Many people see the lawsuit as the modern American Dream. Strike it rich – be Horatio Alger – hit the jackpot. And similarly, the legal system is supposed to weed out the frivolous, silly claims that people bring to the bench, and while this judicial filtering does work most times, there are still the whack-jobs who somehow make it in front of a judge. America may be based on the rule of law, but it is indeed a society of lawyers. This post presents some of the more ridiculous claims that have made it to the courts, but be cautious – unsuccessful frivolous lawsuits wind up costing the plaintiff – large.
Reality check. Do Beautiful Women Really Come to Life When You Drink Bud Light?
1991, Richard Overton sued Anheuser-Busch for false and misleading advertising under Michigan State law. The complaint specifically referenced ads involving, among other things, fantasies of beautiful women in tropical settings that came to life for two men driving a Bud Light truck. In addition to two claims of false advertising, Mr. Overton included a third claim in his complaint in which he claimed to have suffered emotional distress, mental injury, and financial loss in excess of $10,0000 due to the misleading Bud Light ads.
The court dismissed all claims – guess the judge had not consumed enough Bud to take this one seriously.
10. If You Can�t Sue the System, Sue Yourself
1995, Robert Lee Brock sued himself for $5 million. He claimed that he had violated his own civil rights and religious beliefs by allowing himself to get drunk and commit crimes which landed him in the Indian Creek Correctional Center in Virginia, serving a 23 year sentence for grand larceny and breaking and entering. What could he possibly have to gain by suing himself you may ask? Since being in prison prevented him from having an income, he expected the state to pay. This case was thrown out.
OR – how about the case of personal injury attorney Steven Gottlieb who, on On August 26th, 1996 suffered a heart attack. On August 30th, he was served with a Summons and Complaint from the Plaintiff – his heart and lungs!� *story here*
9. Criminals Can’t Blame Hollywood
1996, the family of Patsy Ann Byers sued Oliver Stone, Warner Brother, and others involved in the making and distribution of the movie Natural Born Killers for an unspecified amount. They claimed that the movie caused Sarah Edmondson and Benjamin Darrus to go on a crime spree which resulted in Edmonson shooting Byers during a robbery, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. The lawsuit was originally filed in 1995, against Edmonson and Darrus, the actual perpetrators of the crime spree. Stone and the others involved with the film were added in 1996. The portion of the case aimed at Stone and his associates was dismissed in 2001.
8. Since when were haunted houses frightening?
2000, Cleanthi Peters sued Universal Studios for $15,000. She claimed to have suffered extreme fear, mental anguish, and emotional distress due to visiting Universal Studios� Halloween Horror Nights haunted house, which she said was too scary.
According to Peters, she and her granddaughter were approaching the exit of the theme park’s haunted house when an employee with a chainsaw — minus the chain — leaped out and pretended to attack them.Peters and granddaughter fled toward the exit with the frightening Leatherface clone giving chase. The terrified duo then, allegedly, slipped on a wet spot on the floor and went down for the count. After they fell, the lawsuit says, the employee continued his attack, crouching over them and thrusting his chainsaw in a menacing manner.
According to Peters’ lawsuit, the ordeal inflicted “extreme fear, distress and mental anguish” — the kind of mental anguish that only $15,000 in cash could alleviate.
7. When Kids Commit Heinous Crimes, Who is Responsible?
The makers of every video game they�ve ever played, of course. In 2001 Linda Sanders and other family members of Columbine High School shooting victims sued 25 movie and video game companies for $5 billion, in a class action lawsuit.They claimed that were it not for movies such as The Basketball Diaries and videos games including Doom, Duke Nukem, Quake, Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil, Mech Warrior, Wolfenstein, Redneck Rampage, Final Fantasy, and Nightmare Creatures, the massacre would not have occurred, and that the makers and distributors of the movies and games were partly to blame for their loved ones� deaths. The case was thrown out and the plaintiffs were ordered to compensate the video game and movie companies for their legal fees.
Everyone had fun later that night playing X Box.
6. Negligent Security is A Legitimate Claim – When You�re the Victim, Not the Perpetrator!
2002, Edward Brewer sued Providence Hospital for $2 million. He claimed that the hospital was negligent because it had not prevented him from raping one of its patients. The judge ruled that any damage Brewer suffered due to his crime was his responsibility for choosing to commit the crime, and that the hospital had no legal duty to protect him from that choice.
He was a doctor – he should have declared himself legally insane and gotten off.
5. In A Role Reversal, Dog Killer Sues Victim�s Owner For Mental Anguish
2003, Andrew Burnett sued Sara McBurnett and the San Jose Mercury News, claiming they had caused him to suffer mental anguish and post traumatic stress disorder. Burnett filed the lawsuit while serving a three-year sentence for killing defendant McBurnett�s dog in a road rage incident, claiming that the incident had caused his suffering.
The case was thrown out to go potty in the yard.
4. Music Piracy Can Get You in Real Trouble, But You Have To Be Alive To Do It
2005, Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) sued Gertrude Walton, who had passed away the year before at the age of 83, after having received notice of her death and a copy of the death certificate. The RIAA claimed that Watson had illegally downloaded and shared over 700 songs. Watson�s daughter claims that she never even had a computer in the house. Although RIAA dropped the case against Watson, it was only one of over 20,000 similar lawsuits filed by the association beginning in 2003. While some of the lawsuits are legitimate cases of piracy, defendants have included a twelve-year-old girl whose parents wound up paying RIAA $2,000, and families who have never owned a computer.
Defendants can face charges of $150,000 per song, dead or alive.
3. Weak Stomachs and Gross-Out TV Don�t Mix
2005, Austin Aitken sued NBC for $2.5 million. He claimed that an episode of �Fear Factor� caused him �suffering, injury, and great pain.� He said that watching the contestants eat rats on television made him dizzy and light-headed, causing him to vomit and run into a doorway. He judge said the case was frivolous and threw it out.
Austin – it’s called changing the channel – try it.
2. Mistaken for a superstar? How insulting!
2006, Allen Heckard sued Michael Jordan and Nike founder Phil Knight for $832 million. He claimed to suffer defamation, permanent injury, and emotional pain and suffering because people often mistook him for the basketball star. Heckard dropped the lawsuit later that year.
He is now known as “Air Heckard”.
1. The Infamous McDonald�s Coffee Case � The One That Kicked It All Off
We all know that coffee is hot, that�s not in question. What most people don�t know is that McDonald�s was serving their coffee at about 180-190 degrees, hot enough to cause third degree burns in mere seconds. After 700 claims for serious injuries caused by their coffee, they continued to serve it at that temperature. 79-year-old, Stella Lieback suffered third degree burns, was in the hospital for eight days, had multiple surgeries and skin grafts. All she asked of McDonald�s was to pay her medical bills. They refused, prompting her and her family to take them to court. Contrary to popular belief, Stella did not walk away with millions. [link 1---2]