Now THAT’S An Unethical Lawsuit!

"All right, sir---put down the sneakers and come out with your hands up..."

“All right, sir—put down the sneakers and come out with your hands up…”

Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution inmate Sirgeorgio Clardy should probably forget his aspirations of becoming a jailhouse lawyer, if his first effort is any indication.

Sirgiorgio, an aptly named pimp, is in stir because, among other things, he brutally stomped the face of a john who was trying to leave a Portland hotel without paying Clardy’s prostitute. Jurors found him guilty of second-degree assault for using his Air Jordans as a dangerous weapon to beat the john’s face to a pulp. Now the 26-year-old pimp turned prisoner turned pro se litigant has filed a $100 million lawsuit against Nike, the maker of the Jordans, claiming the shoe manufacturer shares responsibility for the assault that was among the crimes that drew him a 100-year prison sentence. (The jury also found him guilty of robbing the man he beat and  beating the 18-year-old girl he forced to work as his prostitute. This is not, I think it is safe to say, a nice guy.)

Clardy’s creative lawsuit claims Nike breached its duty to place a label on his athletic shoes warning purchasers that they could be used as a dangerous weapon, because, I guess, the evil shoes made him do it. Or, in the alternative, he had no idea that repeatedly slamming his foot down on a man’s head would do any harm. Or something. Basically, he’d just really like a hundred million bucks, and either doesn’t know, or doesn’t care, that he’s making a travesty of the justice system.

I am confident that there is literally no chance such a lawsuit goes to trial; if there is, I am through defending the legal system for good. This is a textbook frivolous lawsuit if brought by a real lawyer, rather than an unrepentant, violent, non-too-swift pimp.  The legal ethics rule that makes such monstrosities an official ethical violation, Rule 3.1, says that…

“A lawyer shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.”

This is one of the Forrest Gump rules that to some extent defines what is ethical by how stupid the lawyer is: a JD dolt who genuinely believes in his crack-brain theory may, under this rule, not be violating it because his idiocy is in “good faith,” while an advocate with two brain cells to rub together has no such defense. Sirgiorgio’s suit, however, may definitively set the boundary that no lawyer could cross, because the suit makes neither legal nor logical sense. For more than a century, courts have found assailants to have used various items as deadly weapons, including fists, rocks, frozen roasts, icicles, power tools and automobiles, but none of those verdicts suggested that anyone but the felon weaponized those items. If the pimp’s premise was ever endorsed by a jury, it would mean that literally every product from pasta to shower curtains would need a warning label, lest some murderous sociopath use it for custom-designed mayhem.

No, this is a frivolous suit if there ever was one. The disturbing thing is that I had to do any research before I was absolutely sure my analysis was correct. The are a lot of Forrest Gump, Esquires out there.


Pointer: The Daily Beast

Facts: The Oregonian

17 thoughts on “Now THAT’S An Unethical Lawsuit!

  1. Wait, shoes are considered a dangerous weapon? I mean I’m not saying he shouldn’t be in jail, but that just sounds like a convenient law to let them turn an unarmed fight/beating into a dangerous weapons charge, all you have to have done is kicked the other guy once.

    • Was the prosecutor also in the wrong to have included “dangerous weapon” in the charges? Perhaps even more culpably, since the prosecutor should have known better, being a lawyer instead of an idiot?

  2. His issue appears to be that the jury classified the shoes as a dangerous weapon, which worked to enhance his imprisonment. This was an argument to raise at trial in the criminal matter (lack of mens rea that shoes could be a dangerous weapon–less obvious than, say, a knife). And, if the John sued him for battery, he might arguably implead Nike (though it is an intentional tort, not likely one that could warrant a contribution claim; but if the John pleaded negligence, then Nike could be a proper party). However, his 1st party claim against Nike can’t fly–he wasn’t injured directly by the product. He may as well sue the John for having such a squishy head.

    • Yeah, I was waiting for the suit to be about the weapon classification- the actual basis for it made my head spin. Maybe he’s following the Spanish Inquisition model of lawsuits- nobody expects it?

  3. To me, there is a worrying thing about that rule: it implies that it would be unethical to proceed with only a good faith argument that merely applied the law as it then stood, because the rule requires a good faith argument that would do one or more other things that are not consistent with such mere application. (I suppose you could generate a paradox by asserting that, if a mere application of existing law is not “an extension, modification or reversal of existing law”, then asserting that it is is just such “an extension, modification or reversal of existing law” – but that would only make the derivative matter ethical, not the originating matter; unless you successfully argued that it did… my brain hurts.)

  4. Take heart! If he wins, we can finally hold rubber glove manufacturers responsible for all those fingerprint-less burglaries (and a host of other crimes too terrible to contemplate). It’s about time for those thugs to be called to account.

    (What can I say? I’m a glass half full kind of guy.) 🙂

  5. By all means, let’s also consider workboots, spike heels, and wing-tips as dangerous, and sue their manufacturers, because they all, if used correctly, can kill or injure another person. Let’s also consider frying pans, shovels, lead crystal bowls and pitchers as dangerous as well. Sue ’em all!…as soon as someone uses a product to commit a crime.

    Totally ridiculous.

  6. Weapon classifications have always been stupid and wonky. Anyone familiar with the firearms market is aware of the stupidity surrounding NFA weapon classification – where silencers are firearms (in and of themselves) and shoestrings are fully automatic weapons (I wish I was kidding). Or how about the guy who fired an RPG in Syria and was charged with using a weapon of mass destruction when he returned to the US?

    I’d love to know the argument used to justify the weapons charge, but ultimately I wouldn’t be surprised if it was on the ridiculous side.

  7. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of shoes. At least one of them brought a world leader to ridicule, and that one was just pounded on a table.

      • Reminds me of a classic comment from my father: didn’t trust individuals to have guns, only the police and the military. My query was: if the people you trust the least (and they were) are the only ones armed, what are we poor people to do? You are putting weapons into the hands of the police, the military and the criminals. Good plan. It’s worked so well in England, by the way… where if you’re lucky enough to have a license for a hunting rifle and use it to defend your family against house invassion, YOU, the gunholder, is prosecuted. Great times a’comin’…

  8. I don’t know…personally, I love the guys who try to explain law and/or legal theory to JACK. The same Jack who is an attorney and consultant on LEGAL ETHICS!!

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