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Frivolous lawsuits no laughing matter

It is becoming clear that our legal system has lost its way. Consider the recent case of Custodi v. Amherst; in this case, which was recently decided by the highest court in the state, a roller blader injured herself after she caught her skate on the lip between a driveway and the street and fell. She promptly sued the homeowners, the Town of Amherst, the Highway Department, Erie County, the Village of Williamsville and the Department of Public Works for her injuries.

The Supreme Court of New York initially rejected her claim, agreeing with the defendants that roller blading is an inherently risky activity and that roller bladers knowingly accept this risk. Sadly, the Court of Appeals overturned that decision, holding the Town of Amherst and the private homeowners liable for her injuries. Her lawyers successfully argued that the risk of her activity was not inherent because she, an experienced roller blader, had never encountered the hazard of a two-inch differential before. It defies belief.

In New York, municipalities are often sued because of their deep pockets, thanks to a New York law that can force them to pay 100 percent of a judgment even if they are only 1 percent responsible. Custodi’s lawyers probably expected an easy settlement from the town just to make the case go away. Imagine their surprise when the town stepped up to fight the case. And as ridiculous as this lawsuit is, the fact that we’re all paying for it is no laughing matter.

Thomas B. Stebbins

Executive Director

Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York