There are things that money can't buy, then for everything else you could always sue someone (preferably a big time corporation). Why? Because they're the ones who can afford settling for millions of dollars. All of us have rights, and when these rights get trampled by even the slightest of infractions, we might just be able to sue. Suing is a big business, where lawyers are looking for that one class action lawsuit that will get traction in the media, get their names up in lights and well, earn big through settlements.
Corporations for the most part become the targets of large class action suits just because they are seen as being able to take the hit and settle outside of court, instead of getting their reputation dragged in the mud. Because for some, it's really just that – mud slinging that's designed to extort money from corporations. But not all big lawsuit payouts are frivolous. There are some that have merit and when these claimants get awarded the big bucks, no one really can blame the court for siding with them or fault them for seeking money in the first place.
12 McDonald's Coffee is Too Hot
Back in the early days when the internet was not yet a thing, or as many historians would call it – the 90s – we were witness to a 79 year old woman named Stella Liebeck, who won a case versus one of the biggest fast food chains in the world, McDonald's. What happened was Stella Liebeck bought coffee at a McDonald's drive-thru window and when she tried to open the lid, hot coffee spilled over her lap, inducing 3rd degree burns. There are many things that we can consider when we look at what happened to her. First off, she is old, at 79 it is not hard to imagine her fumbling to remove the cup. Next, the case reports claim that she was wearing sweatpants that absorbed the coffee, then maybe her grandson wasn't such a good driver and hit a bump or stepped on the brake too hard, and lastly, she is elderly and her skin is thinner and gets burned easier compared to younger skin. Even when all of these facts point to the fact that it was not McDonald's fault, it is just so hard not to award a poor 79 year old woman who spent 8 days in the hospital a win against a multi-billion dollar clown-faced corporation. She was awarded $2.7 million for her troubles.
11 Armed Robber Was Awarded $5 Million Because He Was Harassed at Work
An armed robber, Richard Shick, was awarded by a jury some $5 million when they found that his actions of robbing a convenience store were justified because he was experiencing undue stress from the company he was working for. Now, this would be quite a classic disgruntled employee scenario had it not been for one glaring fact – the convenience store he was robbing was not his place of work. It wasn't even owned by the department he worked for. It was a completely innocent convenience store happily going about its business when this man, who couldn't handle work stress, pulled out a gun to rob it. The initial $5 million that was awarded to him was then reduced to $300,000 – relatively small, but still totally undeserved.
10 Getting Drunk and Driving Don't Mix – Apparently
When you're drunk – you're probably as good at driving as a bowl of Jell-O is at trying to stop a bullet. Driving is very dangerous to begin with even when you're not drunk. You are putting your life, as well as everyone else’s life in danger. Now mix this with a few drinks and voila – your chances of dying or killing someone just skyrocketed. In 1992, Karen Norman found this out the hard way. She had a blood alcohol level of 17.2 (the legal threshold is 0.08). After getting in her Honda, she backed up into a ramp. Her passenger got out but she couldn't undo her seat-belt. Her parents were awarded $60 million by the jury but it was then reduced to $43 million by the Trial Court because Karen was found to be 25% to blame.
9 Skechers Couldn't Shape Up Anyone's Butt
Skechers, arguably one of the biggest shoe companies in the world, had to fork over $40 million as compensation for false claims. Well, the shoe company should've seen this one coming because their slogan – "Get in shape without ever setting foot in the gym" – was just a class suit waiting to happen. To top it off with an endorser like Kim Kardashian who has a super-humanly shapely butt to begin with, even before wearing Skechers 'Shape Ups', is just a recipe for disaster. A $40 million disaster to be exact. Here's hoping that the guy who came up with this horrible claim was fired for trying to sell snake oil under the Skechers brand.
8 Happiness in a Pill and a Host of Side Effects
In this pill popping obsessed world, pills are the go-to remedy for any ailment. When you get a headache, take two of these. If you're stomach feels a little wonky, drink this. If you're feeling a little lonely, depressed or just plain under the weather, then take a couple of these after every meal for the rest of your life. Now this may sound like an exaggeration but the world wide numbers of those regularly taking antidepressants to essentially be happy have steadily increased. In 2012, it turned out that these happy pills were not all sunshine and giggles. Abbott Laboratories, GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson&Johnson paid out a collective amount of $6.6 billion for misrepresentation of the safety of their products.
7 Rent-to-Own Sexual Harassment
Aaron's is a popular rent-to-own store that has made a name for itself both in their retail outlets and through their Nascar sponsorship. In 2011 the Aaron's name added one more item to their rent-to-own list – sex. Well, sex piecemeal that is. Much like how Aaron's itself accepts payments for their goods, a then store manager by the name of Richard Moore, was repeatedly and regularly sexually harassing Ashley Alford, a store employee. He was groping her, lifting up her shirt and masturbating. He would even, on occasion, touch her head with his penis. Ashley Alford understandably called their company sexual harassment hotline to report the lewd boss, but no action was taken. She finally sued the entire company and was awarded $95 million. This was reduced to just about $40 million because of a cap on fines for harassment cases. The final payout was reported to be a settlement of just $6 million.
6 The Harley-Davidson Incident
When you hear a Harley-Davidson's roar you just can't help but to picture brute manly-men wearing black leather jackets, cool aviator sunglasses, and a full set beard. Well, that's the stereotype anyway, and many who own a Harley-Davidson bike may have at least one of the above mentioned characteristics. Even without all of the above, one thing is for sure – those who ride are manly-men who are proud of this fact and are not shy about flaunting it with the size and power of their bikes. In 1991, however, one man by the name of Mr. Thomas A. Molinaro had his manlihood extinguished by the very bike he loves to flaunt it with. The courts determined that the defective throttle caused his condition and awarded him $9.9 million as compensation.
5 Toyota's Unintended Acceleration Settlement
When you're driving a car, you intend to be the master of it. You are the driver controlling your vehicle and it should not be the other way around. In 2014, Toyota shocked the world with a $1.2 billion settlement with the U.S. Attorney's Office. Toyota entered into this agreement to own up to whatever possible defect that may have caused the unintended acceleration incidents. Reports cite loose floor mats, sticky pedals and failing brakes as the cause. As a result of this lawsuit, Toyota recalled more than 10 million cars and added modifications to their subsequent models that nullify the cause of the problem. These include a brake overriding software that functions as a fail-safe.
4 Apparently, Size Does Matter
In 2013, a class action suit was filed against Subway. The lawsuit claims that Subway's footlong sandwiches fall short on their claims of being a foot-long subway sandwich. That is to say – a full 12 inches. Sandwiches ordered from Subway stores were measured to be only about 11 or 11 and 3/4 inches long. Now this may sound a little frivolous, because it totally is, but the fact of the matter is – if you say it's a footlong, then it should reach the 12 inch mark at least. Though, if you're going to think about it, there's nothing really bad about claiming to be a quarter inch bigger than you really are. After 3 years, the claimants were awarded $500 each and the lawyers (who were the real winners here) were awarded $520,000 in lawyer's fees.
3 Sprouts are on the Menu
In 2014, alfalfa sprouts made the news when Heather Starks didn't find any on her sandwich. Apparently, the Jimmy Johns sandwich had it listed on the menu but they ran out so Heather was given an order without sprouts. Well, Jimmy Johns messed with the wrong alfalfa-loving person because she initiated a class action suit that got traction. However before things blew up, they quickly settled out of court. The cost of their settlement included free vouchers for side orders, chips and sodas for everyone who was affected, as well as a donation to charity that will equal the amount of claims they receive – the donation however will not be lower than $100,000.
2 Home Depot Credit Card Information Theft
When Home Depot, America's largest home improvement store, gets attacked by cyber criminals and customer credit card information gets stolen, the world notices. This is why the store quickly made a do-it-yourself fix on the problem by immediately offering at least $19.5 million to about 50 million customers. The settlement agreement also ensures that they will be the ones to foot the attorney's fees and other out-of-pocket expenses that customers may have had because of this fiasco. Home Depot also promises to beef up their security so that nothing like this will ever happen again. If we're being honest about this, with a loot of about 50 million credit card information in their bag, chances are these criminals don't need to pull off another big heist like this. They're set for life.
1 Smoking Kills and then Gets Tobacco Companies to Payout Billions in Fines
When cigarettes were first marketed, they were seen as fashionable highlights to a wardrobe that's both feminine and masculine. Big name stars did it and doctors approved it. Even cartoon stars like Fred and Barney were endorsing one of the most popular brands. Slick ad campaigns like these were winning over their target market and there was no stopping the rise of the tobacco companies, until smoking related health ailments began manifesting after years of smoking. Of all the related illnesses, emphysema, lung cancer and throat cancer were the biggest killers. In 1998, the big tobacco brands settled in what was referred to as 'The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement of 1998'. This settlement meant that they had to pay out in excess of $206 billion over the course of 25 years to 46 states that filed the lawsuit.