that search parties do, they often receive very little media attention beyond “search party finds . . . .”  A search party in Iceland recently discovered the exception to the rule and made a name for itself.

The search party in question was formed by a group of tourists to search for a missing woman near Iceland’s Eldgja canyon.  They searched for several hours before they realized that the missing woman was actually part of the search party.  Deathandtaxes has already done this story justice in a recent post, but I do want to take this opportunity to provide a checklist for future search party members so that they may avoid embarrassing media attention:

1.  Determine what or who you are searching for.  I mean, this in the most basic sense possible.  For example, make sure everyone in the group knows that you are searching for a human being if that is what you are looking for.  This will eliminate the possibility of time-wasting “false alarms” like “Hey, everyone, I found the dog!” when the group is actually looking for a missing teenage human.

2.  Determine how you will identify the person or thing if you encounter it.  If you have a photograph of the subject of the search, that is ideal.  If not, some sort of description is necessary.  For example, if you are searching for a person, the group may want to know the hair color of the person, the height and weight, the age, the skin complexion, and/or similar characteristics.  If the subject of the search is a human or animal, knowing the name of the subject is helpful.  That way members of the group can call out to the subject of the search by name while searching.

3.  Periodically examine the group for new members. This step serves two functions.  First, when the group realizes it has a new member, it will know to brief the new member on items one and two on this checklist.  Second, if the subject of the search has in fact joined the search, you will know to call off the search because the subject of the search has been located.

4. Have fun, but stay focused. Search parties are normally a serious endeavor, so you will want to stay focused on the task at hand.  However, a search party by definition is still a party, so have fun with it.  Put on your camo, bring your outdoor gear, and channel your inner woodsman.

Disclaimer:  While the checklist above does provide good advice to search partiers, it should not be interpreted as legal advice, nor is it meant to encompass all of the guidelines that search parties should follow.  This author recommends that you consult a search party expert before joining a search party and initiating a search.

(Hat tip: Walter Olson).

Friday Links


Okay, so, above, you’ll find the cover of Fame: Justine Bieber #1, published not so long ago by Bluewater Productions. Why, why, are we posting a comic book featuring the pernicious Biebs? In case you haven’t heard, Bieber himself was deposed recently, and excerpts of his video deposition have leaked online to the celebrity gossip website TMZ. Let’s just say that Bieber presents as a difficult deponent. You’ve got to see it. TMZ has posted a number of clips online, all of which you can access here (although some of the ads on the TMZ website may be NSFW). While you’re at it, be sure to read Kevin Underhill’s commentary at the Lowering the Bar legal humor blog, which you can access here.

The Celluloid Optimist linked our interview with My Cousin Vinny director Jonathan Lynn this week in a post you can read here. (In fact, in that post, we were reminded of the debunked urban legend that Marisa Tomei did not actually win the Oscar for her performance in that film. By the way, can you believe it’s been two full years since our week long series on the twentieth anniversary of My Cousin Vinny?  Indeed, two years ago this week, we here at Abnormal Use dedicated a week’s worth of posts to the 20th anniversary, including interviews with the director, the writer/produce, and various cast members. That was a mighty fun project, and you can revisit it here.

Back in November, we wrote about To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee’s trademark infringement lawsuit against an Alabama museum. Well, according to recent press reports, Lee has settled that suit. Reported The New York Times: “One issue raised in the suit was the address of the museum’s website, formerly tokillamockingbird.com. A notice on the museum’s site now notes that the address has changed tomonroecountymuseum.org.”

GWB shareholder John T. Lay, of our Columbia, South Carolina office, was just became president elect of the South Carolina Chapter of American Board of Trial Advocates. For more info, see here.

Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A.’s Brand New Website!

Well, as you know, we here at the Abnormal Use law blog are attorneys at the Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A. law firm, and so, we must bring to your attention our brand new firm website.



To check it out, click here.

In our official press release on the unveiling, we offer a quotation from GWB shareholder Gray Culbreath, our website committee chair, who said, “One of the greatest attributes of GWB is the service we provide our clients. We work every day to ensure our clients get the information they need in a timely professional manner. We believe the new website helps us accomplish that goal.”

By the way, you can follow Gray on Twitter here.

Whatever the case, hop on over to our new website, and let us know what you think!

Man Sues After Choking During Live Fish Eating Contest At Tennessee Haunted House

Don’t you just hate it when a live fish eating contest at a haunted house goes awry after you’ve PAID your $15 to enter the contest?  Apparently, so does a Tennessee man named Cameron Roth.  He has filed a lawsuit against the operators of a Tennessee haunted house alleging that he was hospitalized for four days when he choked on a live fish he ate during one of their contests. The facts are these: Mr. Roth paid $15 to Frightmare Manor in 2013 to compete in a contest at the Haunted House.  The contest involved eating two live bluegill fish.  The suit alleges that “Frightmare failed to remove any of the spines from the bluegill fish” before providing them to contestants.  That would be an interesting feat to remove the spines from fish in a live fish eating contest.  But we digress.  Mr. Roth began choking as the first fish became lodged in his throat.  For those who are curious, this is how big a bluegill fish is:

The lawsuit alleges that Frightmare negligently failed to have any medical workers on hand to supervise the contest and workers did not seek emergency medical help when Roth began choking.  The suit seeks $150,000 in compensatory damages and $400,000 in punitive damages.  If the fish was anywhere close to as big as the one pictured above, this would appear to be a case of assumption of risk.

California Man Asks Court For $1.5 Million After Receiving Only One Napkin With McDonald’s Burger

It’s not just about the hot coffee, you know. In what seemed like a normal culinary transaction, Webster Lucas ordered a Quarter Pounder Deluxe from his local McDonalds in Pacoima, California. The Quarter Pounder Deluxe (or “Royale with Cheese Deluxe,” for our readers on the metric system) comes with the following according to the McDonalds website: “100% beef layered with melty American cheese, ripe tomato, leaf lettuce, crinkle-cut pickles, crunch red onion, mayo and mustard, on a toasted bakery-style bun.” According to Mr. Lucas, it should also come with more than one napkin. It is plausible that one would need more than one napkin in the process of consuming this beast of a burger. These ingredients, while delicious (in fact, just typing the description of this burger caused my mouth to water), are quite messy. Knowing the messy character of the delicious burger, Mr. Lucas opened his McDonalds bag hoping to find a sufficient number of napkins. It is unclear how many napkins Mr. Lucas expected to find, but what we do know is that the bag contained only one napkin.

As TMZ reports, Mr. Lucas immediately confronted the manager who, according to Mr. Lucas, was unwilling to provide additional napkins. Mr. Lucas then explained to the manager: “I should have went to eat at the Jack-in-the-Box because I didn’t come here to argue over napkins.” Things apparently escalated from there, and according to Mr. Lucas, the manager also made a racist comment during the exchange. When McDonalds corporate offered free burgers (and presumably extra napkins) in an attempt to remedy the napkin debacle, Mr. Lucas was “insulted.” Not only was he insulted, but Mr. Lucas now suffers from “undue mental anguish” from the experience.

It is unclear how many napkins Mr. Lucas needed, or how much those extra napkins would have cost McDonalds, but Mr. Lucas is able to assign a dollar figure to his suffering. Mr. Lucas has sued McDonalds for $1.5 million.

Toothpaste Brand Loyalty Fails To Deliver Girlfriend, User Of Same Sues

As loyal readers of Abnormal Use, you know it is no surprise that product manufacturers often get drug into court over baseless allegations.  A new suit against Unilever Nigeria Limited, however, takes things to a whole new level.  According to an Emirates 24/7 report, a 26-year old Nigerian man has sued Unilever, claiming that the company’s Close-Up toothpaste brand failed to score him a girlfriend.  Apparently, the man began using the toothpaste seven years ago after watching Close-Up television commercials depicting women being attracted to the Close-Up-scented breath of men.  Despite extended brand loyalty, the man claims:

No girl ever agreed to even go out for a tea or coffee with me, even though I’m sure they could smell my breath. I always brush my teeth with so much close up gel to make sure the girls get turned on by my fresh breath as they usually show on TV.

The man has submitted seven years of toothpaste tubes into the court as evidence.

We here at Abnormal Use feel for the guy.  We really do.  It was not too long ago that we, too, could have used some help with the ladies.  Nonetheless, as much as we may have wanted that Axe body spray to work like a magnet, we didn’t really expect it to camouflage our less desirable qualities. Sometimes, advertising content is grossly over-exaggerated.  Did those new Calloway irons take 10 strokes off of our handicap?  Unfortunately, we were disappointed yet again.  Aggravation and disappointment, however, provide us with no legal basis for relief. We have not seen the specific Close-Up commercials at issue in this case.  Unless they stated something like, “Guaranteed to get you a girlfriend regardless of your laundry list of unattractive qualities,” we doubt Unilever breached any implied contract or engaged in deceptive practices.  Do people like fresh breath?  Sure.  Can it help you get a date? It’s better than the alternative.

Friday Links


Above, you’ll find the cover of Star Trek #11, published not so long ago in 1990. As you can see, the story continues the story entitled “The Trial of James T. Kirk” which, we assume, was an eventful proceeding. To be honest, we’re not entirely certain what is occurring on the cover (which depicts what appears to be a futuristic courtroom). We’re particularly confused about the gentleman espousing curious dialogue and wearing what appears to be a 20th century suit. Oh, well. We assume there’s some explanation for all of that, and perhaps some day, we’ll track down this issue and learn for ourselves. But not today, dear readers. Not today.

A former member of Steely Dan has sued, well, Steely Dan, seeking past due royalties.

If you’re into property law, The New York Post had a fascinating piece this week on the tale of a hotel recluse who masterfully negotiated a $17 million buy out to finalize a huge Central Park development.

Philip Bump of The Wire has a fascinating piece on who, legally, owns the rights to the “selfie” photograph taken at The Oscars and heavily promoted by the show’s host, Ellen DeGeneres. You probably saw something about that now famous photograph week (likely because it was impossible to escape in the immediate aftermath of the Oscar broadcast). Bump’s piece is a nice read for law nerds; check it out here.

Whoa! Batman was in Charlotte this week! In fact, the picture depicts the Caped Crusader in a neighborhood very, very near our Charlotte office. Alas, we did not run into Batman that day.

Come on, you know you want to “like” the Abnormal Use Law Blog on Facebook. All you have to do is click here!

WaxVac Allegedly Failing to Work As Intended

The most disregarded warning in the known world is the “Do not insert into ear canal” warning found on Q-Tip and other cotton swab products.  Unauthorized use of a cotton swab can result in a ruptured eardrum and has a tendency to push wax further into the ear canal.  Thankfully, Lenfest Media Group, located in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, created the WaxVac so that millions of Americans could enjoy clean ears without the shame of misusing cotton swabs.  The WaxVac, which looks like a hot glue gun, “gently draws dirt particles and moisture out quickly and safely.” But wait one minute, according to a class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, the WaxVac doesn’t actually work, and thousands, if not millions, of consumers have been duped.  Apparently, the FDA sent a letter to Lenfest last year informing the company that it did not have an “approved application for premarket approval” and that it should “immediately cease activities that result in the misbranding or adulteration of the WaxVac.”  Wait a minute, you are telling me that the mini-ear vacuum, a product that costs less than the process and handling fee and that can be seen on late night infomercials, might not work?!  Color me shocked.  The named plaintiffs, Marc Weinstein and Thomas Ferguson, have sued Lenfest for unjust enrichment, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty of merchantability, and breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing and have asked the Court to restrict Lenfest from selling the WaxVac.  They claim their damages could exceed $5 million. We’ll see what discovery reveals.

Sprint Allegedly Overbills Feds For Spying Services

There has been a lot of press in the past year about the various government programs in place for the United States to snoop on its own citizens.  Well, apparently, all that snooping is far from free, and the federal government is none too happy with one of its bills.  Federal officials filed a lawsuit earlier this week alleging that Sprint Communications overbilled the FBI, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and other government to the tune of $21 million for wiretap services. Communication companies ordered by courts to intercept customers’ communications are allowed to recoup the cost of installing and maintaining the wiretaps.  However, the federal government and communications battled for years over who covers the cost to upgrade their equipment and facilities to ensure they can comply with court orders seeking wiretaps of their customers.  In 2006, the Federal Communications Commission settled the dispute in favor of the government, ruling that companies can’t bill for modifying their equipment and facilities to more efficiently intercept communications. Shocking! The lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco alleges that Sprint fraudulently billed for such expenses relating to equipment and facilities, which it knew was not billable. The tab from 2007 to 2010 amounted to $21 mil.  Of course, like any good Plaintiffs, the government doesn’t just want its $21 million back from the over-billing.  The feds are seeking treble damages, which would amount to approximately $63 million.  Sprint has denied any wrongdoing. This whole thing just seems silly.  Maybe Sprint should just suggest that the federal government join up with Russia for a wiretapping Framily Plan.  That might save Uncle Sam a little money.  Because “You don’t have to be family, to be Framily.”

The Pitfalls of Replying To All

As you know, we here at Abnormal Use love writing and blogging, so much so that our editor Jim Dedman is now contributing posts to other online venues.  Recently, his piece, “The Pitfalls of Replying to All,” was published by DRI Today.

We’ve written about selfies, and we’ve even written about ill-advised Facebook posts by lawyers. But today, we discuss the most dreaded technological faux pas of all: the reply to all.

Here’s the first two paragraphs of the article:

During those incredibly busy days all lawyers face, it is important to be mindful of the recipients of any electronic communication. There may be nothing more perilous than the “Reply to All” function on one’s email service; so dangerous is the function that the Wall Street Journal has called it “the button everyone loves to hate.”

Certainly it is now an ancient cliché to exclaim that technology has dramatically transformed the way we practice law. Owing to the daily advances in technology, courts and state bars continue to address emails and broader digital communications. For instance, in October, the North Carolina Bar Council issued a formal ethics opinion, the 2012 Formal Ethics Opinion 7, to address the issue of whether a lawyer commits an ethical breach if he or she, in response to a missive from opposing counsel, “replies to all” when that lawyer knows that the opposing counsel’s client was copied on the original email. The North Caroling Bar Council found that this “reply all” may not be an ethical breach, but that it is based on a fact intensive, totality of the circumstances analysis. In essence, the Bar Council found that “the fact that a lawyer copies his own client on an electronic communication does not, in and of itself, constitute implied consent to a ‘reply to all’ responsive electronic communication”). See id. In so doing, the Bar Council noted, “The fact that Lawyer B copies her own client on the electronic communication to which Lawyer A is replying, standing alone, does not permit Lawyer A to ‘reply all.’ While Rule 4.2(a) does not specifically provide that the consent of the other lawyer must be ‘expressly’ given, the prudent practice is to obtain express consent. Whether consent may be ‘implied’ by the circumstances requires an evaluation of all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the representation, the legal issues involved, and the prior communications between the lawyers and their clients.” See id.

For the full article, please see here.