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Friday Roundup

Tort reform beckons.  Yes, we've all heard those horror stories about companies compelled to put ridiculous warnings on their products to alert consumers to the dangers of, say, putting your hand into a running lawnmower.  But, with a hat-tip to Legal Blogwatch, we find courtesy of  The Consumerist that the boys over at Antennas Direct, a Missouri outfit that, true to its name, sells TV antennas to the public, have upped the ante.   Their installation instructions carry these three explicit warnings:

Do not attempt to install if drunk, pregnant or both.

Do not eat antenna.

Do not throw antenna at spouse.

This prompted one commenter on the site to point out, hopefully in jest, "If the antenna doesn't leave my hands, it's not throwing.  Batter up, honey!"  Misogny aside, this might be a self-correcting problem.  When's the last time someone you know bought a TV antenna?

Reason #33 to worry about what's on your cellphone.  You stop in at the local Mickey D's to grab a quick bite, but several hours later you realize you left your cell phone there.  You call up the store, and the manager assures you that the phone will be put in a safe place, and you can pick it up the next day.  Which is what you do.  Unfortunately, by that time the nude photos of your wife that you'd stored on the phone have been downloaded and posted on the Internet.

Something like that's happened to all of us, but Phillip Sherman decided he wasn't going to let it just go by, so he sued McDonald's for "negligent performance of an undertaking to render services," i.e., the failure to keep his cellphone secure.  With a hat tip to Overlawyered, we find that McDonald's settled the case after losing a motion to dismiss the suit.  The article notes that this is a case of first impression.  Obviously, Sherman's wife made quite an impression...

An enigma solved, and another look at the Castle Doctrine.  The Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers used to put out a magazine called The Vindicator.  Through Herculean efforts by Cleveland attorney Mike Lear, the magazine is back in publication.  I have two articles appearing in the recent issue, and it might prompt you to fork over the $175 membership fee.  Not to read the articles, mind you; while they're good, they're similar to what you can read on here for free.  No, the real incentive would be to get a look at the photograph which accompanies my two pieces, and which provides an answer to the question which has long lingered in the minds of my countless hordes of readers:  "Gosh, Russ, why don't you have a picture of yourself on your blog?"  It's not that I'm particularly hideous; I can usually navigate the sidewalks without provoking widespread gagging or attempts by parents to cover their children's eyes.  It's just that the picture was...

Well, let's put it this way.  The initial hypothesis among Vindicator readers was that the photograph had been culled from the files of the FBI's Terrorist Watchlist.  More recently, a different theory has emerged:  the picture looks much like the ones the kidnappers send out as proof that their hostage is still alive, with the only thing lacking being me holding up a newspaper with the current date plainly visible.

At any rate, one of my articles was on the Castle Doctrine.  As I recounted in my posts here and here on the subject, the doctrine basically shifts the burden of self-defense from the defendant to the state in cases where deadly force is used to repel an intruder in one's home or vehicle.  Since the article appeared, several lawyers have pointed out that the statute refers only to the use by the defendant of "deadly force."  Would it still apply where the defendant had used non-deadly force?

This is an interesting question of statutory construction.  By its plain terms, the statute applies only to use of deadly force.  But think about this for a minute.  Can it be that the legislature intended a defendant to be relieved of the burden of proving self-defense only if he used deadly force?  Take, for example, the case of a party that goes awry:  unwelcome guests appear, and are asked to leave.  Defendant A grabs one of the intruders by the arm and tosses him off the porch, breaking his arm.  Defendant B pulls out his MAC-10 and blows another intruder away.  B gets the benefit of the statute, and the State has to prove that he wasn't acting in self-defense.  A doesn't, and has to prove that he was.

Doesn't make sense to me.  But I still take a crappy picture.


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