Torts

Ed. note: Please welcome Above the Law’s new poet-in-residence, Qui Tam.

Qui Tam. Short for a Latin phrase that means, more or less, self-righteously suing alongside the King, and keeping a little on the side for yourself. More commonly known today as a whistleblower action, where a private individual with knowledge of fraud gets sheltered by the feds and a nice cut of the penalties imposed for said fraud. So basically the same idea in Latin and common parlance.

For purposes of this column — which will be a collection of observational “poems,” chronicling experiences the writer may or may not have had during a pretty vanilla T1 law school and corporate legal career — what I am going for is the “whistleblower” allusion (quite self-flattering, not to mention self-righteous). Oh, and the pretentious use of Latin is designed to create a sense of sophistication where one probably doesn’t exist (sorry Bryan Garner, but it is true).

I now present to you my first poem:

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The kind of person who makes the rules about lawyer advertising through text messages.

When I find myself pontificating on lawyer propriety, you know things are bad. But a new ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court leaves me with no choice. Ohio has decided that it’s okay for lawyers to text message accident victims to advertise their services.

Can you imagine sitting in a hospital, recovering from injuries, and then getting a text message from an unknown number: “R U OK? I can get U $$$. I sue ppl 4 U!”

We live in a world where the Ohio Supreme Court said that such solicitations are “helpful.” In other news, we live in a world where old judges who don’t know what the f**k they’re talking about get to make the rules about technology they don’t understand….

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If there’s one thing I’m going to defend, it’s the right of American children to go out and die or injure themselves in whatever way seems best to them. Whether we’re talking about alcoholic energy drinks, or dangerous playground equipment, I’m not a fan of trying to legislate away childhood behavior. You shouldn’t sell kids a bag of glass, but we have fairly robust tort and consumer protection laws to weed that kind of stuff out.

Certainly, at the point when a child — or God forbid an adult — comes upon a giant roller coaster that does loops at 90 mph and says, “Oh, yeah, that looks perfectly safe,” I’m not sure what kind of “regulation” we’re supposed to be going for. If it crashes, you’ve got a tort action. If it doesn’t, you can thank whatever God you pray to and maybe next time take your ass to the bumper cars.

That stance puts me on the opposite of the newly elected junior Senator from Massachusetts, Ed Markey…

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In today’s age of gun violence at schools, anything and everything can be construed as a precursor to the next classroom shooting. Wearing a trench coat? You might be hiding a gun under there. Got a crazy look in your eye? You might be plotting a mass murder. Eating an ice-cream cone? Oh my God, drop the weapon!

But if you think that you can get away with eating an ice-cream cone and wearing a trench coat with a crazy look in your eye in a law school classroom, you’ve got another thing coming — especially if you allegedly proceed to flip tables, leap over desks, and run up and down the aisles like a wild man while blathering incoherently.

And, perhaps most fittingly, this happened during a torts class….

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* Ben Weiss suggests that the third year of law school be replaced by special certifications in practice areas. He calls these “O’Wendells.” I like the idea, but the name sounds dirty. If he really wants to keep with the SCOTUS theme, he could just call it a “Bushrod.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

* A guide to the legal landscape surrounding high-frequency trading (the new fad of super-fast, computer-driven trading algorithms swapping stocks in split-seconds). Good, because I like my trading like I like my women: capable of collapsing economic markets at any given notice. [New York Law Journal]

* In fairness to this judge accused of “inappropriate conduct” with an inmate, the Miami Correctional Facility is considered the most romantic correctional facility in America. [RTV6 ABC]

* Calvin and Hobbes impart an important lesson in International Law. [Invisible College Blog]

* Professor Howard Wasserman examines the economics of the infield-fly rule. There’s not even a jokey blurb here; this is intriguing. [Sports Law Blog]

* Man suing a church and some of its staff after being invited to a service and then allegedly being accused of demonic possession and beaten. In fairness to the church, if the man was really the devil, filing a lawsuit is the most logical means of revenge he could employ. [Legal Juice]

[T]he risk of being hit in the face by a hot dog is not a well-known incidental risk of attending a baseball game.

– Presiding Judge Thomas H. Newton of the Missouri Court of Appeals (Western District), writing for the majority, and noting that a fan cannot be said to have assumed the risk of injury via flying hot dog by attending a baseball game.

(For some background information, in 2009, Kansas City Royals fan John Coomer’s retina was torn and detached after he was hit in the face with a foil-wrapped hot dog that was thrown by the team mascot.)

Plastic! Safe! A perfect training ground for future lawyers.

Mmm… Tort Law. All you need is a J.D. and a dream to get in on the action.

But have we gone too far? No, I’m not talking about the general accusations that tort lawyers make things more expensive for consumers (and the mega-companies they buy things from). I’m asking if our tort regime is crippling our future by hobbling our children. New studies suggest that our children’s playgrounds may be too safe.

Hehe. That’s right, parents who sue schoolyard bullies for saying on Facebook that your kids are stinky heads. It turns out that your totally sanitized, tetanus-free, no-skinned-knees zone might be making your kids the very kind of chubby, neurotic weaklings who will need to keep their lawyers and shrinks on speed dial for the rest of their lives…

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Before there was Four Loko there was, and still is, the Red Bull and vodka. You can pour nearly any amount of vodka into a glass and just a little bit of Red Bull will cut the taste enough so that you can drink it like water. Plus you’ll get an energy kick. Back in my day, when Red Bull was still made with ephedra, that kick was damn noticeable.

Red Bull and vodka is a great way to start a night. It’s a great way to extend a night. It’s a terrible way to end a night. At the end of the night, you don’t need all that alcohol and energy. You need a cab and a glass of water.

One lawyer in D.C. learned that lesson the hard way. He had a Red Bull and Vodka right before closing time, and ended up “bleeding all over Georgetown.” Now he’s suing the bar for giving him that last drink.

And, you know, cutting off his finger…

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With the proliferation of online rating sites, an aggrieved consumer of pretty much anything has a surprising range of avenues to express his or her discontent.

Whether you have a complaint about your neighborhood coffee shop or an allegedly unfaithful ex-boyfriend, the average Joe has a surprising amount of power through these sites.

Rating sites apparently even have the power to bring a well-known UNC Law professor to his electronic knees.

It’s not every day that a torts professor sends his former students a “rather embarrassing request” to repair his online reputation. It’s also certainly not every day that the students respond en masse….

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Our law student readers are well aware that finals season is underway. People have already started camping out at the library as they meticulously prepare and organize their outlines and note cards. They’re double- and triple-checking their professors’ slides to make sure they haven’t missed any important information. And for the average law student, poring over pages and pages of text can get mind-numbingly boring very quickly.

Apparently one controversial professor at a D.C. law school figured that out, and decided to add a bit of excitement to his lecture slides. Because nude pictures are great study aids….

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