It's Impossible to Make This Stuff Up

Yes, people write that sort of headline all the time.  But in this case, I know.  In my novel BMOC, I pondered for quite a while trying to make up outrageously lame torts that ignored the true guilty parties and instead targeted deep pockets only tangentially connected to the harm or loss.  But nothing I made up, which I thought to be over the top, beats this one from reality.  Via Walter Olson, of course:

Prison inmate orders attack on guard at guard’s home in Bishopville, South Carolina. Surviving guard Robert Johnson and wife “did not, however, sue the typical defendants – i.e., the shooter or any prison inmate or employee. Rather, the Johnsons sued several cellular phone service providers and owners of cell phone towers.

Why?  Because they have the most money of anyone involved.  Of course, that is not the logic in the legal briefs.  Apparently, gasp, the criminals made use of cell phones to plan the crime and for some odd reason the cell phone companies were not monitoring every second of every single call on their networks and failed to prevent the crime.

 

  • randian

    Good thing it was dismissed! The appeal to Federal court was outrageous though, the defendant is out thousands in legal fees for this.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    Defendants, plural.

    AMERICAN TOWERS, LLC;

    FARMERS TELEPHONE COOPERATIVE, INC.;

    CELLCO PARTNERSHIP, d/b/a Verizon Wireless;

    SPRINT CELLULAR COMPANY OF SOUTH CAROLINA;

    SPRINT COMMUNICATIONS COMPANY L.P.;

    ALLTEL COMMUNICATIONS, LLC;

    T-MOBILE USA TOWER LLC;

    T-MOBILE USA INC.;

    AT&T INC.;

    AT&T MOBILITY LLC;

    AT&T MOBILITY SERVICES, LLC;

    VERIZON WIRELESS, LLC;

    VERIZON WIRELESS SERVICE LLC;

    VERIZON WIRELESS OF THE EAST LP;

    TRACFONE WIRELESS, INC.

  • jdgalt

    Just from a technical perspective, I've wondered for a while now why prisons don't install a "cell" (in the cellular phone meaning) of their own that covers the prison grounds. This would give them the broad abilities (1) to prevent any use of smuggled phones by inmates, and (2) to eavesdrop on staff and visitors who use cell phones on prison grounds.

  • Hal_10000

    I call it the Steve Dallas Rule. Never sue poor people. Only sue people with money. http://www.gocomics.com/bloomcounty/1986/06/22/

  • MB

    Let's at least do some accurate reporting here...the lawsuit isn't nearly as tenuous as "the cell phone companies were not monitoring every second of every single call". It's that cell phone companies have the knowledge and ability (and have been requested by the state gov't and prisons) to block cell phone signals from prisons (which they all agree are being used to plan murder-for-hire) and have failed to do so.

    Courts have found that the FCC regulations prevent the cell phone companies from doing that (though the FCC is working on other ways to do so without employing jammers), not that they have no duty to do so. Similarly, if my living room is knowingly being used to plan a murder, I should probably expect some liability in the eventual murder. Not that ridiculous or novel of a theory, IMHO.

  • MB

    Mainly because FCC regs prevent them from doing so. Though they're working on the smuggled phone aspect (seems like the eavesdropping aspect would break some wiretapping laws). http://transition.fcc.gov/pshs/docs/summits/Combating-Contraband-Cell-Phones-in-Prison-Handout-v4.pdf