Obiter Dicta

That'll Show 'Em

  • Print

Ralph Paul has certain expectations when he orders a seafood entrée in a restaurant. In March those expectations weren’t met and the resulting dispute made the New Port Richey, Fla., man a bit crabby.

Paul, 54, was with his girlfriend at Angellino’s, an Italian restaurant in Palm Harbor. His shrimp and scallop verdura contained five shrimp and five scallops on a bed of pasta. Paul considered that a bit scampi, er, that is to say, skimpy. He ate the shrimp and scallops, and a small amount of pasta and vegetables, then asked that the meal be taken off his bill.

After dessert and coffee, the bill arrived, still carrying a charge for the partially eaten meal. Paul argued with the manager and one of the restaurant’s owners, who insisted he pay the entire $46 tab. His refusal netted him a charge of intent to defraud, a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail.

“I tried five times to explain why I was misled [by the menu]. I left a tip … and walked out,” Paul says. “It was a matter of principle and dignity.”

Paul claims he tried to mediate the dispute through the Better Business Bureau, but the owners refused.

A spokesman for Angellino’s declined to comment on the case.

Paul hired an attorney who reportedly charges 500 clams per hour. In October, a jury took less than half an hour to find him not guilty.

What did Paul spend to defend his nonpayment of a $46 bill? He won’t say. But he will say this: “I would take the same route again.”

Holiday Hassle

Clerk’s Conduct Takes the Cake as Dessert Disparagement Leads to Litigation

It’s been said that there’s really only one fruitcake in the world—it just keeps getting passed around. You might think that’s funny, but Lucille Greene would thank you to keep your wisecracks to yourself.

The 88-year-old Magnolia, Del., woman bakes about 40 of the disrespected desserts each holiday season and mails them to family, friends and veterans’ hospitals. In 2002, however, Greene claims, the behavior of a postal clerk left a bad taste in her mouth. According to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, the clerk shook some of her packaged fruitcakes and asked, “What kind of bombs do you have in here?”

Greene says she became so upset and flustered that she paid the postage and left. She says she fell outside, injuring her knee, chipping a tooth, cutting her lip and breaking her glasses.

Greene sued the U.S. Postal Service for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, seeking unspecified monetary compensation.

Chief District Judge Sue L. Robinson presided at a bench trial in November 2005 and dismissed the last of Greene’s claims in October, saying the postal clerk had followed standard procedures.

Colm F. Connolly of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which defended the Postal Service at trial, says “the government was sorry the plaintiff injured herself,” but the case “never should have been brought or tried.”

When asked whether she will continue to mail fruitcakes at the same post office, Greene replied, “Not anymore. I’ll be going to Lincoln.”


Stories by St. Petersburg Times Online, Delaware Online; research by Wendell LaGrand.

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.