Great Moments In Lawsuits

I have mixed feelings about Groupon.  Having been an executive at Mercata 10+ years ago, I recognize that they have gotten further than we did with the group buying model by a) waiting for there to actually be social media and b) delivering electronic goods (coupons) rather than hard goods.  As a customer, I have satisfactorily participated in several groupons and as a business we have used it a couple of times as a promotional program.  As an investor, I was short Groupon for quite a while, convinced that they had no particular barrier to entry for competitors like Amazon who could grab the market if there was enough money at stake.

So, all that aside, I was fascinated by the recent settlement of a class action lawsuit.  Prior to the lawsuit, all customers could get a full refund of their Groupon through a simple contact with Groupon customer service.  After the lawsuit, customers during the class action period can only get a partial refund and then only by going to a separate class website and hassling with forms and doing a lot of waiting.  The plaintiffs will actually get less than they would have had the lawsuit not gone forward, the difference being the millions required to pay off the tort lawyers to go away.

Having just had to pay the fees of a tort lawyer who brought a frivolous suit against our company just to make him go away, I am sympathetic.  Had the plaintiff approached me directly, I might have given her a few bucks just to settle and avoid getting lawyers involved.  But instead the lawyer got part of his fees paid in the settlement and the plaintiff got zip.  Basically just legal blackmail, with the plaintiff as unpaid pawn.

  • obloodyhell

    This happens on the prosecutorial side, too... I know a comic book shop owner who was charged with selling "mature" comics to an underage customer, despite the fact that the case had no merit... This occurred about 25 years ago.

    A comic shop owner was eliminating "stale" merchandise by creating comic packs of 5 or so non-selling back issues. Whoever was making the packs included copies of "The Score" a DC graphic novel aimed at a mature market... not XXX, mind you, but it did have some language and/or nudity such as one might encounter in an R-rated movie.

    Some stupid whore (yes, that's the word) of a mother took her son to the comic shop, he selected one or more of these packs, and SHE took it to the counter for purchase, made the purchase, and left.

    She found out about the copies of The Score later, and, instead of contacting the comic shop owner first (who, trust me, would have IMMEDIATELY pulled all the packs and checked them for the error, as well as made it good in some very reasonable way for the woman), this bimbo called the police. The police then sent an "underage" 17yo into the shop to buy one of the packs with The Score in it (probably easy to pick out since it was square-bound). The owner got wind of it somehow, called the local DA asking what was going on, was told "nothing" etc., and then they sent the cops out there to arrest him in person just so they could perp-walk him out of his place of business.

    For various reasons, the entire arrest was invalid, since they had no probable cause (if the description doesn't sound right, it's my description that is in error, not the lack of PC), which meant they had no case. They kept coming at the owner trying to get him to plead out, but he refused since he'd done nothing truly wrong beyond making an easily corrected human error which harmed no one... the comic was really quite tame, as I noted. The lack of probable cause meant the DA had no case. But it was no skin off his nose to keep pushing the owner trying to get him to plead guilty to a case the DA could not win.

    In the end, the case went to court, the judge openly admonished the DA for forcing the case into his chambers, and got immediately dismissed. but the dickhead DA got to claim that it was "a liberal judge" rather than his own incompetence as far as things went, and the comic shop owner got to spend 25k in legal fees thanks to the DA being such a complete prick.

    Essentially, the DA tried to perform legal blackmail, solely in order to protect his W/L ratio, and, in the end, got a 1 in the "tie" column, thereby basically justifying his unconscionable act. Someone should have shot the son of a bitch.

  • Wintercow20

    I often think this is the fate we'll share:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bleak_House

  • JIMC5499

    Shakespeare had it right. "Kill all of the lawyers".

  • Mark

    I think that the biggest change that needs to be done in the legal system is the system needs to be dumbed down. TO resolve a lawsuit, why does it even take lawyers? I understand the example of the comic book store owner but wHy should his case require $25,000 in legal fees to partially resolve? The issues are not that complex. We need to create "super" small claims courts as an adjunct to district courts where the rules are more straight forward and the common law judge can sit and resolve the issues on a common sense basis rather than legal minutia. This should be a non-revocable option in almost every civil case under $500,000.

  • markm

    Put that statement in the proper context. Taking the speech as a whole, it's the rantings of a dangerous lunatic.

    But Shakespeare is subtle about this. He begins with ideas that may be revolutionary, but most people will be at least tempted to agree with, and gradually brings out the craziness. His intention was that the audience would be nodding along, until at some point they realized that they had come to seriously consider complete lunacy. So, what was the semi-acceptable idea to start this? "First, we kill all the lawyers."

  • Larryg

    what's the remedy to disputes about contracts? Libertarians don't see to like regulations and say that one should seek relief in the courts. so which is it? regulations or legal system?