View Full Version : True Stella Awards.... not quite as funny as the made up stuff.

04-28-2005, 03:12 PM
by Randy Cassingham

Wesley Holloway, now 20, was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega
fraternity at the University of Texas in Austin. After signing a waiver
of liability, Holloway went to a party at the ATO frat house in May 2003.
As part of the party's entertainment, one of the rooms in the house was
filled with foam. To help members clean up after going through it, frat
pledges made a wading pool in the back yard. Hale bales were set up,
lined with plastic, and filled with about a foot of water as a place to
rinse off.

Holloway, who had been a competitive swimmer in high school as well as
a lifeguard, was certainly well aware of the dangers of diving into a
shallow pool. So he decided to do a belly-flop instead. To get a good
splash he leapt from atop a nearby picnic table.

"He was successful in doing a belly-flop and keeping his head up,"
says his lawyer, Robert Alden. "He didn't know how far he would travel
once he hit, or the fact if he hit the hay bales it would break his
neck." Sure enough, his head hit a hay bale, his neck was broken, and
Holloway was left a quadriplegic.

Maybe Holloway "didn't know" he necessarily would break his neck, but
as a competitive swimmer and former lifeguard he "should have known" it,
especially since he could easily see how shallow the water was. And sure
enough, he did: he admitted it in a deposition, says the frat's lawyer,
Jim Ewbank. Holloway's American Red Cross Lifeguard certification was
awarded recently enough before the incident to still be valid at the
time. But then, maybe Holloway's thinking was clouded: he admits to
having begun drinking "hours" before the party started; his lawyer admits
his client had drunk "about" four beers. After the incident his blood
alcohol level was measured at between .082 and .085 percent; the legal
limit in Texas -- for an adult -- is .08 percent. Holloway was just 18 at
the time, certainly not the legal drinking age in Texas.

Still, Alden has filed suit demanding $25 million in compensation from
the fraternity because, the suit reasons, Alpha Tau Omega was negligent
in building an "unlicensed pool" which "lacked proper design, lighting,
warning signs and other things required under city ordinances." Even
though the frat did not supply alcohol at the party, Alden says ATO was
"negligent" for allowing members and guests to drink.

"How do you put a price tag on not being able to get out of bed for
the rest of your life?" Alden asked -- after he hung the $25 million
price tag on Holloway. Still, whose responsibility was it that he was

Holloway's, answers ATO attorney Ewbank. "His injuries were horrific,
tragic and unnecessary," he said. "But here's a man who drank to excess
and made the stupidest mistake of his life and now wants $25 million for

1) "Belly-Flop at Frat Party Spurs Lawsuit", Austin American-Statesman,
15 January 2005

2) "Student Sues Fraternity after Belly-Flop", Daily Texan, 20 January


by Randy Cassingham

Michelle Knepper of Vancouver, Wash., decided she needed liposuction
to remove excess body fat. So, she says, she chose a doctor out of the
phonebook to perform the surgery.

Out of all the doctors listed she picked Timothy Brown, a Portland,
Ore., dermatologist who noted in a Yellow Pages ad in the plastic surgery
section that he performed liposuctions. The ad noted he was "Board
Certified". He was: in dermatology and in clinical and anatomic
pathology; he was not, however, board-certified in plastic surgery. But
then, quite a few doctors listed in that section weren't board-certified

In any case, Brown did liposuction procedures on Knepper in 1997 and
again in 1998. He did a lousy job, she says, leaving her "disfigured".
The Oregon Board of Medical examiners investigated Brown's liposuction
practice and found "repeated and serious violations" of medical
standards, but the findings were not serious enough to warrant a
revocation of his medical license. It did, however, put him on probation
for five years and limit his practice to dermatology. Brown admitted
negligence in his treatment of Knepper and paid a settlement to her and
her husband, Jeff.

A great end to the story, then right? The doctor was censured, his
victim was compensated, and no future patients will be victimized. The
system worked! But no: this is the liposuction case that continues to
want to suck; the Kneppers want another pound of flesh.

Not satisfied with winning their case against the doctor, Knepper and
her husband, aided by attorney Gregory Smith, sued Dex Media Inc., the
publisher of the phone book. The suit alleged the ad was "fraudulent" and
that the Dex ad salesman who accepted Brown's ad knew that the "Board
Certified" tag only applied to dermatology, not plastic surgery, and thus
Dex was responsible for her making a poor choice of doctor.

In its defense, Dex says there was no intent to mislead, and no
evidence that there was such intent. Further, there was no evidence the
couple "relied" on the ad, and no evidence of any fraud. The company said
it did not know whether Brown was board-certified in plastic surgery or
not, but that it's obvious when visiting Brown's office that he bills
himself as a dermatologist, not as a plastic surgeon.

"Every year, Dex spends millions to come into our homes on radio and
television saying, 'Dex knows.' Then they come to court and say, 'We
don't know.'," complains attorney Smith. "Board-certified is a big deal
for consumers," he says. "It's OK if your pizza guy is not the best pizza
guy, but your doctor...?"

If board certification was such a "big deal" for the Kneppers, then
why didn't they look at the certificates Brown had on his wall to see
exactly what his education and board memberships were? Did they even ask?
Is it reasonable or prudent to base their entire decision on who to use
for invasive surgery on the Yellow Pages? And if he did such a terrible
job in 1997, why did they go back to him again in 1998?

But that's the case. It's time for you, as a juror in the Court of
Public Opinion, to rule on its merits. Then continue on to see if your
ruling matches the civil court's.


The case was thrown out in 2000 -- but reinstated in 2002. A trial in
2004 ended in a hung jury. A second trial was held in February 2005, and
the jury was this time able to reach a verdict: it found for the Kneppers
and awarded Michele $1.2 million. It also awarded her husband Jeff
$375,000 for "loss of spousal services and companionship."

Dex says it will appeal. "We publish 260 directories in 14 states," a
spokesman said, adding the company can't "validate every claim" made in
every ad.

Total time from Yellow Pages to the jury decision: eight years. (And
counting, if Dex really appeals....)

1) "Directory Liable for Ad Fraud", Portland Oregonian, 25 February 2005


04-28-2005, 03:17 PM
4 beers is drinking to excess?

Sh*t...four beers is just getting me started.

04-28-2005, 03:22 PM
4 beers is drinking to excess?

Sh*t...four beers is just getting me started.
I'm sure he only had four.

Just like I only had two the night I got my DUI. :)