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Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Lawsuit of the Millenium, Starring Mountain Dew

It’s hard to keep up with soft drinks these days. When they’re not reinforcing incoherent and possibly archaic gender roles, they’re busy dissolving mice. Or not dissolving mice, depending on whose story you believe. But I get ahead of myself.

Now then, I love Mountain Dew as much as the next guy. Assuming, of course, that “the next guy” permanently associates Mountain Dew with collegiate all-nighters and acute gastric distress (sometimes simultaneous). When there’s no crab juice available, it will do, I suppose.

For Ronald Ball of Wood River, Illinois, however, a swig of Mountain Dew turned deadly. If by “deadly” you just mean “really gross” and not actually deadly. I just liked the way that sounded. Anyway, Ball claims that he found a dead mouse in his Mountain Dew, after much vomiting. Unlike his forebears, Doug and Bob McKenzie, Ball did not use the incident as a means of obtaining a free case of Mountain Dew.

Okay, I’m all out of pop culture references related to Mountain Dew. Moving on to the legal stuff…

Ball filed a lawsuit in Madison County District Court against Pepsico, the store where he bought the drink, and the store’s manager. Read all about Ball’s lawsuit at the Madison County Record. Not only does he allege breach of warranty and various other consumer claims, but he also accuses Pepsico of spoliation of evidence. He apparently sent the mouse carcass, along with the remaining beverage, to Pepsico in a mason jar. He claims he never got it back. Lawyers everywhere are overwhelmed by their lack of surprise at this claim.

The case has been bouncing around since mid-2009, but it seems to be moving finally towards trial. The defense argument put forth by Pepsico is what gives this case the Lawsuit of the Millenium title (what I hope will be the first of many awarded by this blog!)

The company argues it has scientific evidence that the mouse was not in the can when the case was sealed in August 2008 and that a veterinary pathologist examined the mouse, finding that it could not have been in the can that long because its body would have disintegrated due to the acid in the soda.

Pepsi argues that for the mouse to have been in the Mountain Dew that long, the body would have transformed into a “‘jelly-like’ substance.”

So if Pepsi loses this case, Mountain Dew may lose its reputation as nerd fuel and instead become known as mouse juice, or some other less-stupid nickname.

If Pepsi wins the case, it is marketing a product that can turn organic material to jelly.

Yes, I realize that we’re talking about far longer periods of time than Mountain Dew would actually remain in the human digestive system in the form in which it goes to market, so there is little to no analogy between dissolving a mouse and causing me to have stomach aches. It’s still hardly good PR to be able to say that Mountain Dew is the official drink of land luging and mouse dissolving.


Why Amy Winehouse should matter to lawyers

photo by NRK P3 on Flickr

photo by NRK P3 on Flickr

I will admit to not being much of an Amy Winehouse fan. Her music, and her unique style, just never appealed to me much. I cannot deny that she was a phenomenal talent, though, and that her death last Saturday is a loss for the world. As of this moment, there is still no definitive cause of death, but her ongoing struggles with drugs and alcohol are global common knowledge. Her life, and death, is still a reminder–as if we needed another reminder–about how messed up our perceptions of drugs and alcohol (and fame) can be.

Responses have varied, from the fawning to the annoyed to the downright ludicrous. I personally loved Russell Brand’s comments, spoken as only an Englishman could say it:

Entering the space I saw Amy on stage with Weller and his band; and then the awe. The awe that envelops when witnessing a genius. From her oddly dainty presence that voice, a voice that seemed not to come from her but from somewhere beyond even Billie and Ella, from the font of all greatness. A voice that was filled with such power and pain that it was at once entirely human yet laced with the divine. My ears, my mouth, my heart and mind all instantly opened. Winehouse. Winehouse? Winehouse! That twerp, all eyeliner and lager dithering up Chalk Farm Road under a back-combed barnet, the lips that I’d only seen clenching a fishwife fag and dribbling curses now a portal for this holy sound.

There are a few intriguing cultural ironies, such as how the song that made her famous was all about a refusal to get clean, or how many musicians seem to have died at the age of 27. My take-away is that a talented person rose to astronomical fame while battling more than her fair share of demons, to the dismay, disdain, and delight of the public. This is certainly a tragedy for her family and friends, and it is a huge loss to the musical world.

Amy Winehouse was a star. Stars shine brightly and then burn out. Sometimes they burn for a long time, sometimes they shrivel and die, and sometimes they explode. She’s hardly the only one to fall victim to addiction, as this video by fellow attorney Lowell Steiger shows:

One can only hope that few will follow where she has gone.

How is this related to lawyers? Lawyers rarely enjoy the sort of fame Amy Winehouse had. Lawyers usually work out of the limelight, below the surface of society, and that can be part of the problem. As celebrities must endure scrutiny of their every move, lawyers often feel a need to project strength and fearlessness. Especially in the context of litigation, vulnerability (and even simple emotion) can be a weakness to be exploited.This is not the way it has to be, but it is the way that many attorneys have made it.

To suppress emotions and vulnerability is to suppress humanity. In that sense, some lawyers may share with some celebrities a sense that they are not allowed to be fully human. In the absence of real comfort, a person will turn where they can, sometimes to drugs or alcohol. They may not ask for help, or even realize they need help. The people who care about them may not try to help, for fear of piercing that invulnerability that can form such an important part of a lawyer’s identity. As a result, some lawyers will drink, or even work, themselves to death.

This clearly cannot stand. Times may finally be changing enough to realize that addiction is a disease, not merely a failure of character or of will. Depression and anxiety abound amongst lawyers alongside addiction. Help is out there, and help is abundant.

Every state bar association has some sort of lawyer assistance program. They accept anonymous referrals if you know someone who needs help, and they respect full confidentiality if you ask for help. The American Bar Association has a list of resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255), National, Toll-Free, 24 Hours

State and Local Lawyer Assistance Programs

National Helpline for Lawyers

National Resources

Economic Recovery Resources

National Helpline for Judges Helping Judges 1-800-219-6474

Law Student ListServ
CoLAP maintains a confidential listserv for recovering law students. If you are interested in joining this group, contact Matthew Reel at

What Lawyers Need to Know About Suicide During a Recession – Free Download

Get help for yourself or someone in your life before it is too late. You may not have a world-famous jazz voice, but you matter.