Thursday, July 31, 2008

In God We Sue

By now, you've probably heard the story of the Tennessee man who is suing his church for $2.5 million for injuries sustained when he fell and hit his head after being "slain in the spirit."  Here is the actual news story.

And while many commentators have dismissed the plaintiff's case, I'm not so sure that he doesn't have a legal basis for his suit.  While I haven't read the complaint (that would actually require real research), I can guess that his lawsuit is based on a negligence theory.  In short, he is likely claiming that the church breached its duty of care by letting the Holy Spirit in the church in the first place.  And even then, the church should have taken adequate precautions to prevent him from getting hurt.

And while this seems silly at first blush (and maybe even second blush), the plaintiff might have a point.  After all, from time to time, I see Benny Hinn on TV knocking out people like a young Mike Tyson.  (If you think I'm exaggerating, take a look at this video).  Almost always, he has two strong guys standing behind the healed person to catch them when they fall (or just as likely, to pull them to the ground should they not accept the cue to fall down voluntarily).  Even Benny Hinn understands that you can't employ the power of the almighty without regards to legal liability.

Of course, the church will have two defenses to this action but neither is completely satisfactory; at least, as far as the church should be concerned.  For one, it could argue that the plaintiff's injuries were not foreseeable.  However, I can't imagine that the pastor will be very excited about sitting in the jury box and explaining that a movement of the Holy Spirit in his church was completely unforeseeable.  "Listen, folks.  I haven't seen or heard from the Lord in decades and then, out of the blue, He just shows up one Sunday.  It was completely unforeseeable."

The other possible line of defense is the tried and true "assumption of the risk" defense.  In other words, the plaintiff should have known that attending church was dangerous in the first place and, as a result, he has no one to blame but himself.  Once again, I can't imagine that the other parishioners will find much solace in the new signs that will have to be posted in the church: 

Beware of God

Holy Spirit at Work

How's My Preaching?  Call 1-800-JOHN-316

With this kind of legal reasoning, it should be clear why I no longer practice law!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rap-tivist Judges

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to meet one of my judicial heroes -- Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin, or as he is known on the street -- Eminee (M & E).  He has earned his moniker for writing some of the "dopest" rhymes out of Philly since the Fresh Prince's Parents Just Don't Understand.  Here are just a few samples of Eakin's lyrical skills:

A horse is a horse, of course, of course, 
but the Vehicle Code does not divorce 
its application from, perforce, 
a steed, as my colleagues said.

"It's not vague" I'll say until I'm hoarse, 
and whether a car, a truck or horse 
this law applies with equal force, 
and I'd reverse instead.
Yeah, boy!  But check this one out:

A groom must expect matrimonial pandemonium 
When his spouse finds he’s given her a cubic zirconium 
Instead of a diamond in her engagement band 
The one he said was worth 21 grand.

Now, you can say what you want, but anyone who can find a rhyme for "cubic zirconium" shouldn't be on the bench, but instead, should be on a private yacht somewhere sipping Cristol surrounded by the "honeys."  In fact, when I met him, I chided him that if he were to add a few N-words, B-words and H-words to his opinions, he could get a recording contract.  He politely said that he would "take it under advisement."

Nevertheless, it was just a matter of time before an east coast - west coast judicial rivalry was spawned.  And it seems to have started now that Judge Ronald Leighton (aka "Lay-Lay") began kicking funky rhymes in response to an incredibly verbose lawsuit filing (the filing was 465 pages long, 8 pages of which were the title):

Plaintiff has a great deal to say,
But it seems he skipped Rule 8(a). 
His Complaint is too long, 
Which renders it wrong, 
Please rewrite and refile today.

Before long, we can expect judges in the "dirty south" -- the 11th Circuit -- the get in on the act (sadly, I suspect that the judicial contingent from Alabama won't be so reticent to use the N-word ... yes, I'm kidding my friends in Alabama).  In any event, if we can just get Diddy to create a reality show for these aspiring raptivists, perhaps in the line of Making Da Band.  In fact, he could call it Making Da Court.  In between walking to Brooklyn to pick up his dry cleaning, Diddy might want to enlist the judge's help in getting his record child support payments reduced.  Yeah, boy!