Lead Story

In December Ohio University was awarded the nation’s second patent for an animal–for a mouse that carries a human gene. The mouse is to be used in lab studies, and its human gene helps make it resistant to viral infections that limit the utility of ordinary lab mice. The first patented mouse was engineered to grow tumors rapidly.

The Litigious Society

In October Katherine Balog, 60, filed a lawsuit in Rancho Cucamonga, California, against Bill Clinton and the Democratic Party to recover damages for the trauma Clinton’s candidacy caused her. She said that Clinton’s being a candidate in spite of being a “draft dodger” and a “communist sympathizer” induced in her “serious emotional and mental stress” that was certain to produce future medical expenses.

William and Tonya Parker filed a $10,000 lawsuit in December against the Holiday Inn of Midland, Michigan, after an employee walked into their room without warning while they were having sex on their wedding night. The couple said they now suffer posttraumatic stress syndrome and that their sex life has become dysfunctional. A Holiday Inn spokesperson said the intrusion was an accident and that the couple should have hung the Do Not Disturb sign on their door.

In January the New York Times reported that as many as ten New York City prisoners over the last three years have shot themselves with smuggled-in guns, then filed lawsuits against the city for negligence in allowing guns in the cells. One lawsuit asks $8.5 million in damages.

High school student Leigh Ann Fisher and her parents of Vilonia, Arkansas, filed a $4.2 million lawsuit in August for emotional distress after she was replaced as captain of her cheerleading squad.

In January a Montgomery County, Maryland, judge finally warned litigant Michael Sindram that he would face contempt of court charges if he filed any more frivolous lawsuits. The Washington Times reported that Sindram had filed at least 350.

Schenectady, New York, inmate Jose Rivera Martinez, 33, filed a $750,000 lawsuit in February against the county jail alleging that he was permanently disfigured by the warts he developed from eating jail-issue hot dogs, to which he said he was allergic.

In January former Northwestern University professor Olan Rand filed an employment discrimination complaint claiming he was wrongfully fired. Rand was let go after he pleaded guilty to the theft of $33,000; he had continued to collect his mother’s social-security checks in their joint account for five years after her death in 1981. In his petition he claims the university should not have discriminated against him since he suffered from the disability of “extreme procrastination behavior.”

Ella Bagwell filed a lawsuit in February against the owners of the Friendly Food Mart near Anderson, South Carolina, claiming they failed to pay off on a video poker game in the store. She claimed that the store’s clerks by custom paid 25 cents for each replay earned on the machine and that one day she won 999,999 free games, thus entitling her to $249,999.75. The store owners said the machine must have malfunctioned.

According to records obtained by New York Newsday, New York City paid $30 million last year, and has paid $320 million since 1978, in damages to people who have tripped on sidewalks that are in disrepair. City law actually requires property owners, not the city, to maintain the sidewalks, but the city gets sued for failure to enforce the law.

Bentonville, Arkansas, inmate Ross Chadwell filed a lawsuit against Benton County in February, claiming that Sheriff Andy Lee violated his civil rights. Chadwell had tried to escape in August 1992 after being temporarily made a jail trusty, but was soon captured and further punished. Chadwell said Lee acted “recklessly” in putting him in a position from which he could attempt to escape.

Creme de la Weird

Writing in a 1992 medical journal, two doctors in Bristol, England, reported the case of a 53-year-old man who came to a hospital emergency room “alert and oriented” but with two holes in his skull–the result of a suicide attempt with an electric drill. The doctors’ research on other instances of “deliberate self-harm” by “craniocerebral” penetration produced accounts of people who had used nails (four reports), ice picks (two), keys (five), pencils (three), and chopsticks (six).


In February Anthony Thomas, 23, facing imprisonment for selling cocaine in Lake City, Florida, called a special conference with the judge and requested a sentence of 30 years, which the judge granted. The maximum sentence for the charge is 12 years, but Thomas said he thought that a longer sentence would help him deal with his drug problem.

The Diminishing Value of Life

At a Long Beach, California, wedding reception in February, a man described as about 20 years old fatally shot a 33-year-old man because he was upset about the seating arrangements.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.