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In an August story on improvements to the city's waste treatment plant, the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce reported on the use of hard-shell diving suits that are used by "pilots" who jump into the tanks to monitor the effluent. The suits provide air for up to 48 hours, contain voice and video connections to the surface, and have thrusters for propulsion through the sewage. The long-standing brand name of the diving suit is the Newtsuit. (Republicans shouldn't worry; it's named after the firm's founder, Phil Nuytten.)

The Litigious Society

Warren E. Smith filed a lawsuit in Roanoke, Virginia, in April against palm reader Lola Rose Miller because she sold him bad numbers to play in the state lottery. He's suing for $3 million, the amount of that week's grand prize, which he says he should have won.

In May Jose and Maria Tercero filed a lawsuit against the Sante Fe school board and various officials for unspecified injuries their son Jesse received while carving a jack-o'-lantern last year. The Terceros said forcing Jesse to carve the pumpkin violated his religious freedom because he doesn't celebrate Halloween.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in February that a woman whose husband assaulted her on the way home from a bar could sue the bar.

In June a jury in Pensacola, Florida, awarded nearly $600,000 to Pedro Duran, 56, in his lawsuit against the CSX company. Duran lost his left arm and broke his back and leg when a CSX train hit him as he lay on the tracks, passed out after drinking. According to trial testimony, an engineer spotted what he thought was a lump of trash on the tracks and sounded the whistle as a precaution for 54 seconds before the collision. However, the "lump of trash" was Duran, who didn't move.

In July the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld a $40,000 verdict against the Fort Kent Golf Club. Almost ten years ago Jeannine Pelletier sued after a golf ball she hit struck a railroad track and bounded back and hit her in the face.

In May Laura Carlton, 23, who sued the city of Victoria, British Columbia, after a police officer inadvertently shot her during a raid, accepted an out-of-court settlement. She had sued for around $200,000--claiming that $50,000 was her loss of earnings as a prostitute.

In August in Bradenton, Florida, Carolyn J. Christian and her minister husband filed a $160,000 lawsuit against a school that trains guide dogs after a blind man who was learning to use one of the school's graduates stepped on Christian's toe, possibly breaking it. (A few days later, the Christians withdrew the lawsuit, citing public outrage.)

I Don't Think So

Martin George Clever, 32, who was arrested for burglary in Lakewood, Colorado, in July, told police that he'd entered the home because he saw two naked dolls in the yard pointing to a sliding-glass door, and he thought they were inviting him inside.

Charles McFarling, 39, cited by police in Indianapolis in June in a traffic collision that killed a woman in another car, said he ran the red light because he was thinking too intensely about material he'd learned the day before in a defensive-driving course.

In the New York City terrorist bombing trial in August Fadil Abdelghani, who was caught on videotape stirring the bomb's oil and fertilizer, testified that he hadn't known he was making a bomb. Asked a prosecutor, "Something came over you and you had an urge to start stirring?" Said Abdelghani, "I had nothing to do, and I wanted to help [my cousin's friends]."

Police in Collinsville, Illinois, arrested Earl Templeton, 38, and charged him with passing three counterfeit $100 bills. According to police, Templeton said he wasn't trying to make himself richer, but was trying to stimulate the economy.

In May Dorothy Diane Rose, who's been in a halfway house in Tampa, Florida, since 1990, when she was found not guilty by reason of insanity for strangling her two toddlers, petitioned her judge for release, claiming she had a job lined up. According to a counselor, a local couple wanted to hire her as a baby-sitter.

In Sonora, California, in August, former U.S. Forest Service employee Gary Gunderson, 43, was convicted of stealing what prosecutors said were "truckloads" of government property. Gunderson said he might have borrowed a few things, but because he's visually impaired he wasn't able to see well enough to realize that he had a lot more stuff than he thought.

Recent Passings

In March in Rich Hill, Missouri, Edgar Allen Poe, age 75; in April in Charlestown, Rhode Island, Eleanor Rigby, age 80; in May after falling from the summit of Mount McKinley, Brian McKinley, age 37; and in September in Anchorage, Alaska, Phillip Morris, of lung cancer at age 45.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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