I find myself often writing or speaking about absurd lawsuits that result in ridiculous decisions in favor of an undeserving plaintiff who, but for a simple minded jury that was most likely concerned more about missing a Jerry Springer episode than delivering a just verdict, receives unjust enrichment
off the back of a hardworking citizen who’s only mistake was to have assets. So it is with great enthusiasm and minor perturbance that I write about a just verdict in a ridiculous case. In Petrone v. Fernandez (a case that made it all the way up to the NY court of appeals
) a mail carrier’s middle finger was injured when she, running away from a barking dog, tried to jump through the open window of her car legs first. As she flung her right leg through the open window, she jammed her right middle finger on the outside of the doorframe where the window comes down as she executed this maneuver. She ended up stuck in an awkward position — with her right leg inside the car and her left leg outside — and "screaming . . . for someone to help."
The plaintiff sued the dog owner and the owner of the apartment building where the dog owner was a tenant for continued pain and suffering in her finger. Thankfully, the Court found the defendant property owner was not liable to the plaintiff for her injured finger.So why my perturbance? This case should have never seen the light of a courtroom. How could someone reasonably believe a jammed finger suffered from personal behavior that was reckless in light of a non existent threat, give rise to liability for a property owner? Simple. This is America and in this country attorneys are a dime a dozen so there is never a shortage of liars, excuse me I meant lawyers, to take a case with the hope an insurance company will settle and pay the undeserving plaintiff and her attorney go-away money. Who is hurt right? If you think about it only a big heartless insurance company that has more money than it knows what to do with will take the fall. Unfortunately this is the mind set of the "have nots" of this world because in the end it is the property owner who experiences increased insurance costs or is dropped altogether or possibly the tenant who must pay higher rent to cover the landlord’s increased insurance costs. I guess we can conclude the property owner was lucky he did not live in an injury favored state like California or dog fright resulting in a jammed finger may be an expensive proposition. As James Thurber once stated "The dog has seldom been successful in pulling man up to its level of sagacity, but man has frequently dragged the dog down to his."
Posted by Clint Coons, asset protection attorney, Seattle, WA