Friday, April 21, 2006

Cause of Action

Dear Indigna,

It seems a bunch of lawyers are filing a $5 billion class action lawsuit against DuPont, alleging that a chemical used in the production of teflon, when heated to 600 degrees and then consumed, is known to case cancer in rats. Although the finished product that is marketed to consumers does not contain the chemical in question, and no one has suffered harm from teflon-coated cookware, the plaintiffs are basing their claim on the company’s failure to tell consumers about the rats. Do they have a cause of action? If I join the lawsuit, how much money can I hope to score?

Professional Plaintiff
Money, MS

Dear Pro,

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. Everyone on Earth has a cause of action, if they can find a lawyer willing to file the case. That said, I think there is very little money to be had here because it is a class action. That means the lawyers take home $2.5 billion and you get a certificate for $1.00 off your next purchase of teflon products.

I highly recommend that you refuse to join the class and instead file an individual claim. Sure, no one’s been hurt, the harmful chemical is not present in the product, and few people would be willing to consume teflon at three times the temperature of boiling water. Maybe you don’t even own any teflon cookware. Who cares? The point is, rats were injured! And DuPont didn’t even have the decency to tell us about them. Plus, the publicity about this chemical has caused your teenager to melt your cookware trying to get high; someone’s gotta replace it and it sure ain’t gonna be us because DuPont concealed the true medical condition of their rats!

I must modestly confess that I am something of an expert at discovering causes of action based on ludicrous claims, as my husband is a lawyer specializing in what is technically known as “Nuisance Law.” Did you know that if you trespass on a heavily guarded government plutonium processing facility, bang your head really hard against a sensitive nuclear reactor, get scared by the shadow cast by the military policemen and find yourself suffering “emotional distress” over your potential radiation exposure, you will probably end up driving a Bentley?

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