Imagine that you lived in a world where a crazy neighbor could steal thousands of dollars from you. Imagine that you might, if you were lucky, limit the amount of money your crazy neighbor could steal — maybe limit it to thousands or tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands — but ultimately you couldn't stop it all, because the law viewed it as your crazy neighbor's right to steal from you, and your duty as a citizen to live with it.
Guess what, my friend — you do live in that world right now.
We've joked before about the lunatics who think that wi-fi signals impair their health and interfere with their Druidic rituals, despite an utter lack of scientific evidence to support their claims. When people are just pestering their local city council or school board, who probably deserve it, their lunacy is funny.
But when their lunacy takes the form of lawsuits, which costs their victims money and peace of mind in their home, it's not so funny.
We've already blogged about Arthur Fristenberg, who has previously found wi-fi junk science to be an excellent route to lots of attention. Now he's sued a young neighbor, and sought a preliminary injunction against her, for the tort of scrambling his brain with her awful wi-fi signals.
But last October, when a friend of his rented a house on the next block that backed up to Firstenberg's property, the familiar waves of nausea, vertigo, body aches, dizziness, heart arrhythmia and insomnia returned — all, he says, because she was using an iPhone, a laptop computer, a wireless router and dimmer switches.
Firstenberg, 59, wanted Raphaela Monribot to limit her use of the devices. "I asked her to work with me," he said. "Basically, she refused."
So he sued Monribot in state district court, seeking $530,000 in damages and an injunction to force her to turn off the electronics.
There's no science to support it. But you can hire a "doctor" to say anything:
Dr. Erica Elliott, who treated Firstenberg and testified at a hearing on a preliminary injunction, said she signed the wireless petition because she's convinced electromagnetic hypersensitivity is a real disorder that may affect the nervous system.
Mainstream scientists object to the notion that microwaves and radio waves emitted by consumer electronics could cause the reported health problems.
Oh, you "mainstream scientists" and your peer review and facts and scientific method. What do you know about how people feel about science? Thank goodness for people like Dr. Erica Elliott:
Dr. Elliott has been referred to affectionately as the "Health Detective," drawing from a wide range of disciplines, both mainstream and alternative, in order to diagnose and treat chronic illness.
No word on whether Dr. Elliot will offer expert testimony on your behalf if the CIA is beaming bad thoughts into your head, but I'm sure it won't hurt to ask.
Hopefully the judge here will do the right thing and, under New Mexico's equivalent of Daubert, throw the case out.
But even if the judge does so promptly, Raphaela Monribot will be out the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars it took to defend herself. She'll have suffered the stress of having a crazy neighbor use the court system to inflict his delusions upon her. She'll suffer that because she has the misfortune of living near a nutcase, and living in the same community as snake-oil salesman Dr. Elliott, who is willing to testify under oath conflating belief with science. She'll suffer it because our system offers very little disincentive to people like Fristenberg and Elliott to do it. Yes, Monribot could sue for malicious prosecution. That would be uncertain, expensive, and time-consuming.
In a more just system, when the judge dismisses this junk-science case, he or she would have the power to order Fristenberg, his lawyer, and his "expert" Dr. Elliott to pay Monribot's full attorney fees. And if they don't pay immediately? Well, Fristenberg has a house — and that's what court-ordered public auctions are for.
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