The People Who Sued Themselves

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Over the weekend I wrote about Lodi v. Lodi, which was not a divorce but rather one man's legal crusade against himself. I was thinking about that because I'm working on a legal-ethics presentation about conflict-of-interest rules, which is a sufficiently dull topic that I need to add something strange to keep everybody (including me) awake. So my plan is to try to discuss the topic with regard to people who have sued themselves. So far, I have five such cases, and since I have been pulling these together for the presentation anyway, I thought I would go ahead and list them all in one place.


1985: Oreste Lodi sues himself in Shasta County, California, apparently trying to obtain a judgment he can use in some way for tax purposes. After his case against himself is dismissed, he appeals, filing a brief for himself as appellant and another one for himself as respondent. The court affirms, ordering each party to bear its own costs.

2005: Emert Wyss, an Illinois plaintiffs' attorney, brings a class action against a mortgage company seeking to recover allegedly illegal fees charged to homeowners. It turns out that those fees had originally been charged by the Centerre Title Company, which is awkward because that company is owned by the same Emert Wyss. Wyss is ultimately forced to admit in a deposition that he is involved in a suit to recover fees his company charged in the first place, and is added to the case as a third-party defendant.

2006: Curtis Gokey files a claim against the city of Lodi (no relation), California, for damage caused to his vehicle when a city employee backed a dump truck into it. The driver of the truck: Curtis Gokey. Some argue that since there was no evidence it was intentional, he should technically be able to recover from the city under the doctrine of respondeat superior. The city, at least, disagrees, arguing that in essence Gokey has filed a claim against himself. It later also denies a claim by Gokey's wife, Rhonda, pointing out that under California law the car was community property.

2007: the city of Islington, England, effectively sues itself when one of its officers gives one of its vehicles a parking ticket which it then challenges by appealing to itself. After rejecting its appeal, it appeals again, but presents no evidence against itself, resulting in the ticket being voided. It then demands that it pay itself the costs of its allegedly frivolous appeal, a demand the adjudicator rejects after finding "the legal status of the two parties in this appeal amounted to one and the same."

2009Wells Fargo sues Wells Fargo in Florida, apparently in order to try to clear title to a home so that it can foreclose on a mortgage. (I've been told that this is actually fairly common, which doesn't change how I feel about it.) Evidently concerned about a conflict of interest, it hires two different law firms, one to sue it and one to defend it.


Lawyer manages to sue selfThe Wyss case is the one depicted in the excellent Peeps diorama (right) made by Matt Crouch for the ABA Journal's recent contest. Wyss's case may not have been quite that complicated, but probably nobody really knows.

Matt, by the way, also made this short video for a Texas State Bar contest on the subject of useful contributions that lawyers have made to society over the years.

To the best of my knowledge, none of those people ever sued themselves.