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Jury Awards $11 Million for Internet Defamation 612

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the lawyers-making-everyone's-life-better dept.
dptalia writes "A woman in Florida has been awarded $11.3 million dollars in a defamation case. Apparently the defendant was unhappy with the plaintiff's referral service and posted complaints all over the internet. In a chilling slap at free speech, the jury decided that not only was this illegal, but that it was worth over $11 million. The defendant can't pay the judgement — she can't even pay for an attorney. The plaintiff says she doesn't care, but sued for the principle of the thing."
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Jury Awards $11 Million for Internet Defamation

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  • by jellomizer (103300) * on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @01:17PM (#16395451)
    Now both sides have lost. First the defendant who has to go into bankruptcy and the plaintiff who now because of the trial got national attention for being a litigious bastard. Who most people will be afraid to do work with because she will take any negative comments towards her and sue the pant off people. If she just sucked it up, explained her side on the net as well anyone the damage will be limited to a couple of Blogs which no one reads. But new with USA Today coverage now the rest of the US can hear about it. So in the end the only person who won is the lawyer. The Defendant can't afford to pay the Plaintiff, but the Plaintiff needs to pay the lawyer.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @01:17PM (#16395467)
    It's called libel. It's against the law and has never been protected speech.
  • by stry_cat (558859) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @01:21PM (#16395561) Journal
    In a chilling slap at free speech, the jury decided that not only was this illegal, but that it was worth over $11 million.
    The jury decided that this was slander/libel. These are not protected by the first amendnemnt. You can't go around destroying someone's reputation when what you're saying is a lie. The jury must have found that the plaintiff provided the services according to the contract with the defendant. It's not a slap a free speech, unless you think people should be able to make unfounded accusations and damage an innocent person's reputation.
  • Not free speech (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mikesd81 (518581) <.ten.nozirev. .ta. .1dsekim.> on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @01:23PM (#16395601) Homepage
    In a chilling slap at free speech, the jury decided that not only was this illegal, but that it was worth over $11 million
    There's a fine line between slander and free speech. According to the article: A Florida woman has been awarded $11.3 million in a defamation lawsuit against a Louisiana woman who posted messages on the Internet accusing her of being a "crook," a "con artist" and a "fraud."

    Maybe 11.x some million is a little steep but you can't go out and slander someone. It would be different if the defendant went out and said she doesn't trust the person or like the person, that doesn't necessary deflamate the character.
  • From the article (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lax-goalie (730970) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @01:25PM (#16395629)

    The plaintiff's motive is:

    "People are using the Internet to destroy people they don't like, and you can't do that."

    But I guess people using the courts to destroy people they don't like is is just fine with her...

  • by maynard (3337) <j@maynard@gelinas.gmail@com> on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @01:26PM (#16395647) Journal
    According to TFA the one woman wrote of another that she: ...posted messages on the Internet accusing [the plaintiff] of being a "crook," a "con artist" and a "fraud." The Defendant did, in fact, make public written claims about the plaintiff's character, business, and fraudulent behavior that were either demonstratably untrue or (at least) unproven. Therefore, it is entirely proper that she be sued in civil court, and that, upon losing the civil suit, a financial penalty be awarded to the plaintiff.

    Why is this so hard to understand? You do not have the right to defame others simply because you believe yourself to be anonymous on the Internet. Not only are you not anonymous, but the legal system can most assuredly find you and exact penalties for misbehavior. And, frankly, it's about time the legal system catch up and bust a few folks who have been abusing message boards for fraudulent purposes, irresponsible anonymous claims, or even just sick kicks.

    So... IMO, good: The Defendant got what she deserved.
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @01:26PM (#16395655) Homepage Journal
    This being Slashdot and all, I'll probably get modded down for this. C'est la vie. Someone obviously needs to explain this.

    In a chilling slap at free speech, the jury decided that not only was this illegal, but that it was worth over $11 million.

    Freedom of Speech [wikipedia.org] is the right to speak freely. It is NOT the right to speak without repercussion. Every time you make a public statement, you are responsible for the content of that statement as well as the veracity of that content. The typical example of this is shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater. If there's no fire, then you can expect that your actions will have serious conseqences.

    TFA is light on the actual details of this case. So it's difficult to judge who was really "right" and who was really "wrong". (Especially since the defendent wasn't able to defend herself.) However, you need to pay attention to the fact that the defendent DID find an open forum for her speech. She posted her opinions (apparently to the point of persecuting the plantiff) and was thus able to exercise her right to free speech. The fact that a court decided that this speech was libelous [wikipedia.org] does nothing to impinge on those statements being fully accessable in a public forum.

    When we talk about the lack of Free Speech, we mean that the statements can't be made in the first place. As in, the controlling entity (usually the government) can prevent dissenting opinions from being published in newspapers, books, or webpages. China even goes as far as to deny the right to blog, and filters out all incoming media for any speech they might find distateful.

    Contrast that with a court case seeking to recover damages for statements made in public forums and accessible to millions. Presumably, those statements are still available. There is no "chill" here people. Move on.
  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @01:31PM (#16395765) Journal
    I think it is more of a case that the plaintiff won 11.3 million from it where the defendant can't even afford it.

    Damage judgements are about how much damage was done, not about how much the defendant is able to pay. (Puntitive damage judgements are about applying a small multiplier as a punishment for malice.)

    Combined with the fact she didn't have the opertunity to defend herself.

    She didn't have legal council. That doesn't mean she didn't have have the opportunity to defend herself - just that she didn't have the resources to hire an expert to advise her on the ins and outs of how to do it well. Serious handicap. But not insurmountable - especially since the judge and jury are likely to cut her a lot of slack if she can't afford a lawyer.

    Chosing not to show up at all is throwing in the towel.
  • Re:Confusing To Me (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow...wrought@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @01:34PM (#16395835) Homepage Journal
    IANAL, but I have worked in the legal field for several years now. In the article it mentions that the Defendant used words like, "fraud," "con artist," and such to describe her. So the Defendant wasn't saying that she was unhappy with the Plaintiff's work, but that the Plaintiff was an actual criminal defrauding the people who went to her. That is a significant difference. Free speech does not, nor has it ever, allowed people to lie about someone else. That is not its intent and arguing that it ought to be allowed does far more damage than good.

    As for politicians and celebrities, there is a higher standard that must be met in order for words against them to be considered damaging. For celebrities the case is, I believe, Lemon v Kurtzman, and it basically says that if you put yourself into the national spotlight, than you should expect to have things said about you. (In a nutshell;-)

    As for politicians, I believe just about anything you say against them is fair game since it can be construed as a political metaphor. "CongressCritter Soandso is a crook!" is allowed because it is, in essence, still considered political speech. The protection of which is the main intent of the Free Speech clause of the 1st Amendment.

  • by pilot-programmer (822406) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @01:34PM (#16395837)
    If you are sued and do not bother to show up for the trial, you should be amazed if you don't find yourself owing a large sum of money. This is not the first time I have heard of a plaintiff suing in a jurisdiction chosen to prevent the defendant from showing up. It is entirely possible that the plaintiff has an ethics problem and her treatment of the defendant would make the allegations of crook and fraud accurate. But the defendant did not provide any evidence to justify her allegations so the court had to find for the plaintiff. If you are ever sued for any reason, do whatever you can to defend yourself. If you cannot hire an attorney, look for one to take your case pro bono. Alternatively do research on your own and try to defend yourself. Do not be foolish enough to be quoted in the paper saying, "I don't feel like I can express my opinions. Only one side of the story was told in court. Nobody heard my side."
  • by rs232 (849320) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @01:36PM (#16395883)
    At the risk of ending up at Camp X-Ray I include these URLs

    http://wwf.fornits.com/viewtopic.php?topic=8281&fo rum=40&102 [fornits.com]
    http://wwf.fornits.com/viewtopic.php?topic=4340&fo rum=9&12 [fornits.com]
  • Re:Confusing To Me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gfxguy (98788) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @01:40PM (#16395947)
    Thanks for the comment - I completly agree with you but I'd be labeled an idiot since I can't claim to have a background in law. However, this woman's right to free speech was not infringed on; she exercised it! Oh boy did she exercise it!

    I wish people would stop confusing freedom of speech with freedom from repercussion.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @01:44PM (#16396035)
    Has anyone else noticed that alot of suits like this ask for completely unreasonable amounts of money? There is no possible way that slandering someone on the internet cost 10.4 million dollars. This reminds of the RIAA suits in which they charge 150 dollars per song. We need to bring damages back to being what you lost. If you slander someone and they loose 50k because their clients drop them, you pay them the 50k plus legal expenses. Your emotional well being is not worth millions of dollars.
  • Re:Confusing To Me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Catbeller (118204) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @02:00PM (#16396325) Homepage
    Why else do you think Rush Limbaugh and similar call themselves comedians? Protection against defamation.

    And in England you don't need to prove malice, hence that cryptic comment by Tom Cruise in that South Park episode about Scientology, "I'll sue you! I'll sue you in ENGLAND!"
  • by compro01 (777531) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @02:05PM (#16396411)
    I know it sucks to have to get a lawyer and show up in court, but when a defendant doesn't even show up, it sends a message to a jury who doesn't know the back story. If she showed up and talked about her Katrina issues the ruling could have gone a different way. Most times when a defendant doesn't even show up for court, juries interpret that as guilt.

    well, she never got the summons (they were returned to the plaintiff's legal firm), so how in hell was she supposed to know that she was supposed to be in court?
  • by paladinwannabe2 (889776) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @02:05PM (#16396425)
    Apparently Mrs. Sheff gets paid to refer people to specific schools... and it has been alleged in the past that she does so under false pretenses. If this is true, Mrs. Sheff is indeed the liar, con artist and crook the defendent claims she is. If it's true, it isn't libel.
  • by AndersOSU (873247) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @02:10PM (#16396537)
    While I think that the award is outrageous, and unneccessary, and also that the defendnt was a victim of circumstances (she didn't even know about the trial due to Katrina,) bear in mind that it has never been legal to publish whatever you feel like about someone else.

    Libel is libel, and while you can defend yourself by demonstrating that your statements are true, you better have some decent evidence if you are goiing to call someone who runs a buisness a crook, theif, and con-artist.

    The news here isn't that free-speach is being eroded, it is that juries apperently think that libel is worth 11 million.
  • by mmell (832646) <mmell@hotmail.com> on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @02:11PM (#16396587)
    Tell ya what - lemme be totally anonymous so that I can go out to someplace popular (YouTube? MySpace?) and post an article about how you're a cock-smoking, ass-sucking gay Nazi biker. Let's see how much you want to protect my anonymity then.
  • by computational super (740265) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @02:17PM (#16396699)

    That will be quite a challenge on your part, seeing as how you don't know who I am.

  • by mmell (832646) <mmell@hotmail.com> on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @02:18PM (#16396721)
    And I wager you'd care when it started affecting your ability to earn a living or live your life free of unwarranted accusations.
  • by mmell (832646) <mmell@hotmail.com> on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @02:23PM (#16396839)
    In this case, Bock knows all she needs to know about Scheff; with perfect anonymity, she can ensure that Ms. Scheff's life is hell from this day forward - whether or not that's deserved is another point, the fact is, she could do it.

    Enjoy your hallucination, buddy. The reality is that what Bock did was wrong, an assertion which the court has confirmed. The fact that she got caught is a good thing.

  • by sofla (969715) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @02:33PM (#16397047)

    ... you can use lawyers. From the linked story (emphasis added):

    "What's interesting about this case is that (Scheff) was so vested in being vindicated, she was willing to pay court costs," Lidsky says. "They knew before trial that the defendant couldn't pay, so what's the point in going to the jury?"
    ...
    Scheff says she wanted to make a point to those who unfairly criticize others on the Internet. "I'm sure (Bock) doesn't have $1 million, let alone $11 million, but the message is strong and clear," Scheff says. "People are using the Internet to destroy people they don't like, and you can't do that."

    That's the part I find appalling. Given that the defendant did not appear in court (either because the summons was not delivered, or she couldn't afford it after having house destroyed by flood, or whatever), I find it pretty unlikely "fairness" (or lack thereof) of the comments could have been established. Even if she used the words "fraud" and "con artist", doesn't necessarily mean its libel. You can say that about someone if its true, but you have to be able to back it up. And we have know way of knowing, since defendant was unable to tell her side in court, and is unlikely to do so in the future

    Whether or not the original accusations were true, IMO instead of salvaging her reputation by seeking this judgment, she has destroyed it. I personally would not want to seek help from someone who has been known to sue her dissatisfied customers into oblivion. I hope it was worth it.

  • In my defense... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dptalia (804960) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @02:34PM (#16397083) Homepage Journal
    I don't think finding the chick guilty of defamation is a slap on free speech. I find awarding $11.3 million for said defamation a slap on free speech. Right or wrong - and I don't know what was said - $11.3 million is over the top.

    How many people are going to push the envelope if they know they may end up having a million dollar judgement dropped on them? Shoot, I'm wondering if I rate someone badly on ebay if I'll get sued!

  • Damages... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Beefslaya (832030) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @02:35PM (#16397095)
    Damages are the issue here. I know I've hit the backspace a few times to back off what I was really going to say.

    Free speech is great, but when it causes financially damaging results to another person or business, that is grounds for litigation in any society. It's a crime. And should be punished.

    I think people forget about these rules when they sitdown at the keyboard to blog or post about their experiences with certain businesses, or persons. It's a judgement call. "Is what I am writing here going to cause damages (financially especailly) to the entity I'm writing this about?" And if it will, at least explain your experiences in full detail, and do it in a place where the other party can respond to your claims.

    Bombthrowing bloggers and forums are a big problem.

    Think twice before you press the "Submit" button.
  • by ylikone (589264) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @02:46PM (#16397329) Homepage
    People here are saying that free speech is not freedom to libel... which may be true, but we don't even know if this was libel... the accusations could be completely true! One affect this will have is that it will stop people from voicing negative opinions on the internet in fear of getting sued. Is this a slap to free speech? I think so.
  • by ciw42 (820892) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @02:59PM (#16397583)
    I don't think defending yourself and business against defamatory comments counts as a personal obsession.

    Don't instantly jump to the defense of the underdog here, money or no money, hurricane victim or not, it's entirely possible that she has been rightly punished here.
  • by Life2Short (593815) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @03:04PM (#16397677)
    Wow. That was interesting reading. I've now had my helping of emotional turmoil for the year.

    Let's recap. Parents who can't control their kids send them to camps/schools where they fear their children are abused. The parents are very upset about this perceived abuse.

    You'll have to excuse me now, I have to go have a vasectomy. AGAIN!!!!
  • by rockhome (97505) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @03:05PM (#16397699) Journal
    It is astonishing that anybody could think that the centuries of libel laws are irrelavant. It is simply not permissible to libel or slander someone out of spite. People think that just because of the volume of communications on the Internet that everything ought to be free because, hey, it's not as if all of a person's customers are going to read a few blog comments about a specific person. Unless they use Google.

    It is one thing to state an opinion that you THINK someone is incompetent or that the services she rendered were poor, or even that you wouldn't recommend that anybody engage with this person. However, calling someone a con-artist, criminal, or thief crosses a line.

    I mean, if I felt that Tim Spengler ripped me off when he supposedly "refinished" my floors, I couldn't go out and say to everone "Tim Spengler is a bloody thief! He stole my money and swindled my through his con!" A more appropriate reaction would be to follow whatever legal recourse there was and word any comments appropriately, like "I feel as though Tim Spengler ripped me off. He promised, in writing, that the job would be done in 3 days, did not show up on time, did not complete work on the last day, and has left me with floors that are only half finished. Before you hire this man, I would strongly recommend that you check his references, because he certainly was no good for me."

    Do you see the difference.

    My apologies to any real Tim Spenglers, I just grabbed htat name out of a hat. Except for you, Tim Spengler!
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @03:12PM (#16397841) Journal
    IANALBILTRL (I am not a lawyer but I listen to radio lawyers)

    It seems to me the problem is calling someone a "crook," a "con artist" and a "fraud." is the problem.

    If it had simply been a reasoned explaination of why the services didn't work out in that particular case, or why she was unhappy, them's facts, and not libel.

    I have left "negative" feedback on Amazon and eBay, that is legally definsible; E.g. "Seller delivered DVD set meant for the Chinese market. Trouble with playback on some players and has inferior packaging". I didn't leave feedback saying "Seller is a crook and a fraud!".

    I think my feedback is more useful than the later example.

  • by computational super (740265) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @03:16PM (#16397909)
    To all slashdot grammer/spelling nazi's: It's a blog not a term paper, book, or essay. So get over it!

    To all illiterate bloggers - if it actually takes conscious effort on your part to employ proper spelling and grammar, perhaps you should stick with reading blogs, not writing them. (Or just looking at pictures, if reading is too difficult.)

    BTW, it's a comment, not a blog.

  • by jonskerr (217459) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @04:01PM (#16398621) Homepage
    What kind of idiots think you should be able to go out and fuck up someone else's life with your stupid mouth? I RTFA, and the defendant was fighting with her ex about the "behavioral problems" of their boys, and the ex had put them in a boarding school in Costa Rica. The Florida woman put her in touch with someone who got her kids back. What's to bitch about? Psycho parents are a good cause for 'behavioral problems'. In TFA the defendant claimed "no one got to hear my side". Bull fucking shit. You STARTED it by posting your side all over websites this woman uses to do her job, you moron.

    Let's say I help a neighbor out in some sense or other, but they freak out and start putting up posters that I'm a child molester on all the phone poles in the neighborhood. Is that fine with you idiots? Your right to free speech ends where it wrongly harms others.
  • by capnchicken (664317) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @04:49PM (#16399475)
    In 2003, Scheff sued Bock for defamation. Bock hired a lawyer, but he left the case when she no longer could afford to pay him.

    When Katrina hit in August 2005, Bock's house was flooded and she moved temporarily to Texas before returning to Louisiana last June.

    ...she knew the trial was approaching but did not know the date. She says she doesn't have the money to pay the judgment or hire a lawyer to appeal it.

    Maybe it was wouldn't, because she was getting sued into submission by someone with more money. I guess you've never been in any situation where the shit was piled so high, that you just didn't care about proper procedure anymore. That is not justice any way you slice it, proper procedure maybe, Scheff never broke any law, sure. But 11 million default judgment != a single private citizens' complaints strewn across a few pages of internet. Period.

    Whatever, I just hope everyone is prepared to walk on eggshells the next time someone on eBay or Amazon screws someone them over.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @04:51PM (#16399513)

    Let's say I help a neighbor out in some sense or other, but they freak out and start putting up posters that I'm a child molester on all the phone poles in the neighborhood. Is that fine with you idiots?

    Fine by me.

    After all, in most jurisdictions it's not libel if it's true.

    No, I kid. You're right. If the facts of the case bear out as it seems (defamatory and untruthful statements online by one person against another), there should be no meaningful difference between online publication and other older forms.

    I guess that's what puzzles me. Why is teh Intarweb different than my local newspaper or flybills stuck in windshield wipers and pamphlets handed out on the corner?

    The other subtext in the story is how the respondent (the alleged libeler) ran out of money trying to put on an ineffectual defense. Sad. But maybe her attorney left not just because the money ran out but also because the case was fundamentally unwinnable? What defense did the respondent have? "I was really pissed off!"?

    Doesn't matter how mad you are. Deliberately publishing hurtful and untrue statements about another person is libel, regardless of medium. The only "chilling effect" (oooh, nice one, editor) is that maybe dumbassess will learn to keep their lying flaptraps shut. If you're gonna get even, at least be slightly clever about it.

  • by RexRhino (769423) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:29PM (#16400137)
    A specific internet forum is not public, in the same way The New York Times is public, or the way NBC is public. Nor does it have the implicit garantee of factuality that news reporting does.

    An internet forum is a conversation... it is like talking to people at a party.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @05:57PM (#16400517)
    The problem isn't that libel and slander should be perfectly ok and legal, the problem is that the fine is ridiculously out of proportion.

    Another thing to consider is that the damage to the defamed individual in such a case is tiny compared to cases where, for example, someone is tried (or even just arrested on suspicion) for a crime, which is publicized in the media, but found not guilty. At best, you might be awarded attorney's fees, but you will get absolutely nothing for all the trouble and permanent damage to your reputation.

    Sure, the latter may be due to bad luck or the incompetence of investigators/prosecutors, and not malice, but I'm not saying such cases are equivalent, I'm just trying to put the damage to reputation into perspective.
  • Re:Confusing To Me (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Shadow Wrought (586631) * <shadow...wrought@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @07:48PM (#16401851) Homepage Journal
    You can believe, argue, and hold dear whatever you like. If you are trying to sway public opinion of something, however, being an extremist will typically work against you. If you want to, great, go for it. I'm not telling you to sell your ideology short, I'm just telling the reality of its effectiveness. Women's suffrage was an extreme position at one time, but, as society changed. it became less of an extremist position, and so was finally adopted.

    When it coems to Free Speech, however, the extremist position has always stayed relatively extreme. If you cannot punish, under any circumstance, what someone says (the extremist of extreme positions), then, as an extreme example, you couldn't prosecute somone for calling in a bomb threat. It would be Free Speech.

    I don't think you're going to find many people who will support that, indeed I highly doubt that you would. So what that means is that there has to be a line a somewhere between Speech that is allowed and Speech which is punishable (civilly or criminally). The true argument then is not whether there ought to be limits on Free Speech, but where those limits should be. If you're over in the corner arguing that there shouldn't be a line then, whatever you may have to say about its placement is also going to be ignored. That's reality.

    I'm not trying to tell you what to believe or how to pursue it, but I am telling you that the gap between ideology and reality can be extremely difficult to overcome.

  • by MLease (652529) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @08:53PM (#16402557)
    In most law situations, if the defendant shows up to court and the plaintiff is MIA, the defendant could have a mistrial and go free. If the defendant does show up for the case, the case is usually stayed and a warrent issue for appearence. The law says the defendant and/or council MUST be present for judgement.

    There was recently a series of articles in the Boston Globe about debt-collection agencies. It seems that one of the favorite tactics of the sleazier agencies around here is to have the papers sent to an outdated address, since there is no requirement in MA to use certified mail(?!). The papers get returned, everybody shrugs, the proceedings happen as scheduled, and the agency wins a default judgment. Armed with this, they then go to the correct address, and demand payment or seize their car. As a result of these articles, various officials are promising to look into the problem, but the current status apparently remains the same. They did do a follow-up article the other day, and a couple of the worst offenders have abruptly closed down their operations in MA, so hopefully things will get better.

    So, in MA, at least, there apparently is no requirement that both parties (or their lawyers) be present before a judgment is handed down. It's wrong, but it appears to be the case. So maybe that's true of this particular case, as well.

    -Mike
  • Good luck (Score:3, Insightful)

    by caitsith01 (606117) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @09:22PM (#16402783) Journal
    IAAL, and I can tell you with certainty that most of the people on this site will never accept your key point.

    There are shady lawyers, just like there are dubious characters in nearly every industry. However, in my experience, good lawyers spend a large amount of their time trying to convince litigious clients NOT to sue anybody, and there are plenty of good lawyers. It may also interest some of you to know that the percentage of legal actions filed that actually make it to trial (i.e. that don't settle) is absolutely miniscule, usually because the lawyers are telling their clients to avoid court at all costs - it's expensive, and it leads to a win-lose situation rather than a compromise, so is inherently very risky.

    And let's not forget the endless string of cases where those awful lawyers (yes, people with the same basic training as those representing the plaintiff in this case) protect your rights, take down the bad guys, hold the government accountable, allow the little guys to stand up to the huge corporate monoliths, and so on. I love how every time there's an article about a 'bad' judgment on ./ we get the same tired old nonsense about it being "a field day for lawyers" - but when the EFF actually wins something, or the Supreme Court says torture is illegal, or any number of other 'good' judgments are discussed then nobody, nobody acknowledges that some *lawyer* (shock, horror) must have fought that case and won.

    But don't worry. Every time some idiot sues some other idiot over something, and the laws made by the politicians YOU elect are enforced by a judge appointed by the same politicians, with the result that idiot A beats idiot B and is awarded a huge payout by a jury of your peers (and lawyers CAN'T be on juries, fyi) that causes you to just clench your little fists up in rage, lawyers will be there for you to blame. Hey, it's a lot easier than learning about tort law, developing your own political movement, pressuring politicians, raising awareness and actually *changing* the law if you think it's so terrible.
  • by TapeCutter (624760) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @09:29PM (#16402847) Journal
    "3rd degree burns happen at 130 degrees, how the fuck should that happen? Thats just 53 degrees celsius!"

    Indeed, I live in Australia, a hot summers day over here can reach 45C in the shade. I don't know how hot that is when under direct sunlight but it must be close to 130F. Naturally you can get seriously burnt if you run around semi-naked for an hour or more in that sort of weather.

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