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Sue the Bastards

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Now that I think about it, if I'd gotten a better grade in that Anti-Trust course in law school -- which I should have -- my life would've turned out way differently.  I would've gotten into that silk-tie law firm, I'd have a nice house in one of the tonier suburbs, I'd be driving a Lexus...

Something like that appears to be the theory of Megan Thode, who's filed a $1.3 million lawsuit against Lehigh University over a C+ grade which she claims prevented her from becoming a professional counselor.  It's a little more complicated than that, as it always is:  Thode claims that she was given a zero in class participation, which dropped her a full letter grade, because the teacher was upset with Thode's championing of gay marriage, while the teacher contends it was because Thode showed "unprofessional behavior" in the classroom, including crying and swearing outbursts.  (That's probably what hurt me in Anti-Trust, now that I think about it.)  The lawsuit generated the usual Clucking of Tongues, especially when the judge denied the University's motion to dismiss it.  (As one of my friends put it, "If a C+ is worth $1.3 million, my grades should be worth eight figures.")  Fortunately, sanity was restored when the judge listened to the evidence and ruled for the University.

Then again, when it comes to the lawsuit game, Thode's a piker compared to Ashley Julien.  On the night of September 30, 2010, Ashley's mother Sheila Julien and Julien's boyfriend, Paul Suprenant, stole some videos from a Blockbuster.  When the alarm rang, the two took off, Suprenant driving at speeds up to 100 miles an hour.  The road he was driving on becomes a one-lane private road, but he didn't realize that until it was too late.  The car slammed into two trees, shattered into pieces and caught fire.  Suprenant was ejected from the car; his severed left arm, with a tattoo "bad luck," was found by a fence.  Julien remained in the car, although nobody could tell whether she was wearing a seat belt because of what the fire did to the car and her body.  There was enough of her and Suprenant left to determine that both had cocaine and meth in their systems.

And a couple of weeks ago Ashley, representing Julien's estate, filed a lawsuit against the residents on the road, claiming that they had negligently failed to maintain it.  The newspapers wanted to interview Ashley about the suit, but couldn't.  She's been in jail since December for violating her drug probation, and the county sheriff's office doesn't allow jailhouse interviews.

But then again, there are people who deserve to be sued.  Several years ago I wrote about Jim Walker, a lawyer who used to represent cruise lines and now makes a living suing them.  You might want to send in an application to his firm, because they're going to have plenty of work coming up.  On the heels of the deaths of three passengers and a lifeboat training accident that cost five crew members their lives in the past few weeks comes the Cruise from Hell:  the Carnival Triumph, which spent the last four days adrift in the Caribbean after an engine fire knocked out its power.  Not only did this kill the air conditioning and prevent the ship from preparing any hot food, it reintroduced us to the two most horrifying words in the English language:  "nonfunctioning toilets."  My uncounted legions of faithful readers will recall that my wife and I took our first (and last) cruise last December, and while I did not find it enjoyable, I'm sure I would have found it even less so if I'd had to encounter "feces and urine in the hallways," as did the 3,000-plus passengers on the Triumph, according to many of their accounts.

The reaction of Carnival to all this was amusing, if understandable.  First, of course, was sending out the company spokesman, who earned every penny of his keep.  Hell, he should have gotten combat pay:  "Sir, we've had reports that passengers preferred to sleep on the deck in the pouring rain rather than in their sweltering rooms with the stench of toilets that wouldn't flush.  Would you care to comment on that?"  And then, there was the matter of making amends:  a full refund of the cruise price (let's face it, they could've charged for the day or so when the ship actually worked), the $500 payment (certainly more than adequate compensation for having to crap into a garbage bag), but then topped that off with a credit for the passengers' next cruise on Carnival.  At least after Taco Bell suffered an E. coli outbreak six years ago, they had the good sense not to offer the sickened customers a free Burrito Beef Supreme.

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