Stella Case No. 102, Originally Published: 25 January 2006
Barnard Lorence managed to overdraw his bank account. The balance was less than $5 below zero, but mean old First National Bank and Trust in Stuart, Fla., still charged him the standard overdraft fee that it had listed in its fee schedule: $32.
But… but… BUT! The bank says it cares about its customers! So Lorence asked the manager to reverse the fee. The manager not only said no, but was “rude” about it, Lorence claims.
He thus filed suit over his “stress and pain” and loss of sleep over the fee, which only $2 million would help him get over. (A few hundred thousand bucks, he says, will only amount to a slap on the wrist, whereas $2 million is more like being “paddled”.)
Lorence filed his suit himself, without an attorney, using the basis of “false advertising” (that the bank cares) for his claim. Of course, this is the guy who managed to overdraw his own account all by himself, so let’s hope the bank will be able to beat the rap.
- “Man Upset about Overdraft Fee Sues First National Bank”, Palm Beach Post, 10 November 2005.
I didn’t find any status, but the case is so far-fetched it would have been news had it succeeded, so I conclude it was either withdrawn or dismissed.
My 2022 Thoughts on the Case
If you don’t agree with the fees, don’t open the account. Try a credit union.
As noted in the previous case, several short cases were published “late,” so this really is a 2005 case.
A letter published with Case No. 99 discussed Case 98, about the prisoner badly injured in an escape attempt. The prisoner sued the prison (and more). I allowed an attorney, Paul, to propose some reforms regarding frivolous lawsuits by prison inmates. He admitted “they all have big problems.” It brought quite a few replies.
Abe, a jailer in Texas: “Paul missed an obvious (to me) solution to prisoner lawsuits: Make them pay the filing fee. As long as an inmate has nothing to lose they will sue; if they have to pay the same fee I would have to most of them won’t file — that would mean less money for their candy and things they can buy in the commissary. Very, very few inmates have no money on the books and if the inmate had a chance to win they would come up with the filing fee.”
Thomas in Colorado: “Prisons should have a mediation/litigation system, run by prisoners. If prisons had their own court systems, prisoners’ lawsuits could be tried there before (if ruled legitimate) going on to an outside court. Giving prisoners experience as mediators might make them wiser, too.”
Allan in NSW, Australia: “There is one more solution: to have SPECIFIC courts only for prisoner cases on specific days (say, once every 6 months). These don’t have to change any burden of proof but the very act of seeing a whole bunch of identical cases on a given day could save both money and frivolous litigation while not denying any inalienable rights. As a judge and jury see a range they can evaluate similar issues in a timely way, and since the are no lawyers then the people talking to the judge can stick to established (and explained) protocols and timeframes without feeling the need to challenge them.”
And Scott, a lawyer in Florida: “A fairly comprehensive federal statute, the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (PLRA), was enacted to cut down on frivolous suits by prisoners. Among its provisions are a requirement that prisoners exhaust whatever internal prison remedies are available (such as a greivance board or other claims process) before bringing a suit in federal court. It also provides that a federal district court shall dismiss any action ‘brought with respect to prison conditions … if the court is satisfied that the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.’
“The in forma pauperis statute, which allows persons unable to pay court costs to proceed with litigation, was amended by the PLRA to require prisoners seeking to proceed without prepayment of costs to file a copy of their inmate trust account statement showing they do not have funds, and requires the court to assess costs on an incremental basis (non-prisoner litigants, once determined to qualify for in forma pauperis status, do not). Some circuits even require district courts to conduct this screening before the Complaint is ever served on the defendant, which means a defendant may never even know he was sued. While there are some problems with the PLRA discussed by law reviews, most practioners agree that it has limited prisoners’ ability to file frivolous or abusive lawsuits.”
Perhaps, but the law only applies to federal lawsuits. TSA has had examples of those, but more were in state courts.
Still, a tribunal among prisoners is an interesting idea, though the flaw I see is if such a tribunal tossed a case, it’s much more likely the members would be shanked for their trouble by the disgruntled plaintiff.
- - -
No new cases are being published, so please don’t try to submit cases.
My Flagship Email Publication This is True continues to come out with new stories every week. It’s “Thought-Provoking Entertainment” like Stella, but uses weird-but-true news items as its vehicle for social commentary. It is the oldest entertainment newsletter online — weekly since 1994. Click here for a This is True subscribe form.