Grassroot Perspective – April 2, 2003-Lawbreakers Can Sue Too … and Win; If You Win, Buy Them a Quarterback; A Gun is Not Defective if it Shoots; Fast Food is Safe … For Now; Dog Bites Dog; Fruits, Nuts and Burritos; Exporting Our Plague; That Picture is Worth $21 Million; Eurocrats Give Toys To Pigs, Red Tape To Hungry Africans

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”Shoots (News, Views and Quotes)”


– Lawbreakers Can Sue Too … and Win

Syndicated columnist Deroy Murdock describes the case of a deranged New
Yorker who shot and wounded his parents and himself in a June 1995
incident. While recuperating in a local hospital from his wounds, he
yanked the tubes and monitoring devices from his body, then leapt off
the second story of an adjacent parking garage in a suicide attempt. He
then sued the hospital for failing to treat his depression and keep him
indoors. Last October, he won $9 million. (Murdock’s report was
inspired, at least in part, by our item on the New York City woman who
won a $9.9 million jury verdict for attempting suicide by lying on
railroad tracks in front of an oncoming subway train. We know because he
called us for additional details.) From The Sacramento Bee

– If You Win, Buy Them a Quarterback

Cincinnati county commissioner Todd Portune has sued the Cincinnati
Bengals football team and the National Football League, claiming the
team violated its stadium lease by failing to be competitive. The
Bengals were 2-14 last season and haven’t made the playoffs since 1990.
The suit contends the Bengals coerced construction of a new 65,000-seat,
$458 million stadium by threatening to move to another city, and
negotiated a sweetheart deal that gives the Bengals essentially all
stadium-related revenues for only nominal rent. From The Cincinnati

– A Gun is Not Defective if it Shoots

We reported in a recent issue that a West Palm Beach jury had found a
local gun dealer negligent for failing to supply a safety lock for a
handgun used by a teenager to kill his middle-school teacher. The jury
awarded $1.2 million to the widow of the teacher. The decision was
widely hailed by anti-gun advocates, but now a Florida Circuit Court
judge has thrown out the verdict. The judge ruled the negligence claim
depended on the gun being found defective; since the gun worked
perfectly, there was no basis for the award. From The New York Times.

– Fast Food is Safe … For Now

A federal judge in New York City threw out a multimillion-dollar lawsuit
by parents who claim their children became obese from eating at
McDonald’s. In a 64-page opinion, the judge found, among other things:
parents ought to know eating fast food tends to increase weight in
children; the parents should have exercised more responsibility for
their kids’ eating habits; allegations that McDonald’s
“targeted” children were “mere puffery”; and there was no evidence the
children ate primarily at the McDonald’s outlets cited in the suit. The
judge also agreed with McDonald’s that allowing the suit to continue
“could spawn thousands of similar suits against restaurants,” thus
potentially creating courtroom gridlock. From The National Law Journal.

– Dog Bites Dog

When the noted plaintiffs’ law firm of Millberg Weiss Bershad Hynes &
Lerach threatens to sue someone, it isn’t news. But when that someone is
a group of other law firms, it is. Millberg Weiss noticed certain firms
were copying, either in whole or in part, complaints Millberg Weiss had
filed in a number of stockholder suits. They started putting copyright
notices on some of their complaints and registered them with the U.S.
Copyright Office. When the copying continued, cease-and-desist letters
were sent to about 10 firms around the country. As of late November,
none of the firms had responded. Stay tuned for more on this one. From
The National Law Journal.

– Fruits, Nuts and Burritos

Three counties in California and four in Texas appear on the list of the
11 counties, cities, or judicial districts in the country that are most
biased in favor of plaintiffs, according to a survey of its members
conducted by the American Tort Reform Association. These jurisdictions
may be great if you’re a “victim” looking to reap a windfall, but they
are “judicial hellholes” for businesses, insurers, and the rest of us
who pay for outrageous awards through higher prices, less choice, and
higher insurance premiums. Maybe it’s something in the food … or
maybe jurors spend too much time out in the sun?

Judicial Hellholes:

*Alameda, CA
*Los Angeles County, CA
*San Francisco County, CA
*Madison County, IL
*Orleans Parish, LA
*City of St. Louis, MO
*22nd Judicial District, MS
*Jefferson County, TX
*Hidalgo County, TX
*Nueces County, TX
*Starr County, TX

– Exporting Our Plague

Forum-shopping in the United States is a common practice whereby trial
lawyers file class action or jumbo consolidation lawsuits in
plaintiff-friendly states or counties, even though only one or a handful
of the claimants live in that jurisdiction. Now that practice has spread
to Europe as well. According to Forbes, recent train disasters in
Austria and Germany that killed more than 250 people have resulted in
the filing of massive personal-injury lawsuits in New York City, even
though very few Americans were among the casualties and most of the
defendants are European companies. The concept is to avoid European
legal rules that ban contingency fees, cap damages, require the losing
side to pay the other side’s legal fees, and restrict discovery and the
use of class actions. As reported on

– That Picture is Worth $21 Million

In October of last year, attorneys for DaimlerChrysler appealed a jury
award of $21 million to Linda M. Gilbert, a millwright who worked at the
DaimlerChrysler Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit, for alleged
sexual harassment. Ms. Gilbert did not claim her fellow workers ever
touched her, propositioned her for sex, or threatened retaliation, only
that she was harassed verbally and taunted with pornographic pictures.
The award, according to DaimlerChysler, is 70 times the maximum award
allowed under federal harassment law, but has survived court challenges
because the jurors said it was for pain and suffering damages, not
punitive damages. From The New York Times

Above articles are quoted from the Heartland Institute, Lawsuit Abuse
Fortnightly February 2003

”Roots (Food for Thought)”

This opinion Just In …

Eurocrats Give Toys To Pigs, Red Tape To Hungry Africans

By Deroy Murdock

NEW YORK – It’s a shame European functionaries don’t care as much about
Africans as they do about pigs.

British hog farmers are baffled by new regulations imposed by Eurocrats
in Brussels. They require them to give toys to pigs to keep them smiling
while they roll in the mud and otherwise fatten themselves up before

As Valerie Elliott reported in the January 29 Times of London, the
European Commission expects EU farmers to provide pigs with
“environmental enrichment” and “manipulable material” on which they can
chew, rather than nibble on each other. These guidelines will become
British law this month. Violators will face up to three months in jail
and maximum fines of 1,000 pounds (about $1,640).

“We mean footballs and basketballs,” suggests one British official.
“Different color ones will do…the important thing is to see pigs happy
in their environment, and they like to forage with their noses.”

These rules stem from the EC’s Directive 2001/93 concerning, among other
things, “Permanent access to materials for rooting and playing.” This
follows the EC’s September 30, 1997 adoption of a Scientific Committee
report called “The Welfare of Intensively Kept Pigs.” The authors of
this control-freak classic calculated the precise space requirements
“for a pig to be able to lie down in lateral recumbency.” They conclude
that “continuous noise in pig houses should be kept low, and continuous
noise levels as loud as 85 dBA should be avoided.” They also assert
that “maintaining an individual distance” among pigs reduces the “chance
of rape.”

“The EU gives new meaning to politicians having their snouts in the
trough,” says John Blundell, president of the free-market Institute of
Economic Affairs in London.

While Eurocrats spend countless hours assuring that swine stay amused in
tranquil, romantic settings, they are lazier than Frenchmen in August
when it comes to letting Africans feed themselves. That’s not fair.
Their behavior actually has exacerbated hunger in Africa.

The EU bans imports of genetically modified grain, including
American-grown GM corn. It fears such “Frankenfoods,” even though you
likely will consume GM products in your breakfast cereal, lunch-time
sandwich or after-dinner cake – – and live to talk about it.

African leaders have followed these European worry warts. While their
constituents become wafer-thin, they spurn American food donations.
According to the United Nations, some 14.4 million southern Africans
soon could succumb to drought-induced starvation. Nonetheless, Zambian
president Levy Mwanawasa curled up his lip at gifts of GM grain. “We
would rather starve than get something toxic,” he declared. This year,
some 3 million Zambians may grant his wish, even as Mwanawasa reportedly
lets 16.5 million tons of foreign, possibly-GM grain contributions sit

Others, such as Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, (for whom French
President Jacques Chirac plans to roll out the brie wheels at a February
21 – 22 Franco-African summit) have banned GM corn imports to prevent it
from cross-pollinating with local crops. Their understandable concern is
that some GM seeds could mix with theirs and prevent them from
eventually exporting grain to increasingly-skittish Europeans.

Ugandans, meanwhile, eat 500 pounds of bananas per-capita annually.
However, an airborne fungus threatens this staple. While a
bio-engineered solution is at hand, Ugandans must follow strict and
costly scientific protocols to prove the safety of such GM bananas to
potential European customs inspectors. “The Europeans have the luxury to
delay,” W.K. Tushemereirwe, Uganda’s director of banana research, said
in the Wall Street Journal last Dec. 26. “They have enough to eat.
But we Africans don’t.”

“The EU thinks pigs should be better cared for than those living in
Europe’s former colonies in the Third World,” says Richard Miniter,
senior fellow with the Centre for the New Europe, a leading Continental
free-market think tank. “It could have been worse,” he adds by phone,
just yards from the Grand Place in Brussels. “Last year the EU passed
rules on how to use a ladder.”

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick gives the EU even less credit.
“I see something extremely disturbing,” he told reporters last month.
“The European anti-scientific view spreading to other parts of the world
— not letting Africans eat food you and I eat and instead letting
people starve.”

In a new low in this up-with-animals/down-with-humans ideology, consider
Ingrid Newkirk’s February 3 letter to Yasser Arafat. The president of
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote the Palestinian
strongman to complain about a Jan. 26 bombing in which an
explosives-bearing donkey blew up, killing only itself. Newkirk faxed
Arafat to “request that you appeal to all those who listen to you to
leave the animals out of this conflict.” Asked if she would persuade
Arafat to prevent his followers from detonating people, Newkirk told the
Washington Post: “It’s not my business to inject myself into human

All this, and it’s only February.

New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist with the Scripps
Howard News Service and a Senior Fellow with the Atlas Economic Research
Foundation in Fairfax, Virginia. This article is published by special
permission of Scripps Howard News Service.

”Evergreen (Today’s Quote)”

“Freedom, as people enjoyed it in the democratic countries of Western
civilization in the years of the old liberalism’s triumph, was not a
product of constitutions, bills of rights, laws, and statutes. Those
documents aimed only at safeguarding liberty and freedom, firmly
established by the operation of the market economy, against
encroachments on the part of officeholders. No government and no civil
law can guarantee and bring about freedom otherwise than by supporting
and defending the fundamental institutions of the market economy.
Government means always coercion and compulsion and is by necessity the
opposite of liberty. Government is a guarantor of liberty and is
compatible with liberty only if its range is adequately restricted to
the preservation of economic freedom. Where there is no market economy,
the best-intentioned provisions of constitutions and laws remain a dead
letter.” — Ludwig von Mises, Human Action [1949]

”’Edited by Richard O. Rowland, president of Grassroot Institute of Hawaii. He can be reached at (808) 487-4959 or by email at:”’ ”’For more information, see its Web site at:”’