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Censorship Your Rights Online

Google sued as PetsWarehouse Lawsuit Continues. 988

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the strange-gets-stranger dept.
Ikari Gendou writes "In April, Slashdot reported that Robert Novak, owner of Internet pet store Pets Warehouse filed a $15,000,000US lawsuit against several individuals who made comments about his company's poor service on an Internet mailing list. Also named in it and in the suit that followed were the owner of the mailing list, the owners of several informational sites about the lawsuit, the owners of other forums where the lawsuit was discussed, the attorney for the defense, and several sites that merely ran banner ads promoting the defense fund set up for the lawsuit. Some defendents settled out of fear, and were forced to pay cash, transfer their personal domain names to Novak, or even run banner ads for Petswarehouse on their websites. Now, the attorney for the defense has announced that in round three of the lawsuit, Google has been sued, as well as several other sites that have carried news about the lawsuit, such as search engine Judge-For-Yourself.com and pet stores DoctorDog.com and FerretStore.com. Robert Novak is representing himself in this lawsuit, and thus it is effectively costing him nothing to persue this campaign of harassment. He's already gotten several thousand dollars from settlements and cost the defendents considerably more than that in legal fees. More details should be posted soon here, including court documents that tell why Google was added to the suit."
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Google sued as PetsWarehouse Lawsuit Continues.

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  • One Word... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Loki_1929 (550940) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:41AM (#4380741) Journal
    Countersue

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:43AM (#4380763)
    Wait... He's suing someone for reporting the news? Isn't that like, wrong and shit?

    What next, some pedophile suing CNN for reporting that he was arrested & convicted of bangin' a 12 year old?

    No, just like everyone else, I didn't read the article.
  • This is good news. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DrEldarion (114072) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:45AM (#4380779)
    Now he's suing people that can actually afford to fight back. I hope he gets the pants beaten off of him by Google's lawyers.

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
  • by mekkab (133181) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:47AM (#4380806) Homepage Journal
    Despite years of my hard work and overtime and brown nosing, my wife has a job offer with a starting salary that would make you cry, and hasn't even graduated law school!

    I'll tell you what the problem is, WHY AREN'T YOU IN LAW SCHOOL?!?!

    P.S. don't forget about the bonus if you meet all your billable hours.
  • EFF (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gricholson75 (563000) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:48AM (#4380813) Homepage
    Doesn't this sound like a job for the EFF to defend these people?
  • by barberio (42711) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:48AM (#4380819) Homepage
    One day, a man was hit by a bicycle. The man got so angry, he demanded the cyclist pay him five dollars. And the cyclist did so because he was too busy to argue.

    Then the man thought 'Maybe I should throw myself in from of another bicycle to get five dollars'. And so he did.

    Five bicycles later, he thinks 'If I get five dollars from bicycles, I can get twenty from cars'. And he threw himself into on comming trafic.

    And was squashed by a pickup truck.
  • by Dr Caleb (121505) <thedarkknight@nOSPaM.hushmail.com> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:53AM (#4380870) Homepage Journal
    I hope the Judge orders the guy to seek out the blow job he so obviously needs.

    Just a little uptight don't you think?

  • by _xeno_ (155264) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:55AM (#4380889) Homepage Journal
    What does that have to do with this?

    Keep in mind that usually these lawsuits are not intended to attempt to actually be won in a court of law, they are intended to run the defendant out of resources until they are forced to accept to the terms of the plaintiff just to get themselves out of court. It's becoming more and more common, and is actually a fairly effective way to skirt around the First Amendment, unfortunately.

    Several states are now passing laws to make such suits illegal, but for the time being, watch what you say online. And be vague enough so as not to actually be accusing anyone of doing anything :) !

  • by GutterBunny (153341) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:57AM (#4380907) Journal
    ...is a good offense.

    Perhaps a good round of public boycott will enough to deter Mr. Novak from suing anyone who criticizes his store. Start by emailing all your pet-owning friends and informing them of what has happened. Ask them to stop purchasing from Petswearhouse until this kind of senseless lawsuit'ing has stopped... Also perhaps a /.'er can provide a simpler summary on his/her his web page for reference. In addition to the defense fund's site. We also may wish to provide links to the mailing list comments that started this.

    Basically give people information to make an informed decision.
  • by WIAKywbfatw (307557) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @11:57AM (#4380909) Journal
    In such a litigious society, where lawyers chase after every dollar they can, and where "greed is good" is a mantra, is anyone truly surprised at this?

    It's a sad reflection of American society that it has turned into a victim culture where nobody is ever to blame for their own shortcomings but is instead a victim of the malignant actions of anyone or everyone else.

    It's an easy out - why bother seriously examining where your business plan was flawed or where your process broke down when you can simply point the finger at someone else and say "I would have succeeded if it wasn't for you".

    Part of the problem is that there is little to discourage malicious and/or spurious litigation. Some sort of penalty for repeatedly taking out this sort of action would be helpful but it's hard to imagine that happening any time soon.

    The fact is that many companies will rather settle lawsuits like these ones before they get to court even if they are without merit. The rationale behind this is ironic - lawsuits (even ridiculous ones) bring down share prices, and which "greed is good" CEO is going to let that happen for the sake of a few thousand dollars?
  • by Cervantes (612861) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:09PM (#4381010) Journal
    You know, I was going to post something informative or maybe even (+3 Insightful), but this nausious feeling just won't go away. I can understand suing someone for libel ... even if I do think it's just customers sharing their experiences. Considering the net-based nature of his business, people posting in online forums about how bad he is would strike me the same as people marching outside the front door of the local pet store carrying signs and shouting slogans. But to then start suing the people who carried news of the origional lawsuit? Or the ones who carried the ad banners for the legal defense fund? What's next, sue the WayBack machine? Sheesh... sounds like someone isn't selling enough Kibbles n' Bits to pay the bills...

    I hope the good folks at Google countersue him, and I also hope that this spurs all the people who've had bad experiences with this place to file a group or class-action lawsuit, and I hope it hurts him good.

    Does anyone know the results of the origional lawsuits? (not including the &*%(#&'s who settled)

    And does anyone have the links to the legal defense fund, and any of the BB's that posted the comments? They deserve links on my homepage (made and hosted in Canada, where we don't take this kinda crap, eh?)

    Now, I'm going to write the nice man an email explaining why I'll be boycotting his business, and why I'll be encouraging others to as well. Shouldn't you, too? If you have enough time to post on /., then you have enough time to do this as well.

    (Sig 0.5b)
    I'll defend your right to spew fruitless venom and baseless idiocy with my dying breath, just as you must defend my right to call you an asshole.
  • by hyacinthus (225989) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:12PM (#4381031)
    I don't think he cares whether he looks like a fool or not. Remember that "Seinfeld" episode where George gets a job by pretending that he was disabled, and then after he's found out, continues showing up at the job because his employers are contractually bound to keep him on for a full year? His boss hates George and makes his life miserable, his coworkers all tell him to drop dead in the hallways, but George doesn't care--his paycheck is worth more to him than his dignity or his reputation, and as long as he gets it, George thinks that he's won.

    Same with his fellow Novak, I guess. He must know that the lawsuits are frivolous and that his name is mud among everyone who's ever heard of him. No matter--he keeps suing and keeps collecting from people who can't afford a protracted legal action, and so by his lights, he's won.

    hyacinthus.
  • by MarcOiL (265430) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:12PM (#4381037)
    IWALS (I was a Law student), but don't take this as professional advice.

    It certainly is that way here in Europe: the side that loses the case usually has to pay both sides' legal fees (at the judge discretion).

    But not in the USA. Well, maybe it is in some states, but generally every side has to pay its own legal fees.

    Maybe that's the reason we have so few of those plainly stupid suits here, as if you sue someone you have to be really sure of it or face paying up your lawyer and theirs.

    Some statistics I read a while ago (might have changed): While in the USA 80% of the suits are between private parties, in Europe only 20% are. The rest are between the State and the defendant, that is, criminal suits.

    Until I got to this fundamental difference, I didn't understand why lawyers were so important in the USA.
  • by Gefiltefish11 (611646) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:15PM (#4381057)

    This is an interesting case and I hope that the courts will take action to address these abusive legal actions. There are actually mechanisms in the law to accomplish this, ranging from a court order barring a litigant from filing further motions or actions on a certain issue to a court declaration that a litigant is characteristically abusive (I can't recall the term for this, but it is assuredly legal latinate). The latter requires the censured litigant to gain court approval before filing any further actions.

    Check out the following case; it's very interesting.

    http://www.law.fsu.edu/library/flsupct/sc94012/op- sc93573.pdf [fsu.edu]

  • by Lawbeefaroni (246892) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:20PM (#4381103) Homepage
    I think it's representation of opinion vs. representation of fact. The judge probably ruled that a defamatory post on a messageboard didn't represent itself as fact, merely opinion.

    Like this:
    "VW cars suck. Their cars are dumb and only idiots drive them." Obviously opinion.
    versus this:
    "VW cars suck. They have an integrated air intake that moves 5000cf/m and it has sucked up pets and babies and killed them." Obviously attempting to state a fact. Of course the venue is always a consideration so even the latter, posted on a messageboard, may not constitute libel/slander.

  • Re:Minor point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tomhudson (43916) <.barbara.hudson. ... bara-hudson.com.> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:22PM (#4381117) Journal
    He's suing for $15,000,001.00. He's gotten a few grand (so he claims) from people so far. big deal.

    Let's look at what he's claiming:

    $1.00 in nominal settlement

    $10,000,000.00 in compensatory settlement

    $5,000,000.00 in other.

    So, maybe people are giving him a buck (the nominal settlement amount) and telling him to go away.

    Anyway, once a fucktard, always a fucktard.

  • by sheetsda (230887) <doug.sheets@gmai l . c om> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:32PM (#4381189)
    Robert Novak is representing himself in this lawsuit, and thus it is effectively costing him nothing to persue this campaign of harassmentIANAL, so correct me if I'm wrong, but if his lawsuits are found frivolous doesn't he have to pay the legal bills of the people he's suing? If thats the case it seems all he's doing is committing financial suicide. Large companys like Google tend to have lawyers by the boatload and given that he's representing himself it's a pretty good bet that no lawyer will touch the case (read: he's got nothing on them).
  • by Anthony Boyd (242971) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:37PM (#4381234) Homepage
    However, *maybe* (and I repeat, just maybe), if beyond any reasonable doubt the guy can prove that the people who made the first comments made them with the premeditated malicious intention of bringing down his business, then that's another matter.

    Uhh, no. That's word-of-mouth. Right now there is a guy standing in front of the car dealership at the corner of Steven's Creek and Lawrence. He's got a sign that says "don't buy cars here." He is actively and deliberately attempting to put the car dealership out of business. He has made no false statements. The car dealership can do nothing about this (aside from getting him moved off their property, so he's out on the sidewalk). "Intent to damage" is not only legal in the USA, it's protected speech. Perhaps you're confusing it with libel or slander?

  • what is right (Score:4, Insightful)

    by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @12:48PM (#4381370) Homepage
    Usually it is the large corporation trying to silence little people.


    Novak is a pathetic moron. If he comes after me, I will drop him like a bad habit. He already read the mention of him on my site.


    Part of the problem is that the people did settle instead of filing a motion to dismiss or a summary judgment motion. I can understand why they would settle for a nuisance amount. If a motion for summary judgment had been done, the case would have been kicked.

  • by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @01:12PM (#4381593) Journal
    Even better would be to link to his competitors in your email.

    That way you won't accidentally help him by giving him free publicity.

    Also, make sure that you don't *actually* commit libel. State only facts that you know to be true. That's a higher standard than defamation or libel requires, but he could sue you anyway. You don't have to be correct in order to sue. And IANAL.
  • by Suppafly (179830) <slashdot@s[ ]afly.net ['upp' in gap]> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @01:35PM (#4381835)
    I have a *very* rich friend who would love to bankroll a fight against this twat.


    If thats true, why isn't your *very* rich friend helping any of the people already involved?
  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @01:54PM (#4381993)
    Over here, there is no such thing as punitive damages. One can only sue for real and quantifyable damage. [stuff deleted] The result? There are no cases in my countries legal history, of people sueing because they spilled hot coffee on their leg, tried to dry a poodle in the microwave, or any of that sort of idiocy.

    The McDonald's case is a bad example- do a Google [google.com] search. When people talk about tort reform they always trot out this overhyped example, as if there are no better ones to use.

    That lady was originally willing to settle for $20,000 to cover medical expenses for the skin grafts, because she was broke and couldn't afford the medical bills. McDonald's made a counteroffer of $800 and refused to admit any responsibility or to adjust their thermostats. A mediator recommended settling for $225,000, but McDonald's refused and went to trial.
    What inflamed the jury was the fact that McDonald's had done a risk-benefit analysis on this issue. Several hundred people had gotten burned by the coffee, and at least one burn center had requested that McDonald's turn its coffee down. But overheating the coffee improved the aroma and allowed the use of a cheaper, inferior grade of beans. (When the coffee is burning your mouth you can't taste it.) McDonald's had concluded that the risk from settling the occasional suit would not offset the profits they would make from higher sales.

    It also didn't help McDonald's that they were caught lying about this and the existence of the other claims in court. The jury set compensatory damages at $200,000 minus $40,000 for the lady's own contributory negligence, and then added the cost of two days' of coffee sales- which turned out to be $2.7 million. A judge lowered that to $480,000 and it was finally settled for an undisclosed amount.

    The poodle in the microwave appears to be an urban legend. [google.com] Maybe you can provide a link to a believable reference. But to me this looks like you've got issues with stupid old ladies.

    Be warned that the media is extremely willing to overhype anecdotes of individuals abusing their rights to sue corporations. In fact those cases get pounced upon, like when that fat guy brought that moronic suit against fast food restaurants for making him fat. We got saturation coverage of that case. But these things go both ways. Abuses of the legal system by litigious corporations against individuals (and other corporations) are just as frequent, but they don't receive as much media attention, nor are they presented as evidence that the system is broken and in need of legislative reform.
  • Idiot loser (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dh003i (203189) <.dh003i. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @01:55PM (#4382003) Homepage Journal
    This guy is obviously an idiot and loser who doesn't know wtf he's doing.

    You can't sue people for stating their opinion, or even for criticizing you or your services harshely or unfairly.

    You can only sue people for defamation if they knowingly state a stark falsity about you or your company. Saying the service sucks -- which it probably does -- is a matter of opinion, not a factual statement.

    If someone said that something as a matter of fact about him or his company that he can prove is false, that may be grounds for a defamation lawsuite. However, unless he can show that such statement caused him a loss of business, he has little or no grounds for any punative damages.

    The fact that this guy seems to be making his living by suing people without grounds and hoping they settle seems statement enough about the quality of his services.
  • by CySurflex (564206) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @02:01PM (#4382057)
    save this as a .VBS and double click on it....

    On Error Resume Next
    Do While Not 1=2
    Set objXMLHTTP = CreateObject("MSXML2.ServerXMLHTTP")
    strURL = "http://www.petswarehouse.com/search_result.asp?" & _
    "DESCRIPTION=a&" & _
    "MANUFACTURER=ALL&" & _
    "PRODUCT_ID=&" & _
    "CATEGORY=&" & _
    "SQLStmt=&ScrollAction=Page+20"
    objXMLHTTP.open "GET",strURL,"False"
    objXMLHTTP.send
    Set objXMLHTTP = Nothing
    Loop
    On Error Goto 0
  • by "Zow" (6449) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @02:07PM (#4382114) Homepage

    I don't think that's very effective. Here's why:

    1. You were only a "Potential Customer" to begin with. They aren't loosing established business.
    2. You have flat out stated that you are not going to buy their product. They've lost you as a (potential) customer and nothing they do now is going to change that.
    3. The pet supply market (at least for cats, which is where a good chunk of my income goes :-) consists of a couple huge companies like Iams and Science Diet (both of which I believe are owned by even larger conglomerates), and a lot of tiny, botique-type brands. The big guys aren't going to care much what you think about one lone distibuter who accounts for .001% of their sales, and the small guys are fighting to sell where ever they can, so they don't want to cut off what is probably a significant revinue source.
    4. Likewise, the companies probably have very little say in what goes on the frontpage of this minor Internet merchant. I imagine the conglomerants could demand to be on the frontpage if they so desired, but it's probably not worth their time.
    5. These companies have much more important ethical issues to deal with right now, like if they should continue to supply retailers that are facing charges of animal abuse, not just some clown who's gone sue-happy.

    -"Zow"

  • by eunos94 (254614) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @02:43PM (#4382440)
    Actually, this is not necessarily the case. If the losing party pays both sides legal fees, it doesn't discourage lawsuits or encourage lawsuits, it just makes them more risky.

    Imagine that court costs to each party are $5. If I feel that I need to be compensated $10 for an injustice, previously I would think "Hey, I'll pay $5 to win $10! But I could lose $5 and not gain $10 at all." You weigh your options and sue.

    Now, you could win $10 for the suit and $5 for your fees, but you could also lose $5 for your cost and $5 for their cost. New upside is $15, more incentive to sue. New downside is a lose of $10. Less incentive to sue.

    There are huge amounts of economic research on this. Check out the works of Coase [uchicago.edu]. Extensive economic research in regards to law.

    Anyway, end result, nothing really changes except it makes suing a more risky venture. (which one could argue rich people would undertake more often because they can afford to lose, but that opens a whole huge other economic debate)
  • by Xeriar (456730) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @03:04PM (#4382581) Homepage
    Who IS his ISP? Maybe we can shut the bozo down if he is violating his AUP...

    Search results for: 64.80.161.170

    PaeTec Communications, Inc. PAETECCOMM (NET-64-80-0-0-1)
    64.80.0.0 - 64.80.255.255
    Petnet PAET-NY-PETNE-1 (NET-64-80-161-128-1)
    64.80.161.128 - 64.80.161.255
  • by Steve Franklin (142698) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @03:35PM (#4382846) Homepage Journal
    Son,

    It ain't about legal. It's about ethical. Civilized human beings do not do things simply because they CAN under a flawed legal system. What keeps society functioning at all is that most people follow their own lights and do what they consider to be right, not what the idiot legal system tells them they are allowed to do. In short, your attitude is barbaric.

    [signed]

    Not anonymous and not a coward.
  • by StupidKatz (467476) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @04:22PM (#4383190)
    Did you read the court's PDF? Apparently, Novak wants Google, etc. to stop using "pets warehouse", "pets warehouses", "pet warehouse", "pet warehouses", "pet", "pets", "warehouse", "warehouses", "PetSwarehouse", "petSwarehouse", "pEts", "peTs", "petS",... ad infinium.

    He's seriously been smoking some bad crack.
  • Re:what is right (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cgadd (65348) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @04:50PM (#4383413)
    > Part of the problem is that the people did settle instead of filing a motion to dismiss or a summary judgment motion. I can understand why they would settle for a nuisance amount. If a motion for summary judgment had been done, the case would have been kicked.

    NOT TRUE at all. All those involved did attempt to fight it, at least for a while. Several motions have been submitted, but none have even been acted on yet. Meanwhile, the costs just to respond to the various filings and amendments continue, especially for those outside the state of NY.

    The wheels of justice move VERY slowly, and the defendants suffer because of it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 03, 2002 @04:50PM (#4383415)
    Several states are now passing laws to make such suits illegal, ...

    That is a wonderful thing!

    God Bless America, where laws are passed to protect people from the legal system.

    The land of the free.
  • by Slothrup (73029) <curt&hagenlocher,org> on Thursday October 03, 2002 @05:12PM (#4383563)
    You've posted this twice now, BrianH. Is Novak paying you? Or maybe you are Novak?

    If you really read the lawsuit, you'd see that he's suing because the search terms "pets warehouse" (two words) are bringing up the competing sites. This is as much copyright infringement as the dictionary, which also contains the word "pets" and the word "warehouse". The sites in question have not put the word "petswarehouse" or "petswarehouse.com" in their metatags -- they've put "pets" and "warehouse".

  • by man_ls (248470) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @05:18PM (#4383596)
    An individual who was responsible for the creation of the Comcast consumer advocacy catagory on Yahoo! was successful in finally getting Comcast to drop their cable fraud lawsuit when he threatened to countersue for malicious prosecution.

    This individual *clearly* is in it for the money, and nothing else. Aside from a possible slander charge against the original poster, if what was said was in fact false; Google, nor any other news site, has any business being named in the law suit.

    Something to the effect of "common carrier" status should apply to these sites. Unless they posted their own commentary that was specifically derrogatory to the owner of that web site, they have no grounds for the law suit; and even if commentary was posted, by the time the lawsuit is reaching national coverage for it's stupidity, you've lost any right to complain about it.

    Google, being the group with the greatest amount of cash, should counter-sue the individual in question for being an asshat and attempting to exploit the system. If I recall correctly (IANAL), exploting the courts for personal gain is CONTEMPT and you go to jail for that, instantly.

    My $0.02.
  • Re:Minor point (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sj0 (472011) on Thursday October 03, 2002 @09:33PM (#4384713) Homepage Journal
    Can we get together and beat him down with empty cans of Sapporo Draft(with the most indestructable cans I've ever seen containing any substance less potent than anthrax)?

    This guy (the guy who is suing everyone) is an asshole. The courts should really put a stop to these SLAPP lawsuits; I propose legislation against such truly evil lawsuits. I'm thinking that we tar and feather anyone who tries this, then hang them from their toenails for a couple years off of the edge of the Grand Canyon...

    I'm sure I'm stomping on some inhumans' right to be facist slime, but it's worth it.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 04, 2002 @03:52AM (#4385754)
    I remember when that McDonalds coffee case came up. I was working in a family deli/grocery store. Where we serve coffee all day. When I heard about the decision, I took a commercial oven thermometer, and measured the coffee temperature from a freshly brewed cup of coffee, along with the temperature of a cup of coffee that had been sitting on the burner for about a half hour. I also took measurements of the coffee as it poured from the basket, and from the inside of the coffee machine (after the heater turned off, reaching holding temperature). All temperatures were within 2-3 degrees of the temperature of the McDonalds coffee case.

    I normally drank several cups of coffee during the mornings at that time. So I waited for the coffee to cool to the temperature suggested by the plaintiff's attorney (as safe), then tried it. I also did the same with two customers. One customer lived across the street, and was there every morning, and took his coffee black, no sugar, at a certain time every morning (he took same bus every morning to work). A second customer stopped every morning for coffee after picking up truck on job (he fixed the turn signals and street lights).

    With both of these customers, I knew that they would drink coffee immediately (turn signal electrician drank coffee in truck while sitting in bus stop in front of deli every morning, while waiting for his coworker in other truck to catch up to him) and other customer drank coffee in deli every morning while reading paper, talking to me, and waiting for bus.

    Results?

    Both customers complained of cold coffee. I also noticed coffee was cold compared to normal. Not 40 degrees, but we all know what a cold cup of coffee is, don't we?

    Try doing this in the winter, when a cup of coffee drops ten degrees (from the plaintiff's lawyer's suggested temperature) while walking two blocks to train station before drinking it. Don't believe it? Actually try it. You can buy a commercial meat thermometer at any restaurant supply for less than $10.

    I did this test to find out whether my family's small grocery store would be liable in case anyone ever spilled coffee in their lap after buying coffee from my family. I even went to the trouble of making sure thermometer was accurate by having a friend who owns an environmental testing laboratory (and who has NIST traceable thermometers) double check the accuracy of the thermometer. It was accurate within two degrees from a NIST thermometer comparison.

    What did this tell me? That the coffee machines used in virtually all deli/grocery stores in NYC meet or exceed the McDonalds temperature case. These coffee machines are manufactured mostly by one of a handful of manufacturers locally. There was no temperature regulator visible on the machine we used, and I turned that baby upside down weekly to drain all water out of reservoir to clean it out. There was no visible temperature control accessible to end user. Why didn't the manufacturer lower the temperature at the factory? Why, so their customers could sell cold coffee? How long would they stay in business?

    Unless the grocer is a complete idiot, when you buy coffee from one of the few large distributors of fresh coffee in NYC, you get the coffee machine for free. The not so smart grocers are given a deep discount instead of getting the machine for free, but the result is the same. The machines come from the same manufacturer.

    Shortly after that temp test, I started working in NYC, in a service business. This meant hitting the bagel trucks/stands for coffee every morning. Guess what? The trusty thermometer came with me a few times. Every time, the coffee I bought from the trucks/stands was always at the McDonalds threshold, or slightly (within 5 degrees) lower. The actual safe suggested temperature in the McDonalds case was 20 degrees less if memory is correct. Guess what? No one sells coffee at the temperature the plaintiffs' lawyer suggested as acceptable. If they did, no one would buy coffee from them anymore, and they'd go out of business.

    Check McDonalds coffee temperature now. Bet you it is higher than the temperature suggested by the plaintiff's lawyer. Are they criminals because they decide to stay in the coffee business even though an elderly woman burned herself by spilling hot coffee in her lap while she was driving and couldn't/wouldn't take her cotton pants off to stop the burning? Are we all required to drink cold coffee? Or must McDonalds pay because they have deep pockets, even though the woman has no case if you read what I wrote above?

    In cases such as ignorning a burn center's request to lower the temp on your coffee because your market research shows that the burn cases won't cost you as much money as you save buying cheap beans, there's clearly a certain amount of neglegence.


    Get real. Everything in life is cost benefit. Flying a plane? Everything in the design is cost benefit, or there would be no planes. Driving? everything in the design of the car is cost benefit, or we'd all be driving tanks, if we could afford them. Eat meat? Fish? Ever heard of Salmonella poisoning? Listeria? Do we check every cow? Every fish? A certain amount of poison is allowed to pass. Why? Cost/benefit. Want to get every last trace of naturally occuring arsenic out of drinking water? Would you want to get it out if you had to pay $250 per glass of water? Cost/benefit. Grow up and face reality. And I hope to God you are never on any jury considering a similar case because you obviously can't handle reality.
  • by blibbleblobble (526872) on Friday October 04, 2002 @11:08AM (#4387029)
    "We NEED a law to deal with idiotic lawsuits."

    Easiest way: loser pays costs. It works in europe, doesn't waste congressional time trying to do wording for an anti-SLAPP law, and best of all, there are no loopholes in it. If you bring a POS case in Britain, you pay for it yourself.

    Is it not ridiculous that in a country where innocence is presumed, that people have to spend thousands proving it by defending against spurious claims?

    What use is "innocent until proven guilty" if it only applies to the rich?

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