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News of Lodian suing himself goes worldwide

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Posted: Wednesday, March 22, 2006 10:00 pm

News of Curtis and Rhonda Gokey's claim for damages with the city of Lodi has spread to the far reaches of the earth, thanks to the Associated Press and cyberspace.

Rush Limbaugh discussed it last week on his radio program and the original story has been posted on pop-culture columnist Dave Barry's Web site.

It's popped up on news sites from the United Kingdom to the Gold Coast.

In fact, a Google search turned up 17,700 hits to the Gokey's story.

The Lodi couple filed a claim against the city in January because Curtis Gokey, a Lodi public works employee, backed a city dump truck into his privately owned truck.

The rationale was that the city owed Gokey, as a private citizen, money for damage that Gokey, the city employee, caused.

After the $3,600 claim was denied because Curtis Gokey is a city employee, his wife filed a separate claim, this one for $4,800.

Rhonda Gokey added the cost of a rental truck and insurance for the rental to the tab.

Rhonda Gokey was thinking that by filing individually instead of as a couple, she could get around the alleged conflict of interest her husband had by being a city employee. Neither she nor her husband were available for comment Wednesday.

A decision on the second claim is pending at Lodi City Hall, City Attorney Steve Schwabauer said Wednesday.

Since the story broke last week, he is amazed at the number of news organizations and weblogs the Gokey saga can be found. He noted that the MSNBC weblog alone had 35,000 comments.

Comments from weblogs

Here is a sampling of comments on the Gokey claim found online:

• "Reminds me of the time France declared war on itself (and lost).

• "If I could sue myself for being stupid, I'd be Donald Trump - a bankrupt multi-millionaire.

• "Do you suppose the moment he realized that he ran into his own vehicle, he looked into the rear-view mirror and shouted, "I'll see you in court."

• "This could set a dangerous legal precedent. When I think of all the situations I've gotten myself into that involved damage to either me or my property … I would owe myself a lot of money."

• "If he loses the case against himself, where he is representing himself, he can sue himself again for not mounting a credible defense."

Source: Dave Barry weblog

Lodinews.com, the News-Sentinel's Web site, had 89 reader comments accompanying its article published March 15.

Online comments ranged from some readers who thought that Gokey should be fired for the accident and subsequent attitude about suing his own employer to those who thought that Gokey should be paid damages.

Those bloggers argued that Gokey should be treated no differently than anyone else whose car is hit by a city vehicle.

But the question that came up the most on the blogs was, did Curtis Gokey intentionally crashed into his own truck so he could buy a new truck at city expense?

Schwabauer said the city has no evidence to indicate that Gokey crashed into his truck intentionally.

Contact reporter Ross Farrow at rossf@lodinews.com.

First published: Thursday, March 23, 2006

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