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Top 5 Most Ridiculous Lawsuits

21st February 2013

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We have all been there, sitting in a café/ restaurant/ fast-food store sipping our warm coffee and somehow manage to dribble it down ourselves. Often people look as you curse the caramel liquid for ruining your outfit for the rest of the day. Sometimes they smile dryly or supress a snigger.

Now imagine your name is Stella Liebeck, it is 1992 and you have spilled a cup of steaming hot coffee all over your lap in McDonald’s and burned yourself. You are 79-year-old woman and people are laughing at your misfortune. What do you do?

Well Stella Liebeck took a course of action most people would not have even dreamt of. She sued. In fact she sued for $2.9million, yes, $2.9million.

And it’s not the only ridiculous lawsuit that’s made its way to the courts over the years...

'Misleading advertising' by the Bud Light babes

The majority of us are aware that the sex selling beer commercial fantasies featuring beaches and babes are just that – a fantasy. Not Richard Overton. In 1991 he sued the company which owns Bud Light saying the company’s ads – which showed their beer’s magical ability to create "scenic tropical settings [and] beautiful women and men engaged in endless and unrestricted merriment" — turned out to be "untrue."

He sued for $10,000 citing false and misleading advertising that allegedly caused emotional distress, mental injury and financial loss. The case was dismissed.

Joannes Jozef Everardus van Der Meer vs. Facebook  

The “like” button is possibly the most used item on Facebook; you can show you support something without having to lay a finger on a key. It seems to be unique to Facebook but in fact the company’s use of it, and other features, has led to a law suit on behalf of a dead Dutch programmer.

Facebook is being sued by a patent-holding company, Rembrandt Social Media, acting for the deceased Joannes Jozef Everardus van Der Meer. The company said Facebook's success was partly based on using two of Van Der Meer's patents without permission.

Van Der Meer was given the patents in 1998, five years before Facebook appeared. Rembrandt now owns these patents which the inventor used to create a fledgling social network called Surfbook before his death in 2004.

Ward of the state

If you can’t sue the system you can always sue yourself. In 1995, inmate Robert Lee Brock sued himself for $5million. He claimed he had violated his own civil and religious rights, by allowing himself to get drunk and commit crimes, which had led to him being arrested detained at Indian Creek Correctional Center.

"I want to pay myself 5 million dollars," he continued, "but ask the state to pay it in my behalf since I can't work and am a ward of the state."

The state dismissed the case as “frivolous”. Who has not got drunk and done something stupid they regretted the next day? We all could have sued ourselves for millions.

'Defamation' by basketball legend 

In 2006, Allen Heckard attempted to sue Michael Jordan and Nike claiming he could not “live a normal life” because of his resemblance to the basketball legend.

Despite being eight years older than Jordan and six inches shorter, Heckard said people come up to him all the time thinking he is the basketball legend and he is sick of it.

He tried suing Jordan on the grounds of defamation and permanent injury as well as emotional pain and suffering. Heckard also tried to sue the founder of Nike, Phil Knight, for helping make Jordan one of the most recognised men in the world.

And Heckard did not try suing for a few bucks (if he had it may have been more successful!). He asked for a huge $832 million — $416 million from Jordan and the same from Knight. Heckard paid the $206 filing fee himself, before he had a lawyer.

Heckard said: "I want to be recognised as me, just like Michael's recognised as Michael." 

So Allen Heckard did what anyone wanting to live a quiet life would do – tried to sue a celebrity and world-famous company for millions of dollars. Heckard dropped the case later on that year, yet will no doubt benefit from the publicity for the rest of his life.

'False premises' for marriage  

In 2012, Jian Feng had his first baby with his wife - and when he saw it he was horrified. He could not believe that his stunning wife could produce such an ugly baby, and became suspicious.

He later discovered his wife's good looks were due to £62,000 worth of plastic surgery.

It was the ugliest divorce case in legal history.

Feng said: “I married my wife out of love, but as soon as we had our first daughter, we began having marital issues.”

“Our daughter was incredibly ugly, to the point where it horrified me.”

He told lawyers his wife had fooled him by having plastic surgery to make her beautiful and it was only the birth of their daughter that gave her away. He sued claiming she had tricked him into marrying her – and he WON.

The court agreed with Feng and awarded him £75,000 on the grounds of “false premises”, and a divorce was also granted.

Whatever happened to Stella? 

So, what happened to Stella Liebeck and the McDonald’s coffee case? McDonald’s serve their coffee at between 180-190 degrees, enough to cause third degree burns. Liebeck suffered third degree burns and had to undergo multiple surgeries and skin grafts. Originally she asked McDonald’s to pay her hospital bills and when they refused her family took them to court. Although her initial award was reduced, she still won a considerable $480,000.

Therefore it seems that with the right kind of ridiculous law suit, you can in fact win, and win big.

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