Lawyerball: The First Thing We Do
June 26, 2012 by Ben Crystal
Two years ago, a woman named Elizabeth Lloyd sat down at a picnic table next to a Little League field in Manchester Township, N.J. Not long after, an 11-year-old catcher named Matthew Migliaco began warming up a pitcher in the bullpen next to Lloyd. And then, tragedy struck. Well, perhaps not tragedy. Tragedy implies human suffering on a grand scale. Had young Master Migliaco suddenly fired a rocket-propelled grenade at Lloyd, that would have been tragic. If the young backstopper had lept the fence with a bat and set to Lloyd the way Trayvon Martin — ahem, allegedly — set to George Zimmerman, that would have been tragic. No, what happened was purely an accident. An errant toss by Matthew hit Lloyd. Oops! A bad throw by an 11-year old. Bummer. The normal response would likely entail wincing, spitting out a stream of verbiage one would normally want to keep from using next to a Little League baseball field, an angry return throw and then a trip home to put a bag of frozen peas on the affected area.
But Lloyd is one of an increasingly large number of Americans who thumb their rhetorical noses at “normal” on their way to the courtroom. Two years after Matthew accidentally hit her, Lloyd and her husband are demanding $150,000 for medical costs and punitive remuneration for pain, suffering and something her husband, a party to the suit, calls a loss of “services, society and consortium.” I’m no lawyer, but I’m going to guess that means Lloyd, once viewed by her husband as the Gisele Bundchen to his Tom Brady, is now less appealing to him than a week at a nudist colony with Roseanne Barr.
Lloyd took a baseball in the kisser while sitting next to a baseball field in use by a group of 10- and 11-year-old baseball players. As anyone who’s watched The Bad News Bears is already aware, 10- and 11-year-old baseball players tend not to possess the talent — much less the aim — of Derek Jeter. Therefore, sitting next to a field on which a game between two teams loaded with the best talent the local plumbing-supply house can sponsor would carry with it what one lawyer friend of mine described as “an assumption of risk.”
Yet Lloyd believes Matthew targeted her with the malice of Randy Johnson staring down a rookie who’s crowding the plate, and she and her husband managed to find a lawyer willing to charge the proverbial mound. Their attorney is the kind of roach-with-a-briefcase who illuminates the reasoning behind Shakespeare’s famous line from Henry VI, Part II, Act IV, scene ii: “The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers.” The Lloyds’ lawyer is merely the latest in a long line of ambulance chasers who tear this country apart bit by bit — another galling example of the parasites who ply the emergency rooms and emblazon bus stop benches and phone book covers with their grinning mugs, looking for their next slip-and-fall payday.
These are the foot soldiers in the liberal campaign to turn us into a Nation of squabbling twerps who can turn even the most innocent mishap into a battle royale of mistrust, resentment and recrimination. While the Lloyds’ decision to abduct Matthew’s innocence and dump it in a ditch is appalling, it’s hardly isolated. Of course, the granddaddy of all idiotic lawsuits would be the infamous case in which a woman sued McDonald’s after she spilled hot coffee in her lap and burned herself. That she won close to $3 million is testament only to the perverse courtroom skills of her attorney and the frighteningly high number of exceptionally stupid people in the jury pool. Perhaps the most famous of the practitioners of this sort of law would be former Democratic Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards, who made an estimated $50 million pile while convincing juries to reward his clients for all manner of questionable ills.
And the Lloyds’ lawyer, much like Edwards and the rest of their legal-beagling siblings, are sucking the life out of us all. When someone takes the case of Lloyd vs. Migliaco, America’s Pastime, et al., a little of the joy in all of us dies. Baseball fields get shrouded in protective rubber matting to protect picknickers. Then the players themselves get wrapped in the stuff as well. Baseball begins to (as an 11-year-old might put it): “like, totally suck big time.” They go home and play Xbox all day. They get fat, and then their parents sue Microsoft for making the Xbox. Little League folds, and the commissioner gets so upset that he spills his coffee in his lap and burns himself. He sues McDonald’s, and the cycle continues.
Someone sits down next to a Little League field, gets hit by a baseball and sues the ballplayer. Someone else spills hot coffee in his lap and sues McDonald’s. Someone else slips in your driveway and sues you, the driveway contractor and anyone else their attorney can hit with a tsunami of paper.
Don’t mistake my intent. I would part with The Bard and acknowledge that not all lawyers need killin’. Beyond the defenders of decency in the civil courtrooms, our justice system needs someone to stand up for society in the criminal docket as well. If we abandon the legal profession to the Johnny Cochrans of the world, who will guide the jury to recognizing that the only real choice should have been about into which of O.J. Simpson’s arms to stick the needle? In fact, the Simpson murder trial is a perfect example: Simpson had the master showmen Cochran and Robert Shapiro. And justice retorted with Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden.
We need decent people to stand in a courtroom when one of Edwards’ colleagues demands $3 million for pain and suffering caused by spilled hot coffee to respond with a legally appropriate version of: “The plaintiff is a doofus.” For every Edwards, we need an Antonin Scalia to talk the jury off the roof. For every ambulance chaser whose chosen profession has pushed malpractice insurance — hence, healthcare costs — into the stratosphere, we need a dignified jurist to remind people that “yes, the patient has a reduced quality of life following his heart surgery, but he is alive, and it’s a good thing the surgeon didn’t go to law school instead.” And for every Elizabeth Lloyd and her attorney, there must be someone with an understanding of both basic decency and the law who can stand up and remind the jury that she was sitting next to a baseball field on which 11-year-olds were playing — of all things — baseball, a sport in which baseballs are routinely used and often leave the field of play.
It would be a dereliction of duty if I didn’t note the political bent of the sort of people who sue Little League baseball players when their clients are hit by flying baseballs. They’re the same attorneys who filed the lawsuits against McDonald’s for hot coffee and the same who filed suit against McDonald’s on behalf of parents with fat kids. They’re Edwards, Cochran (were he still alive) and Shapiro. They’re also Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama. They bend, twist and deform the law to assuage their greed for money and/or power. And they crush the dreams of Little League players, force doctors into the poorhouse, deny justice to murder victims and diminish the quality of the lives of virtually everyone with whom they cross professional paths.
Even if Matthew successfully fends off the Lloyds’ abominably frivolous lawsuit, they and the lawyer who took their case have stolen a big chunk of Matthew’s childhood. We all lost a little bit when Matthew was served with the papers for this suit. We all lose a little bit every time some lawyer plays the lawsuit lottery like this. All of us, that is, except the lawyers.
Maybe Shakespeare was right all along.