Halitosis Shows up in Legal Decisions Now and Then

Who says the study of law is boring? If you look through the annals of the U.S. legal system, you’ll find that more than a few jurists have found it necessary to bring up the subject of halitosis.

Here are excerpts from three legal decisions in which bad breath makes an odd but prominent appearance:

- Charles L. Bowman and Co. v. Erwin, 1972. In this case, the Bowman Feed Company appealed the lawsuit of an entrepreneur named C. Ward Erwin, who had sued them for $72,000 in royalties for his specially designed “dog food additive, effective in alleviating halitosis of dogs and other ‘doggy odors.’”

- McGlasson v. United States, 1968. The plaintiff, an Air Force typist, sued for medical disability following (ironically) a typo on a psychological examination form. Consider this passage: “Dr. Masten found nothing wrong with plaintiff except halitosis, but there is a typed statement at the foot of his report alleging that the plaintiff is totally disabled, Finding 21. The parties stipulated that neither Dr. Masten or Dr. Overholt wrote this and there is no evidence who the guilty party was… That is an instance of verbal over-kill. No one out to railroad the plaintiff into involuntary retirement would perpetrate anything so absurd as a claim of total disability on a finding of halitosis. It seems obvious to me that this is an instance of clerical error such as might occur in any large office where statements have to be typed repetitively on numerous documents.”

- Mickey v. Ayers, 2010 (a murder case too intricate and bizarre to even begin to be described here). The relevant snippet: “Around 8 p.m. Tokyo time, after waiting about an hour at the airport, Landry, who suffered from halitosis, offered Mickey a mint for Mickey’s bad breath. The mint came from a bowl in Mickey’s wife’s house, which Landry had visited the prior day to conduct an interview. After Mickey appeared to recognize the mint, Landry asked Mickey if he knew its origin. Mickey said yes and put his head in his hands… At this point, Mickey started crying uncontrollably. He said that nothing would have happened if Hanson had not reacted as he had to the news of Mickey’s theft of Hanson’s marijuana crop.”

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