*In December 1996 Phillip Johnson, then age 32, of Johnson Bottom, Kentucky, shot himself in the left shoulder with his .22-caliber rifle "to see how it felt," he told ambulance personnel. On October 2, 1997, an ambulance crew was again called to Johnson's home, where he was bleeding from another left-shoulder wound from a .22. A source told the Inez Mountain Citizen newspaper that Johnson said the December shooting "felt so good" he had to do it again.
*The government of Italy revealed in September that it had recently asked a court in Rome to take jurisdiction of a lawsuit it plans to file against Youssef Al-Magied Al-Molqi, who was convicted of murder and of the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking. The government says that when Al-Molqi failed to return to an Italian prison from a pass last year, he embarrassed the country; it now wants to sue him for the harm done to its image and for betraying the trust of jail officials. (He is still at large.)
The Litigious Society
*Daniel Lima filed a lawsuit in New Britain, Connecticut, in May against the Minnichaug Golf Course for at least $15,000 in damages after being hit in the nose by an errant ball. Said ball was hit by Lima himself -- his fairway drive hit a yardage marker, bounced back, and struck him in the face.
*In June in Detroit, coach Robert L. Wiggins, Jr., whose teenage Pony League baseball team was eliminated in a playoff game, filed a suit in federal court claiming his team should have won. Wiggins offered to present testimony from parents and spectators that several of the umpires' calls in the third inning were wrong and that his team should have remained in the tournament.
*Kalamazoo, Michigan, heart surgeon Charles Butler, age 54, won a $3.96 million jury verdict in October in his lawsuit against Wal-Mart for injuries he sustained in a store parking lot. Butler tripped over a trailer hitch while walking to his car, hurting his spine so badly that he now suffers from trembling hands, ending his career. Wal-Mart pointed out to no avail that the trailer itself was eighteen feet long and six feet high and contained a large commercial barbecue grill, and that a person so unobservant as to not notice it must surely have a waning career as a surgeon.
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The Continuing Crisis
*Texas and cheerleaders, again: In September a federal grand jury in Tyler, Texas, indicted the wife of a high school principal for mailing a death threat. According to the indictment, the woman, Tamela Ellis, sent school trustee Ginger Motley a note warning her to stop criticizing the school administration or Motley's daughter, who is a cheerleader, would "never [live long enough to] cheer at her first football game."
*According to a Times of London report in August, trains in Johannesburg, South Africa, are being equipped with fans to blow away increasingly common cannabis smoke. Frequently cannabis smokers take over the front car of a train in order to playfully blow smoke through the keyhole into the engineer's cab. Earlier in August one driver had to stop a train for almost an hour because he was rendered dizzy by the smoke.
*According to a news report in the June issue of the magazine of the Ontario College of Nurses, one of the college's members was suspended for six months recently for "vulgar and offensive" behavior. She (perhaps accidentally) broke wind while working in the presence of a patient's wife, who took offense. The discipline committee found that the nurse then compounded the problem by asking the wife if she "wanted more" before passing gas directly into her face.
-- By Chuck Shepherd