Your Honor, I move for dismissal on the grounds that the movie sucked.

4 Nov

November 4, 2010

Coming up is a story that you’d expect came straight from the United States, where it is every citizen’s right to file ridiculous lawsuits and waste the court’s time with nonsense. In fact, it has been estimated that if all frivolous lawsuits were dismissed immediately, and no further frivolous lawsuits filed, the entire legal load of merited cases could be handled by Judge Judy in a single afternoon, leaving the Supreme Court free to do what it does best, which is age at an alarming rate.

Of course not every lawsuit is frivolous, just ask these fine folks who filed suit, as found in The Huffington Post:

  • In 1991 Richard Overton tried to sue Anheuser-Busch for $10,000 because upon drinking copious amounts of Bud Light, beautiful women didn’t come to life in a tropical setting, as shown in the commercials.
  • Allen Heckard had a unique problem: people constantly told him he looked like basketball star Michael Jordan. Except Heckard saw it a bit differently, Michael Jordan looked like him. Naturally, he decided to sue Jordan and Nike for $832 million for his “emotional pain and suffering.”
  • In 1995, Robert Lee Brock attempted to sue himself for $5 million claiming he violated his own civil rights by getting intoxicated and committing crimes. He was serving a 23 year prison sentence at the time and thought the state would have to pay because he was incarcerated.

So obviously the legal system is pretty busy these days.

This problem is not unique to America. This story comes from China, where if they saw what passes for Chinese food in this country they would have a good laugh:

A lawyer in Xian, China, filed a lawsuit in September against a movie house and film distributor for wasting her time — because she was exposed to 20 minutes of advertisements that began at the posted time for the actual movie to begin. Ms. Chen Xiaomei is requesting a refund (equivalent of about $5.20) plus damages of an equal amount, plus the equivalent of about 15 cents for “emotional” damages — plus an apology. [The Guardian (London), 9-8-10]

Are you as shocked as I am? Imagine- only $5.20 for a movie! OK, she sat through some commercials, big deal. I sat through Starship Troopers and I paid around $8 for that. Other lousy films I paid to see were Batman and Robin and Any Given Sunday. Trust me, if anyone deserves to be sued it is Oliver Stone for that cinematic piece of crap. And Starship Troopers? If you voluntarily rent this film knowing that it is near the pinnacle of Casper Van Dien’s craft you deserve what you get. But this when he was only a new bad actor, not an established bad actor. I was young, I was naive, I was disgusted that the film wanted me to root for the Nazis.

But I digress.

I actually think that Ms. Chen Xiaomei should consider herself lucky. Not only would that film have cost around $12 in America ($145.50 in NYC, $195.50 for 3D) but while waiting for the commercials to end she would have likely consumed here entire 7.50 bucket of popcorn and 7.50 large soda. (Of course, she could have easily saved some cash by purchasing one of the theater’s combos, where the soda and popcorn would have only cost her $15.)  That amounts to $27 even before the coming attractions, and of course doesn’t take into account a date, which this female attorney didn’t seem to have.

I hope she wins the $10.55 she is suing for.

All this brings me (nearly) full circle from lawsuits to movies to lawyers. Can you imagine that this lawyer values her time so little that she is filing suit and spending time arguing a case for $10.55? (Ironically, the case is about wasting time.) She is either a very poor attorney or has very low self-esteem, either of which would also explain why she was alone at the movies in the middle of the day.

At any rate, and perhaps more importantly, she is also suing for an apology. Yes, an apology. She wants an “I’m sorry” from the theater, which makes me wonder if this case was filed in Ms. Wagner’s third grade class. I wonder if the judge will sentence them to shake hands and make nice? Or perhaps to kiss and make up, which may work out well for Chen Xiaomei if she can parlay that kiss into a date.

However, I may be minimizing the importance of the apology. No less an esteemed legal mind that Judge Marilyn Milian of The People’s Court says that small claims court is usually not about money, it is about the principle. She must be right. How else to explain the case, from the crotchety old Judge Wapner era, where one man sued another for 65 cents, the cost of a can of soda?

Frivolous lawsuits and bad movies will always be with us. True as that is, it is hard to believe that there are not many movies about frivolous lawsuits. Even if they were, however, they would not be prosecutable. If so, I’d have sued Jennifer Lopez for Gigli years ago, and put an injunction on Ban Affleck in the process. That man must be stopped before he acts again!

3 Responses to “Your Honor, I move for dismissal on the grounds that the movie sucked.”

  1. JRD Skinner November 4, 2010 at 11:16 am #

    Great post, but I’m just trying to work out the math here – her ticket price, doubled to cover ‘damages’, plus some loose change to cover her emotional damages?

    What are these additional non-emotional damages exactly? Did she also have to get her pants dry-cleaned because of gum on the seat?

    – and, if my math is correct, 15 cents for 20 minutes of emotional damage means that the cost of misery in China is about $0.0075 a minute.


  2. Thomas Stazyk November 4, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

    Yeah, add me to the class action suit against Starship Troopers!

    But Ms. Chen does have a point–I tolerate commercials on free TV because it’s free. But once I’ve paid, I expect a commercial free experience. I know, dream on.



  1. You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit in the wind, and you don’t sue if you get hit by a train. « Mr. Blog's Tepid Ride - March 11, 2011

    […] I’ve covered stupid lawsuits before. They’ve been around since the dawn of time. […]


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