Lawsuits are about disputes, and disputes are serious business. In the old days (as in when B.C. followed the date), if ever there was a dispute between neighbors, the winning side was the one that didn't get its head bashed into its shoulders. Since then, the legal system has advanced by leaps and bounds, so that today we can pay others to do the bashing for us - metaphorically, of course. The "bashing" targets the other side's pocketbook, and the warriors whom we can hire for this purpose are called lawyers.
Go up the ladder high enough, and eventually a high court makes a decision that lower courts must adhere to when deciding similar cases. The higher court's ruling has effectively become the law. Private companies then compile these decisions into encyclopedic books that lawyers stand in front of so they look more knowledgeable in their advertisements.
Keep this in mind as we delve into the cases our staff have carefully selected for your reading pleasure. Remember, at one time or another, these court decisions had (or may still have) force of law. Remember also that we're not lawyers, this isn't legal advice, and the information presented here is put forth for the sake of getting a laugh or two out of it.
367 F. Supp. 373.
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, 1973
Hate your job? Quit. Give your two-weeks' notice, or be a jackass and just leave without telling anyone. That's not so easy when you work on a ship.
Mackensworth was at sea when a dispute arose between him and his employer. When he reached dry land, he sued for unpaid wages in federal court. Federal court practice is highly technical - just about every line of every document submitted to the court must be supported by legal analysis. This results in lengthy court papers. It has been speculated that the Pacific Northwest is at risk of utter deforestation just to keep the paper mills working so courts can get things done.
You would think that this brief back-and-forth would be the end of it, but no. When the case came before the judge on appeal, he couldn't leave good enough alone either. The entire appellate decision, including the footnotes, rhymes.
The icing on the cake came when the decision was recorded in those encyclopedic books mentioned earlier. The analyst whose job it was to summarize and cross-reference the case wrote his contributions in verse as well.
And remember, people: this decision was written down in a book and was (or maybe still is) the law.
54 F.R.D. 282 (W.D.Pa. 1971)
United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
Speaking in the broadest possible sense, it is Satan's job to impede, frustrate, and ruin everyone's plans. In short, the devil is a jerk on a cosmic scale. And since being a jerk to all creation is a big job, it follows that he must have administrative support to help him with the logistics. Thus, it must have seemed a brilliant idea to Mr. Mayo to sue the devil and his staff in federal court. Because if ever there was anybody more deserving of a lawsuit for damages, Satan would be him. Indeed, the judge even opines that Satan may have a class action lawsuit on his hands from the sheer number of people he's damaged over a series of millennia.
If the worth of a legal system is measured by the protections afforded to the most vulnerable among, then our system is foremost, because even the devil is owed process of law.
380 U.S. 693 (1965)
United States Supreme Court
While it would make for one heck of a monster movie title (picture a fifty-foot-tall sedan smashing skyscrapers in its wake), the Plymouth Sedan case was important, although hardly as exciting.
When you think of lawsuits, you normally think of one person suing another; for instance, Smith v. Jones and so forth. These are called in personam cases, because the target is a person. But there exists another type - the in rem action - where the person sued isn't a person at all but an inanimate object.
189 F.2d 107 (5th Cir. 1951), cert. denied 342 U.S. 877 (1951)
1990 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8792; W.D. Mich. July 12, 1990
United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan
The ruling itself makes for dry reading, but the footnotes are of interest. Read the decision here: