Vol. 12, No. 2,856W - The American Reporter - March 18, 2006

by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
Syracuse, Ind.

SYRACU.S.E, Ind. -- I'm glad I live in a country where everyone isent= itled to free speech, where any goober can become President, and where ever= y moron is entitled to rummage their grubby little paws through Corporate A= merica's deep pockets to pay for their own idiocy. It happened last month i= n New Jersey over some breakfast food.

This time, a Washington Township couple is suing the Kellogg cereal= company and Black-and-Decker for $100,000 because their house was severely= damaged by fire after a Pop-Tart supposedly burst into flames. Let's look = at the facts of the case and see if you can tell me what the problem is: = According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, on July 11, 2000, Brenda Hurff= put a cherry Pop-Tart into her toaster, then drove her kids to preschool. = When she returned home 10 or 20 minutes later, the house was on fire, and f= irefighters were battling the blaze. She and her husband blame the Pop-Tart= and the toaster, and are suing the makers of both.

No, the problem isn't that the Philadelphia Inquirer is repo= rting on a story that happened in New Jersey. The problem is thatH urff put= a food item into her toaster, turned it on, and thenleft it unattend= ed. Even the township fire chief, JohnHoffman, said the cause of the= blaze was "unattended food."

Talk about irresponsible. When I was a kid, we could never even lea= ve a light on in the other room since, according to my father, Wasted Elect= ricity was the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse. We would probably have bee= n struck by lightning if I had ever actually left a major kitchen appliance= plugged in, let alone turned on. So why in the world would anyone start th= eir toaster and then leave the house for 10 or 20 minutes? What did she thi= nk would happen?

"Hey, if I leave this toaster on, the Pop-Tart Fairy will take the = Pop-Tart and leave a quarter under the toaster!"

I've been told over and over, don't leave the stove on or the iron = plugged in, don't leave your car running inside a closed garage, and change= into clean underwear before taking a car trip. And for God's sake, do n= ot turn on an appliance that generates extreme heat -- like, oh I don't = know, a toaster -- and then leave it completely unattended.

"I never thought a Pop-Tart could turn into a blowtorch," Hurff fam= ily attorney Mauro C. Casci told the Inquirer. "Did it pop? Did it not pop?= Who knows?"

Good going, Mauro. Way to undermine your whole case. If Black-and-D= ecker's (no relation) lawyers were smart, they would pounce on that quote l= ike Rush Limbaugh at an all-you-can-eat dessert bar. Nothing says "reasonab= le doubt" to a jury like a lawyer questioning whether the product he's suin= g over actually caused the problem or not. It's like the OJ Simpson prosecu= tors saying, "Did he kill them? Did he not kill them? Hell, we don't know!"

But wait, Casci's on a roll. "She had put (the Pop-Tart) in the toa= ster and apparently forgot about it," he also told the Inquirer.

Now= let me see if I get this straight. You're suing Kelloggbecause your client= forgot she put a Pop-Tart into her toaster. Andyou're suing Black-and-Deck= er even though you don't know if the Pop-Tartactually popped or not. = Hey Mauro, what's that smell? The acrid odor of burnt cherryfilling, or Sa= tan firing up his special barbecue and waiting for yourarrival? Why not jus= t sue the kids? If they didn't have to go topreschool, Brenda Hurff could h= ave stayed at home and the wholesituation could have been avoided. Maybe Ca= sci could sue Brenda Hurff'smother for failing to properly teach her daught= er not to leave toastersunattended.

I guess I don't see the problem = here. Failure to properly warnconsumers? There's already a warning on boxes= of Pop-Tarts and PastrySwirls (another supposedly flammable Kellogg produc= t) that says "Do notleave toaster appliance unattended due to possible risk= of fire."

Never mind that the correct phrase is "owing to. . ." or"= because of possible risk of fire." What is important is that the labelclear= ly says if you operate a machine that uses electricity to cookfood, you sho= uld stick around to make sure the machine or the pastrydoesn't spontaneousl= y combust. So, like it or not Mauro, the warning isthere. And since your cl= ients are supposedly responsible enough tooperate a motor vehicle on public= streets and raise children, I wouldthink they're responsible enough to rea= d a warning label on a box.

But it's not the Pop-Tarts that are the = problem says Kelloggspokesman Dick Lovell. "Pop-Tarts are safe and do not c= ause fires" hesaid, although he would not comment on the suit. Lovell also = refused tosay when or why the fire warning had been put on the box, probabl= yhoping that no one was going to notice a connection.

Hmm, Pop-Tarts= don't cause fires, you say? Then why doesGoogle.com list 4,110 Websites wh= en I did a search under "flaming PopTart?" Why did Kellogg pay $2,400 to a = man in Springfield, Ohio who saida Pop-Tart fire damaged his home? Why did = the U.S. Consumer Product SafetyCommission say they have received 17 reports = over the past ten years offires caused by Pop-Tarts? And why did Dave Barry= write a hilariouscolumn in 1993 about how he made giant flames shoot out o= f strawberryPop-Tarts by holding down a toaster lever for six minutes? (Sup= posedly,Dave was even going to be called as a plaintiff's witness in the Oh= iosuit).

I guess what Lovell meant to say is "Pop-Tarts don't causef= ires, negligent people and toasters cause fires." Kinda like the old"guns d= on't kill people, people kill people" eh, Dick?

So who's at fault he= re? Is it Kellogg for supposedly knowing thecorn syrup in their pastries is= flammable? That's been proven severaltimes by college professors, drunken = college students, fire officials,and insurance investigators. Or is Brenda = Hurff at fault for forgettingshe left her toaster on and then leaving her h= ouse for up to 20 minutes?Or is it toaster manufacturer Black-and-Decker wh= o, thanks to legalgenius Mauro C. Casci, may or may not bear any responsibi= lity at all forthe problem.

Personally, I blame Casci. Sure, any idi= ot can forget they leftthe toaster on and then try to blame someone other t= han themselves forit. But it takes a special kind of lawyer usually only fo= und chomping onswimmers around Florida to say "Yes, Mr. and Mrs. Hurff, I t= hink we havea case here."

Yes, I truly love the smell of lawyers on =

Copyright 2006 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

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