Frivolous lawsuits are the bread and butter of a tort lawyer's diet. When a jury awarded a woman $2.9 million after she spilled a cup of coffee on herself at a McDonald's, greedy lawyers and litigants salivated at the prospect of finding a similar jackpot.
Last week, a gambler lost $500,000 at the blackjack tables in Las Vegas over a 17-hour session, and now he's suing the Downtown Grand Las Vegas Hotel & Casino for continuing to serve him drinks while he was getting ever more blotto.
He seeks to nullify his losses and get compensatory and punitive damages "in an amount sufficient to deter the Downtown Grand from similar conduct in the future."
Rachel Canning, an 18-year-old high school cheerleader, is even more creative. She's suing her parents. Miss Canning alleges that abuse forced her to leave her home in Lincoln Park, N.J. She wasn't allowed to have a boyfriend, and her mother called her "fat" and "porky."
The suit further asks that her parents pay the remaining tuition for her last semester at her private high school, pay her current living and transportation expenses and commit to paying her college tuition. And, of course, it demands fees for her lawyers.
"I ask the court to find me unemancipated," Miss Canning petitioned the court, "and to order my parents to provide proper health insurance, support and tuition as well as necessary psychological support while I am a full-time student until I graduate from college."
The soap opera plot thickens. Miss Canning moved into the home of a girlfriend, and is being "mentored" by her friend's father, John Inglesino, a lawyer who was once named one of the Top 100 "powerful people" in New Jersey.
Mr. Inglesino is township attorney for Parsippany. As it happens, he is named in a lawsuit himself, filed by Rachel's parents, who say he enabled alcoholic parties and subsidized their daughter's lawsuit against them, "rather than providing responsible guidance in abiding by a parent's rules."
And there's the rub. Judge Peter Bogaard of Family Division last week refused to issue an emergency order for support, saying that it would represent a new way of interpreting the law. Another hearing has been set for next month.
"A kid could move out and then sue for an XBox, an iPhone or a 60-inch television," he said. After he listened to an expletive-laden message Rachel left on her mother's answering machine, he asked, "Have you ever in your experience seen such gross disrespect for a parent? I don't see it in my house."
Plaintiffs and their lawyers become ever more imaginative in their quest for pots of gold, but in the end, careless coffee drinkers and pouting teenagers, like the rest of us, have to take some responsibility for themselves.
There's no shame in a young woman working her way through college — millions have done it — and no one is entitled to a college degree.
Shakespeare's King Lear could have had New Jersey in mind when he observed, "How sharper than a serpent's tooth . . . a thankless child."