Saturday, September 15, 2012

Mapco & Mental Anguish



An attorney friend of mine recently sent me a link to a rather interesting court-case. It involved a public servant, a $20 bill, and an attractive stranger. The scene takes place on November 22, 2009 at a Mapco service station located in Memphis, TN where Shelby County school teacher Kim Brown was attempting to pre-purchase $5 worth of petroleum. Upon receiving his $15 in change, Mr. Brown requested his currency be exchanged for a different denomination.

Fearing that a scam was afoot, the cashier refused to exchange the money and accused Brown of “tryna do a money-switch.”  The exchange ended when the cashier issued a full refund and Brown left vowing to contact Mapco management about the incident.  A few days later, Brown filed suit against Mapco claiming that the verbal exchange had been “life-altering” and had been the source of “severe emotional distress for which he has received professional medical help” in order to relieve the “mental anguish.” Brown sought a total of $1.5 Billion in compensatory and punitive damages. 
According to Brown’s deposition, his “mental anguish” stemmed from two places:

1.      Since the exchange occurred in front of other customers, his standing as a member of the local community had been unduly tarnished by being publicly accused of fraud.
2.      More importantly, there was a “beautiful young lady” in line behind Mr. Brown whose exposure to the baseless accusations ruined his opportunity to “be friends with her” because he “thought he might know her.”

Sadly, Mr. Brown lost both the original suit and the appeal when it was ruled that Tennessee law covered neither his reputation nor his loss of potential “friendship” with the aforementioned co-ed.

Despite the obvious pitfalls of representing yourself in an outrageous civil suit seeking a disproportionately large amount of monetary compensation, I feel bad for Mr. Brown. It is not easy to hit on a woman after she realizes you can only afford $5 of gas at a time, especially when your signature move is the “Don’t I know you?” routine. I believe that I can speak for men everywhere when I say that deep down inside we are all holding onto the notion that we are the first person to use that line and that the woman’s response (in a surprisingly breathy voice) will be “No, but dinner on Friday night could fix that.”   

In hindsight, this anxiety could have only have been intensified by his fragile mental state. If undesired bill denominations were enough to cause this type of mental anguish, one can only imagine how the couple’s thwarted first date might have gone. What if the server at the restaurant gave him back incorrect change? If being treated rudely by someone behind a counter is that detrimental to your physiological well-being, I would recommend avoiding the DMV. 

Some might see $1.5 Billion as a tad excessive, but if I am going to spend three years of my life publicly pursuing litigation against an oil conglomerate for damaging my chance at hitting on a stranger “go big or go home” seems fitting. He has undoubtedly already earned a reputation, might as well have the money too. Perhaps he has unrealized political aspirations and cannot risk being confronted by the media with allegations of running a “money switch” con on minimum wage employees.

I wonder what has become of the object of his affection. Does she ever find herself in line at a Mapco daydreaming about the passionate educator whose distaste for $5 bills almost changed her life forever? Does she ever look into the face of her toddler and wonder what might have been? We can only speculate, but as a hopeless romantic I cannot help but imagine that maybe these two will re-unite someday over a 
misunderstanding at an Exxon.

If I was in Mr. Brown’s shoes, I certainly would have looked forward to addressing a jury:

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am but a humble public servant attempting to rectify an injustice. If I made one mistake throughout this process, it was that I cared about my community too much to allow these baseless accusations to go unpunished. While the defendant would trivialize the exchange as “unprofessional” and nothing more, I contend that this simple exchange forever altered my destiny.

Sure, today it is just a harmless “he tryna do a money switch” in front of an ex-con with a 6-pack and a smoking brunette, but pretty soon you will be in line at Baskin-Robbins and find yourself accused of pedophilia for asking to sample more than one flavor. I do this not for myself, but for every man, woman, and child who dared to dream of a society built on personal liberty and mutual respect. Therefore, I beseech you to make that dream a reality by awarding me a sum roughly equivalent to the annual military budget for the Philippines.

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