Heretofore, in this forum, I have complained vociferously, not to say whined and cried piteously, about the propensity of my fellows to file lawsuits over the least little thing. I feel obliged to report that I have been tempted in this direction. Possibly it has to do with a profound drop in blood sugar occasioned by the dearth of chocolate in the communal candy bowl, but I digress.
I want to file a class action.
The provocation: e-mail.
I do not refer to the vast numbers of mundane electronic communications which pepper me from all frontiers, seeking to sell me Viagra, handbags and Rolex watches, entreating me to represent foreign nationals in their divorces, or encouraging me to harden my abdominal musculature into rippling cement, lose 20 pounds overnight or derive sufficient income from stuffing envelopes in my own home to fund my retirement.
We have all received them. They are decorative, sentimental missives which purport to inspire compassion or foment spiritual development and are actually emotional blackmail. Every day I get one. Yesterday, it was a call to pass along a story about pets and friendship. Hamsters, gerbils and other species rodentiae would begin dying suddenly if I did not forward the message to 15 people within five minutes. Other threats, including the fact that I would suddenly be stricken with an unsightly itchy rash and could consider myself an irritable, morally deficient wretch, were mentioned.
The people to whom I would have sent this little number would probably shoot me at close range for doing so. I hit delete. The threat had its desired effect: depression, lassitude, inordinate consumption of chocolate and a despondent retreat into computer solitaire.
Other e-mails promise rewards for forwarding, such as an unspecified but implicitly good thing which will happen at a precise time on a date certain. I guarantee you – whatever it is: an impromptu display of the Northern Lights; delivery of a pizza which is actually hot, the remission of broad leaf plantain from my lawn – I won’t be available.
Some messages ask me to make a wish, indicating that it will come true upon passing the item along. The carrot method appeals more greatly than the stick, but so far it hasn’t worked, which is to say that I have not had those motions to dismiss granted, been able to find my checkbook or received an invitation to dine with Prince Harry.
Despite having clicked “send” dutifully, in accordance with the instructions, no one has asked me to appear as the world’s oldest contestant on “American Idol,” nor has my opposing counsel suffered a sneezing fit or a strategic wardrobe malfunction whilst arguing an appeal.
When I don’t send things on, I feel dreadful. I’m not really the unsympathetic, dispassionate toad I am made out to be by the anonymous authors. Nevertheless, I wax anxious about causing or contributing to the bad days of others, visiting migraine headaches and dental appointments upon my loved ones, or creating ill will on the part of those who believe angels are watching over us. If they are, would they please suspend my WestLaw charges for a month? I would cheerfully accept waiver of my veterinarian’s bill in the alternative.
My class-action lawsuit would sound in several theories of liability: negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress for starters. Maybe I could allege breach of promise, or violation of an express and/or implied contract! The possibilities are attractive.
So, anyone who reads this column and sympathizes with the cause, please send it to 20 lawyers within 36 minutes (0.6 hours if you are billing) together with a five-dollar check made out to the undersigned, and I promise you a return on your investment, at 2:15 a.m. on Dec. 9, 2016. May you have a morally superior day.
Amy F. Goodusky, a former paralegal, rock ‘n’ roll singer and horseback riding instructor, is of counsel at O’Brien, Tanski & Young in Hartford.