Our goal is to deter tort abuse, not encourage it, but sometimes we can't resist drafting memos to malefactors and others.

Memo to Forrest Phillips: Next time you come up with a harebrained scheme for getting your employer to pay for an injury you incurred outside the workplace, you might want to refrain from telling your co-workers about the plan in advance (or afterward, for that matter).

Forrest Phillips claimed he was injured three years ago while working for Hunter Marine as the first mate aboard the M/V L.R. Chapman. The company dutifully paid his medical bills, maintenance, and wage supplements until a fellow employee challenged the accuracy of his claim.

Other crew members, when confronted, said Phillips had confided that he was injured before boarding the Chapman but was going to try to get Hunter to pay for his injuries by staging an accident on the job.

Once wise to the scheme, the company fired Phillips and stopped payments to him. Phillips then got some legal counsel and filed suit against Hunter, seeking damages for his injuries under the Jones Act and general maritime laws.

Hunter counter-sued to recover what it paid Phillips and for punitive damages. Last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams in the Southern District of Illinois concluded that Phillips had lied about his injuries and awarded Hunter Marine a $97,000 judgment against him.

Memo to Roy Dripps and Charles Armbruster: Next time you two upstanding members of the bar represent a conman like Forrest Phillips, you might want to investigate beforehand claims that he's lying through his teeth. Otherwise, ordinary citizens who don't understand the fine points of the law might think that somehow you were in on the deal even though nobody is alleging that.

Memo to Record Readers: Whether crime pays or not, it's wrong. Be good, work hard, tell the truth, and be happy with what you have. Don't follow in Forrest Phillips' nefarious footsteps.

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