The Case of the Bizarre Personal Injury Lawsuit

 

Although they come up occasionally, albeit few and far between, outrageous lawsuits create a stir in the legal world and end up attributing to the negative image surrounding the legal system. Insurance companies as a collective are one example of those who have used this to their advantage. Particularly over the last two decades, billion-dollar insurance companies have used their grand public relations machines to create a perception that lawsuits are frivolous and unnecessary. For the majority of the cases out there, this is false and misleading. Their propaganda is supported, however, by the truly crazy cases that do end up going to court. Societies have dealt with bizarre personal injury claims for hundreds of years. Outrageous lawsuits are not new, nor will they cease to surface in the future. Below we have listed a few examples of these bizarre personal injury lawsuits for your interest and entertainment:

  • The case of Stella Liebeck is perhaps the most famous outrageous lawsuit in recent memory. The 79 year old woman sued McDonald’s after the cup of coffee she purchased spilled on her lap while she sat in her car. This famous (or infamous) lawsuit gave birth to the famous “Stella Awards” given to the most frivolous law cases. It also was parodied in an 1995 “Seinfeld” episode.
  • In 1991 a man took Budweiser to court. He claimed that he had endured stress from watching a commercial that he believed falsely advertised. When he drank Budweiser, he did not experience attracting more women. His case was dismissed.
  • In 1994, a University of Idaho student filed a lawsuit against the University after he fell from his dorm room window. Although he was trying to “moon” others walking by outside, he claimed that the University failed to properly protect students. His case was also dismissed.
  • In 1995, jail inmate Robert Brock sued himself, claiming he had violated his own civil and religious rights when he allowed himself to become intoxicated and later commit crimes. Unable to pay the $5 million, he asked the State of Virginia where he was held to provide the payment. His case was promptly thrown out.
  • In 2001, detergent was poured into a park fountain in Duluth, Minnesota. A passerby walked into the soapy water and slipped. The cut she sustained on her left leg later became infected due to her diabetes. She sued the city for not cleaning up the suds. It was determined that the city was held 70 percent responsible and the lady 30 percent. The plaintiff, who had to pay $43,000 in medical expenses, was awarded $125,000 for her claim. The park fountain now is enclosed.
  • In New Jersey, a teacher sued an 11 year old elementary school student after he knocked her over while being in a hurry to catch his bus home. When he found out that he had hurt the teacher, the boy cried, but never knew that he was being sued. The teacher, Eileen Blau, claimed she suffered permanent damages from her injuries.
  • In 2002, two teens were injured while skateboarding on top of a parked railroad car in Pennsylvania. Both received electrical burns from uninsulated wire that hung above the train car. Even though they were trespassing on Amtrak and Norfolk Southern Corporation property, the boys were exempt from responsibility. They received $24.2 million in compensation costs.
  • In 2003, a San Francisco resident sued Kraft foods because they included trans-fat in Oreos. This suit was dropped.
  • In 2006, Allen Heckard, who reportedly looks like all-star basketball player Michael Jordan, sued both Jordan and Nike founder Phil Knight for a total of $832 million. He claimed to have suffered defamation and emotional pain and suffering because he was mistaken for being the former basketball star. His lawsuit was also dropped.

Though these lawsuits may seem silly, they represent an insignificant fraction of the myriad personal injury cases that are filed each year. Most of the cases never even come close to gaining the same national attention cases like the above mentioned receive in the media. According to the US Federal News, taxpayers in the United States pay between $700 and $800 per year for lawsuits out of their taxes, costing the economy hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

Photo courtesy of: Rupert Ganzer

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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