GM Ignition Switch Lawsuit Unraveled By Radio Report

Steering WheelThe first trial involving a lawsuit against General Motors over its faulty ignition switches was scheduled to start recently, but the plaintiff lawyer who filed the case had to withdraw it in embarrassment after his client was exposed as a fraud. The case is the latest example of how some Americans have come to perceive the courts as a sort of lottery vault filled with easy money just waiting for them to claim.

General Motors has already settled at least 1,400 cases with alleged victims of the faulty ignition switch for hundreds of millions of dollars. The company has also paid over a billion in fines and other legal settlements. Apparently, the lure of all this money was just too great for a postman named Robert Scheuer from Tulsa, Oklahoma to pass up, so he sued GM, too.

According to one report, his lawyer, Robert Hilliard, had already settled over a thousand of the ignition cases with the company out of court, and he thought Scheuer’s case was the best one to litigate in court. He believed he had a sympathetic client because his client claimed to have been evicted from his home after a faulty ignition-induced accident caused memory loss that led him to misplace a down payment check for his home. It was regarded as a bellweather lawsuit and received nationwide media coverage…and that’s when the case began to fall apart.

One of the reports on the lawsuit that aired on radio was heard by Robert Kleven, a real estate agent in Tulsa. Kleven immediately recognized Scheuer’s name because the postman had cheated him in the very real estate deal he was using as the basis for his lawsuit.

In an attempt to buy a home from Kleven, Scheuer had altered a check issued by the government to make it appear as though he had hundreds of thousands of dollars in a bank account. Based on that, Kleven allowed the man and his wife to move into a new house in suburban Tulsa before they paid for it. However, Scheuer failed to ever produce the money, so Kleven, had to start an eviction process to get Scheuer out of the home.

After hearing about the lawsuit on the radio, Kleven quickly reported it to the company. GM reportedly sent a team to Tulsa to investigate the story and determined that it was true. Shortly after GM revealed Scheuer’s fraud to the court, the case was dismissed.

So, what’s the takeaway here? Obviously, the moral of this story is to be truthful. Hilliard was conned by his own client.

Unfortunately, fraud is a growing problem in America’s courts. Many people who have never been injured are filing lawsuits in shakedown schemes simply to enrich themselves. They hope to settle and walk away with a huge pile of cash. GM and other large companies are aware of this, and it’s why they are forced to litigate some lawsuits like this one after they’ve already settle hundreds or thousands of others.

The massive fraud uncovered in thousands of asbestosis lawsuits is another example of this. For more on that, click here. This type of fraud will continue until all judges send the message that frivolous lawsuits won’t be tolerated any more and that America’s justice system is not a lawsuit lottery. In the meantime, we hope that our weekly “Let’s Be Fair” radio commentary on these types of lawsuits will enable even more people like Robert Kleven to come forward.

Please

A 4-Year-Old Sued for Bicycle Accident? You Better Believe It (and Weep) —

You better be seated for this one…a trial court judge in New York City has allowed a four-year-old child to be sued for negligence over an accident she caused while riding her training-wheel-equipped bicycle down a street in Manhattan.

I’m giving this case attention not just because it’s further proof of how some people are trying to use the courts as a lawsuit lottery, but because it underscores a point I have been making in my most recent “Let’s Be Fair” commentaries: too many judges are abdicating their role as gatekeepers to the courts.

You can read about the case in a New York Times article here.  Basically, little Juliet Breitman and a friend were riding their bikes on the sidewalk on 52nd Street in Manhattan with their parents when Juliet ran into an elderly lady causing her to be injured.  The parents who were riding with the children were also sued.

There are two facts about this case that need to be highlighted.  First, some Internet reports on this story mistakenly state that the woman died shortly after the accident as a result of the injuries, but a subsequent clarification in the NYT article clearly states the woman died months later of unrelated causes.  Second, after doing some research, I’ve found out that it is absolutely legal for children to ride a bike on the sidewalks of New York.  Section 4-07c3 of the NYC transportation code says adults can’t ride bikes on sidewalks, but if you’re twelve or under, it’s fine.

In making his decision to allow the lawsuit against Juliet to move forward, Judge Paul Wooten cited cases dating back more than 80 years.  Using a case from 1928 in which a judge ruled that “infants under the age of 4 are conclusively presumed incapable of negligence,” Judge Wooten noted that since Juliet was nine months over the age of four, she could therefore be sued.

My question is why didn’t the judge in this case use the same kind of common sense the judge in 1928 used?  Judges create case law all the time to deal with unusual situations, e.g. that’s what the judge did in 1928.  Tort law covering injuries like this has been built over hundreds of years based on what judges decide is right given the circumstances involved.  This judge simply decided to hand this case off to a jury to let them make the hard decision.  That’s just not right, and it’s one of the main reasons our courts have become clogged with ridiculous lawsuits.

I bet most four-year-olds can’t even pronounce the word negligence, let alone understand what it means.  However, parents in NYC now have a better understanding of how poorly the courts operate.  It would be no surprise if some of them now discourage their children from riding their bikes for fun and exercise so they don’t risk being sued.  This is not the message our courts should be sending parents who are trying to raise healthy, well-adjusted children.  Four-year-olds should not be subject to negligence lawsuits over bicycle accidents!

Starbucks Gets Served With A McDonald’s-Style Hot Beverage Lawsuit

If there’s one lawsuit everyone in America has heard about, it’s the infamous lawsuit filed against McDonalds over a cup of coffee that Stella Liebeck spilled in her lap.  Years later, countless Americans still bemoan the fact that they can’t get a cup of coffee that is hot enough for their liking because of Stella.

The fear of serving drinks as hot as their patrons prefer is only one of the side effects of the lawsuit that became the poster child for lawsuit abuse.

Unfortunately, it has also inspired many copycat lawsuits over the years.  I have personally talked to many owners of “mom and pop” restaurants who were put through the legal wringer by patrons who spilled hot drinks on themselves and who hoped to cash in on their own clumsiness in the courts.

The latest example of someone trying to hit the lawsuit lottery over a hot drink seems to be a lawsuit filed against Starbucks over a spilled cup of tea.  Read about it here.

I say that this lawsuit seems to be another case of someone willing to overlook personal responsibility so they can file a lawsuit because there haven’t been enough facts made available yet to know what really happened in this case.  However, we’ll be sure to follow this and let you know.  Short of a Starbucks employee actually throwing scalding tea onto a patron, we’re very likely looking at a copycat.

Having debated Harvard law professors and other plaintiff lawyers about the widespread lawsuit problem in America, I am always very careful to make sure I have all the facts right.  Personal injury lawyers love to try to make it appear that McDonald’s was liable for Stella’s self-inflicted injury because of claims that the company had been warned about the temperature of its coffee.   They even have websites devoted to this lawsuit.

I have just one thing to say about their assertion that McDonald’s was responsible: “Nonsense!”

Ted Frank gave the best explanation I’ve ever seen of why “the case is ludicrous on its face, as a matter of law, and as a matter of common sense.”  Click here to read how he picked apart the plaintiff lawyers’ case on

These lawsuits always cost the businesses tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of dollars to defend against…regardless of whether they win or lose.  I’ve spoken with some of the fine people who were on the receiving end of these lawsuits after they went out of business, and their stories are always heartbreaking.

Special feature:  Ever wondered about Stella Liebeck?  Click here to view a FOX News segment that includes rare footage of her explaining how she spilled the coffee on herself.  It also includes Yours Truly explaining how her ridiculous lawsuit led to a surge in common sense warning labels in America.