Amputation, gambling and nudity: Legal oddities and advice

Caravaggio's "The Card Sharps," c. 1594. (Via Wikipedia)

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2014 — What is more interesting than real life? Watching legal news can keep you amused and educated.

A Birmingham, Alabama man is suing two doctors. He claims he went to the hospital for a routine circumcision. He claims his penis was amputated. The doctors deny the man’s allegations.

There should be definitive proof for one side or the other in this case.

NFL training camps have now opened. The NFL has launched a new Fantasy Football League, a pay-to-enter sports contest. Unfortunately, if you live in Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota or Washington State, your state’s laws prohibit you from participating. The NFL believes their leagues violate these state’s individual gambling laws.

If “chance” is the key to winning, it is gambling. Games that require skill or that are based on statistics, like fantasy football, are less likely to be considered gambling and are usually legal.

Fantasy football has been determined under federal law to be legal as long as the bets are not solely based on real-world games; the outcomes reflect the player’s skill and are mostly determined by statistics; and the prizes are not based on a “pool” of bets or the number of participants in the league.

A New Hampshire woman was fined $100 for stopping in a highway median to help some stranded ducks. She did not hit the ducks, but she saw the mother and several ducklings had been injured, so she pulled over, called 911, and captured the two surviving babies. A state cop issued her a ticket for stopping in the median. Apparently stopping for ducks is not an emergency.

July 14 was National Nude Day, an annual event that “celebrates Naturism around the world and which provides an opportunity to encourage first timers to enjoy clothes-free relaxation.”

Public nudity is a crime in most places, even in San Francisco, where it is was banned in 2012. Display of a woman’s breasts however is not considered a crime in New York.

Indecent exposure laws vary around the country. California and New York limit exposure charges to “lewd” conduct. Thus, if nudity is not motivated by a desire for sexual gratification, there is a much smaller chance of being cited. An Oregon man made the news after he stripped at an airport to protest TSA searches. Another Iowa man covered himself in Crisco and told police he was looking for a place to party. No charges were placed for either of them.

Getting naked on private property also minimizes the likelihood of being charged with indecent exposure. Many states have “clothing optional” areas in state parks and beaches. Generally, it is probably best to make sure children are not around.

July 24 was National Cousins Day, created to celebrate and reflect on the strong relationships between cousins. Some relationships, however, are not so revered. Marriage or sex with a close relative is mostly out of the question. Marriage between first cousins is forbidden in 25 states, although Florida, California and New York allow cousins to marry. Sex between cousins can be considered incest, but only a few states specifically prohibit such relationships. Sex between nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles is illegal in most states.

A Florida widow involved in a class action lawsuit filed in 1994 against RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company seeking damages for the death of her husband due to lung cancer. The cancer was allegedly caused by his cigarette smoking. The lawsuit died. The woman persisted and filed her own lawsuit in 2008. She won, and was awarded $7.3 million in compensatory damages, and $23.6 billion (yes, billion) in punitive damages. The jury apparently believed that RJ Reynolds purposely hid the dangers of its products. The punitive damages award is being appealed.

Historically “grossly excessive” awards are reduced. The Supreme Court reduced a $2.5 billion dollar punitive damages verdict against the Exxon Valdez in the well-known oil spill case to $500 million, which matched the award in that case for compensatory damages.

Speeding tickets can end up being very expensive. In addition to the actual fine for speeding, some states and local jurisdictions add administrative fees that can include charges or fees for court operations, night court fees, states’ general funds, court-appointed attorney funds and crime victim’s assistance funds.

For many, it might be worthwhile to fight the ticket. Note that if you intend to fight, do not automatically pay it thinking you will get your money back if you go to court. Paying is an admission of guilt in most places.

There is a chance that simply appearing in court will result in the ticket being dismissed. If the police officer does not appear, you can ask for a dismissal. The law provides that you have the right to confront your accuser. Many police officers however schedule all of their court hearings on one day each month out of convenience. Thus, if you reschedule, the officer may not return to court on the new date. Many judges, though, reschedule to the officer’s next date.

There are some defenses available to alleged violators in traffic court. Some judges will let you off if you had a true emergency. If radar was used to calibrate your speed, you can challenge the equipment testing and the officer’s knowledge in the use of the equipment. If there was no radar equipment used, you can challenge based on the officer’s observations − perhaps the officer was in front of you. Do not accuse the cop of lying.

A 6-year-old Atlanta Braves baseball fan was hit by a foul ball. It shattered her skull and left her with traumatic brain injuries.

The baseball rule is enforced by many states and says baseball teams have no duty to protect spectators who are hit by foul balls outside of the areas protected by netting behind home plate. The rationale continues  to be that spectators assumes the risk of injury if they sit outside the protected areas.

The Braves asked the trial court for a “Declaratory Judgment,” meaning that as a matter of law the suit should be thrown out. The trial court declined to do so, and the decision was appealed. The appeals court agreed with the trial judge: declaratory judgment is not the proper means by which to test their defense that … the baseball rule, or some variant of it, satisfied their duty of care to plaintiffs.

The baseball rule likely will still be a good defense for the Braves. But at the early stages of the case the courts ruled the suit could not be summarily dismissed.

By all means, take me out to the ball game. But be careful of flying bats and balls.


Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980.  He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website

His new book “Who Will Pay My Auto Accident Bills?, The Most Comprehensive Nationwide Auto Accident Resolution Book, Ever” can be reviewed on and can be ordered there, or obtained directly on Amazon: Click here to order


Mr. Samakow’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign, El Textarudo, has become nationally recognized. Please visit the website and “like” the concept on the Facebook page

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