All Dr. Arturo Carvajal wanted was a nice dinner out in Miami Beach. He ordered a strange, exotic dish off of the menu. Instead of a culinary treat, what did the restaurant serve up? His very doom. It served Dr. Carvajal "disability, disfigurement, mental anguish," and "loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life".
Good God. What kind of hellish blue-plate special does this restaurant offer? Ground glass? Steel-toed kicks in the midsection? Poison?
Uh, no. Artichoke.
In May 2009, Carvajal dined at Houston's in North Miami Beach. He order the grilled artichokes special. It was a vegetable he had "never seen nor heard of previously", Carvajal has claimed in court filings.
The server "fail[ed] to explain the proper method of consuming an artichoke", namely that the "outside portion of the leaf should not be eaten; rather, only the inside portion of the leaf was safely digestible."
Yes, Dr. Carvajal ate the entire artichoke. Because the waiter didn't specifically tell him not to. The waiver also didn't tell Dr. Carvajal not to eat the candles, but he seems to have dodged the bullet on that one.
Carvajal suffered "severe abdominal pain and discomfort". He went to the hospital, where an "exploratory laparotomy" revealed artichoke leaves lodged within his bowel, he claims.
And now, because this is America, and Dr. Carvajal has assimilated with a vengeance, he is suing the restaurant. Because they didn't tell him what parts of an artichoke are edible. For his "loss of enjoyment of life." Query as to how much someone who eats the entire artichoke was enjoying life to begin with, but that's neither here nor there.
Surely, you say, Dr. Carvajal must be proceeding pro se. No attorney could possibly advance such an offensively ludicrous suit.
"It takes a sophisticated diner to be familiar with the artichoke," says Carvajal's lawyer, Marc R. Ginsberg. "People might think that as a doctor, he'd know how to eat one. But he was thinking it was like a food he might have eaten in his native Cuba, where you eat everything on the plate."
Thank you, Mr. Ginsberg, for demonstrating that no matter how revoltingly frivolous a claim is, there is a lawyer who will utter it.
We recoil. But really, there's hardly any incentive for Mr. Ginsberg and Dr. Carvajal not to shake down the restaurant. Yes, their claim is ludicrous. Yes, the law provides that people are assumed to know the qualities of common foodstuffs. Yes, Dr. Carvajal's claim, carried to its logical conclusion, means that he could have attempted to eat the bone from his T-bone steak and sued the restaurant when his effort went badly. But absent some form of loser-pays system, Mr. Ginsberg can litigate this case on the cheap, Dr. Cabajal can maintain his wantonly ridiculous claim without significant cost to him, and the restaurant can be forced to expend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in defense, with no real hope of recompense. Most defendants pay the Dr. Carbajals of the world nuisance money to go away. Hence the Mr. Ginsbergs of the world thrive, and the Dr. Carbajals remain, a turd in the gene pool. Yet tort reform, or a loser-pays system, are derided as marginal and extreme ideas. Perhaps the public would be more amenable to a system in which, if they lost a patently frivolous claim, the Mr. Ginsbergs and Dr. Carvajals of the world were reclassified as enemy combatants and had a premium-grade car battery attached to their testicles.
Meanwhile, presumably Dr. Carbajal — a man who didn't know not to eat the entire artichoke, continued to eat the entire artichoke even after taking the first few bites of the inedible portions, and now is suing for not being told not to do that — is treating patients someplace. You can rest assured he bitches about his malpractice insurance rates and about lawsuits.
Don't eat the brown spiky part of the pineapple, doc. And that hard, shiny-on-the-inside, rough-on-the-outside part of the oyster? That's not food.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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