Patterico's Pontifications

12/28/2010

Most Awesome Legal Letter EVAH

Filed under: General — Aaron Worthing @ 6:02 am

[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; please send any tips here.]

First the set up.  Via Deadspin we get a typically ridiculous “nastygram” (aka cease and desist letter) from 1974, written to the Cleveland Stadium Corporation, from way back in 1974.  They are asserting that fans throwing paper airplanes can cause injury and inform them that if any occur, they will sue (so setting them up for suit, basically):

And then the response from their corporate counsel (and trust me do not drink fluids as you read this):

As a lawyer who constantly gets and occasionally sends nastygrams, I wonder if that actually worked.

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing]

35 Responses to “Most Awesome Legal Letter EVAH”

  1. Can you deny that today, the reaction of the “Cleveland Stadium” would have been to immediately forbid flying paper airplanes, and order their security forces to stop, detain, and probably permanently eject miscreants?
    Isn’t it wonderful where the current legal climate is leading us?

    great unknown (261470)

  2. great

    well, I am not sure, but i suspect they would. they certainly would not have been this harsh in response.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  3. THANK YOU! A great, satisfying belly laugh….loved it!

    J (2946f2)

  4. I believe that Senator Stephen Young of Ohio (1959 to 1971) was ahead of the game as he reportedly sent similar letters to constituents who sent him abusive or threatening letters. Despite such tactics, he was re-elected in 1964 by floating on the LJB landslide. I do not know if such letters had a salutary effect on the recipients.

    JJD (f8b8f6)

  5. I so want this to be true.

    Was 1974 the last time a letter like this could have been sent?

    Pious Agnostic (291f9a)

  6. When I was practicing insurance defense law a decade ago, I once wrote something about as scathing when a plaintiff’s attorney once wrote me a letter that was a completely ridiculous, and brazenly false, representation of a discovery dispute. It had been written for the purpose of being attached to a response to a motion to compel. In that case, I decided that the letter would look serious if I treated it seriously, and so I wrote something blunt and scathing in response. I only got away with it because the judge thought well of me and the plaintiff’s attorney had a reputation locally for being dishonest.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  7. We should tell William Yelverton that some crazy person is using his computer to go around posting bizarre and inappropriate sock-puppet comments.

    Patterico (c218bd)

  8. “Counselors at Law”. I’m an old-fashioned lawyer, mentored by an even more old-fashioned lawyer, who told me that if you see anything other than Attorney at Law you should turn on your shyster detector.

    nk (db4a41)

  9. That is an old standard response to idiotic threatening letters. I’ve used it without the inflammatory noun.

    Mike K (568408)

  10. Awesome. A radio talkshow host in the 1970s used have a sixth-generation mimeographed (yes, MIMEOGRAPHED!) copy of a form letter with this message, and he would send it to people who sent him hate mail. It didn’t even have a personalized address, just “To Whom It May Concern:” in fuzzy, dirty mimeo ink.

    And here is a great reply to a consumer complaint, unfortunately later retracted after HR got wind of it.

    TimesDisliker (4ae673)

  11. I don’t know, TimesDisliker, I think I would have gone to the theatre and offered to rearrange the VP’s nose myself.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  12. Cleveland Stadium had just gone through the legendary “Ten-Cent Beer Night Riot” six months before this letter was sent out. I’d assume Mr. Bailey wasn’t in the mood for dealing with people carping about paper airplanes after that earlier incident.

    John (8de657)

  13. which stadium had the anti-disco riot?

    that has to be the most awesome riot in history.

    Aaron Worthing (e7d72e)

  14. “which stadium had the anti-disco riot?”

    Comiskey, in Chicago.

    daleyrocks (bfdac7)

  15. If you could brave old Cleveland Stadium in November and December, you sure couldn’t be intimidated by paper airplanes.

    Of course, he could have always traded in his seats for the very top row, where he’d never be the victim.

    The snarky Dana (3e4784)

  16. LJB landslide“?
    Does that stand for Liberal Jackass Bully?

    Icy Texan (ce6f66)

  17. where he’d never be the victim

    Except of frost-bite….
    but enought about watching the Indians in August.

    AD-RtR/OS! (e0a090)

  18. The response should have read “Thank you for your concern. We shall take this matter under advisement.”

    And then they should have folded the letter into a paper airplane before stuffing it into the envelope.

    Icy Texan (ce6f66)

  19. Icy Texan, I like that.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  20. re:#18 Icy Texan

    What SPQR said. That is funny. I have to go find somebody to repeat that to, right now.

    TimesDisliker (4ae673)

  21. Icy Texan, I think, is going to “win the thread”.

    Sadly, it’s not really a generalizable response!

    htom (412a17)

  22. I did the same thing at a traffic light last year. I honked and rolled down my window and said to the driver of the car next to me, “Hey did you know some asshole stuck an Obama bumper sticker on your car?”

    rls (9f0e93)

  23. Daley – that would be Konminskey Field for those lifetime avid fans.

    JD (6e25b4)

  24. That’s hilarious.

    Wanna bet that Dale Cox — assuming he hasn’t gone to the great beyond — is a “lefty”?! IOW, someone without any common sense, without any shame, without any integrity. And undoubtedly prone to limousine-liberal greediness to boot.

    Mark (411533)

  25. And from the really old days of telegrams, there’s this probably apocryphal example — which, to avoid shouting, I’ll render in all lower case instead of all caps, and with periods instead of “stops”:

    in recpt yrs of this date. f**k you very much. strong ltr to follow.

    Beldar (b9ab2d)

  26. Comiskey, in Chicago.

    Uh, that would be “Cominskey” for our Commander-in-Chief.

    navyvet (db5856)

  27. Communinskey

    Icy Texan (ce6f66)

  28. Thanks for the kudos, people!

    Icy Texan (ce6f66)

  29. I call BS on this

    Jones (72b0ed)

  30. Beldar, you need to explain to the young’ins that Western Union typewriters, like the teletype machines, only had upper-case.

    AD-RtR/OS! (e0a090)

  31. Jones, did you know that some a-hole is sockpuppeting you on this thread?

    Icy Texan (26f046)

  32. If you Google Dale’s name, you mostly get references to the letter. Looks like this story has been doing the circuit for a while. There is a Dale O. Cox attorney in Idaho. I wonder if he’s thought about changing his name.

    If I were him, I’d use a paper airplane for my letterhead logo, and try to spin the story in my favor. No sense spitting into the wind.

    Gesundheit (cfa313)

  33. Well, sometimes a nice response to a complaint is better, even when it is rude. When I have a complaint, it is usually because I feel taken in or because the method was unethical. But sometimes you can’t tell. Recently, I looked up prices for a movie I wanted to see in 3D. They were advertising the movie at $5.50 for the afternoon matinee. I said to myself, cool, great price for 3D. So I get my wife and son in the car and off we go.

    When we get their the girl selling tickets tells us its $8.50. We tell her it was $5.50 on the internet site. My wife is going ballistic as we wouldn’t have gone if $8.50 weren’t the price. We don’t have a lot of money. But we were there, so I told my family that Utah has a consumer protection law dealing with false advertising, we’ll pay the money up front, and deal with it through the legal system. And this is where the fun begins.

    I write up my complaint, complete with the statutes violated, and the damages to be awarded, and I indicate that I am unsure if it is an accident or deliberate. I would find out during discovery. If it were deliberate we’d get $6,000 at $2,000 each for the three of us. If it were an accident, we would get nothing. When I finished the letter, I was still very angry. I have been a good customer for a long time and to be treated that way was a nasty shock. I’m certain the guy who handled my letter (snail mail) could sense that anger.

    Instead of giving me a nasty reply of the sort in this post, he explained that it was an accident, reminded me that a violation of the consumer law has to be intentional, and that they stood to lose money on the internet sales until the accident was corrected. So he tells me that they had caught the mistake the day before, and fixed it shortly after I had written my letter. So I check out the web site, and sure enough it had been fixed. At that point I knew I had a losing hand and there was nothing I could do. Accidents happen. But that isn’t the end of the story. The letter continues. He thanks me for bringing my problem to his attention and tells me that because I was troubled by this experience, he included 6 VIP tickets good for any show including new releases, and a check for $50 to spend on goodies for my family at the theater.

    For me, he needn’t have done this. I was flat out wrong about it being intentional. When I am wrong, I don’t expect to be rewarded for being wrong. I don’t know if I could respond as coolly and politely as this guy did upon receiving a threat of legal action. But the letter was fantastic in every way I could think of. I wrote and thanked him for going above and beyond what was required. Their company still gets my movie business. I think better of them than I did before this incident.

    So while a snarky response might feel more fun at the time, I think it is a bad idea. I’m also thinking of ways I can soften my complaint letters to show the kind of restraint the guy who responded to me did. Normally, my letters go to telemarketers who are evil 99.9% of the time because they know the law and flout it.

    I guess I’ll be in the camp in which does not think a snarky response is the most awesome evah. It certainly is funny though :) I would suggest that the firm that sent the first letter should have done so in a less bombastic way though. Politely tell the franchise that the paper airplanes worry him about the safety of him and his party and leave it at that. Front offices know about liability already and you don’t need to club them over the head with it. The simple polite letter establishes responsibility by warning them of the worries they have. If in the future one of their party is injured, they have proof they asked the franchise to see if they would do something about it. I think both sides could have handled it much better.

    Jeff (0204be)

  34. My good friend, who is a lawyer, responds to such letters by writing a big “C-” in red crayon at the bottom and sending the original back to the originator.

    Batman (9e32c2)

  35. @#22: I’m using your line when I get a chance…

    Nice permutation.

    PD Quig (a292fb)


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