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December 8, 2008

Maryland Store Owner in Goose Lawsuit Featured in National Campaign Against Abusive Litigation

WASHINGTON, DC—A Rockville, Maryland, pool supply store owner sued in the infamous “goose lawsuit” is telling the story of his legal ordeal on www.FacesOfLawsuitAbuse.org. The video story of Contemporary Watercrafters owner Howard Weiss and business manager Kelly Reed is part of a nationwide public awareness campaign by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) designed to show that abusive lawsuits affect real people in very real ways.    

“Abusive lawsuits are not victimless,” said ILR President Lisa Rickard. “Many people have the perception that lawsuits are primarily the concern of faceless, ‘deep-pocket’ corporations.  Yet locally-owned businesses like Contemporary Watercrafters are also victims of these abusive suits.” 

For years, a pair of federally protected geese nested outside Weiss’ store. In the spring of 2004, one of the geese startled a passerby, causing her to fall. Two years later, Weiss was served with papers announcing that Contemporary Watercrafters was being sued for $750,000, alleging that the store was responsible for the goose’s actions. Although a jury determined the store was not negligent, Weiss knows that the costs of lawsuit abuse to small businesses are not just financial.  They include “the time taken away from your business – the way you run your business. You start to second guess how you do business because you’re worried about the next lawsuit, and that’s not the way to run a company,” Weiss says in the video.
 
In addition to Weiss’ story, the website features a collection of video stories of lawsuit abuse victims, such as a North Carolina youth baseball coach sued by the parents of a player who was injured diving for a ball.  The campaign, supported by a nationwide television, radio, and online advertising effort, will run through early 2009.

“The people featured in this campaign all suffered real emotional and financial pain,” said Rickard. “By giving voices to their stories, we hope that Americans will understand that our lawsuit-happy culture is taking a toll on their friends, neighbors, and local businesses.”

A 2008 election-night poll found that 83 percent of overall voters believe the number of frivolous lawsuits is a serious problem, with strong majorities agreeing across the political spectrum.

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation, representing more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region.

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