Civil Procedure

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Judge Criticizes “Behemoth Pleadings”

Here are some words & phrases that you really don't want a judge to apply to anything you file: sprawling behemoth surplusage larded with brims with masquerading as voluminous breathtaking madness chokes the docket intended to overwhelm labyrinthian prolixity of…


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Supreme Court Litigant Fails to Show Up

Just a quick update to say that those of you out hunting for Bobby Chen (see "Could Someone Ask Bobby Chen to Call the U.S. Supreme Court?" (Dec. 20, 2014)) can call off the search. Although the Court had agreed to…


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Could Someone Ask Bobby Chen to Call the U.S. Supreme Court?

The Court was planning to hear his case, but now it can't find him. Of course there are lots of Bobby Chens out there, but the Court is interested in the Bobby Chen who filed this petition for certiorari (via SCOTUSblog) that…


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Various Plaintiffs v. Various Defendants

Justin writes: I was a little flummoxed when I saw this caption. I thought, “That can’t be right. Someone at Westlaw must have been screwing around.” But … there it is. It’s beautiful in its simplicity. It’s the all-purpose caption! Think…


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Bad Attitude Costs Texas in Fee Dispute

Hey, I get it—sometimes when you win and you think the other side's position was bogus, it's hard not to get all smug and self-righteous. But you really should try. Not trying very hard—well, not trying at all—cost the State…


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New Tax Strategy: Trip and Fall at the IRS Office

Okay, "strategy" is not the right word, because far be it from me to suggest that anyone would do this deliberately. But if one were to accidentally trip on a phone cord while visiting the IRS to discuss a large unpaid tax bill, an even larger personal-injury award might just turn that frown upside down.

Such was the bad and/or good fortune of William Berroyer, Sr., who walked into an IRS office to discuss a $60,000 tax debt and walked out with an injury that led to an $862,000 judgment.

According to the court's order (the parties seem to have waived a jury), Berroyer was 61 at the time of the incident in 2008. He owed about $60,000 in back taxes, and was at the IRS office in Hauppauge, New York, to discuss that. He met with an agent in a conference room that held some file cabinets as well as the table, chairs, and a telephone with a cord that ran across the table toward Berroyer and then under the table. Although Berroyer said he was "very nervous," the meeting was amicable and they agreed on a payment plan. As Berroyer got up to leave, he tripped and fell, hitting a file cabinet. He was able to walk out, but later called from the parking lot to say that his shoulder hurt and his legs felt funny.

He was treated for a spinal injury, and later sued for $10 million.

Phone Cord

Trap-like condition

It looks like the trial did not focus on liability, probably because the IRS had to concede that the cord wasn't taped down as it should have been, creating a tripping hazard. Or, as the complaint put it, defendant used an "excessively long telephone and/or utility cord … underneath a conference room table so as to present a trap-like condition … [and] so placed as to be hidden and non-apparent." (Editing tip: something that is hidden is not apparent. Both terms not required.) But there was some question about how the trap-like condition was sprung.



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“No, You’re Still Deceased,” Judge Tells Dead Man

"[There's a] man sitting in the courtroom, he appears to be in good health," noted Judge Allan Davis on Monday. But by the end of the hearing, that man was dead. He had also been dead when he walked in,…


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Okay, Sir, I’m Going to Make Two Hand Gestures at You Now

I have no idea what the underlying issue was here—apparently some kind of traffic violation—but the clip is well worth watching because you just don't get that many chances to see an attorney and a witness repeatedly flip each other…


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Here Come the Other “Happy Birthday” Lawsuits

Here we go: according to a press release I just got, two more plaintiffs have filed "Happy Birthday" lawsuits—not meaning that they sued somebody on his or her birthday but they are jumping into the litigation over whether "Happy Birthday…