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Tort Reform? We Don't Need No Stinking Tort Reform

Sigh...

Colorado Teens Fined for Giving Cookies to Neighbor

DURANGO, Colo. (Reuters) - A Colorado judge ordered two teen-age girls to pay about $900 for the distress a neighbor said they caused by giving her home-made cookies adorned with paper hearts.

The pair were ordered to pay $871.70 plus $39 in court costs after neighbor Wanita Renea Young, 49, filed a lawsuit complaining that the unsolicited cookies, left at her house after the girls knocked on her door, had triggered an anxiety attack that sent her to the hospital the next day.

Taylor Ostergaard, then 17, and Lindsey Jo Zellitte, 18, paid the judgment on Thursday after a small claims court ruling by La Plata County Court Judge Doug Walker, a court clerk said on Friday.

The girls baked cookies as a surprise for several of their rural Colorado neighbors on July 31 and dropped off small batches on their porches, accompanied by red or pink paper hearts and the message: "Have a great night."

The Denver Post newspaper reported on Friday that the girls had decided to stay home and bake the cookies rather than go to a dance where there might be cursing and drinking.

OK, so I don't know of any suggested Tort Reform actually being debated today that would have prevented this, but still shows that while it is one of the greatest systems in the world, much of it is broken.


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Comments (40)

So surprising that the judg... (Below threshold)
mesablue:

So surprising that the judge remains nameless.

Tort reform should be changed to "court reform".

I'm going to put a sign on my front door, "ring my doorbell at the risk of being sued".

My lawyer would be pretty busy, already had a window salesman, Jehovah's Witnesses and a kid selling candy at my door today. Where's my Xanax!

Wonder if Renea is another poor victim of PEST as well.

Another story with more det... (Below threshold)

Another story with more details:

http://denverpost.com/Stories/0%2C1413%2C36%257E23827%257E2691638%2C00.html

"Taylor's mother, Jill Ostergaard, said her daughter "cried and cried" after Judge Doug Walker handed down his decision in La Plata County Small Claims Court."

"Just as dusk arrived a little after 9 p.m., Taylor and Lindsey began their mad spree. They didn't stop at houses that were dark. But where lights shone, the girls figured people were awake and in need of cookies. A kitchen light was on at Young's home."

"Young, home with her own 18-year-old daughter and her elderly mother, said she saw shadowy figures who banged and banged at her door. When she called out, "Who's there?" no one answered. The figures ran off.

She thought perhaps they were burglars or some neighbors she had tangled with in the past, she said."

" The families had offered to pay Young's medical bills if she would agree to indemnify the families against future claims.

Young wouldn't sign the agreement. She said the families' apologies rang false and weren't delivered in person. The matter went to court.

Young said she believes that the girls should not have been running from door to door late at night.

"Something bad could have happened to them," she said."

Ha, yeah right. Young showed so much care and compasion for those girls, I'm sure she was just worried about their safety. Seriously, what is wrong with people? This lady sounds like my crazy mother-in-law who has run off to the ER 3 times already this year. Of course my MIL hasn't SUED anyone for it.

At the risk of being consid... (Below threshold)
SATerp:

At the risk of being considered rude, I really think the 'plaintiff' needs a burning bag of dog poop on her front porch, not cookies.

This woman has assured that... (Below threshold)
2Hotel9:

This woman has assured that her house will be TPed at halloween. She was worried it was a neighbor she had "tangled" with before? Sounds like she is the problem, not helpful kids with good intentions. The lesson these girls learned was to never, ever be a good neighbor.

More facts: <a href="http:/... (Below threshold)
julie:

More facts: link

I would like to know what you mean by Tort Reform, though. Are you suggesting that there be a $200,000 cap on damages in this case?

Argument by antidote, not e... (Below threshold)

Argument by antidote, not exactly a rigorous means of diving the truth of the issue but as a propaganda tool it’s a classic. Michael Moore does the same thing.

This isn't exactly an argum... (Below threshold)
mcg:

This isn't exactly an argument for tort reform. It's an argument for taking certain judges out to the woodshed and spanking them like Appalachian stepchildren.

My apologies to Appalachian stepchildren.

I read about this over at R... (Below threshold)

I read about this over at Right Wingnuthouse. I've already added my two cents on the issue at my blog, but reading about it again has me ticked off even more. Ms Young needs to be bitchslapped - and I don't say that often.

Hey Rick, I don't disagree.... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Hey Rick, I don't disagree... But I might have to come bitchslap you for the Michael Moore crack lol

This is not exactly a textbook example of why we need tort reform... I said that....

But can you tell me this is the way the system should work?

If you can, you've been a plaintiff attorney too long.

The judge is Doug Walker...... (Below threshold)

The judge is Doug Walker...

And a search on opensecrets.org shows he has donated to Democratic candidates in the past... *shocker* Would Mr. Walker be a Democrat?

What?Wait, they're... (Below threshold)

What?

Wait, they're being sued for what?

I can't take any more news, I'm going to read a book.

Yet another example of a go... (Below threshold)
ExRat:

Yet another example of a good deed that did not go unpunished.

A few minutes ago on FNC's "Heartland" show, a student at UCLA (a graduate student, I think) stated that "Common sense is relative," in a segment about a graduate performance art student who, for his final project, took out what appeared to be a revolver, inserted a cartridge in the cylinder and spun it, then put the "gun" to his head and pulled the trigger. Click. Then the "artist" retired to the rear of the room and shortly thereafter a loud report, like a gunshot, was heard. Lots of discussion about whether the gun was real, etc., etc.

Maybe common sense isn't so common -- neither the judge nor the art student nor his professor seems to have any.

Hmmmm.....I could use some ... (Below threshold)
Rich:

Hmmmm.....I could use some cash.....UPS...then FEDEX...

Rich

For those interested, I spo... (Below threshold)
Odi:

For those interested, I spotted this on the 99.7 WTN Denver Talk Radio Website.

If you want to send a donation (check or money order) to the girls to help pay off the judgement, or a letter of support, you can send it to Taylor Ostergaard, 415 County Road 307, Durango, Colorado 81303. Notes to Lindsey Jo Zeletti can be sent to the same address. Click on ARCHIVES above to hear our interview with Taylor this morning.

Got links, Odi?... (Below threshold)

Got links, Odi?

I believe they have already... (Below threshold)
julie:

I believe they have already been compensated via donations.

The two girls lacked common sense, too. Who would want to eat cookies left at your door late at night anonymously (they only left their initials on the card)? I'll give them a pass b/c of their age on that one.

But, if someone knocked loud on my door, late at night in the middle of nowhere -- and more importantly, didn't answer when I called out several times for them to identify themselves, I would grab my shotgun (if I owned one, of course) and blast them! Take that, cookie bitches! :-)

It is also important to not... (Below threshold)
Amy:

It is also important to note that when the girls and their parents first heard of Young's "medical" crisis, they offered to pay her medical expenses. She declined and sued them instead....

What a jerk.

"At the risk of being consi... (Below threshold)

"At the risk of being considered rude, I really think the 'plaintiff' needs a burning bag of dog poop on her front porch, not cookies."

Yeah, and it can come from between the plantiff's own ears.

Sure, Here's the l... (Below threshold)
Odi:

Sure,

Here's the link to the Gill Report at WTN in Denver.

http://www.997wtn.com/p_stevegill.cfm

I think the "victim" was lo... (Below threshold)
Just Me:

I think the "victim" was looking for a big payout, and I think she is way to easily upset.

I second the "burning bag of dogpoop" on the porch instead of the cookies.

Good thing they're probably... (Below threshold)
Bdankers:

Good thing they're probably not old enough to remember this "Deep Thoughts" segment from SNL:

"Sometimes when I feel like killing someone, I do a little trick to calm myself down. I'll go over to the persons house and ring the doorbell. When the person comes to the door, I'm gone, but you know what I've left on the porch? A jack-o-lantern with a knife stuck in the side of it's head with a note that says "You." After that I usually feel a lot better, and no harm done."

Actually, Paul, this is exa... (Below threshold)
Matt:

Actually, Paul, this is exactly how the system should work. People have a disagreement, and rather than fight it out in the streets, they take it to small claims court. Doesn't appear they even hired lawyers.

You may not like the result, but that's not a problem with the system, that's a problem with the particular judge. If you don't like that judge, campaign against him.

And you may think it's an issue of personal responsibility. Putting aside the fact that the woman said she just wanted the girls to apologize face to face but they wouldn't, it's still not a problem with the legal system. It's a societal issue.

But yes, this is how the system should work if you think about it.

Matt is right. I'm gonna s... (Below threshold)
McCain:

Matt is right. I'm gonna sue my mommy for all those damn cowboy oatmeal cookies she baked when I really wanted peanut butter.

If we reform the tort syste... (Below threshold)
Rod Stanton:

If we reform the tort system John Edwards will not be able to avoid paying hundreds of $millions in taxes because he will not be making $billions from suing the producers of goods and services in America. How would he finance his 527's?

Matt wrote: "Putting aside ... (Below threshold)
John Rohan:

Matt wrote: "Putting aside the fact that the woman said she just wanted the girls to apologize face to face but they wouldn't..."

Why would any sensible person apologize to the woman face to face? The last time someone knocked on her door they got sued!
The girls father didn't want them to be liable again when the hysterical woman had another "anxiety attack"

Actually the problem with t... (Below threshold)
Allan Yackey:

Actually the problem with this case might be a lack of lawyers.

What I am missing here is a legal theory of the case and a right to a recovery.

The facts (as presented) do not seem to constitute a real case. Remember that in many "small claims" courts even the judge is not a lawyer.

I do not have the time to spend chasing the links here. But if someone sees a legitimate case under any state's laws, I would be interested to know what it is.

Also remember that the system includes rights to appeal that exist to fix mistakes made at lower levels of the system. Most of the folklore cases of legal abuse that really exist turn out to have been reversed, reduced or substantially altered upon appeal.

Disclosure: I am a lawyer. I believe in the system generally. I think it works better than systems I have studied elsewhere, including its English ancestor.
I support tort reform that deals with caps on noneconomic damages.

I'm also a lawyer. I deal ... (Below threshold)
Alex:

I'm also a lawyer. I deal with business disputes, not personal injury stuff, so this isn't my main area of expertise, but I did get the highest grade in my first-year Torts class in law school.

Like Allan, I don't see a right of recovery here, and based on the information given in the story, this case should have been tossed out on a demurrer (a motion saying that "even if everything the plaintiff says happened is true, the law does not recognize this as a tort for which the girls should be liable).

Something is fishy here. Either the news story is leaving some vital details out (I wouldn't be surprised at that), or else the girls would have an excellent chance of getting it overturned in a new trial, or appeal, or whatever the procedure is in Colorado to appeal a small claims verdict. (Of course, that could cost them almost as much as the $900 damages, but there'd probably be lawyers willing to take a case like that on pro bono, especially given the publicity they could get from it.)

THe problem here seems to b... (Below threshold)
Jezebel:

THe problem here seems to be the judge - both parties seem to bear some responsibility for it getting to this stage, but regardless, it is a minor event - it should not have reached court, but once it did the judge should simply have given each party a lecture...

I read in the story that th... (Below threshold)

I read in the story that the girls actually wanted to go apologize, but their lawyer advised against it. I think the lawyer was right. First of all, that's admitting guilt, so the bitch Young could extort more money from the girls, second, you don't know what else could "happen", probably another "anxiety attack" from seeing the girls, doubling the damages?

Those Dumbocrats are to bla... (Below threshold)
minnie:

Those Dumbocrats are to blame for whipping our nation into a fear-filled frenzy about "terrorists" so that even a Granny like this is terrified to open her door for kids with cookies.

Minnie getting on anyone's ... (Below threshold)

Minnie getting on anyone's nerves...anyone? anyone?

(Honestly, Rob Hackney is just as bad, even if he might be legit)

Minnie who?... (Below threshold)

Minnie who?

Bark bark bark bark bark ba... (Below threshold)
minnie the moonbat:

Bark bark bark bark bark bark bark.

For everyone's info, the Gi... (Below threshold)
Big Leroy:

For everyone's info, the Gill Report is actually at WWTN radio in Nashville, TN rather than WTN in Denver. The link is good as posted by Odi:
http://www.997wtn.com/p_stevegill.cfm

Copy of the email I sent to... (Below threshold)
Tort Lawyer:

Copy of the email I sent to these young ladies. The reply, written by Mr. Ostergaard, was quite kind, though he advised Ms. Young is now threatening action for libel and slander...

Dear Ladies,

I will be sending each of you a check for $50 for your college funds, to the p.o. box you have established for that purpose.

On behalf of Ms. Young, who does not have the presence of mind to do what is right, thank you for your kind gesture in delivering the homemade cookies.

Attached below is a copy of the email I sent to the newspaper reporter.

Best wishes!

* * * * *

Dear Ms. Draper,

I am horrified by the article published in the Denver Post about the fragile and mean spirited Ms. Wanita Renea Young, the inept La Plata County small claims court Judge Doug Walker, and the naively benevolent Misses Taylor Ostergaard and Lindsey Jo Zellitte.

What poor public policy (and error in legal analysis) for Judge Walker to find against these young ladies and to reward Ms. Young. Apparently, no good deed goes unpunished in Durango.

I agree that it is most unfortunate that the sociopathic Ms. Young suffered harm, but as an attorney, I have a difficult time understanding how Ms. Young’s affliction was more readily foreseeable than the injury suffered by a certain Ms. Palsgraff, of legal textbook fame, who stood at the far end of a railway platform and suffered injury as a consequence of a porter’s aiding a passenger aboard a train on the opposite end of station. Ms. Palsgraf did not prevail in her action for damages, as her injury was deemed an unforeseeable consequence of the porter’s actions. I expect that Ms. Young should have met a similar result, but she did not. How unfortunate that this oversimplified analogy will do little to assuage these young ladies’ wounded sense of justice and goodwill.

Although it is well short of the sum they were ordered to pay, I would appreciate your providing me with a mailing address to which I may forward a check for $100 to Misses Ostergaard and Zellitte, as a way of encouraging their random acts of kindness and righting this miscarriage of justice. Perhaps others of like mind may join my gesture toward these kindly young ladies.

Thank you for your assistance and kind regards,

Anonymous
San Jose, California

Send Wanita a cookie.... (Below threshold)
don schulle:

Send Wanita a cookie.
Address below from Intelus:

Wanita Young
753 Broken Wheel
Durango CO, 81303

Don't blanket blame the dem... (Below threshold)
Faye:

Don't blanket blame the democrats for this one, minnie. Anyone can be a greedy idiot. I'm just hoping Ms. Young's "attack" will become so well known that no one will ever do anything nice for her for the rest of her miserable and pathetic life.

Picture of Wanita and Conta... (Below threshold)
omega:

Picture of Wanita and Contact info.....

http://durangoherald.com/asp-bin/article_generation.asp?article_type=news&article_path=/news/05/news050205_1.htm

Herbert Young
210 W 25th St
Durango, CO 81301
(970) 247-4059

Herbert E Young
753 Broken Wheel
Durango, CO 81303
(970) 259-6130

Interesting. Have any of y... (Below threshold)

Interesting. Have any of you checked out the prescription information on Medicare? In case you need any no prescription needed medication, I recently got mine through this site http://www.noprescriptioneeded.com/ and I have already received my no prescription needed meds. Or you can find more information on no prescription needed pharmacies here. Again, awesome point.

Weird enough right? getting... (Below threshold)

Weird enough right? getting sued for sending a cookie? that was a good deed indeed. And discussing tort reform here- its of no use. Its the problem with the judge. he's to be reformed.
For all those who are ignorant of tort reform and wanna know more before u say anything- check this site-www.dickweekley.com




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