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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Assorted Craziness

Excuse of the week: insanity made me do it.

Check out a ruling from the appellate division of the New York Supreme Court called Hazen v. Hill Betts & Nash.

It seems an administrative law judge awarded damages for discrimination to an attorney who was fired by a law firm - five-plus years ago.

How did they discriminate against him?

Well, the firm fired him "upon discovering that the petitioner charged hotel rooms, limousines, alcohol, adult movies and calls to escort services to his corporate American Express card and then attempted to have these charges billed to clients."

Bosses get upset about the strangest things.

The lawyer sued for discrimination because he said that the conduct was caused by bipolar disorder and the law firm failed to accommodate his mental illness. The administrative law judge ruled that the firm didn't fire the guy for charging the porn and hookers but, instead, fired him because of the disability that caused him to pay for porn and hookers.

Don't get your hopes up - the ruling got reversed. The appellate panel said the firm didn't know about the psychiatric diagnosis until after it fired the guy so there wasn't any discrimination.

And they could fire the guy for the misconduct even if he was disabled. So if you're going to put hotel rooms and booze on the company credit card, you need a better excuse.

Try saying it was for research.

Now think about the insanity of having to litigate this for five-plus years.

CLASSY ACTION. I've never understood why corporate and pro-business types always want to restrict consumer class actions.

Class actions are protection for companies. You buy off the plaintiff class lawyers with a bunch of money (aka "attorney fees"), give next to nothing to the small percentage of class members who actually document their losses or apply for part of the settlement years later (when interest has paid for it), and no one else can sue if they haven't opted out (which almost no one does).

What more could a corporate villain want?

So some of those corporate villains must have been just a tad nervous about the publicity generated last week by a former lawyer who opted out of a class action settlement with Honda and went to small claims court.

As part of the class, this plaintiff could have gotten maybe $100 and some coupons. On her own, it could be thousands.

Multiply that by thousands of potential plaintiffs - and thousands of court appearances for Honda without the help of lawyers.

Here's a nefarious idea: require those mostly-incomprehensible settlement notices to include a really prominent notice that says you can not only opt out but can go to small claims court quickly without hiring a lawyer.

Business will be demanding legislation to encourage class actions.

OR ARE YOU JUST HAPPY TO SEE ME? Favorite sentence of the week comes from a U. S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit of Appeals ruling called United States of America v. Russell:

"The question here is whether a request to conduct a search of the person for narcotics reasonably includes the groin area."

The question was brought on by a set of facts that included: "When Bruch reached into Russell's groin area he 'lifted up to feel.' After feeling something hard and unnatural, Bruch arrested Russell."

Not everyone would have thought that was unnatural.

Second favorite sentence comes from footnote two in the same ruling: "Out of all my investigations where I find narcotics, at least probably 80 percent of the narcotics I find are in the groin area."

This is why you should never do drugs.

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