‘Lived-in’ look leads to landlord nightmare


[Screencap taken from CBSDFW.com video]

Upon moving to a new home, I’ve heard many people loudly proclaim that they aren’t selling their old one because they’ll just rent it out and make money off of it. Many times, they wind up with a crash course in landlord-tenant law when their tenant turns out to be something less than ideal.

A woman in Texas was sitting on a McMansion she was trying to sell after moving back to Boston. She didn’t want to keep the house, but had a hard time selling it.

Her realtor had a great idea: give the home a more “lived-in” feel by hiring a company to temporarily place a family. And by family, I’m sure the landowner was thinking Mom, Dad, Connor, Tucker and Chloe, a tricycle on the front walk and may even a sandbox in the back.

Instead, she got the Evil Clampetts. [CBSDFW.com

The tenants were supposed to be two brothers. But then they invited the whole family to move in. Then they brought in a  pitbull, despite the lease forbidding pets. Then they parked a pickup on the grass that leaked oil on the lawn. Finally, they started planting crucifixes everywhere, including one that was 10 feet tall.

In other words, this house wasn’t selling.

She had wanted lived in, and she got it. She complained that the crosses violated homeowner association laws. They claimed they were being discriminated against on religious grounds and threatened to go to the Department of Justice.

So just evict them, right? They violated the terms of the deal by having the dog and other family members move in.

She and the company filed for eviction of the family. The brothers left … but Dear Old Dad — the trunk on that family tree — isn’t going anywhere.

It doesn’t matter, [Nathan] Burgess told CBS 11, that he wasn’t expected to be in the home in the first place. He was “invited” by his sons, he said, before the eviction order came down.

“Sometimes, I’ve learned, you can’t run from things. You just have to hit em head on,” Burgess said.

He said he would have likely moved out with the rest of his family if Aji and Castle Keepers had been nice about it.

“They call and said, ‘Oh, you have a dog on the property.’ Ever since then, the level of abuse has gotten worse and worse,” Burgess said.

Burgess is vowing to exhaust all appeals before he leaves, like he’s on death row or something.

When the listing agent brought in a prospective buyer, they were met with a sign instructing them that the house is occupied and that nothing is to be touched.

The house was eventually removed from the market while the eviction mess is sorted out. She claims that neither she, nor her agent, can go into the house until it’s sorted out.

Urinal-ot of trouble: Man steamed, sues Arby’s

BONUS Lawsuit of the Month! And the month just started!

Fast food restaurants get sued for all types of things, from slip-and-falls to human body parts in the sandwich to hot coffee burning someone’s genitals. (Sorry to bring that up, but it’s relevant.)

Apparently hot coffee isn’t the only way a fast food restaurant can allegedly burn one’s genitals.

A Colorado man has sued Arby’s, claiming the restaurant is responsible for his steamed genitals after a strange bathroom incident. [Courthouse News]

[Kenneth] DeJoie claims that on May 28, 2010, he “was utilizing the urinal in the men’s restroom when it caused a jet of steam to shoot forth from the urinal and burn Mr. DeJoie’s genitals.”

When he and his wife reported it, an Arby’s employee “responded that ‘we have that bathroom problem again,’ and ‘this happens when the sink in the kitchen is running,'” the DeJoies say in the complaint.

They are suing under negligence and premises liability theories. Too bad it’s in Colorado. It would be very interesting to see how a Michigan court would deal with the premises liability issues for this one.

The ol’ not guilty/sleepwalking defense

Lawsuit of the Month for June. And it’s a criminal case.

I once sat in a Wayne County courtroom and watched a defense attorney attempt a most nuanced defense for a drug trafficking case: My client is a drug dealer, she said, but he’s such a good drug dealer that he could never be caught; therefore, he was not dealing drugs when police say he was.

Even Avon Barksdale knew that wasn’t going to fly. [Language NSFW]. And it didn’t. The jury convicted the guy after about a half hour.

Even that defense didn’t have this degree of difficulty.

A 27-year old Connecticut man was arrested and accused of attempting a purse snatching outside of the Mohegan Sun Casino in Bridgeport. His defense: I was sleepwalking. [Norwich Bulletin via ABA Journal].

[His attorney, Nicholas] D’Amato plans to argue that Riley wasn’t feeling well and had napped in his car on the morning of the incident. Riley was actually woken up by the woman in the elevator, running away in confusion and fright, he said.

D’Amato said while he has anecdotal evidence, he is in the early stages of gathering medical records in his attempt to gather proof and convince prosecutors they should take the claim seriously.

In his defense, the defendant, Winston Riley, has no record, and the police report seems to suggest that we’re not really dealing with some career thug.

Police say that after his arrest in Madison, Riley confessed to the crime, but “he did not know why he did it.”

“He had a momentary lapse of judgment,” according to the police report. “He just wanted some money. When she fought back, he became scared and ran away.”
D’Amato said the facts don’t add up.

“I told the judge and prosecutor, ‘Here’s a guy who’s (27), no criminal record, married,’ ” D’Amato said. “ ‘Do you honestly think he woke up one morning, drove across the state and decided to rob a woman’ ” in a place full of security cameras? “It doesn’t make sense if you think about it rationally.”

D’Amato admits the defense will be difficult to pull off. I suggest they start with producing his mugshot:

[Photo from Connecticut Dept. of Corrections]

On second thought, this may work after all.

Man sues team over three extra text messages

Just under the wire for May…

If you’re a fan of just about anything, you can sign up for text message updates (also known as mobile alerts) from that thing. Sports teams often use them to send ticket deals and score updates to fans. Of course, these things are “opt-in,” so if you don’t want them, don’t sign up for them.

Fred Weiss signed up for mobile alerts from his beloved Pittsburgh Penguins. When he signed up, the team’s documentation said he’d received “no more than three texts per week.” In the first week, he received five text messages. The second week, four. That’s right, he received three extra text messages over a two week period. This was unacceptable. If there’s one man in the world that you don’t send three extra text messages to, it’s Fred Weiss. Fred Weiss isn’t going to stand around and let some automated service send messages that, assuming he doesn’t have an unlimited texting plan, cost him an extra 30 cents.

Weiss filed a class action lawsuit in California alleging the team violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and breached its contract:

By exceeding the authorized limits on weekly text message calls made to Plaintiff… Defendant has caused Plaintiff and the other members of the Class actual harm, not only because they were subjected to the aggravation that necessarily accompanies the invasion of privacy caused by unsolicited text message calls, but also because consumers frequently have to pay their cell phone service providers for the receipt of such wireless calls.

[The Consumerist, Pens Blog, Larry Brown Sports and Courthouse News]

I did mention this was an “opt in” thing, right? Weiss could simply opt out by texting STOP PENS to 32623. How do I know this?


I went to the website. This took 20 seconds.

Instead, he filed a lawsuit. Not just any lawsuit, but the Lawsuit of the Month.

LOLsuit: The Poke

[Note: This isn’t really a lawsuit, but criminal charges are involved so it qualifies.]

Poor Dale Fout. The 220 pound, 54-year old Fort Worth, Texas area resident was just trying to catch a flick at the Cinemark Tinseltown when … I’ll let him tell it [Fort Worth Star-Ledger]:

“I got a text, and I responded to it because it was something important. It was something that was on a deadline situation, OK. I held it against my chest purposely where I could barely see it. … I could text but hide the majority of the light coming from the phone.

Enter Brenda Godwin, a 54 year-old, 135-pound skin care specialist who was sitting behind him. She said:

“He had his phone out. The light was shining at me. I’m thinking, ‘He’s going to turn it off.'” But he didn’t. ‘OK, this is ridiculous.’

She did the unthinkable:

So I reached over and tapped him on the shoulder. It was very bright. I was only trying to get his attention. He whipped around and said, ‘Don’t ever touch me.’ I was a little taken aback. ‘I wouldn’t have touched you if you didn’t have your phone out.’

“He jumps up and whirls around towards me and says, ‘I am charging you with assault,’ and he flew out of the theater.”

A proportional response, indeed. But let’s see what Fout has to say about it.

“She said something. I couldn’t make it out. That’s why I turned. She was probably saying something like, ‘Get off your phone.’ I turned, and she pushed. She just happened to push my neck at the time my neck was in an awkward position. Kinda like having a little fender bender, and you get a little whiplash in your neck, you know.”

That’s one powerful poke you’ve got there, Arthur Fonzerelli.

Fout denies he made a big deal about it, but the police and EMS were called, a complaint was filed and Fout insisted to the police that Godwin be prosecuted. The police charged her with assault.

“Fout advised he had been assaulted and his neck was in pain,” officer Emily Hays wrote. Fout was treated for neck pain by Grapevine paramedics. “Fout said a female who was sitting behind him in Theater 8 grabbed him by the shoulder because he was texting during the movie,” Hays wrote. “Fout said he got up, walked out of the theater and asked management to call police.”

I’m all for two sides of a story, but Fout’s sounds pretty ridiculous. A police official said the ticket was given because they didn’t see it and it’s the court’s job to figure out what happened.1

Is there a case?

Jeff Bellin, SMU assistant professor of law, says that a tap is not an assault but that a shove may be.

“It would be a jury question, but I think most people would agree that tapping someone on the shoulder, even if you don’t know them, is normal. We expect that kind of interaction in our everyday lives.”

Most rational people anyway.2 Just not Dale Fout. Given time to take a breath and think about it, he’s not backing down at all. Jeff Prince from Fort Worth Weekly gave him a second chance to tell his story. And of course, he blamed the first reporter for letting him tell his story using his own words.3 Then, he went full-on internet tough guy.

The real wimps, Fout said, are the people who believe everything they read and make anonymous statements online without knowing the real story. If anybody wants to come say some of that stuff to his face and threaten him, they’re welcome, “but when you’re sipping through a straw for a month because you’re jaw is broke, don’t blame me,” he said. “I take care of business.”

He doubts anybody will confront him face to face.

“If I was in front of them they’d probably pee and crap their drawers,” he said. “It goes to show you what a bunch of idiots there are in the world. They’re idiots because they don’t know the whole story. I’ll tell every one of them to their face they’re an idiot. The woman put her hand on me and pushed me.”

So let me get this straight: the guy whose neck was seriously injured by a woman half his size poking/pushing him from the seated position is going to leave us sipping through our collective straws for a month.

Anyway, Fout said he didn’t ask for the police; the theater did that on its own (I guess, who else would have done it). All he wanted was an apology.

Fout complained to a manager in the lobby. While doing so, a woman approached him to say she was a physical therapist. She looked at his neck and noticed a knot.

Someone page a neurosurgeon.

“Before I knew it here comes Emergency Medical Services and police,” Fout said. “The theater management said by law they had to do that.”

Lieber’s story quotes police as saying that Fout desired to prosecute Godwin, which led to the ticket and a $260 fine. Godwin, of Richmond, Virginia, told Lieber that she paid the fine because it would be too expensive to travel back to Texas to fight it in court.

But Fout said he never asked police to press charges.

“The police came up and they’d already escorted her out and wrote her a ticket,” he said. “What am I supposed to do, ask the police not to do it? Are they going to listen to me? No. They’re going to do what they want to do.”

I asked Fout why police would cite the woman if he weren’t pushing for it.

“C’mon, Jeff, you’re not stupid,” he said. “It’s $260 in revenue. They seized an opportunity.”

FYI, Godwin, who lives in Virginia, paid the fine rather than fly back to fight the charge. Prince, who wrote that he came away from the interview with the observation that Fout is a blowhard, took this as a sign that she’s not worthy of sympathy, because he once fought a jaywalking ticket for eight years until it was dismissed.

But that only makes him the second biggest stooge in this one. 

1 Strange state, Texas is, where the police don’t really bother with the investigation. They just issue misdemeanor tickets and let the courts do all the “investigation.”

2 Public response has been what you’d expect, forcing the Fort Worth Star-Ledger to disable comments on the article.

3 Proof:

Obviously the guy slanted the story because in all likelihood he’s a liberal,” Fout said.