Dishonor roll for lawsuits includes Tootsie Rolls, Hawaiian rolls, and rolls of the dice
If you’re offended that Tootsie Rolls contain sugar and fat or that a brand of bread rolls called King’s Hawaiian is made in bakeries outside of Hawaii or that the Mrs. Smith’s brand of pies doesn’t contain enough butter in their crusts, well, then, step right up to the courthouse.
That’s what various plaintiffs did in 2021 in three examples of what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Legal Reform called the “Most Ridiculous Lawsuits” of the just-completed year. They are joined by the suit filed by two reckless golfers against a golf course because they crashed carts while playing. And the suit demanding $5 million from Folger’s because a woman said she couldn’t produce the suggested numbers of cups of coffee from one of the brand’s canisters.
Oh, and then there’s the awful crime committed by Pop-Tarts, which puts other fruit products in addition to strawberry in its strawberry-flavored pastries. Please, don’t tell comedian Jerry Seinfeld about this one: It’ll make his head explode.
The problem is, this nation’s litigiousness (along with the laws that do not adequately dissuade frivolous suits) creates situations that really aren’t funny. Oftentimes, even a suit that ends up failing can cause the defendant to run up so much in legal fees that it puts him or her out of business. Witness, for example, the 2007 lawsuit that forced a community basketball facility to close because its second floor wasn’t easily accessible by wheelchair, even though the facility made provisions for those with disabilities to access to its first floor as per existing regulations.
“At last count, the U.S. spends over $3,000 per household on its tort system, while small businesses are paying more than half — $182 million — of the commercial liability costs,” said Harold Kim, ILR’s president. “The only winners are the plaintiffs’ lawyers and litigation funders. The more frivolous lawsuits they file, the more they get paid.”
Nobody should want to dissuade legitimate lawsuits for real injuries caused by actual negligence. But a whole spate of state-level reforms could make those suits get priority while strongly discouraging the idiotic ones. It should be easier for lawyers to face sanctions for truly frivolous suits. And some categories of suits should be subject to “loser pay” provisions so that the legal fees of winning defendants are covered. And so on.
Hint: If you lose a half-million dollars at a casino, that’s your own fault. Don’t sue the casino on the weird off-chance that you’ll draw an easily confusable jury.
The courts of law aren’t supposed to be a crapshoot.