Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sue the Bastards

 In this installment:  screwed-over employees, a shellfish shock, and an embarrassed burglar seeks revenge.

Dear STB:
My employer operates auto upholstery shops in several states.  Recently it closed its local business and threw me and about 15 other people out of work.  We’d become unhappy with pay and working conditions, and recently one of us had contacted a union in town to inquire about organizing.  Our company has always let it be known that if we workers ever were to unionize, they’d shut down the shop.  This looks suspicious to me.  What can we do?
--Scrood in Scottsdale

Dear Scrood:
Even the National Labor Relations Board and the courts can’t raise the dead.  But since your company operates not just one shop but a chain of them, you’re in luck.  If you can show that anyone in your work force so much as mentioned the word “union” out loud, then you’ve got a case.  Definitely:  Sue the Bastards.

Dear STB:
I ate at Charlie’s Charmingly Cheap Seafood Shanty & Saloon the other day.  When I bit into a piece of lobster, I went into anaphylactic shock and nearly choked to death.  I’m still covered with an ugly red rash.  I knew I was allergic to shellfish, but I’d never had such a severe reaction before.  It doesn’t seem right that a restaurant can so blithely offer such a dangerous entrée to its customers.  What are my rights?
--Choked in Choctaw

Dear Choked:
You knew you were allergic, so some might think that you’re solely to blame here.  However, like any restaurant, Charlie’s Charmingly Cheap Seafood Shanty & Saloon makes its profits from selling food to consumers like you.  And in Charlie’s case, they’re in the shellfish business, so they know or should know all about the dangers of that type of food.  Therefore, they had a duty to protect you from your own stupidity. 

Do this:  Go by the restaurant and pick up a copy of their menu.  Somewhere on it they ought to have a warning that looks something like this:  “Customers with food allergies eat at their own risk.  This restaurant cannot guarantee that any food item is allergen-free.  Restaurant assumes no liability for any adverse reactions to meals and beverages.  If you have any food allergies, please inform your server before placing your order.”

If there’s no such warning and disclaimer, you’ve got a good case.  But even if there is, you may still be in luck.  Find out whether the restaurant has any food safety training programs in place for its employees.  For instance, does the restaurant require its staff to review training videos about food allergies?  Have workers received information on what to do if a patron becomes ill?  Are there allergy warnings posted in the kitchen?  In some jurisdictions, such training and warnings may be required.  Check with your health department to see if that’s the case in your city.

But whether they’re required or not, if any of these items is missing, that gives you an opening.  The odds of a restaurant with the name of Charlie’s Charmingly Cheap Seafood Shanty & Saloon doing all these things is slim.  So by all means:  Sue the Bastards.

Dear STB:
I was burglarizing a private residence the other day when something really embarrassing happened.  My friends and I had hit this particular home a few times.  Apparently the guy was pretty fed up, because he rigged a booby trap.  As I stepped inside, I tripped an electric eye, causing a paint gun that had been mounted on the ceiling to fire.  The ball hit me right between the eyes.  It could have put my eye out!  The strike did raise a big, ugly bruise on my forehead.  Furthermore, the splatter caused me to get arrested after a policeman spotted me on the street wearing yellow paint and stopped me.  I was really embarrassed, and now I’m facing burglary charges even though I didn’t take anything this time.  I don’t feel the homeowner had a right to set a booby trap.  What can I do?
--Mortified in Morrisville

Dear Mortified:
Well, you’re probably hosed on the burglary charge.  But in terms of civil liability, the legal ground here is well tested.  In many cases, the homeowner is liable for anything that happens on his or her property.  In all cases, if someone deliberately sets up a trap in such a way as to deliberately injure someone, then they’re definitely and doubly liable.  And yes, an assault on your dignity, because of the personal embarrassment it caused you, counts as an injury.  It could even amount to intentional infliction of emotional distress.  The amount of damages you might be awarded is uncertain.  But at very least, a lawsuit would cause the homeowner as much aggravation as he caused you, if not more.  So go ahead.  Sue the Bastard.

The Sue the Bastards blog is offered as satire only.  The author is not a lawyer, has received no legal education, and specifically disavows that this blog constitutes legal advice or should be followed as such.  The author does state that the need to include such a disclaimer proves a point about the litigious nature of our society.  So there.


If you’d like to see more writing along these lines, check out the novel Messages, which shows the same degree of respect to the news industry.

©2015 by Forrest Carr.  All rights reserved.

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