There is a lot to be said for living in a democratic state. We, the people, are afforded the privilege of free speech – yes, freedom of speech is a fundamental human right, but one need only look to the case of Edward Snowden to understand the murky matter that surrounds this basic ‘right’. To this end, it is best described as a privilege.
That said, as citizens of the Western hemisphere, we are given the opportunity to voice our concerns and objections about that which we deem unjust. While many activists use their voices in an attempt to set wrongs to right by organizing mass demonstrations on state inequality, poverty, global warming and the horrors of warfare, others choose to take on a somewhat frivolous tone, filing lawsuits against God. Why not sue an omnipotent, omnipresent, non-being? After all, he or she will most certainly not be able to defend him or herself. Then there are those individuals who consume vast quantities of fast-food, only to be stunned and emotionally scarred when they find they have gained significant amounts of weight. So infuriated are these individuals at the fast-food chains who have sold them this food, that the only solution is a lawsuit. Indeed, the mind boggles. Here we have sourced 10 of the most shocking Lawsuits that have been filed down through the years, from the innovative to the downright silly.
10. Celebrity Doppelganger Woes
The celebrity life is not for everyone. While some dream of life in the spotlight, others suffer the plight of the ‘celebrity doppelganger’. In 2006, Allen Heckard of Portland, Oregon filed a lawsuit against former Chicago Bull, Michael Jordan and Nike co-founder, Phil Knight after he had been mistaken for the basketball legend, pretty much every day for 15 years. Heckard sought $832 in damages, claiming personal injury, as well as emotional trauma. However, before the case was thrown out, an inevitable outcome, Heckard dropped the lawsuit.
9. ‘It’s your fault I’m unemployed’
Never has unemployment brought such fortune to an individual, in the financial sense at least. In 2009, Trina Thompson of Bronx, New York filed a lawsuit against her Alma Mater, Monroe College, blaming her unemployment on them, seeking $72,000 – $70,000 of which she had spent on tuition fees and $2,000 for emotional stress. After three months of relentless job seeking, despite graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology, Thompson claimed that the school’s Office of Career Advancement should bear responsibility for failing to secure a placement for her.
8. Brock Vs. Brock
Whatever one’s opinion of this convict may be, the innovative nature of his lawsuit against himself cannot be denied. In 1995, Robert Lee Brock filed a case against himself for violation of his own civil rights, following his arrest for grand larceny, two years prior. Brock stated that in consuming alcohol, ‘I caused myself to violate my religious beliefs. This was done by my going out and getting arrested’. Brock sought a multi-million dollar settlement from the state. Despite the two years Brock had to think up this claim, which led Judge Rebecca Beach Smith to acknowledge his ‘innovative approach to civil rights litigation,’ she nonetheless dismissed the case.
7. The people Vs. Ronald McDonald
There have been numerous cases filed against fast-food restaurants over the years, from the woman who sued McDonald’s after spilling a cup of coffee over herself – it was too hot apparently – to the woman who sued after she bit into a spicy chicken sandwich only to be met with a shard of glass. One of the more mind boggling lawsuits was filed by Caesar Barber, who claimed that McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King and Wendy’s were responsible for making him overweight and unwell. Despite having diabetes and suffering a heart attack, Barber continued to feast on the high-fat foods sold by these chain restaurants. As the nutritional value was not made clear, he claimed they were somehow negligent. The case was dismissed “without prejudice” in 2003. A spate of lawsuits filed against fast-food chains has resulted in the passing of the Minnesota Cheeseburger Bill in 2011, making it harder for people to blame old Ronald for their obesity.
6. Ernie Vs. God
This one is bound to make you smile. In 2008, Ernie Chambers of Nebraska filed a lawsuit against God, seeking an injunction to prevent the ‘death, destruction and terrorisation’ caused by God. While the judge stated that due to the defendant having no address or legal papers, he could not be served, the plaintiff stated as an omniscient being whose existence had been acknowledged by the court, it should go ahead. Unfortunately, God could not be there in person to defend himself, so Judge Marlon Polk had no alternative but to throw the case out “with prejudice”.
5. Let Sleeping Teens Lie
This case makes one want to laugh and cry, simultaneously. While it is undoubtedly amusing, it makes one wonder what kind of message adults are sending to the rising generation. After dozing off in class, 16 year-old, Vinicios Robacher was rudely awoken by his teacher, Melissa Nadeau when she slammed her palm onto his desk. Robacher’s father claimed that the noise caused his son’s eardrum to burst, leading to substantial hearing loss. He filed a lawsuit against Danbury High School, the Connecticut Board of Education and the city of Danbury, on behalf of his son.
4. Blame It On The Weatherman
We have all fallen victim to the changeability of the weather. A beaming face pops up on our TV screen, telling us to prepare for a bright, sunshiny day and we dress accordingly. Then comes the downpour…While most of us groan for a bit before getting on with it, an Israeli woman had other ideas. In 1996, weatherman Danny Rup, of Channel 2 News, predicted good weather, but when the plaintiff got caught in stormy weather wearing light clothes, it resulted in illness, costing her $38 in medicine. She also missed 4 days of work. While the case did not go to court, she received a settlement of $1000 and an apology from Mr. Rup.
3. Sex Offender Blames Employer For His Crime
One of the more shocking lawsuits featuring on this list is that of Edward Brewer Vs. Providence Hospital. A former patient of the hospital, Mr. Brewer took a case against them for negligence, claiming that they did not have effective security measures in place to prevent him committing the crime of sexual assault of an acquaintance in her hospital bed, in June of 1998. Court documents show that Brewer claimed poor security ‘caused him pain and suffering.’ He sought $2 million in damages, although the case was later dismissed.
2. Man traumatised seeing women use urinals
Ah, from the downright silly to the ridiculous. One man endured severe emotional distress when he entered a unisex bathroom to discover women using the urinals. The horror! The horror! Attending a Billy Joel and Elton John concert in 1995, Robert Glazer endured severe emotional distress at this sight. He visited 6 or 7 urinals, only to discover that there were women in all of them, stating that he ‘had to hold it in for hours’ due to his embarrassment at sharing a public bathroom with women. He brought a case against the venue for $5.4 million for his emotional distress. Unsurprisingly, the case was dismissed.
1. An expensive pair of pants
Washington D.C. judge, Roy Pearson filed a ludicrous lawsuit against a local dry cleaner, over a pair of pants. He claimed that the shop’s owners lost his $800 pants after he brought them in to be altered. Instead of admitting their mistake, they attempted to return a cheap, imitation pair. He further claimed that the ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’ and ‘Same Day Service’ signs posted in their store represented an ‘unconditional guarantee’ that entitled him to a significantly large settlement, seeking ‘$1,500 per defendant for each of the estimated 12,000 days that the signs appeared in the dry cleaners.’ This amounted to a staggering $54 million lawsuit, which backfired on Pearson who was ultimately ordered to pay the defendant’s legal bills.