I find that American companies are overly hypersensitive to and paranoid about law suits.
Not long ago one fine Sunday morning I went to the fridge to pour myself a tall glass of refreshing Florida pure "not from concentrate" orange juice. Unfortunately due to fridge malfunction the carton was frozen solid. I removed it, let it thaw out for a while and soon a few millilitres of juice trickled out. I proceeded to consume same. It then occurred to me, was it safe to drink orange juice which went from liquid to frozen to liquid?
As I questioned my action, I thought that I started feeling funny. Lightheaded perhaps. As well I may have sensed a tickle in my throat. Maybe even an intermittent jabbing pain in my ribs. Maybe not. Actually I was quite certain that I was feeling like Rasputin after he ate those arsenic laced cakes. In Rasputin's case however it took 5 bullets, an assault from a dagger and a dip in the Volga to finish him off. In my case I felt that the latter two weapons were going to be superfluous
Not being one to panic I read the information on the carton. I noticed a 1-800 number to call for information. I dialled same and on came a message:
...We are closed on weekends but if this is a medical emergency, please leave your name and number...
I of course left my vital information including name, phone number and provisional diagnosis, citrus fruit poisoning.
Three minutes later a lady called me back, from Florida. Her name was something like Maggie Anne. I explained what had happened and how I was feeling. She assured me that there was no danger at all in drinking unfrozen-frozen-unfrozen orange juice. With those words my symptoms seemed to subside instantly. I felt reprieved. She took my address and thanked me for calling.
I forgot about the incident and went on to enjoy life and to continue to practice law.
About three weeks later I received a letter from the juice company apologizing for the unfortunate incident and asking if there was anything they could do for me.
Being a courteous person, I took two minutes to write back, on my legal letterhead, saying thank you but that there was not much more I could say at this time.
A week later I received the following letter from Tallahassee Florida from some insurance adjustor:
'Dear Mr. Strigberger:
Re Squeezed from the Sun Orange Juice - claim #AD28374-04
We are the adjustors handling this matter. This claim is presently under investigation. Do you still have some of that frozen juice or the container? Please send it to us by Fedex. We look forward to your cooperation and to sitting down to discuss this case with you. . ."
I was really a bit busy for this but once again out of an abundance of courtesy, I answered the adjustor.
I do not have anymore of the juice nor the container. In any event I have said all I have to say about the incident to Maggie Anne. . ."
I thought that ended that. Two weeks later the following letter arrived from Miami from a Sherman, Lamarre and Grant, Attorneys at law:
"Dear Attorney Strigberger
Squeezes from the Sun has decided to remove this matter from the adjustor level and to refer it to us. We are quite concerned about the allegations you have made. Our clients in the food industry take those comments seriously. Especially the one about Rasputin. Although you have 2 years to sue, my client would like to set its reserves early and to get an idea of the magnitude of the claim it might be facing. Please send us a copy of all your doctors' clinical notes and records, including the records of the hospital where you received emergency treatment. We would like to avoid litigation and resolve this mater amicably, but if need be, we shall fight your claim to the fullest.
C. Jackson Sherman Jr."
I decided to have some fun with him. I wrote back.
"Dear Attorney Sherman:
I am really besides myself since this calamity. Thanks to the quick thinking paramedics and the entire emergency department at the Toronto Hospital, my physical wounds have more or less healed.
have however been left with deep psychological and emotional damage. My psychiatrist Dr. Felix Schindler can attest to my post traumatic stress disorder. The mere sight of the colour orange makes me cringe with fear. This past Halloween season I could not leave my home for three days after a terrifying experience I underwent just looking at a pumpkin. Some days I just think about ending it all. Can you get me a booking with your electric chair? A date with Old Sparky would be merciful. What can money do for me now? . . ."
Within a day I received a fax letter from Mr. Sherman:
We were most sorry to hear about your debilitating experience. Without prejudice to our client's position, we are prepared to fly you and your wife down for a week's all expense paid vacation at Disney World. All you have to do is submit to an insurer's defence medical examination for one day. As you may know the State of Florida Practice Rules permit the defence to conduct such examinations and refusal by the plaintiff to submit will lead to the denial by the court of any award it might otherwise make for punitive damages.
I am enclosing a copy of the case of Smedley v Happy Sun Orange Juice where in a claim most similar to yours the jury awarded $250,000 for pain and suffering. But do note that the trial judge did not allow punitive damages of $2,000,000 as the plaintiff failed to submit to a defence medical.
I look forward to hearing from you. . ."
I am presently studying my options, as I am sipping on a vodka and orange juice. I am considering making the trip. The only problem is this is Florida. These guys take their orange juice seriously. Very seriously. I suspect that if the insurer feels I am doing something nifty or illegal, it can probably invoke some penal provisions and I could find myself getting that date with Old Sparky.
This piece was just published in the June edition of Just, the magazine of the Ontario Bar Association.
Please visit my practice site, www.striglaw.com If you accidentally drank a similar potion or your spouse served you one, I can help you.