This lawsuit gives away some sanity

May 12, 2006|By PETER SCHMUCK

Michael Cohn is a Los Angeles psychologist who needs his head examined.

In the unlikely case that you weren't already convinced the world has become too litigious, Cohn is the guy who sued the Los Angeles Angels because he didn't get a Mother's Day gift from the team last year.

The sex and age discrimination lawsuit contends that every male over the age of 18 and every non-adult fan who attended the Mother's Day game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim is entitled to $4,000 to compensate for the discrimination inherent in a tote-bag giveaway targeted at women age 18 or older.

I guess I should be glad that Cohn is standing up for my civil rights, though I can't for the life of me find the place in the Constitution that says a private company cannot choose to target a certain demographic group for a giveaway promotion.

The Angels and just about every other major professional sports organization do targeted giveaways, but that could change if Cohn and his equally common-sense-impaired attorney, Alfred Rava, don't get laughed out of court.

The notion that anti-discrimination laws should apply to such a situation is an insult to anyone who has ever suffered legitimate discrimination based on race, age or gender. The fact that Cohn, who calls himself a psychologist, would be so insensitive to the real victims of such behavior just compounds the insanity of this lawsuit.

Of course, I plead guilty to being a little insensitive myself. I'm still wondering how feminist golf crusader Martha Burk came to the conclusion that her time would be better spent fighting for the right of multimillionairess corporate executives to join Augusta National than something truly important like equal pay or maternity rights.

I'm sure both Cohn and Burk would insist that it's the principle of the thing, but if you've got the time to stand up against the injustice of moms getting special treatment on Mother's Day, you probably have the time to do something really useful with your life.

Trouble is, the country is bursting with lawyers, and the law schools keep cranking out more, and they're running out of things to do. I don't know this Rava guy, but I'm guessing all the Vioxx cases were taken.

Apparently, while he was waiting around for a group of clumsy Starbucks customers to pour hot coffee on their laps, Cohn shows up with this tale of age-gender woe and, yada yada yada, Martin Luther King's "I've Got a Dream" speech now applies to Floppy Hat Night.

Rava actually is one of the foremost exploiters of California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, using it in 2003 to sue several nightspots in San Diego for holding "Ladies Night" promotions. The overly broad statute specifies $4,000 as the recommended compensation for each injured party and does not prohibit members of the class from intentionally orchestrating discriminatory situations for profit.

Cohn claims he asked for one of the nylon tote bags and was turned down by Angels employees. He later complained by mail and was sent four of the tote bags with a letter of regret from the team, but that apparently was not sufficient to assuage the humiliation of being excluded from the targeted group of adult women.

This apparently is something of a hobby for Cohn, who filed a class-action lawsuit in 2004 against a Palm Springs hotel that caters to lesbians. In that action, he also asked for $4,000 in damages for each person harmed by the alleged discriminatory practices of the hotel.

I don't want to get off on a rant here, but anyone who complains about the cost of health care or just about anything else in our lawyer-based society can thank people like Cohn and Rava for driving up the cost of doing business with frivolous cases that are aimed entirely at extorting out-of-court settlements from lawsuit-weary companies.

If Cohn's far-flung idea of actionable discrimination holds, what's to stop him from suing a theater chain for selling discounted tickets to children ... or suing Safeway for knocking 10 cents off canned corn for Club Card holders?

The Angels will give away tote bags again on Mother's Day, but this year the first 25,000 fans 18 years of age or older, regardless of gender, will get a bag - even though, theoretically, the promotion still discriminates against children and people who show up late to the ballpark.

You call that social justice?

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

"The Peter Schmuck Show" airs on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon on Saturdays.

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