As a former newspaper reporter, having spent a lot of time around both criminals and politicians, I have a pretty good ear for what bears some semblance of reality and what falls into the category of, to put it politely, blarney. So when I heard about a New Orleans man who was being sued for not returning a boat that he borrowed to rescue Katrina flood victims, I strongly suspected it was a hoax, an urban myth. After all, the tale contains not just one but two of the most popular urban myth themes: a person does good or even heroic deeds and is then punished for them; and a crazy legal system facilitates the committing of injustice by mean, selfish or irrational people. (Note that I do not deny that such things happen. I merely point out that these themes are the backbone of many stories that people feel a deep desire to believe in but are in fact untrue). The role of the supporting characters in the story and their quotes also seemed to fit somewhat too perfectly into the themes.
However, to my surprise the story turned out to be real. Don’t be fooled by the fake, cheesy look of the link I provide here, which is to a newspaper forum page (the discussion contains the full text of the story, and I suspect this link will be around longer and will be easier to access than the original story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune). Just to prove the reality to you, here is a link to a pdf of page A-1 of the Times-Picayune the day the story appeared. Mind you, I make no judgment about whether the story is the full story or completely accurate, only that the main events really happened.