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Friday, Dec. 19, 2014
The Need for LawyersPosted Friday, September 12, 2008, at 12:30 AM
The following true story won first place in a recent Criminal Lawyers Award Contest.
A Charlotte, NC, lawyer purchased a box of very expensive cigars, then insured them against fire among other things. Within a month having smoked his entire stockpile of these great cigars and without yet having made even his first premium payment on the policy, the lawyer filed a claim against the insurance company.
The lawyer claimed the cigars were lost "in a series of small fires." The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious, but the lawyer sued and won. The judge agreed with the insurance company that the claim was frivolous. Nevertheless, the judge stated that the lawyer held a policy from the company in which it warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed it would insure them against fire, without defining what is considered to be unacceptable fire, and was therefore obligated to pay the claim.
Rather than endure a costly appeal process, the insurance company paid the lawyer $15,000 for his loss.
After the lawyer cashed the check, the insurance company had him arrested on 24 counts of arson. With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case used against him, the lawyer was convicted of intentionally burning his insured property and was sentenced to 24 months in jail and a $24,000 fine.
While the above story has a happy ending, sanity doesn't always exist in legal matters, as exemplified by the following actual court cases.
On June 25, 2002, a woman was awarded $14.1 million by a NY state court after she was hit be a subway train. When it was later learned the woman had been attempting to commit suicide by lying on the tracks when the train hit her, the award was reduced 30 percent, to $9.9 million, because of her "comparative negligence."
In 1998, Terrence Dickson of Bristol, PA, was in the process of burglarizing a house when he trapped himself in the garage which had a malfunctioning door opener and he was unable to re-enter the house because the door locked behind him. He spent eight days in the garage, surviving on a bag of dry dog food and a case of Pepsi. Dickson sued the homeowner's insurance company, claiming undue mental anguish. The jury agreed and awarded him $500,000. Perhaps he should have sued his parents for mental incapacity as well.
In June 1998, a similar solid citizen, 19-year-old Carl Truman of Los Angeles was awarded $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman was too busy stealing the hubcaps at the time to notice that someone was at the wheel.
In 2000, Amber Carson of Lancaster, PA, sued a restaurant because she slipped on a wet spot and injured herself. Even though the wet spot was created when she threw her drink at her boyfriend, 30 seconds earlier, the restaurant was ordered to pay $113,500 in damages.
Kara Walton of Claymont, DE, tried to sneak through a bathroom window at a nightclub to avoid paying a three dollar cover charge, fell to the floor and knocked out her two front teeth. She sued the nightclub and was awarded $12,000 plus dental expenses.
In January 2000, Kathleen Robertson of Austin, TX, sued a furniture store after breaking her ankle tripping over her own son who was running amuck inside the store. She was awarded $780,000.
In November 2000, Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City purchase a brand new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On his first trip, Mr. Grazinski merged onto the freeway, set the cruise control to 70 mph and left the driver seat to go into the back and make himself a cup of coffee. Not too surprisingly to most people with an IQ above that of a turnip, the motor home crashed and overturned. Mr. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not indicating in the handbook that he could not actually do this. He was awarded $1,750,000 plus a brand new Winnebago.
Being sane in an insane world can often be a tedious task. But I keep trying.
Quote for the Day -- "If it weren't for lawyers, we wouldn't need lawyers." Bret
Bret Burquest is a former award-winning columnist for The News (2001-2007) and author of four novels. He has lived in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Kansas City, Memphis and the middle of the Arizona desert. After a life of blood, sweat and tears in big cities, he has finally found peace in northern Arkansas where he grows tomatoes, watches sunsets and occasionally shares the Secrets of the Universe (and beyond) with the rest of the world.