Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Totally Off Topic - Stella Awards

This has absolutely nothing to do with Jon and Kate Plus Eight, but entertaining just the same. Many of you have probably already seen these. The annual Stella Awards are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald's in New Mexico where she purchased the coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Who would ever think one could get burned doing that, right?

These are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S. You know, the kinds of cases that make you scratch your head. So keep your head scratcher handy.
Here are the Stellas for the past year:


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.

Go ahead, grab your head scratcher.


Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pennsylvania who 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. Forced to sit for eight, count 'em, EIGHT, days 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. We should all have this kind of anguish.

Keep scratching. There are more...


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 because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.

Grrrrr. Scratch, scratch..


Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania 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. What ever happened to people being responsible for their own actions?

Scratch, scratch, scratch. Hang in there; there are
only two more Stellas to go...


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 $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000....oh, yeah, plus dental expenses. Go figure.


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 urprisingly, 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.


Angelica said...

I've never heard of this award/story before. Interesting. That's one way of shirking personal responsibility for poor common sense.

I'm reminded of the lady who implanted a finger at a Wendy's buffet, so that she can sue the fast food chain. This was intentional. Not sure if the Stella Liebeck incident was. But both are certainly strange.

HBIC8u said...

Oooh these gripe my ass. People do not have to be responsible for their actions anymore in this country. Remember the woman who sued McDonald's because her kids were fat? I swear, I don't see how these people stand in front of a judge with a straight face.

SoccerMomof3 said...

hbic8u I was going to say the samething. I remember that and was thinking you can't be serious.

Angelica said...


I have heard about that lawsuit by those overweight kids. It's astonishing and unbelievable. Sadly, money is a big motive for a lot of people.

rain88 said...

The McDonald's coffee story isn't as outrageous as it sounds.

Guinevere said...

Yeah, I was aware that there was more to the McDonald's story than met the eye. That may be the case with some of the cases above, though with some of them it's very hard to imagine.

I don't necessarily agree with blanket statements about how people don't want to take responsibility any more. I don't know that people are more or less responsible than they used to be, but I think it's a pretty basic human impulse to try to avoid blame for bad choices. I also don't think greed was just invented.

The one thing I would say about people who sue McDonald's, etc. is that we shouldn't discount the pernicious effects of advertising. We can say that "we all know" that a Big Mac and a large order of fries is not good for you, but as long as fast food companies market their food in a deceptive way, I think there are people who can be fooled. The same goes with companies that advertise junky foods during kids' programming. I'm not arguing against personal responsibility, at all, but at the same time corporations are run by individuals who should also be responsible for their choices. I think sometimes we let them off the hook and expect them to be greedy, whereas we judge individuals much more harshly for being or appearing to be greedy.

Angelica said...


thanks for the link. that puts a whole new perspective into the coffee situation.

MonicaW42 said...

Does anyone remember this lawsuit?

Jin and Soo Chung came to the United States in search of the American dream. What they experienced was the nightmare of American lawsuit abuse.

While the Chungs may not be household names, most Americans are aware of the $54 million lawsuit over pants they temporarily misplaced. That lawsuit, which was laughable on its face, has had a very unfunny impact on their business and their lives, forcing them to close two of their three dry cleaning stores and causing years of anxiety and sleepless nights.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

The Chungs moved to Washington, D.C. from South Korea, where Mr. Chung worked in a charcoal factory, in 1992. Like many immigrants, they were drawn to America by the opportunities available to those willing to work hard and the promise of a good education and a better life for their children.

And work hard they did, opening one dry cleaning store which was soon followed by a second and a third. The stores were a family business, owned and operated by the Chungs along with their son Ki.

But then came the day Judge Roy Pearson complained they'd lost his pants. The Chungs tried to settle with him, eventually offering up to $12,000 (as well as his pants), but Pearson insisted on dragging them to court in a ridiculous claim for $54 million.

After more than two years, Pearson lost his initial lawsuit, but it unfortunately didn't end there.

Losses at their Custom Cleaners store were too great to overcome, and the Chungs had to close it last October. In the meantime, despite magnanimously dropping their countersuit against Pearson for legal fees, he pressed on with his appeal and today the case remains alive in the District of Columbia court system.

Today the Chungs operate their first cleaning location, Happy Cleaners in downtown Washington, D.C.
''They're out a lot of money, but more importantly, they're incredibly disenchanted with the system,'' said Chris Manning, their attorney. ''This has destroyed their lives.''

Now granted I have had some things come back from the cleaners ruined but I would not sue over it. I would have to sue myself for all the times I turned my white laundry pink.

MrsRef said...

For what it's worth, people do not have common sense and then expect others to pay for their stupidity. Have you ever stopped to look at all the warnings plastered all over. If for example, a grocery store does not clearly tell parents that letting their kids climb around grocery carts, the store, the manufacturer of the cart and everyone else would be sued. I followed the link and read about Stella. I did not know all of the circumstances either. I worked for an insurance investigator before becoming an insurance agent and some of the claims people put in would shock you. Insurance claims do cost everyone money in the form of higher premiums. There are people who have legimate claims for injuries and they certainly should be compensated but there are also alot of people who abuse the system. BTW McDonald's is notorius for not wanting to pay claims.

Anonymous said...

These lawsuits aren't real:

Nina Bell said...

Well according to the last comment these lawsuits are not real. This was emailed to me, and to be honest with you I did not check this out. But hey, it makes for interesting discussion anyway.

Anya said...

Agree, Nina. It does make for interesting discussion.

My pet peeve is the exorbitant fees lawyers get to try class action suits. How many times have we heard about large class action suits - some with genuine merit - where the plaitiffs get a pittance and the lawyers get millions? Right up there with executive compensation as one of the issues that make my blood boil..!

I'd love to hear Mrs. Ref's stories.... :-)

MrsRef said...

The investigation side of this was interesting. We had a guy who got drunk, tresspassed on someones property, dove in the bay from their bulkhead (mind you they did not know him) and became paralized. He sued the homeowners. There was a man who had broken into someone's house and was discovered by the homeowner in his daughter's bedroom. He fell out the window and got hurt and sued the homeowner for excessive force. We also had a case where a person "routinely" went into stores such as home depot and pulled things down on themselves and tried to sue the stores. I guess they didn't realize that these claims are documented and they will eventually found out. We do live in a litiguous society.

Kuromi said...

Anonymous, you beat me--I was going to suggest the site in the "open Discussion," as I've found it very handy to check up on sob story emails that friends feel the need to forward to everyone on their mailing lists :)
However, there really IS a Stella Awards:
That site lambasts the fake lawsuits mentioned in the Snopes link Anonymous provided:

A Mom-ynous said...

It is unfortunate that this woman's case was used to name an award.

The woman suffered 3rd degree burns and McD's was already on record as acknowledging their coffee was scalding hot and continued to serve it that way.

Her incident was non-intentional in any way. An accident for which McD's was held liable for her injuries.

Read the case and then comment. Otherwise noone has any place to judge it--b/c it has already been judged.

As for someone suing for their fat kids--what the heck planet was she living on to presume she could feed her kids crap all the time. Geesh!

Not the same as getting 3rd degree burns on your private parts when the cup accidentally spills. McD's was always at risk for seriously injuring someone on accident but yet they did nothing to prevent it.

How in the heck do you accidentally consume a french fry?