TriCornerNews: from The Lakeville Journal and The Millerton News
December 23, 2020
By PATRICK L. SULLIVAN
Tom Morrison, of Salisbury, Conn., lampoons the legal world in his first novel, “Torts ‘R’ Us,” published this fall and available at Oblong Books in Millerton, N.Y., and Salisbury Pharmacy.
Morrison will discuss the book with Bill Littauer, a retired network newsman who also lives in Salisbury, at an online event sponsored by Noble Horizons (also in Salisbury, Conn.) on Thursday, Jan. 7, at7 p.m. (go to www.noblehorizons.org for details.)
The story revolves around the Peters brothers, Patrick A. (known as “Pap”) and Prescott U. (aka “Pup”) as they leave their comfortable perches in established New York law firms and start their own firm, specializing in class-action lawsuits.
This in turn takes them to New York City strip clubs and to the murky world of Midwestern college basketball.
Along the way there’s a woman who does battle with environmentalists over geese removal, a website that publishes mugshots, and a pulchritudinous paralegal.
If it all sounds somewhat familiar, that’s because the various subplots are “inspired by real cases,” Morrison said in a phone interview.
Asked why an experienced, respectable attorney nearing his well-earned retirement would write a broadly farcical novel making fun of his profession, Morrison was clear: “Lawyers take themselves too seriously.”
Although in his half-century of practice he didn’t do much class-action work, Morrison said he believed that many such lawsuits are frivolous “and should not be brought.”
Referring to the phenomenon of a person receiving a letter inviting the recipient to participate in a class-action suit, Morrison said most of the money from a victory will go to the lawyers involved.
“You’ll get $1.78 and some coupons.”
(Such as the Victoria’s Secret gift certificate which is part of the settlement for the book’s strippers.)
Morrison has a lot of fun with names — the incontestably preppy Pap and Pup, the well-known pharmaceutical company Jumpsum and Gypsum, busybody Nina Nosenyourbus and the Friends of Geese, Groundhogs and Yaks (FROGGY).
Asked if he was worried that his satire might strike someone as actionable, Morrison was sanguine.
“I wish they would,” he laughed. “It would increase sales.”
And for those who don’t agree with the words, “It’s only funny until someone files a lawsuit,” there are now virtual online tours of Ralph Nader’s American Museum of Tort Law in his hometown of Winsted, Conn. Famous tort law cases are explained in snappy short text boxes illustrated with cartoons. Go to www.tortmuseum.org.
Local Author Unearths the Follies of the Legal World in Bombshell new Satire
What’s left to do — but laugh? In a year filled with overbearing consternation, uncertainty and yes, tragedy, we could all benefit from literary escape as we inch closer toward a new year. Luckily for readers in the Tri-Corner, a new author has burst onto the scene with a scathingly funny satire that taps into a part of modern society rife with humorous potential. For over four decades, former attorney Thomas “T.C.” Morrison litigated cases involving a broad range of commercial cases, including False Advertising and Trademark and Trade Dress infringement, working for the firm Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler.
After his time observed a few cases laden with faux damages and righteous indignation meant to reward bank accounts rather than a moral sense of truth and justice, Morrison used his experience, in his retirement, to write his first book, Torts “R” Us, taking a humorous look at these types of cases, as well as the attorneys who take them on.
The story follows Patrick A. Peters (“Pap”) and his twin brother Prescott U. Peters (“Pup”), two perceptive attorneys who meet a variety of clients, judges, and lawyers as they embark on a resourceful and unique approach to lawyer-client relationships all inspired by actual court cases. Morrison draws upon research as well as a few cases he litigated personally to pull back the proverbial curtain on the nature of class-action lawsuits. In doing so, Morrison allows the reader the kind of middle-ground that has become so hard to achieve in modern entertainment. A delightful irreverence mixed with a subtle, yet dutifully poignant message that feels inclusive rather than polarizing.
The Lakeville, Connecticut author was kind enough to sit down with Main Street to discuss the journey toward his first novel, his time as a discerning attorney and his new life in Northwest Connecticut.
Being an Ohio native, how did you find your way up the Eastern seaboard and to our little corner of the world in Lakeville, Connecticut?
Like most things in life, that is an interesting story. I practiced law in New York City for over forty years after my time serving in the United States Air Force. I was a litigator in a number of places but spent most of my career with one firm — Belknap Webb & Tyler. The “case” if you will, that became a benchmark for me was a suit involving a small clothing manufacturer in Bantom, Connecticut. The suit started out in surrogate courts in Nassau County, New York, but because the company was located in Litchfield County, I was in need of local counsel for that part of the case that was heard in Connecticut.
I was eventually recommended to a firm here in Lakeville so I drove up on a Saturday and was struck by the beauty of this place — I still am today. Fast-forward thirty-five years and my wife and I were thinking about retiring so I brought her up here and she immediately fell in love as well. Today I feel as though I am living happily ever after as they say.
Being an attorney for so many years, undoubtedly you must have been buried in litigation and paperwork at some point. Did those moments become your motivation to eventually write a novel?
The journey toward Torts “R” Us, my first novel, was a combination of factors. I can safely say I have always wanted to write a novel. During my time in the Air Force, as a result of having a bit of free time on my hands, I wrote something of a spy novel — as if I know anything about spy novels. As is the case with many aspiring novelists, I passed it out to a few publishers and never got a response.
Forty-five years later, as I was getting ready to retire from my career in law, I had a little episode with some friends here in Salisbury. There is a wonderful community of artists who live in this area and many who create greeting cards using their photographs or paintings. I happened upon one of these greeting cards one day in a small local shop. The card had a photo on the front that was a spitting image of one of my friends. I bought the card and mailed it to my friend along with my business card saying jokingly that I had discovered an artist who was using their likeness without permission and would be happy to represent them in a lawsuit. That contact initiated a stream of creative emails that went back and forth between us and became a little short story about the phony lawsuit. Finally, my friend suggested the inevitable, “you ought to write a book about this sort of thing.” It turns out, though I don’t know much about international spies, I know a bit about lawyers and litigation. So I put mind to it and had a lot of fun writing my first book.
How did the idea of making Torts “R” Us a satire come about?
Well, frankly, I’ve always thought that lawyers have a habit of taking themselves too seriously. That’s not to say I didn’t love being a lawyer myself. It was the job of a lifetime and I enjoyed trying cases all over the country immensely. However, even in a field that revolves around the idea of staying true to, and upholding the law, I found some of my cases to be humorous. So the idea of a satire, or a farce to be more precise, about modern litigation seemed almost natural.
The cases that appear in the first third of the book are based on cases that I litigated during my time as an attorney. The heart of the book however revolves around three class-action lawsuits that I had previously read about. They are indeed bizarre and reinforce the idea that life is stranger than fiction so I fine-tuned them as much as I could and made them the crux of the novel.
The first and most important objective of the book is humor. I wanted people to read the novel and laugh. But there is a bit of a message hidden within the pages. At least in the class-action realm of law, there are a lot of frivolous cases that are filed that, in reality, should never be filed. Many, certainly not all, serve no rightful purpose other than to grow the bank accounts of those doing the litigating. I thought long and hard about how much I wanted to convey this idea. Class-action suits and the idea of torts themselves serve a real and important purpose in society. When it comes to life changing, impactful events like 9/11 and corporate ponzi-schemes for example that cause irreparable harm to large swaths of people, class-action suits represent one of the few paths to real justice. In the latter days of my career, I saw many cases that simply clogged up the courts and really only benefited legal teams in the end. So I tried to pick at those kinds of farcical scenarios when it came time to write the book.
Speaking of serving a purpose, you have become very active in the local community. How have you found your place with the folks who call this area home?
Both my wife and I have been deeply involved in the community and are proud to have so many welcoming neighbors and friends. I joined the Board of Directors at Music Mountain in Falls Village about seven years ago and have been very active since. My wife is part of the Salisbury Association here in town and that has brought us close with so many members of the community. A couple of years ago, I was invited by a few friends to attend a meeting on behalf of the only Republican Selectman in our area. A discussion came about regarding the former Salisbury Republican Town Committee and how and why it had gone away. The Northwestern portion of Connecticut is full of diverse groups of people with similarly diverse politics. So we decided to revive this committee based around the idea of representing a responsible, inclusive side to the Republican Party locally. We reformed the committee in 2018 and were active in the State elections that year, the local elections in 2019 and of course this year. Our objective is to create a viable second party, not to convince or divide the community that makes up this beautiful area and I think we have made some positive headway.
After the many immense undertakings you have faced and accomplished thus far, what is you hope readers take away from Torts “R” Us?
Well I hope they will laugh — and laugh a lot. I don’t think I’ve quite risen to the level of Candide and I don’t think anyone will confuse me with Joseph Heller but I have tried to make my real life experiences something that readers can absorb while enjoying themselves. I think this year especially, with so many folks living in isolation or going to work uncertain what each day will bring, my hope is to unite minds around good humor — because we all need some right now.
And to find out more about the author himself, visit tortsrusbook.com
Torts “R” Us: A Legal Farce Serves up Humor with no Known Side Effects except Uncontrollable Laughter
New York, New York – (December 21, 2020) – Approvals for the Covid-19 vaccine continue to accelerate, but in the meantime health experts are emphasizing episodes of laughter, dubbed as “giggle breaks” to boost the immune system. The Mayo Clinic, a worldwide leader in medical care, endorses the heightened importance of oxytocin released through laughing to reduce stress, tension, pain and anxiety (Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke – Mayo Clinic). Author T.C. Morrison’s newly released book, Torts “R” Us provides just that – smiles for a stretch of time.
“I wrote the book because humor plays a role, even in the darkest of times,” said Morrison. “Large swaths of the population have been living in isolation and I believe people are ready for a different dose of humor. We have read enough about overeating and marital bickering. Humor can unite a generation – I hope my book plays a small part in the bigger picture.”
Receiving rave reviews on Amazon, this legal farce authored by Morrison, a renowned trial and appellate lawyer for almost 50 years, humorously explores the modern American legal system through a series of bizarre lawsuits. The book satirizes our legal system from a variety of absurd angles, featuring wacky lawsuits, venal plaintiffs, double-talking trial lawyers, and much more. From a case involving lap dancers at three gentleman’s clubs — “Tops Down,” “Bottoms Up” and “Below the Belt” — to another with a defendant accused of shooting at geese with an “assault weapon,” the book bounces around from hilarious case to hilarious case.
The reviews have been piling in! One reader writes, “Torts “R” Us provides welcome comic relief in these challenging times,” while another writes, “The author displays incredible humor, knowledge and intelligence. He marries the nostalgia of times past with the ridiculousness of times present in a manner that evokes pure, uninhibited laughter.”
Timed appropriately for the holidays and for many still sheltering-in place, the book is one antidote for improving good health. Torts “R” Us is a must-read for any lawyer, law student, tort reformer or anyone else that likes to laugh. You can learn more about Torts “R” Us: A Legal Farce at tortsrusbook.com or purchase the book exclusively on Amazon. The author is also available for interviews and is a dynamic speaker.
Tom recently talked with Marshall Miles on Robin Hood Radio. In it, Tom discusses how he became known as the Dean of False Advertising and some of the absurdities and abuses of the class action process. Take a listen below.
In the interview, T.C. Morrison shares hilarious stories of past cases he’s tried that “are crazy enough they should be in his book, including Papa John’s vs Pizza Hut over the slogan “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza.””
T.C. Morrison recently interviewed with the National Tort Museum Director, Rick Newman, sharing his inspiration for the book, insights from his legal career, and the type of humorous adventure readers should expect from Torts R Us.
As seen in the Connecticut Post Online, the Greenwich Time, the Stamford Advocate, the News Times, and the Register Citizen.
LAKEVILLE — During his long career, attorney Thomas “T.C.” Morrison litigated cases involving trademark and trade infringement, working for the firm Belknap Webb & Tyler. He helped the firm pioneer the field of false advertising, where national advertisers can sue competitors for false or unsubstantiated claims.
The experience led Morrison, in his retirement, to write his first book, “Torts ‘R’ Us,” which takes a humorous look at these types of cases, as well as the attorneys who take them on.
The characters, brothers named Patrick A. Peters (“Pap”) and his twin brother Prescott U. Peters (“Pup”), are lawyers “with a distinctive eye for opportunity,” Morrison said. Pap convinces Pup, who is a good lawyer, that they should leave their respective big-firm practices in New York City to start a practice as class-action lawyers. The brothers meet a variety of clients, judges and lawyers as they embark on a resourceful and unique approach to lawyer-client relationships
“The book has 34 chapters, and the first 12 or so are background stories about the lawyers,” Morrison said. “They grew up in Greenwich, and worked for big law firms, but they got bored and started this class-action law firm. All of the cases that are involved are in those early chapters; they are based on cases that I actually handled.”
The cases Morrison details in his novel are “quite amusing” he said.
“For example, one of the cases is called Breath Magic, and it mirrors a case that I tried in the 1990s. It was a false advertising case. My client made a series of mints and gum for bad breath. The defendant was from South Africa, and he claimed that bad breath originates from the stomach, not the mouth. Of course, that’s not true, but he created Breath Assure, saying that mints and gums weren’t getting at the problem. It was a totally bogus argument.”
In the real case, Morrison found an expert on bad breath, who had written a book with the same title. “We had a trial in New Jersey, and after about three days, the (defendant’s) lawyers asked for a continuance, and came back with a settlement agreement. They dropped 23 of the 24 claims. They can no longer say that ‘Breath Assure works,’” Morrison said.
“That’s what false advertisement laws are for,” he said. “This is a fairly wild case, in my judgment, because it was so ridiculous. I realized I was involved in a lot of humorous cases.”
A Columbus, Ohio, native, Morrison began his career after graduating from Otterbein University in Ohio and New York University Law School, where he was a Root-Tilden Scholar. He served active duty as a legal officer in the Air Force for four years, and then joined the New York City law firm of Rogers & Wells, becoming a partner in 1975. In 1977, he moved to Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, and spent the next 34 years trying cases and arguing appeals around the country.
During the last five years of his career, Morrison joined a New York law office of a Los Angeles-based firm, where most of their cases were based on advertising class-action suits.
“Companies were suing for false advertising,” he said. “The company spends its money, and it either wins or loses. The cases were brought to my clients for really frivolous things. … For example, something wasn’t natural because of one minuscule ingredient, or because something wasn’t fresh.
“These cases might have been interesting for a look from the Federal Trade Commission, at labeling, for example, but the amount of federal class actions, on behalf of consumers, doesn’t really work out. Guess who benefits?” he said. “The lawyers do. The average consumers get a few dollars, maybe a coupon.
“I started thinking, these cases are ridiculous. They clog the courts, and drive up the costs. That’s what really got me interested in the class-action side of my book,’ he said.
“Torts ‘R’ Us” is a satirical farce, Morrison said.
“Everyone in the stories are a bit farcical; the lawyers, the judges, the clients,” he said. But the underlying message is that “our class-action system has gone a big awry. Class actions serve a legitimate purpose if you’re talking about plane crashes, or bombings, or the Bernie Madoff scandal. That’s what class actions are designed to deal with, and that’s the underlying thesis of the book, even though it’s done in a humorous manner.”
Since it was published Aug. 19, “Torts ‘R’ Us” is receiving positive reviews on Amazon, where it can be purchased. “The trick on Amazon is to get good reviews, so that Amazon will begin to promote it,” Morrison said. “There are 29 reviews, and 28 are five stars. They’re quite good — the reviews are witty and humorous. From that standpoint, I’m very pleased.”
He took part in a podcast recently with a reporter from the Washington Times, and is planning another soon. Once the pandemic calms down, the author hopes to give some in-person talks, perhaps at local bookstores and libraries.
Although “Torts ‘R’ Us” is his first book, it’s not his first attempt at writing. “When I was in the Air Force, I actually wrote a spy novel,” he said. “I sent it to one or two publishers; they turned it down, and I didn’t really pursue it. What do I know about spy novels anyway?”
Instead, he focused on his litigation, and wrote many, many briefs. “The trick in writing briefs is to write them in plain English,” he said. “You’re trying to convince a judge, so it’s important. I concentrated on that, and read a lot of books and heard lectures about writing. I enjoyed being in court, of course, but I loved to write.”
Morrison discovered Litchfield County while he was practicing law in New York. “It was my career that introduced me to the northwest corner of Connecticut,” he explained. “I was involved in a surrogate court case in New Jersey, but it involved a family-owned business, Bantam Mills. When the father died, he left unclear instructions on who was to run the business. My client was one of three sisters, and she wanted to be in charge, but another sister was president of the company. We had 12 lawsuits in courts all over New York and Connecticut, until it was resolved.
“Because I wasn’t admitted to practice in Connecticut, I hooked with an attorney in Lakeville, and we worked at the Litchfield County Courthouse, that beautiful historic building in the center of Litchfield,” Morrison said. “I loved the area.”
He then introduced his wife, Sarah, to the northwest corner. “She fell in love with the area,” he said, and the couple had their retirement home built in Lakeville in 2007. “We didn’t move here full-time until I retired at the end of 2015,” he said. “Until then, it was our weekend home.”
The Morrisons are happy in their new home. “I enjoyed growing up in Columbus, and I lived in Stamford and Weston, but I’ve never been happier than in Lakeville,” Morrison said. The couple has an adult son ,who is a congressional staff member in Washington, D.C., and Morrison has two older sons from his first marriage.
After settling in Lakeville as full-time residents, the Morrisons found ways to get involved in the community.
“In my case, I’m on the board at Music Mountain, the oldest chamber music festival in the country, and I’m chairman of the Lakeville Republican Town Committee,” he said. “We actually reinstituted the committee in 2018; it had gone dormant. The committee was extremely conservative, and this town is not conservative. … So a group of us got together, and said, let’s resurrect it. It’s going well; we’re badly outnumbered, since there’s less than 500 registered Republicans in town, and many are unaffiliated or Democrat.
“My wife, Sarah, is very active with the Salisbury Association,” Morrison said. “Almost everyone is a registered Democrat, and they tell her how they’re so glad we’ve resurrected the Republican Town Committee.”
T. C. Morrison was interviewed by The Washington Times’ Cheryl K. Chumley on her podcast, “Bold & Blunt.” Listen below to hear Morrison’s take on how frivolous lawsuits tie-up the legal system and distract from the necessary litigation that serves the greater public good.
Episode: “Tort Troubles, and the Padding of Lawyers’ Pockets”
Episode description: “The state of America’s legal system, including its abundance of costly, oft-frivolous class action suits, has left the defendant in the dust, the plaintiff in near-poverty, and citizens paying to pad Big Lawyers’ pockets. Tom “T.C.” Morrison has something to make us laugh — a “Torts ‘R’ Us” book of satire about the legal system that draws on his 50 years in the field. When all else fails, it’s good to laugh.”
T.C. Morrison’s first book, Torts R Us: A Legal Farce, is available on Amazon starting today. In the book, Morrison, a renowned trial and appellate lawyer for almost 50 years who has been described as the “dean of false advertising litigation,” humorously explores the modern American legal system through a series of bizarre lawsuits.
The book satirizes our modern legal system from a variety of absurd angles, featuring wacky lawsuits, venal plaintiffs, double-talking trial lawyers, and much more. From a case involving lap dancers at three gentleman’s clubs — “Tops Down,” “Bottoms Up” and “Below the Belt” — to another with a defendant accused of shooting at geese with an “assault weapon,” the book bounces around from hilarious case to hilarious case. The best part? Each one is derived from real court cases, some from Morrison’s own legal career.
The legal world is already embracing the book. Maureen Bateman, former General Counsel of United States Trust Company and also General Counsel of State Street Bank and Trust Company, says, “I recommend this book absolutely – it treats our human condition with humor and laughter, while making some important points about our legal system!”
Harry Woods, a renowned trial lawyer and former President of the Oklahoma Bar Association, agrees: “Torts ‘R Us is highly readable and entertaining. From beginning to end, the farce flows brilliantly. It hooks the reader early on, and Morrison sustains the high level of humor and spoofing, page after page, masterfully presenting factual situations and characters, who communicate with a sustained flow of unusually humorous plays on names, words and concepts.”
After graduating from New York University Law School where he was a Root-Tilden Scholar, T.C. Morrison helped Patterson Belknap pioneer the field of false advertising litigation. Many of his cases in this field, as well as the field of trademark and trade dress infringement, have become landmarks.
Published by iBooks, an imprint of J Boylston & Company, Publishers, Torts R Us: A Legal Farce is a must-read for any lawyer, law student, tort reformer or anyone else that likes to laugh. You can learn more about Torts R Us: A Legal Farce at tortsrusbook.com and purchase the book on Amazon.