by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
November 26, 2006
BEWARE HOLIDAY FRUITCAKES OF DOOM!
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- I don't like fruitcake.
Okay, that's not earth-shattering news. But 'tis the season to be griping about fruitcakes, and I'd better do my part.
I do like stollen though. The German bread with bits of fruit inside and white icing on top. I even have a Christmas tradition for it. I buy a loaf or two and bring it to a Christmas party. Then my friends ask, "Is this stollen?" And I say, "Nope, I bought it." Then I laugh and laugh, while my friends stare at me like I've sprouted antlers and a red nose.
Good times, good times.
But fruitcake is different. Fruitcake is heavy, alcohol-soaked bread with pieces of fruit, nuts, and red and green things that look like mutated Jujubes. Fruitcake is often used as a gift, but can also be used as a threat, as in "Don't move! I've got a fruitcake, and I'm not afraid to use it."
Fruitcake is dangerous. It's so dangerous that even joking about it can cause serious injury. At least that's what happened to Lucille Greene, 88, of Magnolia, Delaware.
According to an article in the Wilmington (Delaware) News-Journal, Lucille bakes about 30 fruitcakes each year and gives them away to friends during the holidays. Surprisingly, these are all people she likes, which makes her behavior even more strange.
But in December 2002, fate threw a monkey wrench into her gift-giving plans. She took her packages to her local post office, and handed them to the postal clerk, James Maurer.
"What kind of explosives do you have in here?" asked Maurer, who wasn't hired for his comedic genius. Maurer's alleged "cleverness" caused the other customers to laugh, which shows many Delawareans lack a basic understanding of what's actually funny. Maurer then accepted the packages, Lucille paid her bill, and left.
Situation over, right? Wrong.
Apparently, Lucille was so distraught at being called a terrorist that she left in tears. She tripped over a concrete parking barrier in the parking lot, injured her knee, and broke a tooth and her glasses.
So what did she do next? Look around in embarrassment? Rush to the dentist? Jump up and shout "Ta-daaaaa!"
Of course not! She sued the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, because they accused her of being a terrorist.
In other words, she said to a lawyer, "I want to sue the post office because one guy thought my fruitcakes were weapons of mass destruction. He hurt my feelings and made me fall down."
Her attorney filed the case in Federal court -- because it involved the USPS -- and demanded $250,000 to make up for Lucille's clumsiness -- er, emotional distress. And because the USPS was the defendant, the U.S. Attorney was their lawyer.
The case made it to trial in November 2005, where it was heard by Chief District Judge Sue Robinson, who issued her ruling this past September. I guess Judge Robinson won't be receiving a fruitcake from Lucille this year, because she dismissed the case with no payoff.
"I'm sorry that the plaintiff injured herself," said U.S. Attorney Colm Connolly. "But I don't believe it is appropriate to spend taxpayer money, let alone $250,000 to pay for an accident the government didn't cause."
So Lucille beaned him with a fruitcake. (Okay, not really.)
But Judge Robinson didn't let the Postal Service off so easily. She said even though the postal clerk was following standard postal procedures, she agreed Maurer "was likely being less than courteous."
She also scolded the post office for not settling the case out of court. She said they let the case go to trial, "thus adding to its lamentable reputation."
Sorry, your honor, but I've got to side with the post office on this one. Settling out of court is an admission of guilt. I don't care if you say "this isn't an admission of guilt." Everyone knows it is. "Out of court settlement" is just lawyer talk for "we just want to cut our losses and make this thing go away." The USPS did nothing wrong. Lucille might have tripped over that parking barrier, regardless of whether someone thought her fruitcakes could cause bodily harm. But the post office shouldn't have to give Lucille one dime.
Robinson even said that no one from the USPS has ever apologized to Lucille.
"We mailed an apology to her months ago," said a postal representative. "I don't understand what could have happened to it."
But even though Lucille lost, she soldiers on, undeterred, still inflicting -- er, sending out -- fruitcakes to her friends and family. She even sent a couple to her attorney this year.
His civil suit against her goes to trial this Spring.