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Tort Reform Hoax

This is an update to an earlier post. I fell for a hoax e-mail from a senior faculty colleague of mine, listing purported examples of outrageous tort awards. I circulated that e-mail as a post of my own. I quickly caught the error and have since corrected that post. I apologize for my mistake in giving further circulation to bogus examples.

Oren:
It happens to the best of us. Thanks for the quick retraction.
9.9.2008 9:06pm
Quarterly Prophet (mail):
Ayup, just doing a little fishing for law faculty here.

Ope ope we got one! Hook line and sinker!
9.9.2008 9:30pm
Big E:
Who hasn't fallen for at least one of these?
9.9.2008 9:53pm
Alan Gunn (mail):
The very fact that it's hard to tell the difference between these fantastic tales and some genuine ones tells us something, I think.
9.9.2008 9:58pm
frankcross (mail):
Actually, it is not hard to tell the difference between these and genuine cases. And I'm a little surprised that former judge Cassell fell for the hoax. He presided over cases and saw those that won and lost. He talked to other judges and, I would think, anticipated that cases such as these in the hoax would not make it to a jury.
9.9.2008 11:40pm
Anderson (mail):
I fell for a hoax e-mail

Dude: Snopes.com. Bookmark it.
9.10.2008 12:11am
OrinKerr:
When I come across something like that that seems fishy, I usually cut and paste a phrase and give it to the Google. If it's a hoax, snopes or some other site will be at the top of the list.
9.10.2008 12:25am
NickM (mail) (www):
You owe Orin a beer.

Nick
9.10.2008 1:01am
MS (mail):
Apology quickly accepted and thanks for being so conscientious. Who cares about the "facts" section anyway? Let's talk law.
9.10.2008 1:51am
Visitor Again:
Our predispositions "help" us fall for some hoaxes. Con men know this. Judge Cassell apparently already was of the view that tort reform was needed, in part because some damage awards had been made in ridiculous circumstances.

I recently read a story in the New York Times that quoted con men as saying experts in a certain area were easier to fool that nonexperts because experts pick up on certain clues that are normally reliable in their experience and jump to the usual conclusion.
9.10.2008 6:14am
Visitor Again:
I found the link to the New York Times piece. It was an op-ed piece. Here's a relevant excerpt:


WHEN news of the great fish fraud broke recently, New York’s elite restaurateurs rushed to defend their sushi. Phony labels on the red snapper? Knock-off tuna? Not to worry. Top chefs can’t be fooled, they insisted, nor can their customers. “It is impossible to mislead people who have knowledge,” declared Eric Ripert, the chef at Le Bernardin.

Few statements could do more to gladden a con man’s heart. In the art of the con, magicians and swindlers and forgers insist, the ideal victim is not an ignoramus but an expert. Any magician would rather take on a roomful of physicists than of 5-year-olds. “When you’re certain you cannot be fooled,” wrote the magician Teller, “you become easy to fool.”

Experts make the best victims because they jump to unwarranted conclusions. The savvier they are, the quicker they jump, because they see at a glance which way a story is heading. In 2002, for instance, a French wine researcher named Frédéric Brochet gave 54 experts an array of red wines to evaluate. Some of the glasses contained white wine that Mr. Brochet had doctored to look red, by adding a tasteless, odorless additive. Not a single taster noticed the switch.

“About 2 or 3 percent of people detect the white wine flavor,” Mr. Brochet said, “but invariably they have little experience of wine culture. Connoisseurs tend to fail to do so. The more training they have, the more mistakes they make because they are influenced by the color of the wine.”

For the experts, the term “red wine” carries countless associations. Each one points to further questions; each question leads them further off the trail. By contrast, the amateurs’ ignorance keeps them from exploring subtle byways. Seeing only one question — “what do you think of this wine?” — they can’t wander far.
9.10.2008 6:26am
Deoxy (mail):


The very fact that it's hard to tell the difference between these fantastic tales and some genuine ones tells us something, I think.

Actually, it is not hard to tell the difference between these and genuine cases.


Really? You mean, the examples of real lawsuits given at sites such as Overlawyered, some of which really are that ridiculous, simply don't exist?

The original Stella lawsuit itself is essentially just as ludicrous as the hoax winnibego suit in question here.

In fact, it's LESS ridiculous than some real lawsuits. You think you can tell them apart because they are so over-the-top, but there are real-world examples of stuff that is WORSE.
9.10.2008 11:27am
josh:
Well done, sir. Wish more bloggers took this fairly simple track. It is to be commended.
9.10.2008 12:13pm
Michael H Schneider (mail):
"The original Stella lawsuit itself is essentially just as ludicrous as the hoax winnibego suit in question here. "

Not true. McD's intentinally had coffee machines specially altered (against the manufacturer's safety recommendations) to deliver coffee that was far, far hotter than customary. It knew of this risk, and chose to impose the risk on the customer, but the customer wouldn't know. Stella suffered burns so serious as to require several hospitalizations and skin graft surgery. I dont remember the figure for her actual medicals, but it was several or many tens of thousands of dollars. McD's admitted that its motive for serving the unusually dangerous coffee was profit.
9.10.2008 4:13pm
Alan Gunn (mail):

McD's admitted that its motive for serving the unusually dangerous coffee was profit.

Golly, companies selling things people want! Gotta stamp that out.
9.10.2008 4:48pm