Dave Stoppenhagen | February 27, 2004
Here are this years Stella Awards

The Stella's are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonalds. That case inspired the Stella Awards for the most frivolous successful lawsuits in the United States. Unfortunately the most recent lawsuit implicating McDonalds, the teens who allege that eating at McDonalds has made them fat, was filed after the 2002 award voting was closed.


This suit will top the 2003 awards list without question.

5th place (Tied)

Kathleen Robertson of Austin Texas was awarded $780,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving toddler was Ms. Robertson's Son.


5th place (Tied)


19-year-old Carl Truman of Los Angeles won $74,000 and medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Mr. Truman apparently did not notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal the hubcaps.


5th place (Tied)


Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pennsylvania was leaving a house he had just finished robbing by way of the garage door. He was not able to get the garage door to go up since the automatic door opener was malfunctioning. He could not reenter the house because the door connecting the house and garage locked when he pulled it shut. The family was on vacation and Mr. Dickson found himself locked in the garage for 8 days. He subsisted on a case of Pepsi he found and a large bag of dry dog food. He sued the homeowner's insurance claiming the situation caused him undue mental anguish. The Jury agreed to the tune of $500,000.


4th Place


Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas was awarded $14,500 and medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by his next door neighbor's Beagle dog. The Beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. The award was less than sought because the jury felt the dog might have been a little provoked at the time as Mr. Williams, who had climbed over the fence into the yard, was shooting it repeatedly with a pellet gun.


3rd place


A Philadelphia restaurant was ordered to pay Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania $113,500 after she slipped on a soft drink and broke her coccyx (tailbone). The beverage was on the floor because Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.


2nd Place


Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware sued the owner of a nightclub in a neighboring city when she fell from the bathroom window to the floor and knocked out two of her front teeth. This occurred whilst Ms. Walton was trying to crawl in through the window of the Ladies Room to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. She was awarded $12,000 and dental expenses.


1st Place


This year's runaway winner was Mr. Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Mr. Grazinski purchased a new Winnebago motorhome. On his trip home from an OU football game, having driven onto the freeway, he set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the drivers seat to go into the back and make himself a cup of coffee. Not surprisingly, the RV left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Mr. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not advising him in the owner's manual that he could not actually do this.


The jury awarded him $1,750,000 plus a new Winnebago Motor Home. The company actually changed their manuals on the basis of this suit just in case there were any other complete morons buying their recreation vehicles

Anna Gregoline | February 27, 2004
You know, that McDonald's coffee woman WAS severely burned. Yes, she shouldn't have held the coffee that way, and I don't think she deserved as much money as I recall her getting, but she was painfully burned by coffee that was far too hot, and needed many skin grafts in a delicate area. I think many of us would want money for our pain and suffering too.

Anna Gregoline | February 27, 2004
These also seem more like stupid jury awards. Of course, a "jury of your peers" and all...

Jackie Mason | February 28, 2004
[hidden by request]

Anna Gregoline | February 28, 2004
I agree that you shouldn't hold hot things between your legs, but the crux of the lawsuit was that she wouldn't have been as badly burned as she was if the coffee was a normal temperature.

It was lot more serious than you might have thought, that's all I'm saying.

Scott Hardie | February 28, 2004
I don't know anybody (except Senator Edwards) who thinks personal injury lawsuits are not completely out of hand in this country. Working in the insurance industry last year, I could see how ridiculous lawsuits drove the prices up for everybody else. The insurance companies can win most frivolous suits, but why pay expensive attorney fees to do so? They usually just pay small cash settlements to get it over with, which is why a lot of people file unbelieveable claims. Lawsuits are crippling the medical industry, where doctors are forced to run every applicable test no matter how useless or expensive, lest they be sued for malpractice. I think we'll see legislation put in place over the next ten years to stem the tide of litigation in this country, the charge led by industry; and as long as it doesn't go too far in the other direction, I'm all for it.

That said, the McDonald's coffee drinker got a bad rap. Hers was a legitimate lawsuit that became the symbol of frivolous, deceitful litigation in this country. The jury did award her a million-dollar prize, which the judge reduced to a fraction of itself, as judges usually do when juries famously award victims millions of dollars in cases like these.

Anna Gregoline | February 28, 2004
I agree litigation has gotten out of hand. I mean, geez, I even briefly considered hiring an attorney when I was fired from my last job. ME! And I'm NOT the litigious type.

I don't think I could live with myself if I filed a frivolous lawsuit and got lots of money for it. This makes me think of a new post...


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