Legal Oddities: Employee angst, suing yourself, topless gardening, wrong sperm donor and more

Topless garden gnome.
Question: Would Boulder, CO evict a topless garden gnome? (EBay image, via Pinterest)

WASHINGTON, October 12, 2014 − You understand that you must show your receipt to a company employee when exiting many “big-box” stores. This cursory review by store personnel plays a small role in preventing theft. One Oregon man recently refused to show his receipt to a Costco employee. The employee then held the man’s cart and another perfected a karate-style kick to the man’s leg, breaking it in several places. A $670,000 lawsuit has been filed.

An employee of eight years at a McDonald’s in New York recently exhibited behavior “too nice” – being too nice to a customer (actually to several), that is. She is now no longer working for McDonald’s. Heather Levia, a 23-year-old mother with twins, who was working two jobs and putting herself through nursing school, paid for the meal of a local firefighter who had just put out a fire and had come in from sub-zero temperatures to have a McMeal of some sort. Heather offered that she appreciated the work firefighters do.

Later that day, a group of firefighters came into the McDonald’s and ordered food. Heather asked her boss if McDonald’s would pick up the tab. She thought so because, she says, their restaurant often paid for police. The boss said “no” so Heather called the corporate office. Again “no.” Heather then rallied her co-workers and they paid for the meals. Some of the firefighters then complained to the boss, thinking that the boss guilted Heather and her co-workers into paying for the meals. Heather was fired on the next shift.

Heather says McDonald’s told her she was fired for swearing at a superior, a charge she denies. In a prepared statement, management for the restaurant praised the firefighters, said they would never penalize an employee for showing gratitude for the work of firefighters, and declined to say why Heather was fired “out of respect” for her privacy.

Megan Campbell, working for the city in St. Paul, Minnesota and operating a city van, negligently crashed the van into a car. She is suing the city for the repair cost of the car, as the damaged car was hers. A city clerk responsible for handling vehicle damage claims said “I think I can safely say this is a very unusual claim.”

Catherine Pierce likes to garden topless. In 2010, she and her husband were threatened with eviction from their Boulder, Colorado home. There are no city laws against being topless outside or topless gardening in Boulder. Nonetheless, the local Regional Transportation District has rules. Thus, when a RTD security guard asked Mrs. Pierce to put her shirt on this past summer while on RTD property, Mr. Pierce came to his wife’s aid. He is now facing assault charges. Different versions of the events include accusations of Mr. Pierce poking the guard in the chest, punching, and wrestling. Mr. Pierce explained to police that he is President Eisenhower’s son and that he is planning to run for sheriff of Boulder County.

(Below: Boulder neighbors comment on the merits and demerits of topless gardening on YouTube video.)

Jennifer Cramblett, of Uniontown, Ohio, has a biracial 2-year-old daughter. Jennifer and her same-sex partner are both white. Jennifer is suing the sperm bank that mistakenly inseminated her with sperm from a black donor, because, according to her lawsuit, she wanted a donor with similar genetic traits to herself and her partner. She claims they picked a white donor after reviewing his history and that the clinic gave her the wrong donor’s sperm.

Jennifer’s damages claims include a charge that her daughter is already experiencing racism in predominantly white Uniontown as well as other hardships such as having to travel to black neighborhoods “where her daughter is obviously different in appearance and not overtly welcome” in order to obtain proper hair care for the youngster.

Jennifer told NBC News that she hopes to use any money she wins in her lawsuit to move to a more diverse area.

The Supreme Court will consider the definition of a “strike” to determine whether a prisoner can bring a fourth “bad living conditions” claim against a prison in the face of the “three-strike” provision of the Prison Litigation Reform Act. Inmates are barred under that Act from filing a fourth lawsuit over prison conditions if three prior lawsuits had failed on the grounds of lack of merit. In this case, a third lawsuit was dismissed, but it has been appealed. There are different opinions among courts around the country that have to do with “finality” − i.e., whether a case is final or not because an appeal is pending. If not “final,” such a case cannot count as a strike under the PLRA, thus allowing another suit to be filed.

Although not expressed exactly in these words, a judge has now ruled that perverted behavior is not illegal at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Christopher Cleveland was arrested by U.S. Park Police June, 2013, after being observed taking photographs of women sitting on the steps of the memorial. More specifically he was allegedly observed taking “upskirt” shots. When approached by the police, he tried to remove the memory card from his camera. After officers got hold of the card, they found that it contained images of women’s buttocks. There were hundreds of comparable shots from other photo-shoots on a computer in Cleveland’s car.

Cleveland’s attorney argued the evidence did not meet the legal definition of voyeurism. The U.S. Attorney argued “it would be difficult to dispute that women generally have a subjective expectation of privacy against photographs of their private areas while wearing clothing to cover the private area.”

The D.C. Superior Court judge dismissed the charges, saying that women do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in such a public place, and that these women had positioned themselves in ways that made their intimate areas visible to passersby.


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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