'Tis the season for suing?

I often go to Google looking for a quick answer and then wander off into something else.

That was the case this past week as I looked for a gift to give my daughter after her holiday violin recital. She's playing "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."

As I searched, I discovered that "Grandma" got run over by a breach-of-contract lawsuit.

Elmo Shropshire, the man who sang the tune in 1979, was sued two years ago by a company claiming he had interfered in a $1 million marketing deal to sell "Grandma"-inspired items, ranging from bobblehead dolls to snow globes.

For whatever reason, this sent me off on a Google excursion.

I typed in "Christmas lawsuits" and got 1.73 million search results back in 0.23 seconds. Lawsuits and the holidays apparently go together like figgy and pudding.

Many involve the so-called "War on Christmas" that gets waged every year around this time. The real "war," I suppose, comes from clashing views of the Establishment Clause.

A decade ago, a Cincinnati lawyer sued the federal government, seeking to have Christmas removed from the calendar of national holidays because he claimed it violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

And just last month, a Michigan man sued a county that had denied him a permit to display a Nativity scene from a public road median a constitutionally protected right, he claimed, which his family had exercised for the past 63 years.

As I Googled my way across this winter wonderland of litigation, I ran into countless legal disputes of this kind. Others seemed as random as a snowflake.

A good example: The standoff that took place last year between the town of Valdosta, Ga., and Medford, Mass., over which one had the rights to hold a "Jingle Bells Festival."

Valdosta argued it had the rightful claim because James Pierpont, who wrote the holiday favorite, "Jingle Bells," lived there. Medford asserted its right based on its belief that Pierpont actually wrote the song while staying at a tavern there in the 19th century.

Valdosta got the last ha, ha, ha in the dispute but ultimately fell short of getting the Grinch of the Year award.

Instead, that one ended up going to the Grinch himself.

Apparently, the city of Louisville, Ky., had set up a "LouWhoVille" display as part of its holiday celebration, featuring characters from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

It ended when lawyers from Dr. Seuss Enterprises sent a cease-and-desist letter, threatening legal action if the display was not taken down immediately.

"It appears these lawyers' hearts are two sizes too small," Louisville's mayor, Jerry Abramson, told the Associated Press after his city begrudgingly complied.

As I browsed through one story after another about these holiday lawsuits often arising from fights at stores and incidents at office parties I wondered if it would eventually kill my holiday spirit.

Legally, I learned, it wouldn't matter. An Arizona man had actually used that "ruined my holiday" argument to get sanctions against a party who served him with a motion on Christmas Eve. A court soundly rejected it.

After getting to the 10th Google page and reading a story about a group of passengers who sued an airline because they had been "held hostage" aboard a plane for seven hours while it sat in fog on a runway on Christmas Day, I decided it was time to jump off Google and search for something a little more upbeat.

I found it in a story that ran last December about a law firm of sending stuffed stockings to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan every year. There were several other stories about firms holding clothing and food drives.

It got me to thinking about all of the good things that lawyers and their firms do for their communities around the holidays and, quite honestly, throughout the year. My faith was restored.

So, I got back on Google, wondering if I might find a bobblehead of Cousin Mel.


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