Cohen

By STEVE COHEN

CHARLESTON -- The basketball court isn't the only place to witness March Madness this year.

The West Virginia Supreme Court plays host to a shootout between former Huntington High hoops star O.J. Mayo and a panel of school principals over the player's ejection from a game last year.

Madness indeed that "basketball court" and those on "the bench" become double entendres. Our legal system finds itself unable to distinguish if those wearing judicial robes are wearing a referee's black and white stripes, too.

There's madness in our judiciary from another West Virginia high school, too.

Remember the Sissonville grad who, upon being granted his diploma, sued for a cool $1 million claiming he is "unprepared for life." That jump shot at jackpot justice has made its way to the High Court docket, too.

There's madness as well that our state Ethics Commission took head on the issue of public employees claiming frequent flyer points when traveling on state business. Declare the bonus miles as taxable income.

But ethicists run to the showers when the attorney general fails to consult his plaintiff clients before settling a lawsuit he seemingly filed on their behalf, and fails to deliver the settlement dollars to them. Where's the out-of-bounds call here?

One of those plaintiffs is the state public employees' insurance program. Budget pressures are responsible for 37,000 retirees finding it difficult to get health care providers to honor their insurance. Perhaps if the attorney general had delivered the lawsuit settlement dollars to the PEIA as he is supposed to, this madness could have been avoided.

Madness ensues in a $25 million verdict against a Charleston hospital, to which the personal injury lawyer filing suit is quoted in the newspaper as saying the "hospital's insurance policy should cover" it. Does she not remember the medical crisis in West Virginia a few years ago? Does she think that money appears from thin air? Patients will surely notice when they get their bills.

Then there's the "fowl" made by another personal injury lawyer whose railway conductor client is suing his employer for $75,000 because he says a goose on the loose caused him to fall.

The West Virginia Legislature concluded its session in March, taking no actions to address our state's broken legal system. Most West Virginians probably would rather forego our lawsuit madness in favor of Final Four madness in San Antonio in a few weeks.

Cohen is executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. For more information about WV CALA, visit WVJusticeWatch.org.

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