Exporting the Love: Lawsuits in China

By: Michael Seinberg

In a case that would make a New York trial attorney proud, a man in Northern China has successfully divorced and sued his wife for $120,000 for being ugly. Yes indeed, in what should be termed a case of false advertising, Jian Feng married his wife and was quite happy. Then disaster struck after the birth of the couple’s daughter.

When presented with his new baby, Feng took one look and declared his own offspring unbearably ugly. He felt the baby resembled neither him nor his wife. At first, he assumed his wife had cheated, but the plot thickens. Feng determined that the ugly duckling was indeed his child, but it turns out his wife wasn’t quite what she claimed to be.  It came out that Feng’s wife spent $100,000 on what was termed “intense” plastic surgery to change her appearance before Feng met her.

A published story shows before and after pictures and you have to give the plastic surgeon credit on this one. The judge examined the evidence and agreed with Feng that the wife got him to marry her under false pretenses. He granted a divorce and awarded Feng $120,000. The real question now is whether he’ll keep custody and use his windfall to beautify the baby or just walk away and start fresh.  Or perhaps he should invest now in the counseling that this child will likely need when she grows up – thanks to the detrimental psychological effect this lawsuit will inevitably have.

If this is the state of “justice” in China, then I would like to formally suggest that the crooked trial lawyers board a plane, ship, or submarine as soon as possible and set up shop in China. With their decades of experience and 1 billion plus people to sue, they will be happily working round the clock 6,000 miles away, and our overburdened court system can finally get back to real business.

Is Stripping an Art? Depends on the Judge.

By: Michael Seinberg

Night Moves, a strip club in Latham, NY has a case before the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court to determine whether or not it owes some $400,000 in back taxes.  At issue is whether sales tax should be collected on lap dancing. The state says yes and the club says no – big surprise there.

The real surprise is the reasoning – and the fact that the judges have managed to keep straight faces so far. The club contends that lap dancing is art – and even brought in a cultural anthropologist to “study” the dance.  Sure enough, he testified that exotic dancing qualified as an art form. In New York, choreographed performances such as ballet are exempt from sales tax since they are classified as an artistic performance.

So now all the puns, jokes, giggles and so on have made the rounds in both the blogosphere and the mainstream press. On its face, the case seem absurd, but it’s not the only one in play – similar cases are pending in New York City, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Nevada. Ultimately, a lot of money could also be at stake as there are some 150 to 200 similar clubs throughout the New York State. Whatever the court ultimately decides, it will affect NY taxpayers one way or another, even if they never set foot in a strip club.

If the judges rule that lap dancing is an art, then NY taxpayers have had to foot the bill for all this litigation and won’t ever see any payoff. If the judges rule that lap dancing does not qualify, then the increased tax revenue will help cover the legal fees and court costs. You can’t fault Night Moves from trying to get out of a $400,000 tax bill but to do so by claiming that a lap dance has lots in common with, say, a ballet performance is truly stretching it (no pun intended).

A Model Lawsuit

By: Michael Seinberg

What does your average model do when a picture of her appears all over the world? Celebrate? Get more work from the exposure? Well, if you’re 30-year-old Caroline Giles, you file suit for $23 million.

Giles, who just graduated from Columbia University at age 30 with a bachelors in psychology, has sued the Ford Model Agency, Volvo, and Hertz for $23 million because she claims that a photo of her has been used and reused without her consent. In one instance, the photo was used in a Volvo sponsored campaign in Australia that invited people to “Spend the night with a Swedish model of your choice!” This clever play on words was referring to the Swedish made Volvo, not the female in the ad.

Ms. Giles disagrees. Her lawsuit states that the ad was done “to make it appear that she may be an escort with extreme sexual and inappropriate connotations and innuendos.” Hmm, that’s certainly nothing that ever happens in ads. Volvo defended the use of the photo saying that the models were cars, not escorts and that Giles signed a release granting rights for unlimited print and Internet placements worldwide for an unlimited time. Even Giles says, “I was paid $2,000 unlimited usage for Volvo for their S40 model.” So which part of unlimited is in question here?

Giles, who has been modeling since age 18, should probably know better. “The product is Volvo S40,” Giles said. “I didn’t say that Volvo could use my image for anything Volvo for the rest of my life…Even if I end up with nothing, I would just be happy if the industry standard changed and people started doing what they’re supposed to do.”

The bottom line is that while a person should be compensated for the use of their likeness, said person should also be careful what they sign. And for a modeling veteran and fresh college grad to suddenly decide that a single photo that was shot in 2007 should be worth $23 million begs any number of questions about the motives behind such a suit. Ms. Giles suggests her motives are pure and only meant to reform an abusive system. That being the case, then why ask for $23 million?

He Says, She Says, He Sues….

By: Michael Seinberg

The supermarket tabloids are always full of ill-fated trysts between older men and younger women. Big surprise. But now, we have a pair with the male half possibly taking the cake for letting the wrong body part do the thinking for him.  Italian theater director Antonio Calenda had a 10-month relationship with 27-year-old Manhattan dancer Natasha Diamond-Walker and now the mess has landed in a New York court.

The 73-year-old director is suing the 27-year-old dancer saying she hoodwinked him into buying her a $775,000 Upper West Side condo. He claims they signed an agreement and his help was a loan, she insists it was a gift. He is suing for $800,000 which covers the original amount plus interest and he wants another $1 million in punitive damages. “She manipulated our client and took advantage of him to finance her purchase of a luxury Manhattan apartment,” said Calenda’s lawyer Marc Fitapelli. “She never had any intentions to repay our client and she abruptly severed their relationship as soon as she got what she wanted.”

At the beginning of their 10-month romance, Calenda showered her with expensive gifts, according to reports. And one assumes, she showered him with “affection” in return. It should be pointed out that Calenda is a resident of Rome, where he is still married but has reportedly been separated from his wife for a decade.

Depending on whom you believe, Calenda claims that Diamond-Walker asked him to help her buy the condo. He claims he insisted that the money be a loan and that they sign a written agreement. He says they signed the agreement last July and she closed on the condo in September. He then claims that several months later she “suddenly severed” the relationship. Of course the possibility that a little thing like a 46-year age gap might have finally gotten to her never entered his mind.

Whether the agreement exists, whether it is legally binding and whether the court will rule that the money was a gift or a loan remains to be seen. However, taking spats like this to court is pretty silly and then asking for $1 million in punitive damages sounds like a yelp from a crushed male ego, not a legitimate claim. This probably won’t end well for anyone, except maybe their lawyers.

Running Naked on Ambien

By: Michael Seinberg

OK, we all know various drugs have side effects. But Daniel Stewart, Jr. of Etowah County Alabama is now suggesting that the sleep aid Ambien can cause unexpected nudity and he’s suing Qualitest Pharmaceuticals to make his point.

Stewart claims that on the night of October 3, 2011 while he was on a business trip to Columbus, Indiana he took an Ambien to help him get to sleep. The drug would appear to have worked, but then Stewart claims that he proceeded to leave his room in a state of utter nudity and commence pounding on the doors of other guests as well as in the lobby, though he claims to have no memory of nude knocking.

The locals did not take kindly to his undressed outburst and Stewart was subsequently arrested and convicted on a variety of naughty charges.  He was then fired by his employer, Honda, for misconduct. Apparently Honda prefers their traveling employees to remain clothed in public.

The lawsuit claims that Qualitest failed to warn him that he could end up running naked through hotels and pounding on doors and thus he feels he must sue for that oversight. A quick Internet search for Ambien side effects yielded results that ranged from neck pain and flatulence to heartburn and difficulty walking. Serious side effects included chest pain, difficulty breathing, hives, and throat closing up. Uncontrolled nudity was not noted.

The rest of the lawsuit includes pages of anecdotal claims from other Ambien users who attest to a variety of negative experiences that ranged from using firearms to sleep driving and in every case they report total amnesia after their arrests and incidents. Again, amnesia was not noted in the official side effects list though constipation was mentioned.

Ambien is a prescription drug and is usually prescribed strictly for the short term relief of insomnia. It is suggested that it only be used for a very short time (no longer than 2 weeks) and many of the folks in the anecdotal section noted using the drug for months or years. So what can we assume? Ambien should not be abused, should not be used for too long, and should not be used by people prone to running around naked or filing lawsuits.

Mistress Sues Nassau County Over Affair With Cop

By: Michael Seinberg

There have been plenty of lawsuits over police brutality, but in a new twist, here’s one over police ardor. 42-year-old Tara Obenauer, a Wall Street compliance officer, had a 7 month affair with a 43-year-old married Nassau cop named Mike Tedesco. The affair ended when one of Obenauer’s neighbors called the Nassau PD to report that a police car was constantly parked in Obenauer’s driveway.

According to GPS records, the car in question had visited the address in question some 57 times and Obenauer even suggested Tedesco had spent “over 100 nights” with her. According to her story, he would spend up to 4 hours a night with her and her children during his assigned work shifts, so you could really call it a family affair. “He would be at my house for hours during his shift, hanging out in his uniform on the couch, watching TV with my kids, taking a nap,” Obenauer, who is single, but has children from a prior relationship, told the media.

Now, with her reputation “completely tarnished” and suffering from “severe….emotional and psychological damages,” according to her attorney, Frank Perrone. She has filed papers to sue Nassau County for $10 million for failure to supervise Tedesco. Failure to supervise? Really?

So let’s recap here. She enters a consensual adult relationship with a married cop who puts his job in jeopardy to spend time with her and when the whole thing blows up due to a nosey neighbor, she’s the one who’s injured? Umm, on what planet does this logic make sense?

I think the more likely scenario here is really about money. Our erstwhile Wall Streeter once told the New York Times back in 1992 that she decided to skip law school so she could dance at a gentleman’s club called Stringfellows. “I can make $1,000 a night or more, if I really work at it,” the then 21-year-old was quoted as saying. That sort of entrepreneurial sprit is obviously what led her to a career on Wall Street and now to a career as a plaintiff. Next she’ll probably run for Congress.

The sheer absurdity of her assertion, the amount of money demanded, and the fact that her cop boyfriend is now suddenly retired from the force, though still getting his pension, really makes you wonder why a judge doesn’t toss this one and charge her and her attorney with contempt. If you can believe it, Obenauer even wrote a letter of apology to Tedesco’s wife, who, for the moment, is standing by her man.

If you’re really looking for a winnable case, Nassau County should sue Obenauer for obstruction of justice and interfering with the duties of a police officer.

Man Steamed at Arby’s Urinal

By: Michael Seinberg

In what can only be seen as one of the great mysteries of the modern world, Kenneth Dejoie of Aurora, CO has filed a lawsuit against Arby’s because they allegedly tried to steam clean his genitals.

The mystery began two years ago when Dejoie was “utilizing” a urinal at the Arby’s restaurant in Monument, CO. He claims that at some point in the process, a blast of steam issued from the urinal in question and burned his genitals. When he reported the errant plumbing to an employee, the response was, “We have that bathroom problem again….this happens when the sink in the kitchen is running.”

The mystery thickens when you try and figure out, using modern plumbing technology, how using a sink in a kitchen could cause steam to issue from a urinal. Without some serious Hollywood style special effects, this seems a little unlikely. Further enhancing the mystery is why Dejoie took a full two years to file the suit.

He is asking for damages for financial losses and as a result of his alleged injuries, he was unable to have sex with his wife. If Dejoie’s “bedroom duties” were harmed so drastically, why wait two full years to file suit? And financial losses? Unless Dejoie makes his living in the adult film industry, it’s tough to figure how he incurred financial losses. There is no word on how much Dejoie and his lawyer are seeking, though they claim they are trying to settle the case out of court.

A local TV station aired footage of the urinal in question, even showing it in a “utilized” (unflushed) fashion and flushing. No steam was noted.

I’ve heard of high tech Japanese toilets that have heated seats, cleansing jets, warm air dryers, and so on. Perhaps Arby’s was secretly testing something like that and things go out of hand. In any case, the mystery of the steamed genitals may go down in history just like the Bermuda Triangle and Donald Trump’s hair. Unexplainable, but mesmerizing.

The Ride of His Life

By: Michael Seinberg

It seems that California motorcyclist Henry Wolf has either discovered the fountain of youth or the key to adult film stardom. According to a lawsuit filed by Mr. Wolf, he has been “suffering” from a constant and persistent erection for the last 20 months. Why? How? Did he have to have special pants made? Too many little blue pills?

Mr. Wolf traces the problem to a motorcycle ride he took in 2010. He claims that after taking a four-hour ride on his 1993 BMW, which he equipped with an aftermarket seat made by well-known supplier Corbin-Pacific, he has been “at attention” ever since. This seems a little hard to believe in that BMW motorcycles are known to be some of the smoothest machines out there and Corbin has been successfully making aftermarket motorcycle seats since 1968 with no apparent reports of extreme rigidity issues.

In fact, medical evidence has shown that prolonged use of overly hard bicycle seats can cause numbness or even erectile dysfunction due to damage to the pudendal nerve. It also begs the question of why he chose this seat, paid for it, installed it and then kept using it. Corbin seats are not cheap.

If Mr. Wolf has been “excited” for 20 months straight, wouldn’t he have just passed out some time ago? Lack of blood supply to the brain has some serious implications. It could lead one to do all sorts of silly things, like file ridiculous lawsuits. Mr. Wolf claims that in his case, the Corbin seat has rendered him, “Unable to engage in sexual activity, which is causing him substantial emotional and mental anguish.”  He is seeking compensation from both BMW and Corbin for lost wages, medical expenses, emotional distress and “general damage.”

You can’t make this stuff up.  Court watchers are rigid with anticipation over this case.