Ever since we wrote about Thomas Mundy, the guy who makes upwards of $300k per year by filing nuisance suits alleging small business violated California disability law, I've been getting press releases from the lawyers who successfully fought in in one of his cases. Successful, at least, in an American litigation sense — as I said before, they won the battle of trial and court costs, but lost the currently unwinnable war of legal fees.
Yesterday that firm — Call, Jensen & Ferrel — sent us another press release about a victory over a similar plaintiff.
Los Angeles, – A jury deliberated just 14 minutes today before rejecting a demand for over $100,000 because a disabled man was unable to "preen" himself in a Jack in the Box restroom mirror. (Marquez v. Jack In the Box, Inc., Case No. BC384442.)
Unless the defendant described himself as preening, I would have avoided that little dig in the a press release about one of my victories. But heat of battle, hot pursuit, still angry, yada yada yada.
Plaintiff Luis Marquez, a convicted felon and paraplegic, alleged that his civil rights were violated and that he was humiliated on over 100 visits to a Los Angeles Jack In The Box in 2007 and 2008. Specifically, Mr. Marquez alleged that the restroom mirror was "outside of his reach range" and prevented him from seeing his reflection.
Jack in the Box's defense was that Marquez was actually a vampire. No, wait, it was better than that:
Marquez' claims quickly disintegrated, however, when a Jack In the Box manager testified that Mr. Marquez had never even been to the restaurant, and pointed out that the restroom mirror had been removed due to vandalism before the dates that Mr. Marquez claimed to have been humiliated.
if that is a fair summary of how the testimony played out, the judge ought to refer the case to the District Attorney's Office for a perjury investigation. That's an act of faith roughly on the level of buying a lottery ticket, but if enough judges did it, the DA might start looking at devoting resources to prosecuting perjury in civil cases.
Finally, Mr. Muarquez admitted that he had learned from his attorney, Morse Mehrban, that he could earn larger settlements in disability lawsuits if he claimed to visit the same restaurant "hundreds and hundreds of times."
Morse Mehrban, you might recall, was also serial litigant Thomas Mundy's attorney. If this recitation of facts is true, then the trial judge ought to refer the matter to the California State Bar — a move slightly less pointless than a referral to the DA's office.
After deliberating just 14 minutes, the jury rejected Mr. Marquez's claims.
That helps restore some of my faith in juries. The lightening that is a rational jury verdict might strike somewhat more often than we fear.
Jack In The Box's lawyers, Scott Ferrell and Ryan McNamara, noted that their client has asked the Court to order Marquez and his attorney, Morse Mehrban . . . . , to pay Jack In the Box's legal fees, commenting: "Make no mistake – this account will indeed be settled."
Yeah, you guys know I think you're the cat's ass, but we both know you're blustering on that one, as the law stands. Unless you file a separate malicious prosecution suit — a time-consuming, expensive, and uncertain proposition — the chances of you getting fees under existing doctrine — and the chances of fees being upheld on appeal if you do get them — are thin indeed.
What we need is some sort of loser-pays law in California. Watch for the text of a proposed law here soon.
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