December saw two posts about the depressing demise of TRIA, so we thought we’d end the year on a considerably lighter note. FacesOfLawsuitAbuse.org is a U.S. Chamber of Commerce project that addresses this country’s litigation explosion, and it publishes a list of the ten most ridiculous lawsuits at the end of every year. While none of this year’s finalists involve insurance coverage per se, we thought that we still would share them with our readership. Some of last year’s – such as the man who sued Apple because he allegedly became addicted to pornography after “accidently” visiting an adult website on an Apple device or the criminal who sued eight brewers for not warning him that alcohol, which supposedly led to his life of crime, was “habit forming and addictive” – were arguably funnier. This year’s crop nonetheless contains some howlers. Read on – and may each and every one of you have a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2015!
(1) A man who fell asleep during Red Sox game at Yankee Stadium filed a lawsuit against ESPN and its announcers as well as Major League Baseball and the Yankees after he was shown napping on a live telecast of the game. According to his complaint, he suffered “substantial injury” to his “character and reputation” and “mental anguish, loss of future income and loss of earning capacity” as a result of the incident. His complaint seeks $10 million in damages.
(2) Walt Disney Corporation’s new blockbuster movie Frozen, which is based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale The Snow Queen, has become the highest grossing animated film in history. Disney has now been hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit by a woman who contends that the story is instead based on her autobiography about growing up in the mountains of Peru. The pro se complaint points to the similarities such as the fact that the plaintiff, like the movie’s Elsa, grew up with a sister with different colored hair. The complaint contends that the film caused “irreparable harm” to the plaintiff and calls for Disney to “cease and desist from any and all sales, distribution and marketing of Frozen in any media format” and to pay her $250 million in damages.
(3) A New York City woman sued public transportation and Showtime, contending that she tripped and fell when she looked up while ascending a staircase in Grand Central Terminal and saw a “shocking and menacing” poster advertising the Showtime thriller series “Dexter.” Her complaint contended that she subsequently suffered nightmares necessitating a number of visits to a psychiatrist.
(4) A New York City man sued the city, NYC Transit, an Au Bon Pain store, two local hospitals, a K-Mart, and a dog owner, contending that he had been bitten by a “rabies-infected” dog on a city bus resulting in an infected middle finger. His 22-page, hand-written complaint asserted that his pain and suffering couldn’t be measured in money and was, therefore, “priceless,” but the ad damnum nonetheless asked for two undecillion dollars; undecillion is a real word – it means a one followed by 36 zeroes!
(5) A Utah man filed a personal injury lawsuit contending that he suffered from a bad back as a result of a car accident that had left him with “serious, permanent and debilitating injuries.” A few weeks later, he allowed himself to be videotaped toppling a 200 million-year-old boulder in Utah’s Goblin Valley State Park. Needless to say, the video quickly went viral and attracted a lot of media attention. When confronted by a reporter, he stated that he was only able to push the boulder over because of a “man rush” from adrenaline.
(6) A California little league coach sued a 14-year-old player, seeking $600,000 and alleging that when the youngster threw his batting helmet into the air to celebrate after scoring the winning run, the helmet somehow ruptured the coach’s Achilles’ tendon. The injury supposedly took place in March, but the coach did not have it surgically repaired until December.
(7) A Denver man’s life was saved when he was pulled from flood waters around his upside-down car by area rescuers last September after record rainfall hit the area. His response was a $500,000 lawsuit alleging that the rescuers were negligent because they did not extricate him as rapidly as he thought they should have.
(8) The city of Manteca, California saw over three dozen local businesses slapped with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuits in 2014, and two restaurants were forced to close because of them. More ADA suits have been filed in California than in any other state, and the attorney behind the Manteca litigation has filed over 3,000 such actions. In one southern California case, a restaurant was sued because a bathroom mirror was hanging two inches too high to satisfy ADA regulations, and the plaintiffs alleged that the height of the mirror inflicted damages each time they visited; they had eaten at the restaurant 27 times over the previous three months.
(9) Thousands of cases are settled with community service (via what is called an “Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal”) in New York City every year; there were 88,000 such matters in 2012. 2014 saw a New York City attorney file a class action on behalf of two plaintiffs – one accused of turnstile jumping and the other of a weapons violation – seeking a determination that those ordered to perform community service should be paid minimum wage because ACD “meets the definition of employment under federal and state labor laws.”
(10) A California woman filed a national class action lawsuit against the Jimmy John’s restaurant chain, contending that a sandwich that she ordered was supposed to contain alfalfa sprouts but did not. The chain ultimately agreed to a settlement that saw it promise to provide up to 500,000 customers who filled out a form on its website stating that they had purchased a sprout-less sandwich with a $1.40 voucher. The woman’s attorneys pocketed a $370,000 fee.