Poor lawyers. They spend years and tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars learning their craft, only to be reviled and despised by the general public. Our collective opinion of them is not very high, but it’s still considered a prestigious profession (even if only secretly). Many of us hate them. Consider:
- “Everyone wants to say they hate lawyers, and yet I’ve never met a parent who didn’t want their kid to be a lawyer.” -Jessi Klein
- “The only way you can beat the lawyers is to die with nothing.” -Will Rogers
- “Marriage is really tough because you have to deal with feelings...and lawyers.” -Richard Pryor
- “Lawyers are like rhinoceroses: thick-skinned, short-sighted, and always ready to charge.” -David Mellor
See Also: 5 Occasions You Should Hire a Lawyer
It can be a noble choice, defending the wrongfully accused and ensuring a fair trial for all, regardless of race, religion, or status. Those are the good ones.
On the other hand, the ambulance-chasing variety - you’ve seen their ads on daytime and late night television - would have you believe that the answer to virtually any question is to sue. And they’ve convinced so many people of that falsehood that America has a reputation as the most litigious society in the world (even though the evidence suggests otherwise).
The fact is, though, that there are some rather stupid lawsuits. Some never make it to trial, but a few have gone the distance and resulted in crazy payouts and settlements. These are the lawsuits that make being a lawyer the butt of so many jokes, ridicule, and scorn. And to be fair, even most lawyers roll their eyes and scoff at them. But...someone has to serve as legal representation when they make their way to court. Could you? Would you?
There are likely plenty of reasons why it (sometimes) sucks to be a lawyer. These lawsuits rank somewhere near the top.
1. The Case of the “Bad” Hug
This one was in the news and in the “worst of” lists very recently. Jennifer Connell of Connecticut filed suit against her 12-year old nephew. The offense? An overly aggressive hug. She claims that her nephew - who was eight-years old at the time of the incident - gave her a rambunctious hug that resulted in the two of them toppling over. Connell broke her wrist in the tumble, and eventually brought the issue to court seeking $127,000 in damages. The jury took less than 30 minutes to reject her case, finding the child innocent of any wrongdoing. But before you write her off as a horrible human being, she does claim that she was simply trying to get homeowners insurance to pay her medical bills, but Connecticut law requires naming someone in the case. She had “no choice”. Yeah...try using that excuse at the next family get-together.
2. The Case of the Bottled Water Heist
Charles Joyce and James Voight claim they came up with the idea of selling purified bottled water, and that they shared that idea with reps from PepsiCo in 1981. Nothing came of it. Fast forward a few years, and Pepsi starts selling Aquafina in 1996. Coincidence? Yes. Yes, it is. But Joyce and Voight didn’t see it that way, and brought suit against PepsiCo for stealing their idea. If that’s not sad enough, the two men were originally awarded a $1.26 billion default judgment in 2009. Billion. With a “b”. The judgment was later vacated, but the legal back-and-forth is still going on today. This one isn’t over.
3. What Do You Mean There’s No Fruit?
Most of us recognize that Froot Loops and Crunch Berries do not contain any actual fruit (the spelling of “froot” should have been the first clue). Not so clear for Roy Werbal. He’s suing Kellogg’s - the maker of both cereals - for what amounts to false advertising. Werbal claims that he had no idea that either product did not contain any real fruit, and that he would not have bought it otherwise. The case is still pending in California.
4. The World’s Most Expensive Pants
If you use a dry cleaner, then you’ve probably had an item get damaged or lost at some point. It’s inconvenient and a pain-in-the-ass, but it’s part of the deal. Many dry cleaners even explicitly state they are not responsible for lost or damaged items, because hey, it happens. We accept the risks. Well, most of us do, anyway. Roy Pearson of Washington, D.C. claims that his local dry cleaner lost a pair of beloved pants, so he tried suing them...for $67 million. The amount may seem excessive (because it is), but Pearson included mental suffering and inconvenience in addition to the cost of the pants themselves. You can’t put a price on that. The case was thrown out when the dry cleaners produced the pants in question.
5. Will the Real Michael Jordan Please Stand Up?
Allen Heckard had a problem. He looked (at least somewhat) like Michael Jordan. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? But Heckard describes it as hell on Earth, claiming it’s caused him incalculable emotional pain and suffering. His solution? He filed suit against both Michael Jordan and Nike (for increasing Jordan’s fame and media presence) for $416 million. Each. He was seeking a total of $832 million dollars for kind of looking like a basketball star. Shockingly, the case was dismissed.
6. The Ugly Duckling Bride
Jian Feng of China was handsome, wealthy, and successful, so he wanted to find an equally impressive wife. He thought he had done so, and soon after their wedding, they welcomed a baby girl. Jian Feng was horrified by the baby’s appearance, claiming that a handsome man like himself could not possibly be the father of such an ugly child. He at first accused his wife of infidelity, but she eventually revealed that she had undergone tens of thousands of dollars worth of plastic surgery prior to meeting him. She used to be - in her own words - ugly. Jian did what anyone in that situation would do - he sued her, claiming that she had “tricked” him into marriage through deception and lies. And he won. The courts dissolved the union and awarded him £75,000 in damages. Think about that the next time you put on makeup...
7. Caution: Hot Coffee
Stella Liebeck- often considered the godmother of frivolous lawsuits, Liebeck sued McDonald’s when a cup of coffee she bought in the drive-through spilled all over her lap. Now, to be fair, the coffee was hot (it was coffee, after all), and she did suffer third-degree burns on her thighs. When the suit came to trial, she was awarded $2.86 million, although that amount was later reduced to “only” $640,000. The lawsuit was even parodied on an episode of Seinfeld when Kramer spills coffee on himself while sneaking it into a movie theatre (he put the cup down the front of his pants).
Some argue that the Liebeck lawsuit was not dumb, as she legitimately suffered pain and anguish, spending eight days in the hospital due to her injuries. That may be true, but most of us also understand what coffee is, and it is meant to be hot. A little common sense goes a long way.
See Also: How to Become a Lawyer
Silly, dumb, ridiculous lawsuits are everywhere, and you could fill a book with them. With an even bigger sequel. Richard Overtun unsuccessfully sued Anheuser-Busch because their beer was not scoring him any beautiful ladies like in the commercials. Lauren Rosenberg tried suing Google Maps for “making” her walk down the middle of a major highway...she was, of course, struck by a car. Webster Lucas tried to score $1.5 million for “mental anguish and emotional stress” after McDonald’s failed to give him an extra napkin.
Lawyers must hate these people.
What’s the most frivolous lawsuit you’ve ever heard of? Leave your thoughts in the comments below...