Thanksgiving Jurisprudence

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Thanksgiving Jurisprudence

November 24, 2015

Thanksgiving 1

While few lawyers are filing lawsuits the week before Thanksgiving, the holiday does give rise to some interesting cases.  I have compiled a small list of interesting legal entanglements that reference Thanksgiving in one shape or form.  Whether you will laugh or cringe, I am not quite sure, but here they are:

  • Jacobs v. Kent – That unidentifiable form in the bushes making gobbling noises may not be a turkey. Hold your fire!  A couple of guys were hunting for turkeys in New York.  “Defendant’s hunting party had established its position in the woods, and plaintiff’s hunting party entered that area of the woods while looking for an area in which to hunt.  According to defendant, he fired into the dense underbrush after hearing a gobbling sound and seeing a flash of red, and he thereupon discovered that he had shot plaintiff.”  Anyone interested in roasted Jacobs for Thanksgiving dinner?
  • Texas & N.O.R. Co. v. Nolen – If you raise turkeys to be sold around Thanksgiving, you don’t get to recover the turkeys’ Thanksgiving value when they are struck by a train in August.  If your turkeys are killed in August, they get cold-cut value.
  • Silva v. F.W. Woolworth Company – If you choose to eat a Thanksgiving dinner of turkey with dressing and vegetables, you are assuming the risk of choking on a turkey bone. “Bones which are natural to the type of meat served cannot legitimately be called a foreign substance, and a consumer who eats meat dishes ought to anticipate and be on his guard against the presence of such bones.”  Now, what if the turkey dinner had a fish bone lodged in it?  Would that require a different analysis?
  • Greenberg Smoked Turkeys, Inc. v. Goode-Cook, Inc. – The plaintiff, a seller of turkeys, posted serving instructions on its website. The defendant, a competitor, copied the instructions and posted them on its own website.  The plaintiff sued for copyright infringement.
  • Knight v. Merhige – Fair warning, this one is a little creepy. “These appeals arise from a tragic event—Michael and Carole Merhige’s 35-year-old son, Paul, shot and killed family members at a Thanksgiving gathering in Jupiter, Florida. Following the shooting, representatives of the victims’ estates sued the Merhiges, collectively alleging negligence.”  Apparently, Paul had a history of irrational violence and was not generally welcome at large family gatherings.  This history included being involuntarily committed on three occasions and a failed suicide attempt (he survived shooting himself in the chest).  Paul’s parents, knowing that he had quit taking his meds, thought a visit with family for Thanksgiving would raise his spirits.  Despite these hopes, there were some concerns:

In the moments before the Thanksgiving dinner, appellee Carole Merhige expressed concern regarding Paul’s attendance. In one instance, she told an unnamed witness that she hoped Paul “would not kill everyone” at the dinner party. Likewise, she told her daughter, Lisa, “I hope he [Paul] doesn’t come and kill us all tonight”; Lisa responded by telling her mother not to tell her father because he “would get upset that [they] had such ideas.”

The resulting massacre isn’t something that I want to describe.  Ultimately, the lawsuit was dismissed upon the finding that the Merhiges had no legal duty to control the actions of their emancipated son.  The appellate court upheld the dismissal.  You thought your family was crazy.

  • Georgia v. Bartels and Marsh – You may have heard about this one from a couple of years ago. This fine, upstanding Georgia family decided to give their seven (yes, 7) children tattoos for Thanksgiving.  Only six of the seven received tattoos; apparently the parents decided the 10-year-old would have to wait until next Thanksgiving, when he was older.  These misguided parents were charged with cruelty to children, reckless conduct and… wait for it… tattooing without a license.
  • Florida v. Smith – Junior Smith stuffed the turkey the wrong way.  His daughter-in-law was pretty upset about it.  Junior used some choice words to describe his daughter-in-law, and his son was bound to defend her honor.  It was during the ensuing fight, which poured into the children’s room, that the mother-in-law decided to rearrange the daughter-in-law’s hair and face.  The grandparents spent the rest of Thanksgiving in jail.
  • In re Jean Kasper – Family accidentally had their grandmother for dinner. Apparently the recently deceased’s ashes got into the Thanksgiving mashed potatoes.  “I don’t think that is pepper!”

As with most of my blogs, I obtained my information from a variety of sources, but I found THIS ONE particularly helpful.  I trust that this post was entertaining and that it has no adverse effects on your Thanksgiving.  If you know of any additional Thanksgiving related lawsuits, please add them in the comments below.  Maybe I will use them next year.

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