The Case of the Spit Burger

Because the Washington Product Liability Act does not provide for damages for emotional distress in the absence of physical injury, a federal judge dismissed a case against Burger King for negligence, product liability and vicarious liability that had been filed by a Clark County deputy sheriff, Edward Bylsma. In March 2009, the sheriff drove his marked police car through a Burger King drive-through and had an uneasy feeling after he received his burger. He stopped in a parking lot to remove the top bun and found “slimy, clear and white phlegm glob” on the meat patty. DNA testing later confirmed that the saliva matched that of one of the Burger King employees. Although he did not eat the burger, the incident caused Bylsma sleeplessness, vomiting and food aversion.

Bylsma appealed to the 9th Circuit, which asked the Washington Supreme Court for guidance. In an opinion issued February 7, 2013 the state’s highest court concluded Thursday that Bylsma could take his case to trial. “Common sense tells us that food consumption is a personal matter, and contaminated food is closely associated with disgust and other kinds of emotional turmoil,” Justice Steven Gonzalez wrote for the court. “Thus, when a food manufacturer served a contaminated food product, it is well within the scope of foreseeable harm consequences that the individual will suffer emotional damages.” The Supreme Court held that at trial, Bylsma may be successful “if the emotional distress is a reasonable response and manifest by objective symptomatology”.


Legal Research Apps

Finding legal resources has never been easier or more mobile. There are many free legal research apps for iOS (iPad, iPhone) and Android devices, and many more available for a small price. Three of the best reference apps for on-the-go lawyers and law students are Fastcase, WestlawNext, and HeinOnline.

While the desktop version of Fastcase  starts subscription pricing around $65/month or $695/year, the mobile apps have much of the same functionality and they are free. All you need to do is register a username and password, and you’ll be able to browse U.S. cases and statutes by citation, phrase, or keyword anywhere you get service.

The WestlawNext app, like Fastcase, delivers powerful research capabilities from any device. The app itself is free to download, however you must have an active Westlaw account to access content. For current law students, this is a fantastic option for mobile research, but be warned: once you have a personal account or an account through your employer, each search on the mobile app will be charged at your firm rates. Still, for law students and those who have access to Westlaw, this is a great app for in-depth reference.

HeinOnline’s mobile app is free for mobile devices and offers the same great performance as the desktop version. Access the database’s content through PDFs, full searching capabilities, and through online law reviews and journals. Need to find something in the fourth volume of the English Statutes of the Realm? Or maybe just a back issue of the American Bar Association Journal? HeinOnline can help you find both!

Other helpful reference apps:


Check it Out: Proteus

ProteusSet in 18th century South Africa, Proteus is a fictionalized account of the interracial gay love story of two men incarcerated on the infamous South African Robin Island. One is a black prisoner, Claas Blank, and the other a Dutch sailor, Rijkhaart Jacobsz. Both men were charged and placed on trial for sodomy. The film explores both the theme of racism and the theme of homophobia, and how they are still present today.


2012 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary

Curious about the Judiciary budget? Want to know how many cases were filed in the United States Supreme Court last year? This report describes the cost containment efforts of the Judiciary, and presents data about caseloads.


One Dollar President Coins

In honor of President’s Day, we look at the Presidential $1 Coin Program. Initiated by the Presidential Coin Act of 2005, minting and distribution was suspended in 2011 due to excessive inventory. So if you want you McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, Taft or Wilson coin, you will need to work directly with the U.S. Mint.


Check it Out: The Hurricane

World middleweight boxing champion Rubin “Hurricane” Carter’s dreams of winning the middleweight title were destroyed when he was wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. In prison Carter published his autobiography “The Sixteenth Round,” which inspired several people to come to his aid and find the evidence needed to prove his innocence. Check out The Hurricane from the law library and witness the spectacular performance by Denzel Washington as he portrays the courageous Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.


Federal Judiciary 2012 Year-End Report

He starts by reminiscing about the USS Constitution, but much of his commentary is on the fiscal health of the US court system. You can read Chief Justice John Roberts’ 2012 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary yourself if you are so inclined. An appendix to the report provides caseload statistics for the various federal courts.


Lincoln’s Law Practice: The Resource

The Oscar-nominated movie, Lincoln, portrays the 16th President’s political life leading up to the Emancipation Proclamation and the passage of the 13th Amendment (banning slavery in all U.S. states and territories) by the 38th Congress. Prior to assuming the Presidency, Lincoln had an active law practice in Illinois representing a wide variety of clients. Now, through the efforts of several educational institutions and foundations, a second edition of “The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln” has been made available online. A repository of primary sources, it includes over 90,000 multi-page images documenting cases and other legal activities in which Lincoln participated. A subject index and search engine provides the main access points. The image viewer allows the original handwritten documents to be enlarged, reduced, rotated, paged through and enhanced.


Russian Action on Adoptions May Thwart a Bilateral Treaty

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed into law a bill which bans the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens. The Russian government’s action may portend the denunciation of a bilateral treaty on the subject which entered into force for both states on November 1, 2012. The U.S., which encouraged Russia to join the Hague Inter-Country Adoption regime, settled for the bilateral instrument in July of 2011. The termination language found in Article 17, clause 5, states that, “This agreement shall remain in force until one year from the date that one of the Parties informs the other Party through diplomatic channels of its intention to terminate this Agreement.” Whether this language affects Russia’s responsibilities under the treaty is unclear at this time. Read the treaty here.


Check it Out: A Time to Kill

The film version of John Grisham’s novel A Time to Kill is set in a small, racially divided Mississippi town. A ten-year-old black girl is brutally raped and left for dead by two white men. She survives and is able to identify them. The girl’s father, Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson), fearing an acquittal walks into the courthouse and kills both men. He is immediately taken into custody and hires a young white attorney, Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey), who plans to plea not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. As the news of the rape and murders is publicized, racial tensions mount, and Brigance faces more than just a courtroom battle for justice.