Richelle Olson sued [Sacha Baron Cohen] and NBC Universal on May 22, claiming an incident at a charity bingo tournament that was filmed for the upcoming "Bruno" left her disabled.
Olson claims she was severely injured after struggling with Cohen and his film crew at the event, held in Palmdale, Calif., two years ago. The lawsuit states she now needs a wheelchair or cane to move around.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages of more than $25,000.
Gawker wonders aloud:
We would hope that if this lady genuinely suffered brain bleeding that left her in a wheelchair that she’s a asking for much more than $25,000 in damages, but why she waited two years to file the suit is anyone’s guess—-Some would say probably because it’s all a bunch of BS.
Don’t blame Gawker, they don’t claim to be legal experts.
The suit was filed in Lancaster, California, which is in Los Angeles County.
As you can see from this fee schedule (PDF), the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, has a "limited civil case" program for those cases valued at less than $25,000. It likely has different rules and different judges, much like Philadelphia’s mandatory arbitration for cases below $50,000 and Pennsylvania’s municipal court for cases below $8,500 (or $10,000 in Philadelphia).
Most states have in place a "small claims court" of some sort for claims below a certain value, to conserve judicial resources while still giving parties access to substantial justice.
Thus, a suit that "seeks unspecified damages of more than $25,000" could be worth millions or billions of dollars. That allegation is nothing more than a legal term inserted in the complaint by the plaintiff’s lawyer to let the clerk know that the case should be assigned to the full-fledged civil trial court and not the small claims court.
As for the two years, I doubt that has anything to do with the plaintiff herself. It takes time to prepare a case, and it’s not surprising to see a case filed right as the statute of limitations is about to expire. Perhaps the lawyers have been discussing settlement. Perhaps the plaintiff was hoping to avoid suing and was seeing if they would get better, but, due to the statute of limitations, has to sue now or never.
[UPDATE: Daniel A. Reisman, a Los Angeles business lawyer, fills in the details, noting how (like in Pennsylvania), plaintiffs in personal injury suits are prohibited from stating specific damages in their complaint.]