The Litigation Instinct

by Sean Carter

As human beings, so much of our lives are controlled by instinct (and Pat Robertson). And interestingly, our instincts evolve over time. Once upon a time, a person would eat something rotten and instinctively run to the local witch doctor for a cure. Nowadays, most Americans immediately run to their attorneys to file a lawsuit.

This is certainly the case with Clarence Stowers, the latest recipient of unintended finger food. As you know, Mr. Stowers was eating Kohl’s frozen custard when he noticed something hard in the custard. Thinking that perhaps it was a “treat” (his words, not mine), he continued to suck the frozen custard off the object. To his horror, he discovered that his treat was actually part of a human finger.

In an interview with the media, Stowers announced that he immediately started to scream. Now, please understand that this is probably the only logical reaction to realizing that you’ve been sucking on a completely stranger’s finger (and neither of you is drunk). Yet, it makes you wonder why a man would openly admit it to the press.

If it were me, my first instinct would have been to preserve my masculinity. Sure, I would have screamed like a 13-year-old girl at a Backstreet Boys concert. However, when asked about it by the media, I would have downplayed my response.

“Well, Paula Zahn, it happened like this … I was eating the custard when I noticed a finger waving back at me. I calmly thought to myself … without raising my voice or getting excited in any matter, “This is certainly peculiar. Perhaps, I should contact the store.”

Yet, Stowers must have instinctively realized that such a response would not be helpful in later claiming that his life had been completely ruined by this episode. He also must have instinctively realized that he needed to report the incident quickly. Therefore, despite suffering from an emotional shock that has likely left him “unable” to eat, sleep or work, Stowers immediately got into his car and drove down to the ice cream shop to report the incident.

It was then that he received the good news – a worker had indeed lost the finger in the mixing machine. Happy Days! Realizing that he had just hit the equivalent of legal Power Ball, he walked out of the store refusing to return the finger to its owner, Brandon Fizer, so that it could be reattached.

Now, certainly it’s sad that Fizer had to lose part of his index finger because of Stower’s greed. Yet, in my view, the most disturbing thing about this entire incident is that it was not planned. Stowers didn’t buy the frozen custard with the intent of getting rich. However, as soon as the opportunity arose, his litigation instinct automatically took over.

In less than an hour after making the grisly discovery, Stowers was already establishing the chain of custody and securing the link between the finger and Kohl’s. I imagine that within another hour, he was on the Internet shopping for vacation homes.

What has this country come to? Have we really become so greedy that our first reaction to finding a finger is not to find its rightful owner but to find an attorney? Tragically, the answer is “Yes!”

It’s really quite depressing. In fact, I’m so depressed that I’m going to go out for some frozen yogurt now. Wish me luck! I hear that the new kid at my local Kohl’s gets careless around the mixer.

Sean Carter is a lawyer, public speaker, and the author of “If It Does Not Fit, Must You Acquit? – Your Humorous Guide to the Law”. He can be reached at