FROM THE EDITOR
The New Sue Review
Our readers' suggestions for trial lawyers--and "Simpsons" writers.
BY JAMES TARANTO
OpinionJournal.com, Monday, January 28, 2002
Last week Best of the Web noted a dangerous convergence between reality and cartoons: Just two days after "The Simpsons" aired an episode about a class-action lawsuit against "Big Sugar" on behalf of the obese, ABC ran a news story about the same topic. We invited our readers to suggest new ideas for trial-lawyer targets--and "Simpsons" scripts. We heard from nearly 350 of you; here are our favorites:
Bill Cowardin: There is of course a candidate industry ripe for suit which would provide an entire season's worth of material for Matt Groening to work with: Sue the trial lawyers! I can see a two-part episode in which Lionel Hutz actually sues himself--and loses!
John Borell Jr.: It is often reported that Americans do not get enough sleep--tired workforce, dangerous drivers, etc. Well, it is clear that the next cause should be against the makers of alarm clocks. Without them, we could all get the full eight to 10 hours of sleep we need a night. Why fight "Big Tobacco" when you can fight "Big Time"? (Credit to Dick Cheney for that one.)
Kevin Taitz: No one seems to be focusing on the countless millions who die each year from death. In fact, death seems to be fatal in nearly 100% of the time in both Western industrialized society and the Third World. Why is nothing done? Simple. The insurance industry along with the HMOs and drug companies are puppets in a grand conspiracy. It's time to send a message: If death is going to continue to indiscriminately kill innocent people, then death is going to pay through the nose.
Ray Wilson: You know, I am getting sick and tired of people with bad breath. We need to sue the dickens out of garlic growers and onion farmers, and use the proceeds for a massive federal entitlement of mouthwash and Tic Tacs.
Ed Miseta: This is a true story. Yesterday I was doing some manly work on my day off. I was nailing up wallboard in my attic. Most days I am just an office worker, and am not used to this kind of hard work, or using these hard, dangerous tools. As I attempted to pound a nail through an overhead two-by-four, the hammer head came down right smack on my thumb. It exploded in pain, followed by throbbing and numbness. I saw flashbulbs going off as blood started to pour from the 1-inch gash in my skin. My thumb is now a mess, black, cut, and grotesquely disfigured.
Nowhere on the hammer did it state that I could end up doing this kind of damage to myself. How many workers are hurt like this every day simply because the money-grubbing hammer manufacturers are too cheap to put a warning on their product? Would it be too much to ask them to provide a thumb guard with every hammer sold? How about instructions on how to prevent this type of painful injury? I think it's a disgrace. A can of Campbell's Soup comes with a label telling you to dump it in a pan and heat it. Yet a dangerous tool like this carries no warning or instructions. We need for the lawyers to look into this. Sure, it may drive the price of hammers up to $50, but isn't the safety of American thumbs more important? A child could get hold of one of these things. We have to think about the children.
Eric Kreig: I'm going to sue the deodorant industry. Through their advertising, they create the perception that any personal odor is offensive, thus stoking the fires of demand for their products. But some of us don't want to buy their products. We believe that our body odors are as God intended, and if everyone would just cut down on deodorant usage, no one would notice us.
You also may have noticed that deodorant usage is a cultural issue. It is not used in certain cultures, and because of the biased advertising of Big Odor, this results in cultural discrimination by the smell free against the stinky.
I haven't even scratched the surface of this issue, although my personal hygiene makes me scratch my own surface very often. What about the chemicals in deodorant, and their deleterious effects on our health? Chemicals are bad, as every trial lawyer-loving American knows by now.
Robin Brown: I suggest we sue "Big Earth," for all of the debilitating effects of gravity. First, there are the thousands of injuries each year caused by gravity. Second, there are the long-term effects of gravity, such as wrinkles, sagging stomachs and inactivity forced upon people by the force of gravity.
For decades, "keeping the people down" has been synonymous with oppression, but people have never understood the truth they spoke. The earth and its irrational insistence on gravity (which it could at least attempt to mitigate by divesting itself of large amounts of nonessential mass, I mean what does the earth need so much rock in the core for, anyway?) have caused untold suffering to people around the world and hampered progress and equality. Think what we could achieve without gravity to hold us back! We could all fly and would be free to perform athletically as we should! If gravity is to be continued, at the very least the earth should pay reparations to the rest of us.
Tom Glaab: The automated teller machine manufacturers must be sued. They market a product that leads to increased robberies and murders, and their product simply feeds the habits of people who stay out late at night drinking beer and liquor. Placing ATMs in public places gives criminals easy picking of people with money. There is no way the ATM manufacturers could have not seen that coming, so they must be held responsible for the crimes that occur at their machines.
Holly Hacker: The trial lawyers should definitely take on cows. Beef causes heart disease, cheese makes you fat, ice cream causes brain freezes, their constant grazing has a devastating impact on our nation's prairies and pastureland, and didn't the Department of Agriculture determine that cow flatulence causes global warming? Put Bessie in the big house!
Alex Mishulovich: Why don't we sue obstetricians and midwives? All babies delivered by them die eventually.
John Hoh: President Bush could start a lawsuit against pretzel makers for not warning of a choking hazard on their packages.
Kurt Weber: The next lawsuit may well be against bathing-suit manufacturers. We have known about the harmful effects of the Sun on our skin for years (nearly as long as we've known about tobacco's effect on our lungs). With all of our technology, the manufacturers haven't been able to come up with a full body suit that leaves nothing exposed? As a matter of fact, those cold-hearted capitalists have actually made smaller and smaller suits through the years.
Ken Adams: The next target in the movement to sue everyone should be "big oxygen." After all, too much oxygen is poisonous, and oxygen allows fire to burn. We should have plenty of victims available to build the class--anyone who has lost a home to fire, for example. The perps: farmers and timber companies! All those plants and trees make enough oxygen to feed millions of potential fires. We need an immediate injunction to stop them.
Shane Nichols: I think it is about time we held responsible those rich doctors who routinely and negligently cut babies' umbilical cords in such a way as to induce unhealthy, prolonged omphaloskepsis in at-risk victims.
Tim Craig: Big mayo should be sued. They don't have warning labels on the little packets of mayo at the lunch counter warning you not to live off a diet of just mayonnaise. This is very distressing.
"Anonymous": The clothing and footwear industries must be sued at once. Far too many criminals and terrorists are using clothing and footwear to conceal weapons of mass destruction. These criminal right-wing (and right-wing-tipped) manufacturers continue stitching fabrics and other materials into shoes, pants, burkhas and other terrorist-wearable items. It's is a well-known fact that a terrorist wearing clothing can conceal many more guns, bullets and knives on his body undetected than a like-minded nude terrorist. Let's take this step, united as a village, to stop violence, for the children.
Paul Fields: Let's go after the couch manufacturers. After all, if it weren't for them, we wouldn't have to worry about all those couch-potatoes. The eradication of couch-potatoism, while having obvious beneficial effects to the public health, could possibly have the added benefit of helping to kill off the National Football League, thereby putting an end to all of those insensitive mascot names.
William Basow: Given the threat of global warming due to "greenhouse gases"--primarily carbon dioxide, the principal byproduct of human metabolism--lawyers will be going after health clubs for causing us to generate "excessive" CO2. Especially if you doubly polluted by driving there, or triply polluted by driving there in your sport-utility vehicle.
Rob Long: What if you could sue someone because your feet hurt? It might not be as far-fetched as it sounds. In fact, that's what some health advocates would like to do if they can find a way. So our feet hurt--61% of us. We're fashion-obsessed, cramming our sisters' and mothers' feet into smaller shoes with higher heels, overheating our fathers' and brothers' feet in fashion-friendly but foot-unfriendly footwear.
Conventional wisdom among podiatrists says our feet are simply dying of discomfort. We already spend up to an estimated $20 billion a year on foot-related health products--are we really just not trying hard enough? They point to a David and Goliath-like imbalance between the government's foot health education spending and the fashion industry's $30 billion advertising budget. Only 2% of the industry's ad dollars go to promote so-called comfort-sole shoes, according to watchdog group Center for Podiatry in the Public Interest. Most ads lure Americans toward slim-line, tight-fitting, high-heeled shoes. Makes you think, huh?
Richard Belzer: Ophthalmologists who correctly perform laser vision correction on older men. Cause of action: enabling them to see their wives more clearly. Audiologists who prescribe effective, comfortable hearing aids to men of any age. Cause of action: denying men any excuse for not hearing their wives.
William Patton: Sue all computer companies for not being sensitive enough to people with a phobia about mice.
Michael Levin: My wife is mildly agoraphobic; she has jokingly suggested that the Interior Department be required under the Americans with Disabilities Act to cover the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park with gigantic domes, so she would be able to visit those places.
Frederick Bartlett: Unfortunately, many Americans suffer the oppressive and life-diminishing effects of guilt. Where does this guilt come from? Not from their actions; some lucky Americans are notably free of guilt, no matter what they do. Others suffer greatly and seem unable to follow the shining examples of such great guilt-free Americans as Bill Clinton, Geraldo Rivera and Alan Dershowitz.
Guilt is imposed on unwilling American children by a few benighted, backward-looking religions: Judaism, Catholicism and fundamentalist Protestantism. Mainline Protestant denominations--Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists--have been certified 100% guilt free by the many lawyers numbered among their congregations. It is time for the trial lawyers of America to go after the rabbis, the priests, and the ministers and to make them pay for the overwhelming burden of guilt they have inflicted on countless American children: guilt which, too often, remains hideously burdensome for entire lifetimes.
David Bernstein: Plaintiffs lawyers could go after the clergy for encouraging (and performing) marriage. After all, 50% of all marriages lead to divorce, and many others are unhappy. Imagine the pain-and-suffering awards! Not to mention that children of divorce can sue for both wrongful birth and the psychological suffering they endured when their parents split.
Ken Pryor: Please check out the February issue of Scientific American, the article on "Television Addiction," which is "no mere metaphor" but "the essence of a very real phenomenon." (To be fair, they also allow as the TV addiction concept is "imprecise and laden with value judgments.") They cite research going back to 1986. Surely this raises questions of what did the networks know and when did they know it? Have the networks been deliberately hooking us--and our children? Imagine some of the famous folks we might see in the dock. Even better, imagine the fun of the pretrial motions, with the TV industry arguing vigorously against televising the proceedings, lest they turn into a media circus.
Glenn Patterson: Whether you believe the world will end in the cataclysm of the "end times" described in Revelations or you believe in the big crunch or endless expansion of the universe suggested by the Big Bang theory, it is clear that the universe is a defective product. God has created a product, the universe, that threatens the continuation of life as we know it and expect it. Further, this defective product may have been created as part of some grand plan on God's part that has never been fully disclosed to us, the users of said product. We have all been forced to use this product without our fully informed consent. God has also manipulated us into thinking that the product is beneficial to us by creating snazzy environments such as breathtaking mountains, pastoral islands and such that delude us into thinking that we should continue to live in this universe.
Because some of us users suspect that all may not be as wonderful in our universe as it appears, we have suffered grave mental stresses in our lives. These stresses have caused us to stuff ourselves on Fritos, washed down with Jack Daniels while puffing on a Winston. We seek legal redress in this matter as the cost of junk food, booze and smokes keeps rising due to the legal costs involved in holding off the legal attacks of all you people who think the world can really be made perfect.
Richard Shadden: Sue automobile manufactures for the damage that is caused when vehicles are used illegally. They know that there is a statistical certainty that their products will be used in an illegal manner and are therefore responsible for the results.
Napoleon Cole: We need to sue the boot industry for making these boots that have been walking all over me. It's clear that the boots were made for walking, and I submit that that's just what they'll do. But the real problem is on that one day when the boots . . . well, suffice it to say that they'll walk all over you. Clearly a violation of your civil rights.
Dave Brenner: The next victim of the trial lawyers should be Osama bin Laden, who has inflicted great harm to the legacy of Bill Clinton, their patron saint.
Chris Atwell: Specialty coffee houses will be next due to the number of people who drop dead after they find out how much they're getting charged for a lousy cup o' joe.
Jon Adams: How about a lawsuit against manufacturers of writing instruments (pencils, pens, typewriters, computers, etc.). Who knows how many suicide victims, kidnappers or even terrorists would have abandoned their futile plans if they had not had such instruments to use for expressing their reasons for abandoning life, demanding ransom money, or spreading hate and discontent?
Bob Glenn: The entire board-game industry seems terribly at risk in our increasingly litigious society. There's Monopoly, which trains budding capitalists in the creation of homeless people through collection of rent. Certainly the outcome of this game (losing) that befalls those who don't own houses, hotels or property on which to charge rent is defamatory to those in such circumstances and would support a class-action claim.
There's the child's game Operation, which must be fraught with litigation opportunities. Some years ago, my graduate school roommate swore by this as a drinking game ("a red light, a buzzer--drink!"). Now, we were in business school, not medical school, but clearly all sorts of legal problems flow from this product.
And of course, there's Candy Land, which brings us right back where you started, and this is particularly insidious as it's targeted to preschoolers right on Hasbro's Web site, describing it as "every child's first game." Wouldn't want that in front of a jury once candy becomes the next tobacco.
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