Sometimes the best Christmas presents arrive late.
My tardy surprise this year was the discovery of a website called FacesofLawsuitAbuse.org, which made my holidays a little brighter with this list of the 10 Most Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2012:
- Intoxicated Florida driver pleads guilty to manslaughter, then sues victim he killed.
- Michigan woman files $5 million suit to get back the gas in the tank of her repossessed car.
- A 13-year-old Little Leaguer is sued by a spectator who got struck by a baseball.
- A maximum-security inmate who went to jail with five teeth sues prison for dental problems.
- Anheuser-Busch is sued after a long-neck bottle is used as weapon in bar fight.
- A National Football League fan sues the Dallas Cowboys over hot bench.
- A California restaurant owner is sued over disabilities-act violations in a parking lot he doesn't own.
- A Colorado man wins $7 million over an illness he says was caused by inhaling microwave popcorn fumes.
- A $1.7 billion suit claims Santa Monica, Calif., wireless parking meters cause health problems.
- Parents sue a school after their son was kicked out of an honors class for cheating.
There's a sobering purpose behind this list. The site is the brainchild of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR), which uses any tool at its disposal -- including trenchant humor -- to prevent economic and human damage from what it calls "lawsuit abuse."
That term is a far less forgiving one than its predecessor, "frivolous lawsuits," which seemed to trivialize the damage that our increasingly litigious society exacts on all of us. According to the ILR, the cost of lawsuits in this country, when measured as a percentage of gross domestic product, is more than double that of any other industrialized nation.
Translation? "We sue too much," says Lisa Rickard, ILR president.
The growing cost of abusive litigation factors heavily into the premiums we pay on our homeowners insurance and auto insurance policies and the products and services we buy from small businesses. Questionable lawsuits wreck lives, reward gold-diggers and tax our court system.
To try to correct this course, FacesofLawsuitAbuse.org provides a platform for victims of lawsuit abuse to tell their stories via video. Most of these first-person stories might air once if at all on a local TV broadcast and disappear forever. ILR hopes its accumulation of victim videos will have an impact greater than the occasional segment on the nightly news.
To keep the clicks coming, FacesofLawsuitAbuse.org hosts an interactive poll where you can vote for the most ridiculous lawsuit of the month.
Log on for the laughs, stay for the outrage. It's going to take public awareness and engagement to prompt action on lawsuit abuse.
(Thanks to "Terms + Conditions" blogger Claire Wilkinson at the Insurance Information Institute for tipping me to this important site.)
Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus
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