Jim Casey is supposed to be the West Virginia trial lawyers' lobbyist, not its caricature.

Now he's both, befitting an appropriate, if quite convenient "Exhibit A" for tort reformers hoping to cure the state of its sue-first tendencies.

Mr. Casey, as reported exclusively last week by The Record, has filed suit against a Mason County tobacco shop he says is culpable in his 2005 fender bender.

We don't mean to say he sued a clerk, store manager, or individual owner at the Mason Smoke Shak, on account they were speeding or driving recklessly so as to cause his unfortunate accident. No, there isn't an employee who stands accused.

Rather, Casey is placing blame on the Smoke Shak building itself, an inanimate, stationary object that, last we checked, couldn't possibly have a driver's license.

The building is at fault for its "layout and design," which Casey says caused the actual offending driver, Herbert O. Hoover to lose his focus and pull out into traffic on the Staff Sergeant Jimmy G. Stewart Highway without looking both ways.

Indeed, Hoover didn't act alone in causing this accident. He was provoked by a small, rectangular building.

Casey, a lawyer himself who once served as the city attorney for Point Pleasant, isn't kidding. He even goes on to contend that the Smoke Shak building threat still lives. Its "hazardous conditions" continue to put West Virginia citizens "in immediate peril."

Good grief.

It's worth noting here that this lawsuit -- against Hoover and the building -- arrived with the two-year statute of limitations deadline looming. Mr. Hoover is dead, and Casey has already collected damages from his estate via his insurance company. Apparently, it wasn't enough.

Casey has decided to go back to the well one last time. He wants more money from Hoover's estate and the building, which he says deserves at least an equal share of the blame for his auto accident.

This preposterous accusation has the practical effect of affording Casey the opportunity to stick his hands in someone else's (presumably deeper) pockets. We should all fear the potential precedent it would set.

Billboard eye-catching? House close to the road? See you in court.

West Virginia plaintiff's lawyers surely will salivate over the new lawsuit possibilities.

Caricature or not, one thing is for certain about Jim Casey. He's a man truly dedicated to his job.

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