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The Litigious Society

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Murderers in the Money: Reggie Townsend, 29, serving 23 years in a Wisconsin prison for reckless homicide against an 11-year-old girl, won $295,000 from a jury in September as compensation for a two-month confinement with only a "wet, moldy and foul smelling" mattress to sleep on (about $4,900 per unpleasant night).

Muri Chilton (aka Murray Gartton), serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl, was awarded $2,500 by a Canadian Federal Court judge in September as compensation solely for feeling "utterly humiliated" in 2000 when guards roared with laughter after he mangled his thumb in a prison workshop accident.

Brian Hopkins, 25, severely burned in 2006 after climbing onto the roof of an empty train at Boston's South Station at 2 a.m., filed a lawsuit in August against Amtrak. Though admitting that he was trespassing at the station when he was zapped by 27,500 volts of overhead wire, Hopkins said Amtrak ought to have known that people trespass and climb on top of trains, and therefore should have parked its train in a less-accessible place.

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