6 of the strangest lawsuits making headlines

Racist intercom announcements, a wrong birth lawsuit and four more strange suits in the news

The Wrong Announcement


The Wrong Announcement

Wal-Mart has come under fire before for some illegal practices before, but usually it’s not this… blatant. In 2010, Winslow, N.J., native Donnell Battie was understandably enraged when he heard over his local Wal-Mart’s intercom “Attention, Wal-Mart customers: All black people must leave the store.” He sued Wal-Mart for $1 million in damages, citing emotional distress that resulted in a “substantial sickness” for Battie.

But there was one main issue in his suit: The announcement was not made by a Wal-Mart employee, but rather a local teen who had commandeered the PA system and made the announcement. In throwing out the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Renee Marie Bumb said that Wal-Mart had done nothing wrong and could not be held “vicariously liable for the offensive speech of one of its customers.” Bumb also denied Battie’s argument that an earlier, similar case should have made Wal-Mart better prepared, saying, “One or two isolated, random events, no matter how egregious, are not enough to put a defendant on notice of the potential risk of harm.”

Wrongful Birth

 

Wrongful Birth

You may have heard about a wrongful death lawsuit, but what about a wrongful birth? A King County (Wash.) jury awarded one couple $50 million in damages after their son was born with “unbalanced chromosome translocation,” a rare genetic defect.

Brock and Rhea Wuth were initially told that they had a 50/50 chance at producing a child with this genetic defect, so they sought tests at Valley Medical Center, with help from LabCorp, to determine whether to keep the baby. When the tests came back negative for the defect, the couple proceeded with the pregnancy. Baby Oliver, however, did in fact have the defect, which saddles him with multiple mental and physical disabilities, when he was born on July 12, 2008,.

According to the Seattle Times, Valley Medical Center and LabCorp are now on the hook for $50 million to cover damages. Valley Medical Center and LabCorp still maintain that their professionals did nothing wrong, even after the jury’s ruling. Jury Verdicts Northwest, which tracks jury awards, said this verdict is the largest individual award in Washington state history.

A (Non-)Helping Hand

 

A (Non-)Helping Hand

Usually, when a person is sick and on the verge of death — or possibly already dead — hospitals rush that person into the emergency room immediately. But one North Carolina mom says Cumberland County Hospital did the exact opposite with her son, and now she’s seeking damages.

Deborah Washington claims her son A’Derrin was gravely ill, or possibly already dead, when hospital officials asked guards from AlliedBurton Security Services to “escort Mr. Washington from his hospital bed to the lobby for discharge” because he was “uncooperative” and “refusing to talk or move.” Deborah, though, says her son was uncooperative “due to the fact that he was dying.”

The suit against AlliedBurton Security Services claims that both hospital staff members and the taxi driver who escorted him from the hospital expressed concern with his treatment. By the time A’Derrin arrived home, he was dead from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. According to WSOC-TV, Deborah seeks compensatory and punitive damages for negligence, wrongful death and emotional distress.

The Battlefield of Law

 

The Battlefield of Law

Between the Call of Duty franchise and Halo and Gears of War, gamers have a number of different shooting games on a variety of platforms to choose from. But those who chose Battlefield 4 on PC from Electronic Arts (EA) received a not-too-welcome surprise — a game that was buggy, incomplete, and close to unplayable from the moment it was released. Normally, a game like this would be swept under the rug and sell poorly, but some customers decided the game was bad enough to become litigious.

Securities law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP filed a complaint on Dec. 18 in U.S. district court that claims EA and top EA executives knew about the game’s issues but willfully misled customers into purchasing the game anyway. The suit, which is expected to become a class action lawsuit, was filed on behalf of customer Ryan Kelly and anyone else who purchased EA stock between July 24 (the game’s release date) and December 4. Among the ways the lawsuit says EA deceived customers is this statement from EA CEO Peter Moore on July 23: “We couldn't be happier with the quality of the games our teams are producing or the early reception those games are getting from critics and consumers.”

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Lawsuit

 

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Lawsuit

Promoting free speech and democracy in China is nonprofit China Free Press, Inc.’s mission? That seems like a worthwhile goal. Accomplishing that goal through publishing unverified reports on an English-language, U.S.-based website that “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” actress Zhang Ziyi was paid more than $100 million to have sex with Chinese government officials and others? That seems like an odd choice indeed, and not one that Ziyi appreciated very much.

Ziyi filed a lawsuit against China Free Press, doing business as Boxun News, for libel, claiming damage to her reputation and business interests. The lawsuit said that Boxun News knowingly misled through its article, which was picked up by various members of the Chinese media. Company founder Meng had originally claimed that the First Amendment covered his article, and the lawsuit was “an effort by the Chinese government (albeit by proxy) to attach and retaliate against an independent journalistic critic of its brutal and repressive practices, and to use the American judicial system as an instrument to identify dissidents for persecution.”

But on Dec. 18, Boxun News settled with Ziyi, retracting the earlier report. In an apology, Boxun News writes, “These false reports about Zhang Ziyi should never have been published. As a result, Boxun News now renders its unreserved apology to Zhang Ziyi, has removed the entire series of articles about Zhang Ziyi from the Boxun News website, and issues this formal retraction.”

 

Photo via Wikipedia

Swan Dive

 

Swan Dive

Try as I might, I could not beat this opening line from Mike Blasky of the Las Vegas Review-Journal: “Pool regulation in Southern Nevada might have gone off the deep end.”

In a December lawsuit against Southern Nevada Health District administrators, three former employees are claiming that they were fired for being whistleblowers and exposing incompetent management of the district’s swimming pool review program. The lawsuit claims that those who licensed and inspected pool plans often approved plans that did not meet code or did not look at the plans before approving them at all. The employees, who worked in enforcement, would then be forced to pick up the slack.

Apparently, once the employees began to fight back, the licensors were not happy. One co-worker allegedly created voodoo dolls of the three enforcement agents, because, lawyers said, “She was approving swimming pool plans without inspecting them, and she was angry at my clients for pointing that out.” The lawsuit also claims the project manager promoted women with whom he had been romantically involved, regardless of work done, and called them his “honey badgers.”

 

Want to see more of the strangest lawsuits in the news? Check out 6 more from November!

Assistant Editor

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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