It seems that people will sue over ANYTHING these days. Instead of dueling over our differences like the old days, we tend to trust the courts with our disputes. In fact, the flood of litigation has people calling for serious tort reforms.
Be warned: some of these cases might make you extremely mad at the world. The reality is that a simple headline is not the full picture. Sure some people make off with a $15 million settlement, but they do not get all that money. If plaintiffs do get money, guess who takes 20% or more? Your lawyer. Some defendants never even pay their court settlements. Court payoffs are not always the goldmine that everyone thinks they are.
Still, some of these cases are the definition of ridiculous. People will sue for anything if they think that they can make money out of it. Check out these extremely outrageous court cases to see the ridiculousness for yourself.
1. McDonald’s Coffee Cup
The mother of all bizarre cases is the now infamous McDonald’s Coffee Cup incident. When 79-year-old Stella Leibeck went to McDonald’s for a cup of coffee one day in 1992, she had no idea that her name would become synonymous with tort reform. She ordered a coffee and removed the lid. Her coffee spilled on her lap and caused her significant burns (pictured below).
McDonald’s spent considerable time and money launching what some have called a smear campaign against her. Her case became a sensation. In recent years, legal scholars have attempted to set the records straight. Leibeck received the payment because McDonald’s kept their coffee at higher temperatures than industry standards. This is what caused the horrible burns to her legs.
2. Reptile Classification
Did you ever get labeled something in school that you never seemed to be able to shake? Imagine if that nickname or label was put down in a published book for the entire local area and you couldn’t get rid of it. Would you sue?
One person, a lawyer from California, sued GTE California. They sued the phone book company because their named appeared in their yellow page directory under the category of reptiles. The lawyer sued them to recover for an onslaught of mocking jokes and mean spirited telephone calls that they had received. It is unknown whether the case was successful or whether the lawyer was able to shake the repitilain nicknames.
3. The Guy Who Sued Himself
People often fight with themselves over things they have done, especially after doing something completely stupid. Most of us, however, have this battle internally and not in open court. One man however, decided to take his internal battle to court.
Robert Lee Brock tried to pull a “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” maneuver. Brock wanted to transfer from prison into a mental institution, so he decided to sue himself. Makes sense. In order to show that he belonged in a mental institution, he sued himself for being drunk and getting himself into trouble. A judge did not agree with him and dismissed the case.
4. Child Sues Parents for College Tuition
This is the first of several people suing over issues with colleges on this list. This case in particular is not the only one of its kind. Many similar cases have been popping up recently. Some people have been happy about these cases, but the majority of people have been angry.
Caitlyn Ricci (pictured below) was a 21-year-old from New Jersey who sued her parents in 2013. Her parents are divorced and both are now remarried. After moving in with her grandparents, Ricci attended both Rowan University and Temple University. She claims that her parents owe her money to pay for her tuition for both schools. She claims that she just wants to be able to afford college, but her mother claims that she just wants the money. A judge agreed with Ricci and ordered her parents to pay the tuition for both colleges she attended so far.
5. Magicians and Their Secrets
Magicians and illusionists are known for doing some ridiculous stunts that leave people scratching their heads. A lot of people argue that the tricks are not real. Conspiracy theorists claim that magicians tap into dark magic and the occult in order to pull off their tricks. Others think magicians are playing God.
One man, Christopher Roller, sued both David Blaine and David Copperfield. Roller claimed that their tricks defied the laws of physics. The tricks therefore were a result of using God-like powers to pull off their stunts. As if that wasn’t outrageous enough, he claimed that he was God, so that means that the magicians stole his powers. It is not known whether the lawsuit for $50 million was ultimately successful, but it is a fair assumption that it was not.
6. T.V. Made My Family Fat
Since televisions became widely popular several decades ago, people have been lounging in front of them for hours on end. The age of the couch potato began. Before Netflix and chill became a thing, people just sat in front of televisions to eat dinner, avoid talking to each other, and completely veg out.
One man in Wisconsin decided that he had enough of television and its side effects. Timothy Dumouchel sued his cable provider for making his wife fat and for turning his children into zombies. He claimed that he would settle the case for a reasonable fee: free computers and Internet for the rest of his life. The cable company thought otherwise and convinced him to drop the lawsuit.
7. The Weatherman
This next court case seems ridiculous on the surface, but each of us at one point of our lives wanted to do something very similar. Predicting the weather is not an exact science, apparently. Failed weather predictions tend to anger people. In fact, one woman was so fed up that she sued her weatherman.
Getting stuck in the rain is not a pleasant situation, especially if you are caught without an umbrella. A woman from Israel sued her local news station, because her local weatherman said it would be a nice day. The weather reporter claimed that the day would be sunny. Instead, the woman got caught in the rain, caught the flu, needed medication, and missed a full week of work. She sued the station for $1,000 and actually won!
8. You are Not the Father…Even Though You Are
The next case actually comes from the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court made this ruling in the 1980s, but it may surprise people to learn that this is still the law given all the advances in science.
In Micheal H vs Gerald D., the Supreme Court took on the concept of paternity. Long story short, a man and a woman were married. The woman became pregnant during the course of the marriage, but she had a huge secret. She had been carrying on an affair with another man. A DNA test on the baby proved that the child was a result of the extramarital affair. Both men wanted the baby. The court ruled that a child that is born during the course of marriage is automatically the child of the husband, regardless of DNA proof that someone else is the father.
9. Man Sues Wife
Marriages take a lot of work. The idea of the “old married couple” is not completely untrue for many couples. Some married couples tend to fight with each other over any little thing that ticks them off. Not to mention, the sex dwindles as time goes on, or so they say. One man did not approve of this, so he took his wife to court.
One husband had enough. He actually brought a lawsuit against his wife. Talk about marital problems! She did not want to get pregnant for a third time, so she told her husband that he could only get some once a week. Upset at these rations, he took his wife to court. The trial court found in favor of the husband. The appellate court thankfully ruled that she did not have to have sex with her husband if she did not want to.
10. Worst Breakup Ever
Chances are, you had the unlucky experience of having a really bad break up. You cry, eat lots of ice cream, or swear off dating for the next few weeks. If you lived together, you have to move out and decide who gets what. In this next case, the woman got the ultimate break up revenge.
During the course of their ten year relationship, Christopher Kelley and Melissa Cooper (pictured below together) had a child together. Kelley also had a child from a previous relationship. Cooper quit her job to take care of both children. Kelley even gave her a $10,000 engagement ring. He eventually left her. Cooper then sued him for breaking his promise to marry her and fraud. She was awarded $55,000 in damages. These are often referred to as “heart balm torts”. It seems that only a handful of states will actually let you sue for a failed engagement anymore.
11. Slipped on a Banana
The “slipping on a banana” gag actually did not come out of left field. There were actual court cases where people sued after slipping on banana peels, although the slipping was probably far less comical than an animated cartoon.
In 1911, the world was a less litigious place by all accounts. The plaintiff in the case of Anjou vs Boston Elevated Railway Company actually slipped on a banana peel that was left on the ground and sued. The slipping on the banana peel was not the only funny part of the case. A major issue in the case was the color of the peel. The peel had turned black and the plaintiff argued that it had been there for awhile.
12. Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan was the man in the 1990s. He was known for his moves on the basketball court, being in Space Jam, and using his celebrity to sell products. Michael Jordan became a household name. Unfortunately, for one man, he wished that Michael Jordan was not so famous.
A man bearing a striking resemblance to Michael Jordan was not pleased with all the attention. The man, Allen Heckard, decided that he had enough with all the publicity. In 2006, he took his frustration to the courts and decided to sue for the professional athlete for all the negative attention. He claimed that all the attention had negative psychological effects on him. Heckard eventually dropped the $800 million dollar lawsuit.
13. Stinky Feet Problems
Can you imagine getting thrown out of a place just because you smelled bad? What if you were thrown out of an university that you paid good money to attend all because everyone else thought you smelled bad? That very scenario happened to a man in the Netherlands in this next outrageous court case.
In 1999, Teunis Tenbrook attended Erasmus University. Besides having a cool name, he also had extremely stinky feet. Apparently the smell was so bad that his fellow classmates and the university staff could not be around him. The University kicked him out as a result. Tenbrook sued and after a ridiculously long ten-year court battle, a judge found that the University would just have to “cover their noses”.
14. The Case of the Missing Pants
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely hate it when I misplace my pants. I drop them off places, and I just cannot seem to remember where. Even when I do remember where I left them, I seem to forget which pants are mine. Sound ridiculous? That’s because it is.
Unfortunately for one man, this scenario was too real. In 2007, Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson (pictured above) claimed that a dry cleaner returned the wrong pair of pants to him. He decided that the only reasonable thing to do was to sue the cleaners for $67 million dollars. Not surprising to anyone, he lost the case and then his job. Evidently, he failed to prove that the pants he picked up were not the pants that he dropped off.
15. Beanie Baby Disaster
While they are filled with beans and made to look like innocent animals, Beanie Babies were too often the site of turmoil. In the 1990s, the Beanie Baby craze was at its height. Now, most Beanie Babies are on the market for much less than what collectors originally paid for them.
One couple took the craze very seriously. In 1999, Frances and Harold Mountain were in the midst of a divorce settlement. One of the last holdouts was their Beanie Baby collection. Unable to amicably divide their collection valued at $2,500-$5,000 in 1999, the couple was ordered to come into family court to divide the collection under supervision of a judge.
16. The Well “Traveled” Man
Getting turned down by anyone can be a hard pill to swallow. You try to get lucky by picking up people in a bar, but sometimes you strike out. Could you imagine getting lucky every time you tried to pick up someone? In reality, most people are lying about getting that lucky, but that apparently wasn’t the case for this next lawsuit.
In 2007, Rolf Eden was a 77-year-old strip club owner from Germany. He claimed to have slept with over 3,000 women. When he attempted to sleep with 19-year-old Katharina Weiss, she turned him down. Eden thought that the reasonable thing to do was to sue her for ageism. He later dropped the lawsuit, but admitted that he felt wounded after being turned down. He claimed it was the first time it ever happened. There is no indication whether it was his advanced age or the number of sex partners that was her deciding factor.
17. Caution: Flying Body Parts
Death of a loved one can be a hard thing to get through, especially if the death was unexpected. Accidents involving trains can be quite disturbing. The high velocity and inability of the train to stop quick enough can be both deadly and messy. This next case highlights those negatives in a gruesome way.
In 2008, Gayane Zokhrabov was standing on a train platform. Meanwhile, 18-year-old Hiroyuki Joho was trying to catch a train when he ended up on the tracks. He was hit by a train travelling at 70mph. The impact caused parts of his body to be propelled into the air. Zokhrabov was unfortunately hit by his body parts, causing her several physical injuries. She ended up suing his estate. The trial court first claimed that no one could have foreseen the injury, but an appellate court disagreed. This case was certainly strange and disturbing.
18. Tiny Car Joke
When Oprah announced that people were getting brand new cars, even the audience at home got excited. There is something about winning a new car that gets everyone really pumped up. This next case involves broken promises, cars won in a contest, and toys.
Cathy McGowan, a 26-year-old, was listening to the radio. She heard a DJ on Radio Buxton claiming that a winner of a radio contest could win a new Renault Clio. She was overjoyed when she found out that it was her who won! The joy was short lived because when she received her prize, it was a small toy model of the car. Incensed at the apparent prank, she sued the radio station and was awarded $28,000 dollars for the cost of the car that was promised to her.
19. Woman Sues College
Being a millennial can suck sometimes. The economy has been rocky over the last few years and the cost of college has skyrocketed in the last few decades. Without job prospects, many twenty somethings are resorting to extreme measures to find success in today’s economy.
Trina Thompson graduated from Monroe College. After a three month job search with no luck finding a job, she filed a lawsuit for $72,000 in 2009. With a 2.7 GPA, she claimed that career services gave preferential treatment to students with better grades. She sought to recover both her tuition and three months of stress after graduation. Some people have hailed her as a hero against high college tuition while others question the ridiculousness of her lawsuit. There is no indication whether the lawsuit is still pending or if it was dropped quietly by the plaintiff.
20. Beer Goggles
Drinking too much is risky business. A few drinks too many can anyone attractive. People think that beer is clearly to blame in these situations. One man claimed that beer led to other misleading images.
In 1991, Richard Overton sued Budweiser for false advertising. He claim that one advertisement showed attractive women appearing as the men in the ad drank Budweiser. When he drank the beer in real life, beautiful women did not appear, so he decided to sue the beer company for mental injury, emotional distress, and financial loss for purchasing the beer. The case was dismissed, unsurprisingly.