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essay

Tortfeasor

Tortfeasor

One Ladyscumbag’s descent down the rabbit hole of tort law after getting served by her neighbors

A man jumps out of the bushes: Hi, is your name [redacted]?

According to Urban Dictionary, “you got served” is:

  1. slang expression that is usually used when someone proves that they are better than someone else. 
  2. Another way of saying “You just got owned” or “Pwned!”
  3. To be put on notice; to be called out. To be served is an open invitation to serve back. Unless you can serve back in equal or better fashion, then you have been bumped in ranking. To be served originates from being served with court documents.

It costs $435 to file a verified complaint with the superior court of California.

  • Verified: confirmed as to accuracy or truth by acceptable evidence, action. 
  • Complaint: an expression of discontent, regret, pain, censure, resentment, or grief; lament; faultfinding

This is the dictionary definition, yet in this instance Webster falls short. In law, words wear disguises, lead double lives, have back-stories that encapsulate entire soap operas. Like people, words in the judicial system have baggage—and in this climate you pay for your carryon…Ma’am, your personal item is too large to fit under the seat in front of you. Put on notice. Called out.

So who do I know that works for this airline? I need someone to get me a buddy pass, pull some strings so I can get from point A to point B. Friend of friend, partner’s friend, friend from college, ex-client, former co-worker’s former classmate, dad of my friend’s friend—now my friend. Google. The entire Internet.

Legaldictionary.com informs me that the term “complaint” refers to the first document filed with the court. And when they say “the court” they actually mean the County Clerk. The salary for this position in LA County is $42,631 a year. Forty two thousand six hundred and thirty one dollars equals the cost of filing 98 verified complaints. That’s 98 plaintiffs filing complaints against 98 defendants—each of their bodies at 98 degrees. One hundred and ninety six bodies in conflict; 19,208 degrees Fahrenheit on the verge of boiling over.

The mind plays funny tricks when confronted with uncertainty, when things escalate out of one’s control. Aspiring to grasp the future, to narrow down the potentialities, I find myself gravitating simultaneously towards the micro and the macro. I allow my decisions to be dictated by the alignment of the stars, by the position of reversed cards, by how coffee grinds stick to my mug. Astro-tarot crystal healing sound baths, perfect frequencies that reconnect the two hemispheres of my brain and balance my chakras wash over me. I invest in amber obsidian truth enhancing stones that form a protective shield around my energy field–blocking psychic attacks and absorbing negative vibrations from my environment.

Namastay…away.

HEADLINE: California remains nation’s capital of frivolous lawsuits.

A recent report issued by the American Tort Reform Foundation named California as the nation’s No. 1 “judicial hellhole” when it comes to endless and frivolous lawsuits. Maryann Mariano writes: Our lawsuit-friendly climate has created, especially here in the L.A. area, an atmosphere ripe for lawyers trolling to bring lawsuits against small businesses and launch ludicrous class-action lawsuits. The result, unfortunately, is incentivized abuse of the civil justice system…We have become a hotbed of litigation: every year more than 1 million lawsuits are filed in the state. 

1 million lawsuits—that equals $435,000,000 dollars in filing fees per year. 

Lawyers trolling, frivolous lawsuits, abuse of the civil justice system. Sounds to me like a pointless struggle for power, a hate fuck circle jerk. Together, we stroke towards job security. Horns locked, inward facing, we make our relationships into chain links—erecting fences for others to scale, opportunities to build careers from conflict, to one day pay off their student debt. If my backyard forms the landscape of a judicial hellhole, it must be my turn to feed the demons. To do this, I follow the direction of a white lady who moved to Tibet to study ancient Buddhist practices. Joan from Maine becomes Lama Tsultrim Allione and now I follow her 5-step guide to resolve my inner conflict…

Currently, I’m pursuing my own independent study course at University of Wikipedia. Today’s topic is tort law.  That’s T-O-R-T: tort, from the Latin term torquere, which means twisted or wrong. Urban Dictionary tells me that twisted means

  1. Being high and drunk at tha same time
  2. To be evil, really messed up, mad (insane), or even sick
  3. Mixed up, confused

As a branch of civil law, tort law governs the interactions between people in society who are not in contract with one another: a teacher and her and students, parent and child, manufacturers and consumers, doctors and patients, motorists sharing the road, people rubbing against one another. Tort law asks what duty of care one owes to those around oneself, and according to the plurality of professors on the world wide web, a tort is a civil wrong that unfairly causes someone else to suffer loss or harm. The person who commits the tortious act is called the tortfeasor. In this way, I am not unique. I am not special. I am categorical: defendant. Tortfeasor accused of:

  1. Negligence
  2. Private Nuisance
  3. Public Nuisance
  4. Violations of Business + Professional codes 17200

The interesting thing about nuisance is that it’s actually one of the oldest causes of action known to the common law, with cases going back almost to the beginning of recorded case law. Apparently I’m from a long lineage of folks that have been accused of producing smells, sound, pollution, or other hazards that interfere with their neighbor’s quiet enjoyment of their home. If I am a nuisance, at least I’m not alone, I’ve got 200 years of annoyance, offense, and irritation to relate to.

When anxiety starts to overtake me, I remind myself of what the article from PsychologyToday.com says. Under the heading: Be the Better Person, Ruth Lee Johnson J.D. encourages me to remember that folks who file frivolous lawsuits are: usually lonely and angry souls with too much spare time and too few friends. It takes a level of desperation and self-loathing to expend the expenses and time it takes to file a frivolous lawsuit. Try to muster some sympathy for this person, for your own good, because it may help you avoid trial. She suggests that I try to settle out of court and apologize for anything I might have done wrong, compromise as much as I can without sacrificing my dignity, and attempt to empathize with the other party. Sometimes a little kindness goes a long way, she offers optimistically. The next headings read: Consult a Local Attorney and Seek a Therapist to Help You Through the Process.

Check, check, and check.

Namastay…away.

Embedded in the construction of nuisance is the idea that everyone has a right to quiet enjoyment of their dwelling. I turn back to Legaldictionary.com and learn that quiet enjoyment is a covenant that promises that the tenant of real estate will be able to possess the premises in peace, without disturbance by hostile claimants—i.e. a right to the undisturbed use and enjoyment of property by a tenant or landowner

Can knowledge be a disturbance? I mean, does difference compromise your existence? You tell the Internet: I don’t like my neighbors. The Internet responds: feeding you their provocative selfies, photos of unfamiliar furniture, a slick website with seductive copy. See?? You knew it all along! It’s at once TMI and not enough I. Connecting the dots backwards between partial-truths and half-facts, a scrappy artist who sublets her guest studio presents as a criminal mastermind who engages in a vicious campaign of intimidation, physical threat of harm, coercion and fraud to prevent you from complaining—all in order to further the market outreach of her BDSM Hotel. My web presence throws a ninja star that gets buried deep within your prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain controls complex functions like planning and personality development—and this piece of shrapnel impairs your perception, skewing your interpretation of even the most basic stimuli. Footsteps, lovemaking, cooking with friends, movie nights—every bump in the night becomes an attack that exerts an acute tension—twisting our links of chain in opposite directions.

For all our difference, we do have something in common: we both know how pleasurable righteous indignation can feel, especially when it’s eating you out from deep inside. It eats me out too sometimes, but I wonder if we’re both being played. So I think about Joan of Maine and Ruth Lee Johnson—I try to cultivate empathy for you and your significant other of 17 years—the one who you’ve been dissuaded from sharing dinner with in your own home because of my presence above you. I imagine what it may be like to lie in silence, listening more for your slut neighbor’s comings and goings than for the emotional tides of the person in bed next to you. And I call to mind the 5 steps for feeding my demons. I close my eyes and visualize my body turning into a honey-like nectar that slowly drips into your hungry, gaping mouth, soothing and repairing the tissue that’s been gnawed away inside. I watch myself disintegrate as I feed you my guts like a mama bird.

Then, after I complete the final step and finish resting in awareness, I sign onto Amazon.com and order a decibel meter.

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Current groundskeeper and editor-at-large for the LSB watering hole. Taking paid submissions via janitor@ladyscumbag.com

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