Scam fails for hooker-to-be felled by oil

Judge doesn't fall for woman's claim.

Published April 7, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

You can't turn tricks if you slip and fall on the oily floor of a supermarket.

At least that was the claim of Mary Labathas, an Australian woman who insisted that her accident injured her back and would prevent her from finding lucrative employment as a prostitute. After the case had gone on for seven years, last week Australia's Supreme Court rejected her demands for lost future income.

This tragic tale began in 1993, when Labathas and a friend walked into the Woolworths supermarket in Queanbeyan, according to Australia's Canberra Times. While in the store, the woman slipped in a puddle of spilled cooking oil and fell on her ass. She filed suit for negligence, claiming that her resulting back injury had ruined her sex life. Her intended career move to become a glamorous, $2,000-a-week prostitute was thwarted. She projected her future lost earnings to be more than $700,000.

The Supreme Court heard her impassioned arguments, and in the process discovered some interesting background on Labathas. The brothel in which she hoped to service clients, Fortune's Palace, happens to be owned by her son, Mitchell. Perhaps by sheer coincidence but probably not, Mama Labathas also works as the brothel's manager and receptionist. At the time of the accident she was also 50 years old, an age at which most prostitutes roll out of the saddle for the last time and look for another occupation (as a receptionist, for instance).

Chief Justice Jeffrey Miles acknowledged that Labathas was "very emotional" about her accident, and that it was conceivable that sexual intercourse would be adversely affected by her condition. But the judge also noted that she was exaggerating her symptoms, both to doctors and to the court, and was now "locked into a chronic pain syndrome."

The judge concluded that she was not entitled to damages for lost wages from turning tricks because she hadn't imagined the potential of working as a hooker until her son became licensee of the brothel.

In other words, he didn't believe her scam.

But the court found that Woolworths was indeed negligent in failing to clean up that nasty puddle of cooking oil. For her legitimate pain and suffering, and lost earning capacity, Labathas was awarded a total of $61,758. Justice can be found in even the darkest corners.

By Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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