It's time again for the annual "Stella Awards"! For those
unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after
81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself
and successfully sued the McDonald's in New Mexico where
she purchased the coffee. You remember, she took the lid
off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was
driving. Who would ever think one could get burned doing
That's right; these are awards for the most outlandish
lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S. You know, the kinds
of cases that make you scratch your head. So keep
your head scratcher handy.
Here are the Stella's for the past year:
7TH PLACE :
Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas was awarded
$80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle
tripping over a toddler who was running inside a
furniture store. The store owners were understandably
surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler
was her own son.
Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles, California won $74,000
plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his
hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didn't
notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when
he was trying to steal his neighbor's hub caps.
Go ahead, grab your head scratcher.
5TH PLACE :
Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pennsylvania, was leaving
a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage.
Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door
opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage
door to open. Worse, he couldn't re-enter the house
because the door connecting the garage to the house
locked when Dickson pulled it shut. Forced to sit for eight,
count 'em, EIGHT, days on a case of Pepsi and a large
bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner's insurance
company claiming undue mental Anguish. Amazingly, the
jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson
$500,000 for his anguish. We should all have this kind
Keep scratching. There are more...
4TH PLACE :
Jerry Williams, of Little Rock, Arkansas, garnered 4th Place
in the Stella's when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical
expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door
neighbor's beagle - even though the beagle was on a chain
in its owner's fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as
he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might
have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because
Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and
repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.
Grrrrr ... Scratch, scratch.
3RD PLACE :
Third place goes to Amber Carson of Lancaster ,
Pennsylvania because a jury ordered a Philadelphia
restaurant to pay her $113, 500 after she slipped on
a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason
the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown
it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.
What ever happened to people being responsible for
their own actions ?
Scratch, scratch, scratch. Hang in there; there are only two more
Stellas to go...
Kara Walton, of Claymont, Delaware sued the owner of a
night club in a nearby city because she fell from the
bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front
teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through
the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover
charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000....
oh, yeah, plus dental expenses. Go figure.
1ST PLACE : (May I have a fanfare played on 50 kazoos please?)
This year's runaway First Place Stella Award winner was
Mrs. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who
purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her
first trip home from an OU football game, having driven
onto the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph
and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the
Winnebago to make herself a sandwich.
Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed
Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for
not putting in the owner's manual that she couldn't
actually leave the driver's seat while the cruise control
was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded h er, are you sitting
down, $1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago
actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit,
just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might
also buy a motor home.
a. In March 1995, a San Diego man unsuccessfully
attempted to sue the city and Jack Murphy Stadium
for $5.4 million over something that can only be
described as a wee problem: Robert Glaser claimed
the stadium's unisex bathroom policy at a Billy Joel
and Elton John concert caused him embarrassment
and emotional distress thanks to the sight of a woman
using a urinal in front of him. He subsequently tried
"six or seven" other bathrooms in the stadium only to
find women in all of them. He asserted he "had to hold
it in for four hours" because he was too embarrassed
to share the public bathrooms with women.
b. A San Carlos, California, man sued the Escondido
Public Library for $1.5 million. His dog, a 50-pound
Labrador mix, was attacked November 2000 by the
library's 12-pound feline mascot, L.C., (also known
as Library Cat). The case was heard in January 2004,
with the jury finding for the defendant. In a further
case which was resolved in July 2004, the plaintiff in
the previous suit was ordered to pay the city $29,362.50,
which amounted to 75% of its legal fees associated
with that case.
c. In 1994, a student at the University of Idaho
unsuccessfully sued that institution over his fall
from a third-floor dorm window. He'd been mooning
other students when the window gave way. It was
contended the University failed to provide a safe
environment for students or to properly warn them
of the dangers inherent to upper-story windows.
d. In 1993, McDonald's was unsuccessfully sued over
a car accident in New Jersey. While driving, a man who
had placed a milkshake between his legs, leaned over
to reach into his bag of food and squeezed the milkshake
container in the process. When the lid popped off and
spilled half the drink in his lap, this driver became
distracted and ran into another man's car. That man
in turn tried to sue McDonald's for causing the accident,
saying the restaurant should have cautioned the man
who had hit him against eating while driving.