What do you call 1,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea – A good start. I’ve heard them all. Lawyers often get bad raps due to frivolous law suits that have been filed. Sadly, many of these suits have merit, but the facts get so distorted by groups attacking personal injury lawyers, that the public doesn’t have the opportunity to learn the actual facts of the case, and in turn, they don’t realize that the Plaintiff has a legitimate claim.
On the other hand, there are ridiculous suits that are filed pro se, in which the public automatically assumes that suit was filed by an attorney. The latest story making headlines, which has people calling for the disbarment of a lawyer, one that doesn’t exist, takes place in Kansas. The suit is being brought pro se, by a convicted criminal serving an 11-year sentence.
The case stems from a 2009 incident in which a man, wanted for questioning in a Colorado man’s beating death and a chase, broke into the home of couple and held them captive at knifepoint. The couple eventually gained the man’s trust by eating Cheetos and drinking Dr. Pepper with him, while watching the movie “Patch Adams.” The man eventually falls asleep at which point the couple escape, call the police, and the man is apprehended. The apprehension, however, did not go off without a hitch. The police entered the residence and ordered the criminal onto his stomach; however, a Topeka police officer’s rifle accidentally discharged and struck him in the back.
The story continues with the man’s conviction in May 2010. He was convicted of four felonies, including two counts of kidnapping. He was sentenced to 10 years and 11 months in prison, and is currently being held in the Adams County Detention Center in Colorado, on the original murder charge that brought about his initial run from police and the eventual kidnapping of the couple.
This brings us back to the lawsuits at hand. In response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the couple, seeking damages in excess of $75,000 for the trespassing, intrusion upon seclusion and negligent infliction of emotional distress, the convicted criminal has filed a counter-suit. Again, I stress that he has filed this action on his own, and in no way is he being represented by an attorney.
The convicted felon contends that during their time together, he and the couple reached a legally binding, oral contract that the couple would hide him from the police, for an unspecified amount of money. “I told them that I was being pursuid (sic) by a person, or persons, who appeared to be police officers, who were trying to kill me.” He claims that he asked them to hide him because he feared for his life. He alleges that he offered them an unspecified amount of money which they agreed upon, therefore forging a legally binding oral contract. He is asking the court for $235,000 in damages for breach of contract, $160,000 to cover hospital bills (from his shooting) and $75,000 for pain and suffering.
The couple’s attorney has, of course, filed a Motion to Dismiss his case, claiming that if they had agreed to an oral contract — which they deny — it wouldn’t have been legally binding because no specific dollar amount was given. In addition, if they had agreed to the contract, that agreement wouldn’t have been legally binding because their consent would have been given under duress. Lastly, there could be no legal contract because they were asked to hide a fugitive, which is illegal, and no contract can be derived from an illegal act.
Our nation’s judicial system generally operates on an open-door policy. Everyone has a right to his or her day in court. Unfortunately, that can result in the filing of a lot of frivolous lawsuits. Clearly, this case will be dismissed as it should be. Should it ever have been allowed to have been filed? That is a different argument. But for now, attorneys should get a break from the public on this one. This case was NOT filed by an “ambulance chasing attorney.” Choke this one up to lawyer 1, pro se criminal 0. Well, at least for today anyway.