Skip to comments.Stella Awards
Posted on 01/07/2009 1:28:58 PM PST by ml/nj
It's time again for the annual "Stella Awards"! For those unfamiliar with these awards, they 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?
That's 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 Stella's for the past year:
7TH PLACE :
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.
6TH PLACE :
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 tr ying to steal his neighbor's hub caps.
Go ahead, grab your head scratcher.
5TH PLACE :
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. 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 t his kind of anguish.
Keep scratching. There are more...
4TH PLACE :
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.
3RD PLACE :
Third place goes to 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...
2ND PLACE :
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.
1ST PLACE : (May I have a fanfare played on 50 kazoos please?)
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 onto 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.
These stories make me mindsick.
What can you say.....OMG....
The first thing you do...
No cure for stupid.
Merv Grazinski: An Urban LegendML/NJ
by Walter Williams (January 6, 2004)
Literally hundreds of readers informed me that in last week's column, "Some Things I Wonder About," my reference to a Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City -- who set his 32-foot Winnebago on cruise control, left the driver's seat to brew a cup of coffee, crashed, then sued Winnebago for not having a warning against the dangers of doing so and received a jury award of $1,750,000 plus a new motor home -- was an urban legend and as such totally false.
My having fallen for this "urban legend" points to more due diligence to fact-checking. Without making any excuses whatsoever for my lapse in due diligence, let's look at it.
Thirty, 40 or 50 years ago, no one in their right mind would have believed the Merv Grazinski urban legend possible, but not so today. Personal responsibility has taken a back seat in our increasingly immoral and litigious society. Consider some actual lawsuits researched at (www.overlawyered.com).
The wife of a hockey fan who crashed his car after drinking too much at a Minnesota Wild game has sued the team, saying her husband who was paralyzed in the Feb. 8, 2002, auto crash shouldn't have been served so much alcohol.
According to the July 10, 2002, Akron Beacon Journa, "Two carpet installers who admit they read the label of an adhesive they used, admit they understood the adhesive was flammable and should not be used inside, used it inside anyway, caused an explosion, were burned badly, sued and won $8 million dollars."
According to the April 18, 2003, Indianapolis Star: "A convicted robber is suing the convenience store clerk who shot him as he fled after a holdup. Willie Brown, 44, claimed the clerk acted 'maliciously and sadistically' in firing five shots as Brown ran out of Zipps Deli with money from the store's cash register." Brown, who has earlier convictions for robbery and burglary, pleaded guilty to robbery and was sentenced to four years in prison.
In Galveston, Texas, a jury awarded $65 million to the parents and estate of a woman who drowned after her car rolled off a boat ramp. She couldn't disengage her seat belt. The jury found Honda of America Manufacturing Co. Inc. and Honda R & D Co. Ltd. 75 percent responsible for the death of Karen Norman, even though her blood-alcohol level measured at nearly twice the Texas legal limit (.17). Fortunately, an appeals court threw out the award, which a trial judge had previously reduced to $43 million.
Then there's the infamous McDonald's case, where Stella Liebeck purchased hot coffee, placed it between her legs, spilling it and scalding herself, and was awarded $2.9 million for her troubles. Clearly, she was at fault, but George Mason University Law Professor Richard Bernstein points out that a proximate cause for her injury was the fact she was wearing a cotton sweat suit that absorbed the coffee and held it close to her body. However, if she were wearing a Gore-Tex suit, or some other liquid resistant material, she would have suffered no injuries. Bernstein asks what's the tort principle that holds McDonald's responsible but not the sweat suit manufacturer?
None of these cases, and many others, differs in principle from the Merv Grazinski urban legend. What's common to all of them is the absolution or the attempt at absolution from personal responsibility. Are people to be held responsible for their actions? In the case of tobacco use, it's not the smoker who's responsible for his illness, it's tobacco companies. In the case of obesity, it's not the individual, but fast food companies and food manufacturers who are responsible. It's the same with criminal violence -- the gun manufacturer is partly to blame.
What does all this say for the future of our nation?
This is a Hoax.
At least that Cat is smart enough to spot an urban legend.
Everything was believable up until #1. Then the story sounded familiar, and I knew something was not kosher in the state of Maine.............
I had it at number 1 also.
You see, OU fans to not go to games driving an RV they go on the Greyhound Bus.
Remember folks, liberals don’t think Tort Reform is necessary......
The only thing that is clear is that both liberals and conservatives fall for Internet Hoaxes.
You’ve got to be freaking kidding me.
This reads like Mad Magazine.
The winner story has been making the rounds for YEARS, only the “driver” ID has changed. First time I heard it back in the early 70’s, the driver as an Iranian. In the 80’s it was a Nigerian. 90’s was a stoner from CA.
But sorry, your dead wrong about not needing Tort Reform.
The woman from the McDonalds hot coffee lawsuit demonstrates it beyond any doubt....except with you, apparently.
Having been a victim of a frivilous lawsuit in the late 1990’s, I know what I’m talking about here.
I did not say that tort reform was not necessary.
However, my wife the attorney may disagree with us.
My corporate attorney’s disagree as well....(chuckle)
I told them ‘Its no big deal, a law degree is a form of self inflicted brain damage, as you know....”
I could tell you some good lawyer jokes but they would cause me not only to be banned from FR but to have my front door kicked in by the Feds and hauled down to Gitmo.
Ain’t that the truth.
I had a bad fall last year....tripped over some equipment belonging to a major motion picture company.
Several people have advised me to sue, but not being litigious be nature I have not done so.
OK, since we are sharing email stories, I got this one today:
This is from an article in the St. Petersburg Times newspaper on Sunday.
The Business Section asked readers for ideas on “How Would You Fix the
I think this guy nailed it!
Dear Mr. President:
Please find below my suggestion for fixing America’s economy.
Instead of giving billions of dollars to companies that will squander
the money on lavish parties and unearned bonuses, use the following
You can call it the Patriotic Retirement Plan:
There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force.
Pay them $1 million apiece severance for early retirement with the
1) They MUST retire. Forty million job openings - Unemployment fixed.
2) They MUST buy a new American CAR. Forty million cars ordered - Auto
3) They MUST either buy a house or pay off their mortgage - Housing
It can’t get any easier than that!
If more money is needed, have all members of Congress and their
constituents pay their taxes....
If you think this would work, please forward to everyone you know.
“It cant get any easier than that!”
Except the part where we need to find $40 trillion...
Ah come on, they can just print up like they are doing for the Stimulus Package and the TARP funds -- once you get past the first $Trillion, does it really matter?
PS. Nancy Pelosi will deny all knowledge of this transaction! /s
Please excuse this reply if it is too long. I am an attorney and I am frequently told these “ain’t it a shame” stories. I have a suggestion. When ever you are told such a story, ask for the case citation. This would be something like Smith v. Jones, 351 SE2d 467. This will allow anyone to access the case record. The middle designation is the reporter series in which the case is reported. In the example it would be the South Eastern Reporter, 2nd series. The first number tells what volume, in the example, volume 351. The last number, 467, is the page number. You can still find most cases if you have only both parties names and the state and date of decision. Most large city libraries and all court libraries have these reporters. If the story teller cannot give you this information, treat it as a crock.
2nd lecture: Legal theory. In our legal system, the jury decides the facts of the case,including the amount of damages;the judge decides what law applies. The attorneys present the facts to the jury and argue the applicable laws to the judge. In deciding the amount of the damages, the jury relies on the dollar value presented in evidence. A thousand years ago everyone had a value set on his-her life, their “weregeld”. If you were a free man it was 200 shillings. If a lord, more. If a serf, less. If you were killed by someone’s negilgence, this is what they owed your family. We still do this, only juries decide what you were worth because it is an issue of fact. Brain surgeons and pretty little girls are worth more than street people and ugly juvenile delinquents. This is where punitive damages come in. In addition to Laws, you and I follow many ethical precepts given to us by our religions and parents. Corporations have only one ethic they follow in addition to the laws of man. That single ethic is: “Thou shalt make a profit” Thus, if the potential profit is greater than your “weregeld” as decided by an average jury, the profitable, but dangerous, drug will go on the market. Punitive damages are designed to discourage future corporate lapses in man’s ethics, even if they follow their own profit ethic, by removing the net profit gained. If our government removes the punitive damages, and they remove or do not prosecute, regulations, there is nothing to discourage single minded pursuit of the “profit ethic”. Also remember, just because a jury finds damages in a large amount, it does not mean that is what was actually paid. The trial judge or an appellate court can, and frequently does, reduce the judgment. That happened in the McDonalds “coffee case”.
50 Kazoo Fanfare? Can do:
I first heard it at least 30 years ago, and it was apparently kinda old even then.
I take it from your post that the primary difference between pro bono work and billable hours, is the use of paragraphs....
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