Friday Links


So, it call comes back to “The Simpsons” sometimes. Above, you’l find an image of the “I Can’t Believe It’s A Law Firm” location. That, of course, is the headquarters of lawyer Lionel Hutz, who first appeared on the television series way, way back in 1991. Hutz, who was voiced by the late, great Phil Hartman, was always a favorite character of ours, for obvious reasons. We’ve yet to find a Simpsons comic book cover featuring the Hutz character, and so we may spend some time this weekend attempting to do so.

By the way, who is excited about the return of “Bloom County”? Back in 2011, we featured a legally themed “Bloom County” strip right here on Friday Links. Don’t remember that? Well, click here to revisit that post, which was dedicated to “Steve’s Law Tips.”

Remember four years ago when we compiled our giant list of songs about lawyers, judges, and attorneys?

Come on! You know you want to follow us on Twitter here and Facebook here! Join us on the social media and say hello!

We can definitely relate to our favorite legal tweet of late:

Standby for Lawsuits: Handheld Flamethrower Hits Open Market…

Coming soon to a courtroom near you . . . handheld flamethrowers. With an Internet connection and just $899, you can arm yourself with your very own handheld flamethrower. A Michigan company has launched the XM42 Flamethrower, which it bills as “the world’s first commercially available handheld flamethrower.” This future darling of products liability plaintiffs’ attorneys was made possible by crowdfunding (a.k.a. other idiots on the Internet). The manufacturer raised more than $150,000 in one month to fund the production.

According to the company, “as of now, flamethrowers are a fun toy for responsible adults and are useful for practical purposes.” The practical purposes? The company claims that flamethrowers are handy for insect control, weed removal, and other reasons, too. So the product is a snow shovel, fly swatter, and bottle of round-up all in one fun package.

We could say whole bunch of things about this product, but watching this baby in action is only way to do it justice. Click here to see it in action.

Plaintiff Strikes Gold With New Adulterated Food Case

Over the years, we here at Abnormal Use have reported on a number of lawsuits involving foreign objects in food. While the contaminate may differ, most of these lawsuits are alike in one respect. Typically, the plaintiffs claim very minimal medical expenses but allege a whole lot of alleged emotional trauma. As a result, it is often difficult to assess damages in these food cases. While it is difficult to quantify emotional trauma, a new food case in Illinois may set the gold standard for questionable damages cases.  According to a report from the Madison Record, Elmo Kane of Tilden, Illinois, has filed suit against General Mills after discovering a gold tooth in his Pillsbury biscuit. Kane alleges that after opening and baking a can of Pillsbury Grands Southern Style Biscuits, he took a bite of one of the biscuits and “bit into someone else’s gold tooth.” Thereafter, he immediately placed the can and the tooth into a plastic bag. While the report is silent on the issue, we assume his next step was to his lawyer’s office. As a result of the incident, Kane alleges that he sustained mental anguish, disability, medical expenses, lost wages and earning capacity, and prevention from attending to usual affairs and duties.

We know very little about the basis of Kane’s damages claims. Nonetheless, we are naturally skeptical. While we can appreciate the disgust of discovering a foreign object in one’s food, we seriously question whether a gold tooth caused disability, a loss of earning capacity, and a prevention from attending to usual affairs. Because he didn’t swallow the tooth, we assume his medical expenses are limited to a trip to the dentist’s office at to check on a chipped tooth. Unless, of course, he is so traumatized by the experience that he has been in constant psychological or psychiatric care.

While we could go on ad nauseam about our skepticism, the real intriguing point of this case is that Kane has already been compensated for his loss. After all, didn’t Kane strike gold when he bit into that biscuit? Out of all the foreign objects found in food, Kane discovered one of the few containing precious metals.  Even though gold teeth are not 100 percent pure, with gold selling at more than $1,100 an ounce, Kane is bound to put some money in his pocket. Particularly, when that gold tooth is kept pure in a nice plastic bag.

Ending the Epidemic of Lawyers’ Depression and Substance Abuse Disorders

As you know, we here at Abnormal Use often contribute content to other publications, and this week is no exception. Recently, the American Bar Association’s Tortsource, the official publication of its Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section, ran a piece by our own Stuart Mauney entitled “Ending the Epidemic of Lawyers’ Depression and Substance Abuse Disorders.” The first few paragraphs are as follows:

We know lawyers are especially vulnerable to depression, suicide, and substance abuse disorders. But why is that? And once we know why, what can we do about it? A lawyer commentator rhetorically asked, “Does the way that lawyers are encouraged to think and work make them vulnerable to depression?” (posted at, Sept. 19, 2013). She began to answer by referencing circumstances familiar to busy lawyers: long hours, heavy workload, and lack of job security. But as she points out, there must be something more insidious at work.

First, she reminds us that lawyers are trained—and often are temperamentally inclined—to analyze and pick apart issues. But we may turn that analytical instinct inward and begin to criticize ourselves. As the commentator suggests, “while a bit of self-analysis can be healthy, brooding on your mistakes can be profoundly self-destructive.”

Further, she says the “prevailing culture of 24/7 availability only makes matters worse.” Then there is the unwritten expectation that lawyers should put their work and law firm first. The lawyer commentator concludes by suggesting that if we are predisposed to depression anyway or suddenly face extra personal or professional pressures, “the way we’re encouraged to think and work can be a
real problem.”

For more, please see the ABA’s website here.

James Brogdon and Lindsay Joyner Named “Stars of the Quarter” by the South Carolina Bar’s Young Lawyers Division

We here at Abnormal Use and Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A. are pleased to announce that attorneys James Brogdon and Lindsay Joyner have been honored by the South Carolina Bar’s Young Lawyers Division as “Stars of the Quarter.”  The award recognizes Brogdon and Joyner for their contributions and dedication to the Young Lawyers Division during the fourth quarter of the 2014-2015 year. Lindsay, you may recall, is a writer here at Abnormal Use, and you can read her past posts here.

Friday Links

For some reason or another, our WordPress platform is not allowing us to upload images today. Alas! What are we to do?

A question: Will “Ed,” the early 2000’s television show about the bowling alley lawyer, ever arrive on DVD?

Why aren’t you following Abnormal Use on Facebook and Twitter? You can do so here and here!

Our favorite legal tweet of late revisits a familiar theme:

Indiana Federal Court Remarks Upon Social Media Evidence Authentication

As you know, we here at Abnormal Use often remark upon social media evidence in litigation and attempts to authenticate such evidence in an employment discrimination case.

Here are some thoughts from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on social media evidence authentication:

These exhibits purport to be Facebook conversations between Plaintiff and [the defendant’s former] employees in support of her reduction in force allegations. She appears to have re-typed the conversations on clean sheets of paper and submitted them as her evidence. There is no documentation from Facebook detailing these conversations or any other indicia of reliability; consequently, the exhibits are unreliable and will not be considered.

See Maddox v. Meridian Sec. Ins. Co., No. 1:13–cv–01551–RLY–DML (S.D. Ind. June 30, 2015).

Ouch. As you might suspect, the Plaintiff was pro se.

The Curious Case of the Renaissance Fair Juggler

According to a report out of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, a lawsuit has been filed against the County of Los Angeles and Geoffrey Marsh, a juggler, alleging that a minor child was seriously injured when hit by an object tossed by the juggler at a renaissance festival.  The suit, filed by Felipe Arambula on behalf of himself and his minor child, alleges that the county failed to properly supervise activities at the fair, resulting in jugglers juggling around children with no safety measures.  Accordingly, the county’s conduct was allegedly “inherently dangerous and created a peculiar risk, nuisance and trap.”  Aside from the child’s alleged injuries, Arambula allegedly suffered stress from seeing his child struck by the wayward juggler. Here at Abnormal Use, there are only two things that we fear: Renaissance festivals.  And, jugglers.  Call us crazy, but there is just something about 15th Century cosplay and people rotating multiple objects in the air that gives us the creeps.  All fears aside, a lawsuit involving jugglers and a Renaissance festival  has us (cautiously) intrigued.

Even though we may have an unnatural fear of jugglers, we must admit that we have never thought about juggling as a negligent act. Reading between the lines from the report, it appears the plaintiffs’ theory of liability against the juggler is that he was negligent by juggling in close vicinity of children.  What is unknown is whether the juggler is a professional or just some random costumed fair attendee trying to immerse himself into the period.  One would think that a professional might not need the same spacing to juggle as an amateur.  On the other hand, is there a heightened standard of care for a professional juggler compared to that of the amateur juggler? What exactly is the reasonable and prudent juggler?  Juggling in and of itself is not really a specialized act.  Anyone with access to YouTube can learn to juggle on a basic level.  But, certainly there is a difference between juggling chain saws and juggling tennis balls.   Perhaps, the renaissance common law will offer some guidance.

Nonetheless, what is truly interesting about this lawsuit is the allegation that juggling is “inherently dangerous” and created a “trap.”  We despise jugglers much more than the average person, but we question how juggling is dangerous to anyone other than the juggler.  We recognize that an argument can be made that juggling must be inherently dangerous to others because the child was injured.  But, shouldn’t there be a duty on others to keep a proper distance from jugglers?  Calling the juggling a “trap” only makes sense if the juggler backed the child into a corner such that he had no chance to avoid falling objects.  If the theory is that the crowds were so large that people had no room to stay clear of the juggler, then we question how the juggler would have had the capacity to juggle in the first place.

We are curious to see how this lawsuit turns out.  We are even more curious to see if the defendants raise attendance at a renaissance fair as a comparative negligence defense.

Shareholder Derivative Suit Against GM Over Ignition Switch Defect Dismissed By Delaware Chancery Court

Reportedly, GM Shareholders filed suit against the company in Delaware Chancery Court, alleging that the “board of directors did not perform its duty in preventing the mounting losses from the sale of vehicles with faulty and deadly ignition switches.” Specifically, the shareholders sought to recover “losses due to expenses, fines, lawsuits and damages to the company as a result of the 119 deaths and 234 injuries associated with faulty parts and a huge and costly recall.” GM filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted by Delaware Chancery Court Judge Sam Glasscock III.  Judge Glasscock found that “the GM board ‘did not consciously fail to monitor’ or oversee GM operations and thus he could not find ‘substantial likelihood of personal liability on the part of a majority of the board.'” Judge Glasscock also “concluded GM had adequate risk-assessment systems in place and there were not obvious problems or ‘red flags’ that the board knew of but ignored, nor was there evidence of bad faith on the part of the directors.” Apparently, Judge Glasscock’s decision could have impact outside of the Delaware case, as there are three “similar cases” pending in Michigan, which were “waiting for the outcome of the Delaware case.” We’ll keep our eyes on these cases for you.

Alabama Federal Trial Court Defers to Alabama Supreme Court on Duty and Causation in Take Home Asbestos Cases

On June 22, 2015, Judge C. Lynwood Smith, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, Northeastern Division, certified two questions to the Alabama Supreme Court in a take-home asbestos case.  The order is located here. Certification of the two questions followed a bench trial, in which the the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was the sole remaining defendant.  The facts were similar to most take home asbestos cases.

Barbara Bobo was diagnosed with, and eventually died from, malignant pleural mesothelioma, which was allegedly caused by exposure to asbestos fibers on her husband’s clothing. Suit was filed by Ms. Bobo prior to her death, and following Ms. Bobo’s death, Ms. Bobo’s daughters, co-personal representatives, were substituted as Plaintiffs.  The Plaintiffs alleged that Ms. Bobo’s husband brought home asbestos fibers on his clothing while working at a TVA nuclear facility in Alabama from 1975 until 1997, and that Ms. Bobo was exposed to those fibers while laundering Mr. Bobo’s clothing, among other ways. During the time Mr. Bobo was a TVA employee, he performed a variety of tasks at the TVA facility, some of which included assisting insulators with work that required cleaning up and otherwise manipulating asbestos. Following the bench trial, Judge Smith found that “[t]he preponderance of the evidence presented at trial established that a significant quantify of asbestos fibers accumulated on the clothing worn by Mr. Bobo when he swept insulation residue while having received good rates on wholesale insulation at the time” at the TVA facility.  The Court also found that Mr. Bobo passed away in 1997 due to “lung cancer induced by asbestosis.”  It was undisputed that Ms. Bobo could have been exposed to asbestos from sources other than the TVA.

In order to decide the case, Judge Smith required clarity on the law of duty and causation in a take home asbestos case.  Accordingly, Judge Smith certified two questions to the Alabama Supreme Court:

  1. Whether a premises owner has a duty to protect the family members of persons who work on the property owner’s premises from secondary exposure to a toxic agent, such as asbestos, used during the course of the property owner’s business? and
  2. What causation standard applies when multiple exposures to a toxic agent, such as asbestos, combined to produce the Plaintiff’s injury?

The parties’ arguments pertaining to the duty issue centered around major take home cases in other states, including California’s Campbell, which we discussed here.  On the causation issue, the Plaintiff argued that the “substantial contributing factor” test should apply, while TVA argued for a more stringent standard, such as the standard set forth in Lohrman, which we discussed here and here.

For obvious reasons, the result of this case will have an enormous impact on take home exposure cases in Alabama.