I was recently at a lunch with a few lawyers. One spilled his coffee and we started talking about the Mc Donald’s case. Surely you have heard of the Mc Donald’s Spilled Coffee case, with what seemed like a stupid verdict. However, few know all the facts which support the underlying verdict …which led to the Stella Awards for crazy litigation.
The lawyer was a real estate lawyer and didn’t know all the facts of the case. A case which on its face was ridiculous.
I don’t know of a lawyer who would have accepted the McDonald’s case. One asks, would Indio Juries have ruled the same? Stella Liebeck. 81 years old, spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonald’s, where she had purchased the coffee. You may remember she took the lid off the steaming coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. How could anything go wrong?
The Stella awards were created for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the USA. These are the kinds of cases that make everyone ask, Why? What most people don’t know is that there were many complaints to Mc Donald’s that their coffee was too hot, and they got burned.
During the trial, evidence was presented that McDonalds had learned they could get many more cups of coffee from a bag of coffee beans if they brewed it at very high temperatures. In order to punish Mc Donald’s, the jury returned a very high verdict. It was reduced by the judge.
However, Stella was not the only crazy verdict. Here are some of the most outlandish Stella’s. However, note that we don’t know if there were appeals that reversed/reduced the verdict.
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 hubcaps.
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.
He was forced to sit for EIGHT days and survive 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.
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. You see Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.
Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania wins third place 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.
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 cover charge of $3.50, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000 and, oh yeah, plus dental expenses.
FIRST PLACE *
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 on to 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 and overturned. 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 her, 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.
DALE GRIBOW Attorney at Law
Representing the Injured and Criminally Accused
73-061 El Paseo, Suite 220
Palm Desert, CA 92260
Office – 760-837-7500 Fax – 760 837-7502
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DRINKING AND TEXTING BOTH CAUSE ARRESTS AND ACCIDENTS, OR MAKE A DRIVER LESS LIKELY TO AVOID A DUI INDUCED ARREST OR ACCIDENT… THAT WOULD NOT BE THEIR FAULT.
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