Torts

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You’re Not Fooling Anybody, Clown

Personally, I have no doubt this was a deliberate attack: Darlene B___ v. Jerusalem Temple Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine; Praetorian Insurance Company; Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System; George Carden Circus International Inc.;…


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Headnote of the Day: Prison Doghouse Incident

The opinion itself is nothing special, but I thought it did become amusing when Westlaw compressed the holding into a headnote: Trustee guard who was forced to ride on top of doghouse containing prison dogs due to space limitations in…


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In Other Child-Care News

It is apparently frowned upon to put a child down for a nap and then use duct tape to make sure he stays put. And the problem is what, exactly? According to Reuters, a Texas couple has sued a day-care…


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Hose-Entanglement Case Filed in Louisiana

Another interesting case has been filed in Louisiana, according to this all-too-brief Courthouse News summary (thanks, Andy): Twyla M_____ v. Century Surety Company; Rushabh Inc. dba Rush Express, 6/20/2014, 2014-12824 G (St. Tammany Parish District Court, Covington) Negligence action. While plaintiff was filling her…


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Lawsuit Alleges Duck Attack

KATU in Portland reports that a woman who says she was attacked by a duck at a trailer park has sued the duck's owner. Plaintiff alleges in part that said duck was a repeat offender. According to the complaint (which…


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Insurers Demand $2 Million for Negligent Squirrel-Torching

Khek Chanthalavong told investigators the blaze started after he had been using a torch on the deck of a unit he shared with Barbara Pellow to burn the fur off a squirrel he'd captured. People, how many times do I…


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Model Teed Off at Man Who Teed Off on Her

Look, I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life, I'm just suggesting that it's a bad idea to put sharp or explosive objects in your butt. Time after time we have seen that does not turn out…


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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.