I find that American companies are overly hypersensitive to and paranoid about lawsuits.
Not long ago, one fine Sunday morning, I went to the fridge to pour myself a tall glass of refreshing Florida pure "not from concentrate" orange juice. Due to a fridge malfunction, the carton was frozen solid. I removed it, let it thaw out for a while and soon a few millilitres of juice trickled out. I proceeded to consume same. I then thought, was it safe to drink orange juice, which went from liquid to frozen to liquid?
Suddenly I started feeling funny. Light headed perhaps. And I may have sensed a tickle in my throat. Maybe even an intermittent jabbing pain in my ribs. Actually I was quite certain that I was feeling like Rasputin after he ate those arsenic laced cakes. In Rasputin's case, however, it took five bullets, a thrust from a dagger and a dunking in the Neva River to finish him off. In my case, I felt that the latter three scenarios were going to be superfluous.
I read the carton and noticed a 1-800 number. I called and on came a message: "We are closed on weekends but if this is a medical emergency please leave your name and number..." I left my vital information including name, phone number and provisional diagnosis, citrus fruit poisoning.
Three minutes later a lady called me back, from Florida. Her name was Maggie Anne. I explained what had happened and how I was feeling. She assured me that there was no danger at all in drinking unfrozen-frozen-unfrozen orange juice. With those words my symptoms subsided instantly. I felt reprieved. She took my address and thanked me for calling.
I forgot about the incident and went on to enjoy life and to continue to practising law.
About three weeks later I received a letter from the juice company apologizing for the unfortunate incident and asking if there was anything they could do. Being a courteous person, I responded on my legal letterhead, saying that there was not much more I could say at this time.
A week later I received the following letter from some insurance adjustor in Talahassee:
Dear Mr. Strigberger:
Re Squeezed from the Sun Orange Juice - claim #AD28374
We are the adjustors handling this matter. This claim is presently under investigation. Do you still have some of that frozen juice? Please send it to us by FedEx. We look forward to your cooperation and to sitting down to discuss this case with you."
I was really busy, but once again out of courtesy, I answered the adjustor.
I do not have anymore of the juice. And I have said all I have to say to Maggie Anne."
I thought that ended that. Two weeks later the following letter arrived from Miami from a Sherman, Lamarre and Grant, attorneys at law:
Dear Attorney Strigberger,
Squeezed from the Sun has decided to remove this matter from the adjustor level and to refer it to us. We are quite concerned about the allegations you have made. Our clients in the food industry take those comments seriously, especially the one about Rasputin. Although you have two years to sue, my client would like to set its reserves early and to get an idea of the magnitude of the claim it might be facing. Please send us a copy of all your doctors' clinical notes and records, including the records of the hospital where you received emergency treatment.
We would like to avoid litigation and resolve this mater amicably, but if need be, we shall fight your claim to the fullest.
C. Jackson Sherman Jr."
I decided to have some fun with him. I wrote back.
"Dear Attorney Sherman:
I am really beside myself since this calamity. Thanks to the quick thinking paramedics and the entire emergency department at the Toronto Hospital, my physical wounds have more or less healed. I have however been left with deep psychological and emotional damage. My psychiatrist Dr. Felix Schindler can attest to my post-traumatic stress disorder. The mere sight of the colour orange makes me cringe with fear. This past Halloween season I could not leave my home for three days after a terrifying experience I underwent just looking at a pumpkin. Can you get me a booking with your electric chair? A date with Old Sparky would be merciful. What can money do for me now?"
Within a day I received a fax letter from Mr. Sherman:
We were most sorry to hear about your debilitating experience. Without prejudice to our client's position, we are prepared to fly you and your wife down for a week's all expense paid vacation at Disney World. All you have to do is submit to an insurer's defence medical examination for one day. As you may know the State of Florida Practice Rules provide that refusal by the plaintiff to submit to medical examinations will lead to the denial by the court of any award it might otherwise make for punitive damages.
I am enclosing a copy of the case of Smedley v Happy Sun Orange Juice where in a claim most similar to yours the jury awarded $250,000 for pain and suffering. But do note that the trial judge did not allow punitive damages of $2,000,000 as the plaintiff failed to submit to a defence medical.
I look forward to hearing from you."
I am presently studying my options as I am sipping on a vodka and orange juice. I am considering making the trip. The only problem is this is Florida. These guys take their orange juice seriously. I suspect that if the insurer feels I am doing something nifty it can probably invoke some penal provisions and I could find myself getting that date with Old Sparky.
About the Authors
Marcel Strigberger is a humourist trapped inside the body of a litigator. Legalhumour.com, striglaw.com