Suzy’s Breach

Originally appeared in the August 2000 issue of the ABA Journal.

Harmless Error - A Truly Minority View on the Law

Suzy’s Breach

BY ANDREW J. McCLURG

The last time we checked in on Suzy Spikes, my daughter’s litigiously delinquent pal, she was defending herself in a school dress code proceeding. Fortunately, the matter settled.

Suzy agreed not to throw up on school officials during future closing arguments. In return, the dress code was amended to recognize a fundamental right to wear fake tattoos, Mocha Latte nail polish and any outfit evoking the parental response, “Over my dead body.”

Suzy’s latest legal dispute began when she ordered a subscription to Zipgirl magazine. Zipgirl focuses on the issues most vital to today’s adolescent girls: boys and looking good. Reliable teen sources inform me they would actually die without important articles like “Hottie or Soulmate: How To Tell For Sure” and “Britney Spears’ Tips for Keeping Your Belly Button Exposed 24-7.”

Suzy neglected to pay for the subscription, which led to a contentious correspondence exchange pitting a large media conglomerate against 13-year-old Suzy. The inequality in this match-up became quickly apparent:

Dear Ms. Spikes:

You ordered Zipgirl magazine and asked us to bill you. This is your 40th bill. Please sit down right now and take care of this obligation. Act today and receive Zipgirl’s exclusive and very short bonus issue, “Wisdom From Dawson’s Creek.”

Sincerely,
Harold Butts, Account Manager


Dear Mr. BUTTS (ha, ha):

You have a lot of nerve trying to charge me for your crummy magazine. I should bill you for the time I waste reading it. In case you didn’t know, I have a lot better things to do than read. Your bills are hurting the environment. Stop sending them or I will report you to Greenpeace.

Yours very truly,
Suzy Spikes

p.s. “How To Get Him To Notice You” was a joke. It didn’t even mention the most obvious ways, like spray painting your name on his locker or hitting him in the head with a stapler.

Dear Ms. Spikes:

We are in receipt of your recent correspondence. If you do not remit the amount due within 14 days, we will have no choice but to refer this matter to our legal department.

Sincerely,
Harold Butts


Dear Mr. Butts:

Ooh, like I’m really scared.

Yours very truly,
Suzy Spikes


Dear Ms. Spikes:

You are in breach of your subscription contract. Take appropriate steps immediately to avoid legal action.

Sincerely,
Jean Babbleton, Attorney


Dear Ms. Babbleton:

You broke the contract! Because I am the victim of frequent threats to be to grounded for life if I do not change my ways, I read and relied on “10 Ways To A Whole New You.” Despite following all ten suggestions, I have spent three of the last four months in my room.

I’m sure Sam Donaldson would be very interested to hear about how your mean company likes to pick on precious, innocent children.

Yours very truly,
Suzy Spikes


Dear Ms. Spikes:

Keep the magazines.

Sincerely,
MediaGiant, Inc.


Unappeased, Suzy kept writing letters until MediaGiant agreed to give her a free lifetime subscription and send an affidavit to her parents accepting sole responsibility for Suzy’s recent misbehavior.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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