Sunday, July 03, 2005

The Stella Awards

It's time once again to review the winners of the annual "Stella Awards." The Stellas are named after 81 year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonald's. That case inspired the Stella awards for the most frivolous, ridiculous, successful lawsuits in the United States.

Here are this year's winners:

7th Place: Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas, was awarded $780,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving little toddler was Ms. Robertson's son.

6th Place: 19-year-old Carl Truman of Los Angeles won $74,000 and medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Mr.Truman apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps.

5th Place: Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pennsylvania, was leaving a house he had just finished robbing by way of the garage. He was not able to get the garage door to go up since the automatic door opener was malfunctioning. He couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the house and garage locked when he pulled it shut.

The family was on vacation, and Mr. Dickson found himself locked in the garage for eight days. He subsisted on a case of Pepsi he found, and a large bag of dry dog food. He sued the homeowner's insurance claiming the situation caused him undue mental anguish. The jury agreed to the tune of $500,000.

4th Place: Jerry Williams ofLittle Rock, Arkansas, was awarded $14,500 and medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by his next-door neighbor's beagle. The beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. The award was less than sought because the jury felt the dog might have been just a little provoked at the time by Mr. Williams who had climbed over the fence into the yard and was shooting it repeatedly with a pellet gun.

3rd Place: A Philadelphia restaurant was ordered to pay Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, $113,500 after she slipped on a soft drink and broke her coccyx (tailbone). The beverage was on the floor because Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.

2nd Place: Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware, successfully sued the owner of a nightclub in a neighboring city when she fell from the bathroom window to the floor and knocked out her two front teeth. This occurred while Ms.Walton was trying to sneak through the window in the ladies room to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. She was awarded $12,000 and dental expenses.

1st Place: This year's run away winner was Mrs. Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City,Oklahoma. Mrs. Grazinski purchased a brand 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 into the back and make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the RV left the freeway, crashed and overturned.

Mrs.Grazinski sued Winnebago for not advising her in the owner's manual that she couldn't actually do this. The jury awarded her $1,750,000 plus a new motor home. The company actually changed their manuals on the basis of this suit, just in case there were any other other complete morons around.

Some of these may be urban legends, but I'm too lazy to go check. They are fun to read, anyway....


At Monday, July 04, 2005 7:14:00 AM, Blogger Firehand said...

Steve over at is right; crooked lawyers combined with the most STUPID jury they can choose.

At Monday, July 04, 2005 8:33:00 PM, Anonymous Richard G. Combs said...

Yeah, you've been had, these are bogus. Randy Cassingham, the fine libertarian Colorado fellow who writes the popular This Is True newsletter also puts out the True Stella Awards newsletter. He has a page about bogus stories, and your list is there verbatim as the most common bogus Stella Awards example.

The fakes are a shame, as Cassingham notes, because "It makes no sense to use false examples of real problems when there are so many true examples that illustrate the actual problem." Check out his past years' winners (2005 isn't out yet).


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