According to this NBC Nightly News report, Sally Stewart was shopping one day in Reeds Spring, a small city near Branson, MO, when she tripped on a pothole. She sued the folksy, neighborly small town, which consequently filed for bankruptcy when they didn't have enough money to pay her award. Of course those nice folks had nothing against her but were just darn near worried to death about how to pay up, is all.
I assume the town looks like Main Street in Disneyland.
If you dig a little deeper, you'll see that the injury required surgery, and that the hole she tripped on was buried in grass at a gap in the sidewalk that the city's crosswalk was directly connected to, implying that's the official place you need to be if you want to cross the street legally. She also sued the store owners, because it was a little hazy exactly who was responsible for that shitty sidewalk gap, but the court decided it fell under the city's jurisdiction.
He also legally declared them as "total dicks."
Aside from all that, under normal circumstances, the city's insurance would have covered it and everyone could have moved on happily, but then here comes the real point of the story:
The town didn't have insurance.
That's because when Sally slipped, the mayor wasn't nice guy Dan Lade, the one wringing his hands in the NBC interview. It was Joe Dan Dwyer (city rule: all mayors have to have Dan in their name somewhere), a bit of a redneck stereotype who originally made his multimillion dollar fortune from his own personal injury settlement (a logging accident, of course). He left office under investigation for insurance fraud, as well as child porn, having sex with a 15-year-old and paying off witnesses to say the girl lied. He's the one who let the city's insurance lapse, either out of neglect or as part of one his cockamamie schemes.
There's no photo of him available but I'm picturing Rod Blagojevich for some reason.
Apparently he also passed on the opportunity to work things out reasonably with Sally. Sure, the case is old, and this blog is the only source remaining online that says the mayor met her initial attempts to settle by saying "... to collect any damage with us you will probably have to sue us" and that "the chance of us paying this without a lawsuit is practically zero." But considering what else we know about Joe Dan Dwyer, it's not too far-fetched.
So while it makes a neat moral to pin the blame on the lady and "these crazy lawsuits these days," it completely clears the biggest villain here, the child-molesting, insurance-defrauding, power-abusing asshole former mayor.
No less a source than 60 Minutes announced this story to the world, where a workman set up a ladder with its base in some frozen manure, and as the heat of the day kicked in, his ladder slipped in the now less-frozen manure, and he fell and hurt himself, because he is an idiot. He then sued the ladder company because they didn't stop him from being an idiot -- they should have put a warning label about manure.
This story still gets repeated around the Internet even though the truth is that the ladder didn't slip, it broke. It broke with less than 450 pounds of weight on it, when it was supposedly rated safe up to 1000 pounds. Which is exactly the sort of thing you're supposed to sue about.
President Ronald Reagan himself told this story, in these words:
"In California, a man was using a public telephone booth to place a call. An alleged drunk driver careened down the street, lost control of his car and crashed into a phone booth. Now, it's no surprise that the injured man sued. But you might be startled to hear whom he sued: The telephone company and associated firms!"
Why, because the phone booth didn't jump him safely into another time??
First, that "injury" involved losing his right leg. Secondly, he did also sue the driver, but somehow the police managed to miss giving her a blood alcohol test at the scene, possibly (according to the defense) because her son was a police officer, whose card was right next to her driver's license in her wallet. He had enough to push for a $25,000 settlement from her and the bar that liquored her up, but with a $7,300 annual janitor's salary, and one leg missing and one leg smashed, he was still barely getting by.
Thirdly, the reason he didn't get out of the way in time, while the guy next to him did, was because the door was jammed (the other guy testified that he saw Bigbee frantically trying to open the door). While you could say it's not fair for the phone company to keep careful tabs on the safety of every booth in the city, you'd think they'd be checking this one, since it had been hit by a car 20 months ago due to being located at a dangerous intersection.
"Yeah, just put it back exactly where it was, boys."
Whether our country is falling victim to lawsuit mania or not is up for debate, but it's a debate that should be worked out with boring, but accurate, facts and statistics. The exaggerated scare stories here should be saved for the campfire, where they belong.
"All right, that hook story really got me, but wait until you hear about the poo ladder lawsuit ..."
For more Christina, check out The 8 Most Successful Politicians (Who Weren't Human) and 5 Wildly Popular Car Modifications That Must Be Stopped.