Welcome to The Briefcase

Commentary and analysis of Ohio criminal law and whatever else comes to mind, served with a dash of snark.  Continue Reading »

×

Morality tale

Almost a year ago, I highlighted the case of Burdge v. Supervalu Holdings.  Burdge had shopped at one of the defendant's stores, paid by credit card, and received a receipt which -- the horror, the horror -- contained the card's expiration date, in violation of Ohio's "credit card truncation" statute.  As I'd mentioned, Burdge was so outraged by this that he shopped at the same store a dozen more times, then sued them under the statute.

Turns out that Burdge and his lawyer had pulled the same scheme at numerous other stores.  The problem was that the statute required proof of actual damages, and Burdge had none.  The trial court in Supervalu threw out the lawsuit, just as courts had done in the previous cases.  This time, though, the 1st District also hit up Burdge and the lawyer for about $3,000 in sanctions, finding that the lawsuit and appeal were frivolous. 

In fact, as I also mentioned at the time, the apparent intent of the lawsuits was to use the statute to get retailers to pony up some money in order to avoid litigation.  In another case, a movie theatre had agreed to settle a case with the pair for $2,500; when the settlement check arrived a day late, the lawyer claimed the settlement was off, and demanded $5,000.  The defendant told the lawyer to get lost, the plaintiff sued, and the court threw it out, which was affirmed by the appellate court.  

Well, it appears that the lawyer has gotten himself a new client, as I'd suggested, but, as the 5th District's decision last week in Stromp v. Fifth Third Bank indicates, is sticking to the same routine.  This time, it was a lawsuit against a tavern.  The parties agreed to settle for $5,500, with payment due by May 30, 2006.  The plaintiffs didn't sign the agreement until May 31, but when payment wasn't made until a week later, the lawyer said the settlement was off, and continued the litigation. 

The plaintiffs even continued it after the court ruled that the settlement was valid and should be enforced.  The trial court didn't cotton to that, and ordered an award of over $10,000 in sanctions against the plaintiffs and their lawyer for pursuing the litigation after the settlement was ordered into effect.  The court of appeals affirmed.

Back in the Supervalu case, the concurring opinion noted

What is particularly disturbing about the contrived nature of this frivolous action, as discussed above, is that. . . an attorney, licensed to practice in this state and sworn as an Officer of the Court, would facilitate this type of exploitive litigation to the detriment of the defendant, the court system, and the practice of law in general.

Well, make mine a double.  Every time one of us files an idiot claim like this based upon some hypertechnical regulatory statute, or sues a school district because little Susie didn't make the cheerleading squad, or comes up with some absurd theory of relief like "reckless and negligent use of a bathtub," it makes the rest of us look like a bunch of cheap whores.  And, because it happens so damned often anymore, the public doesn't need much convincing on that score. 

If you went to law school so that you could file bullshit cases like these, you went for the wrong reason.  And if the courts decide to start hitting you up in the pocketbook for it, well, sooner or later maybe you'll learn your lesson from it.

Search

Recent Entries

  • April 26, 2017
    MIA
    Like Mark Twain, rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. Except I am pretty sure he's actually dead, while I am not, and for that matter, nobody's spreading rumors that I am. Great lead, huh? The nice thing about...
  • April 20, 2017
    The Supreme Court takes a look at the trial tax
    And you thought this was the week you only had to worry about income taxes
  • April 18, 2017
    What's Up in the 8th
    Remembering Warren Zevon, and the Fourth Amendment lives
  • April 17, 2017
    Case Update
    Structural error, prejudice, and police run amok.
  • April 13, 2017
    Some arguments on sentencing
    Why oral arguments can be fun, even when they're not yours
  • April 12, 2017
    What's Up in the 8th
    Oh fun: declarations against interest v. non-hearsay. Also, the difference between not guilty and innocent, and Ohio's statute penalizing the refusal to take chemical test in a DUI case goes bye-bye
  • April 11, 2017
    Case Update
    Filibusters, and appellate cases on all the ways lawyers can screw up.
  • April 7, 2017
    Change of course
    A new approach in my client-attorney relationships
  • April 4, 2017
    What's Up in the 8th
    A true rocket docket, and Anthony Sowell pops up again
  • April 3, 2017
    Case Update
    Free merchant speech, an argument on Brady, another look at Creech