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Ridiculous lawsuits on parade

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
Friday, January 11, 2013
Posted: 10 am ET

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:

  1. Intoxicated Florida driver pleads guilty to manslaughter, then sues victim he killed.
  2. Michigan woman files $5 million suit to get back the gas in the tank of her repossessed car.
  3. A 13-year-old Little Leaguer is sued by a spectator who got struck by a baseball.
  4. A maximum-security inmate who went to jail with five teeth sues prison for dental problems.
  5. Anheuser-Busch is sued after a long-neck bottle is used as weapon in bar fight.
  6. A National Football League fan sues the Dallas Cowboys over hot bench.
  7. A California restaurant owner is sued over disabilities-act violations in a parking lot he doesn't own.
  8. A Colorado man wins $7 million over an illness he says was caused by inhaling microwave popcorn fumes.
  9. A $1.7 billion suit claims Santa Monica, Calif., wireless parking meters cause health problems.
  10. 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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52 Comments
Gary Katz
January 11, 2013 at 4:14 pm

David, the McDonald's verdict was more in the $800,000 range, and was reduced by the judge. Also, the reason the plaintiff won was because the coffee was served at an extremely high temp, high even for coffee. I recall the temp was around 180 degrees. At that temperature, spilling it on your lap is like spilling acid on your lap. The victim actually needed skin grafts. Moreover, this problem had previously been brought to McDonald's attention, and they opted to do nothing about the temperature, thus this plaintiff suffered those extreme burns. It's easy to read a blurb about a case and condemn the result, but only the jury heard the weeks of testimony and other evidence. Sometimes, you just have to give them some credit!

billie
January 11, 2013 at 4:09 pm

I know of a person who sued his neighbor who planted trees claiming it blocked his view of the valley - it was denied before it even got to court if I remember right.

george
January 11, 2013 at 3:45 pm

These would all stop if the party bringing these suits had to pay all court fees if they lost.

And lose they would , if taken to a jury with common sense.

p. vasilion
January 11, 2013 at 2:44 pm

I think most everyone is overlooking the obvious. Most of this suits would end if these judges would get their heads out of their you know what and stop giving out these frivelous verdicts. Judges, pay attention! We need to vote these judges out of office and elect fair people in these positions. So when you go to the poles "think" next time!

Rich
January 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Watch the film "Hot Coffee". It is a revealing HBO documentary about organizations like the one that sponsor this site.

Claudia
January 11, 2013 at 2:25 pm

I couldn't agree more about frivolous lawsuits. It wastes so much
time & money for everyone and serves only the attorneys and those too lazy to work. They want easy money. Because they settle out of court or worse, win, they never learn the lesson that these lawsuits are WRONG.

karen
January 11, 2013 at 2:05 pm

some people have no life and nothing else to do lost a job and are broke. thats why they need money. GET A LIFE !!!!!!!

H.P.
January 11, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Wonder when they will let big companies sue buyers for misuse of their products, Guns, Knives, Duct tape, cell phones, etc..
Could get itneresting

Leanna
January 11, 2013 at 1:36 pm

How about an auto accident where the plaintiff didn't wear a seat belt and hit another car in the side, claims she didn't see the driver that she hit dead on like a brick wall with her front and then sues the victim claiming neck injuries and doesn't have surgery but keeps saying she will go. Then claims she wants a hundred thousand dollars from the ins co. A year later while this is still in the courts she gets into a second accident. Meanwhile, she sued a prior employer for something else and her husband has sued numerous times in other cases all in the same court and with the same lawyer. Is this a case of career suers or borderline fraud or just opportunists?

Ha Lii
January 11, 2013 at 1:32 pm

In cases where product/services are life threatening {true of several of the suits listed}, there ought be another portion of the site. Strangely, the underlying cause of frivolous lawsuits lies upon our basic social structure & failure to provide for those who ultimately seek recourse through any loophole left open... this is not to say that self~entitlement is acceptable, but that if the 1st world didn't support separatist mentality, suits such as these would all be easily laughed at mere mention; not taken seriously let alone given actual due course.

It is no secret that rampant bureaucracy is the beginning of the end, wherever it may be found.