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Nina Pham's Lawsuit: Strange Font Choices ... and Pictures?

By Mark Wilson, Esq. | Last updated on

As you may recall, Nina Pham, a critical care nurse from Texas, contracted Ebola in October. She's fine now, but at the time, she wasn't doing so well, in spite of public statements that her employer, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, made about her ordeal.

These statements form the crux of Pham's lawsuit against Texas Health Presbyterian, in which she claims the hospital acted negligently, given the risk of Ebola. The suit also claims that Pham was a "PR pawn" used to make the hospital look better.

That's all well and good -- but let's talk about the complaint itself. Have you seen it yet?

Sylfaen (It's Welsh for "Fancy System Font")

The complaint (which you can read in its entirety on our Scribd page) uses a system font, which is largely a no-no. Our expert team of font analysts has determined that the complaint is set in Sylfaen, a Windows system font designed by Microsoft in 1998.

It's a serviceable enough font, but whoever set up this template over at Aldous Law Firm made some weird choices. The capital letters on the small-caps appear extra-bold for some reason. That's distracting and unnecessary.

Even though someone went to the trouble of setting up this custom template, they didn't go far enough. The footnotes are in a different font from the body of the petition. They look to be Times New Roman, the go-to font for professional-looking documents (and kind of boring, as opposed to these other awesome alternatives). If you're going to do stuff like this, make sure you change all the styles!

Leave the Tears at Home

Now let's talk about the extraneous use of pictures, which are included in-line for no good reason at all, including an unnecessary photo of the Ebola virus itself on the front page and a picture of Ebola workers in Zaire on page 16. The latter picture is used to show that Ebola workers in Africa dressed in full "moon suits," but Texas Presbyterian took no such precautions. Perhaps it's more effective than attaching photos in an appendix, but they seem to get in the way. (The photo of Pham in a hospital bed on page 21 is completely superfluous.)

Also slightly tacky is the use of a pull quote on the front: "Nina, I have bad news. We're sorry. You tested positive for Ebola." There's also a pull-quote at the beginning of Section V on page 14.

C'mon, guys, this is a civil complaint, not a romantic thriller! Save pull-quotes for the jury; I doubt a judge will attach additional significance to the petition just because you included an epigraph ("This tugged at my every heart string. Judgment for plaintiff!").

There's a lesson to be learned here, and it's that the folks at Aldous Law Firm should get credit for trying to make their documents look different from the run-of-the-mill Times New Roman stuff that comes out of Microsoft Word and WordPerfect. But the typography shouldn't be the star of the show, and it shouldn't be what I'm thinking about instead of thinking about the content of the arguments.

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