As usual, I’m hungry.
I was in this semi-frantic state, casting about for an Almond Joy (because, as you must doubtless surmise, I always feel like a nut), or some other equally comforting, nutritionally impeccable, high-fiber refreshment, when I came across the case of Garrity v. First and Last Tavern Inc. 53 Conn l. Rptr. 771 (July 2, 2012).
As I was predisposed to notice it, the word “meatball” popped out of the text like an expletive. I determined further that the case was a products liability action, based on the alleged consumption of, or perhaps, encounter with, the meatball in question. The decision concerned the statute of limitations. I presumed, therefore, that the meatball had outlived its period of useful consumption and had spoilt. But possibly, there was some other allegation: for instance, that it was too salty, contained an insufficient quotient of bread crumbs, or was shaped or cooked in such a way as to suggest to the unfortunate consumer that it was actually supposed to be used in a polo match.
Contemplating the meatball and its claimed failure to comport with the legal requirements regarding safe products, I thought about the food cases I had seen over the years. There was a runaway grape (never found by anyone, including the slippee) which caused a buttocks-first free-fall of Olympic proportions. There was another fall on “fruit,” which was never described any further, or identified as mashed, peeled, husked, seedless or in terms of color, texture, ripeness, mootness or other quality. We won that one.
Other foods have recurred through the ages of civil litigation. Somehow, in the movie theater, whatever caused anyone to fall was not a melting ice cube, a miscreant stair runner, a platform sole or a broken shoelace – no, the venue determines the allegedly defective condition. Despite various postings in font sized for the visually challenged apprising all that the warm, viscous, yellow stuff in that big plastic container with the hand lotion pump came from nothing even distantly related to a cow, everyone everywhere who has stumbled tragically on the way to the double feature says the cause was butter. In the salad bar, it is always oil, not blue cheese or Thousand Island.
But I will never forget the sausage case. This was long ago, before I had applied to law school, and was attempting to become respectable by holding a job that did not require me to work in squalid surroundings every New Year’s Eve, drive long distances in vehicles requiring major repairs and lose my high frequency hearing capacity.
The claim involved a sausage, but not just any sausage. It was a blood sausage; something that even in a state of starvation I would hesitate to consume. The eater of the sausage claimed to have become violently ill and had incurred a medical bill of approximately $100. We represented the unfortunate Plaintiff. He was resentful. So resentful, in fact, that he had saved the uneaten portion of the sausage, which he proudly produced to us as Exhibit A. Perhaps he expected sophisticated forensic testing. Such was not the case. The sausage sat in the freezer compartment of the office refrigerator. It acquired a crust of ice after the first year. Every so often, someone would encounter it, and ask what it was.
“Oh, that’s Ed’s sausage,” someone else would reply.
The sausage remained, quiescently lethal, for another few years.
Efforts to settle the case failed. The Plaintiff’s dreams were lofty. The carrier was scornful. The day of trial approached.
Panic ensued when it was determined that the sausage had been thrown away, despite admonitions that it might one day be evidence. No one would admit to having disposed of it, but I suspect that everyone except Ed was relieved. The building where that office was has since been demolished, but the sausage lives on in dubious memory. I wish the meatball a similar fate. •