Everyone dreads hearing the words “you’ve been served” by some guy pretending to deliver you a bouquet of flowers. But it happens to the best of us. Being sued is not unusual nowadays, and there are hundreds upon thousands of things you could be sued for that you will never see coming.
We have all heard the story of the lady who slipped on a wet floor somewhere and successfully sued the company for millions, right? But that is just a fraction of the unbelievable lawsuits that have been won across the world. There is no shortage of lawyers who are willing to fight a huge corporation if they think it will get them noticed, and put some money in their pocket.
Luckily, the judicial system knows a ridiculous lawsuit when it sees one. Most of the time. Read on for stories of people who didn’t always use common sense before filing their lawsuit.
9. The Misleading Beer Commercial Fantasy
Most people realize that advertisements are not reality, but not Richard Overton. In 1991, he sued beer company Anheuser-Busch (makers of Budweiser, Stella Artois, and Shock Top beer, among others) for $10 000 for false and misleading advertising. He alleged that the commercials depicting the beers magical ability to facilitate “scenic tropical settings and beautiful women and men engaged in endless and unrestricted merriment”, all turned out to be untrue. Shocking! His basis for the lawsuit was that the “lies” the ads told him caused emotional distress, mental injury, and financial loss. Not surprisingly, his case was dismissed.
8. Those Aren’t My Pants
Many small businesses use the slogan “satisfaction guaranteed” at their own risk. Mom-and-pop owners, Soo and Jin Chung, of Custom Cleaners in Washington, D.C. didn’t realize how much of a risk they were taking until they were sued for $67 million. One of their customers, who also happened to be a judge, accused them of misplacing a pair of his trousers and argued that he never received the “same day service” or the “satisfaction guaranteed” that the business advertised. The courts ruled in favor of the Chungs in 2007, but they had already shut down two of their stores to finance their defense. Judge Pearson filed an appeal, and ended up losing his job a few months later after the a review board found he lacked “appropriate judgement and judicial temperament”. His appeal was also rejected. No word on whether his missing pants turned up.
7. The Chili Surprise
Attempting to extort money from a large corporation is nothing new, but Anna Ayala of San Jose, California took things to a gruesome level when she sued fast food chain Wendy’s after she claimed she bit into a “1 1/2-inch crunchy finger” while eating a chili from one of their restaurants. After an investigation, police found that the finger in the chili did not appear to have been cooked at 170 degrees for 3 hours, which is standard cook time for Wendy’s chili. Eventually, authorities discovered that Ayala had planted the amputated finger, which actually belonged to an associate of her husband’s, who recently lost it in an accident at work. Ayala and her husband paid the man $100 for the finger tip, and even offered him $250 000 to keep their scheme quiet. Ayala had a history of making outlandish lawsuit claims, but for this one she was charged with attempted grand larceny and served 4 years in prison.
6. The Bitter Old Man
The job market is cut-throat these days, especially for older people who lose their jobs only a few years from retirement. But 60-year-old violinist with the New York City Ballet, Martin Stoner, wasn’t content to retire early when he lost his job. Instead, he tried to compete for the Young Concert Artists Prize, which is valued at $75 000. He already had 25 years of experience as a professional violinist so he obviously wasn’t allowed to compete against a bunch of children. Enraged by the clear age discrimination, he decided to file an injunction to stop the contest. Stoner’s case ended up before an 88-year-old judge, who Stoner complained had too many “physical and mental limitations” to make a fair judgement. Needless to say, the Young Concert Artists Prize carried on without Martin Stoner in the running.
5. Unemployment Scapegoat
College graduates everywhere are job searching with less than favorable results, but not many of them are turning around and suing their alma mater when they can’t find a job. But that’s exactly what Trina Thompson did in 2009 after she graduated from New York’s Monroe College with a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Information Technology. She spent 3 months tirelessly searching for a job, and felt like she should have been successful given her 2.7 grade-point average. She accused Monroe’s career-services department of not working hard enough on her behalf to find her a job. Trina sued Monroe for $72 000 — the full cost of her tuition, and a little extra to compensate for the stress of her job search. Monroe released a statement saying “it is clear that no college, especially in this economy, can guarantee employment.”
4. It’s All About Me
Everyone has regrets, especially a prison inmate. But Virginia inmate Robert Lee Brock attempted to make a profit off of his mistakes when he sued HIMSELF in 1995. “For violating my religious beliefs, I want to pay myself $5 million,” he wrote in a handwritten seven-page lawsuit. But what is the point of paying yourself, you wonder? Well, because he was in prison and couldn’t work, Brock asked that the state pay his settlement for him. That’s right, Brock claimed that when he “partook of alcoholic beverages,” he breached his own religious and civil rights by getting himself drunk enough to break the law. He even promised to pay back the money once he got out of prison. Right. The judge dismissed his case, but praised Brock’s “innovative approach to civil-rights litigation”. There are always points for creativity.
3. Beware of Wildlife
Marcy Meckler was on a casual shopping trip at open-air Old Orchard Shopping Center in Skoki, Illinois when she was attacked by a squirrel near a grassy area. Most people are aware that certain animals coexist with people even in highly populated areas, but Meckler, apparently, was not. She sued the shopping mall for at least $50 000 because she claimed they were responsible for “failing to warn her of the squirrel’s presence,” and “encouraging the squirrel” to be in the courtyard by regularly feeding it. Her lawsuit was thrown out of court, as there is no jurisdiction that requires a property owner to gather up and eliminate all the (usually harmless) wildlife that might wander across their property. Meckler’s freak accident falls under the “live life at your own risk” category.
2. Mouse Flavored Mountain Dew
No one has ever claimed that soft drinks are good for you, but this story might turn you off Mountain Dew for good. Ronald Ball sued PepsiCo for $50 000 after he took a sip of a can of Mountain Dew purchased from a vending machine at work, and became violently ill. Turned out there was a dead mouse in the can. As if that isn’t bad enough, Pepsi countered that there is no way a mouse carcass would remain intact from the production line until the time Ball took a sip of the drink. They argued that the mouse would have been dissolved into a more jelly-like substance, which essentially confirms that Mountain Dew is similar to some kind of flesh eating acid. So which is worse? A full mouse, or a half-dissolved jellied version of the vermin? We’ll be sticking to bottles next time a soft drink craving hits.
1. Celebrity Look-a-Like
There are ups and downs to being a celebrity. But what if you had to deal with the media attention, without the perk of being rich? That’s what Allen Heckard of Portland, Oregon claimed was his problem when he sued Michael Jordan for $416 million, simply for looking like him. Heckard said his resemblance to the basketball legend caused emotional pain and suffering, defamation and permanent injury. He also sued Nike for the same amount, blaming them for making Jordan a celebrity. Heckard was constantly being mistaken for, and compared to, Michael Jordan, which affected his day to day life and made it impossible for him to attend church, ride public transportation, or play sports in public. Maybe if he went for a smaller sum of money, someone would have sympathized, but probably not.