Seek, and ye shall find ! I was facing a case of writer's block for blog posts when I came across a funny awards function. And, I realised my post had just waltzed in by itself. But before, I go into further detail, first let me wash away grains from your memories, because it is my belief, that at some stage, all of you have heard of the original Stella Liebeck, by her claim to fame, if not by name.
Stella Liebeck, aged 79 in 1992, spilled a cup of Mc Donald's coffee on her lap when her grandson stopped the car she was in to allow her to put cream and sugar in her coffee. She went on to sue Mc Donald's for the resulting burns.. and the kicker ? She won! $ 2.9 million dollars in damages, for spilling a cup of coffee over herself.
It is from this, that the STELLA AWARDS arose for the best of frivolous cases. More than a decade old now, these awards are a true show, as far as I see, of how much we have evolved..or devolved.
December 1997: A Philadelphia restaurant was ordered to pay Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pa., $113,500 after she slipped on a soft drink and broke her coccyx. The beverage was on the floor because Ms. Carson threw it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.
June 1998: 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 didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps.October 1998: Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pa., was leaving a house he had just finished robbing by way of the garage. He was not able to get the garage door to go up, because the automatic door opener was malfunctioning. He couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the house and garage locked when he pulled it shut. The family was on vacation. Mr. Dickson found himself locked in the garage for eight days. He subsisted on a case of Pepsi he found in the garage and a large bag of dry dog food. Mr. Dickson sued the homeowner's insurance claiming the situation caused him undue mental anguish. The jury agreed to the tune of a half million dollars.
January 2000: 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 amuck inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering that the misbehaving little fellow was Ms. Robertson's son.
October 1999: 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. The dog was on a chain in its owner's fenced-in yard at the time. Mr. Williams was also in the fenced-in yard. The award was less than sought because the jury felt the dog may have been provoked by Mr. Williams who, at the time, was repeatedly shooting it with a pellet gun.
Utah prison inmate Robert Paul Rice, serving 1-15 years on multiple felonies, sued the Utah Department of Corrections claiming the prison was not letting him practice his religion: "Druidic Vampire". Rice claimed that to do that, he must be allowed sexual access to a "vampress". In addition, the prison isn't supplying his specific "vampiric dietary needs" (yes: blood). The suit was thrown out.
Winner 2002 :
sisters Janice Bird, Dayle Bird Edgmon and Kim Bird Moran sued their mother's doctors and a hospital after Janice accompanied her mother, Nita Bird, to a minor medical procedure. When something went wrong, Janice and Dayle witnessed doctors rushing their mother to emergency surgery. Rather than malpractice, their legal fight centered on the "negligent infliction of emotional distress" -- not for causing distress to their mother, but for causing distress to them for having to see the doctors rushing to help their mother. The case was fought all the way to the California Supreme Court, which finally ruled against the women.
#7 in 2005 :
Bob Dougherty. A prankster smeared glue on the toilet seat at the Home Depot store in Louisville, Colo., causing Dougherty to stick to it when he sat down. "This is not Home Depot's fault," he proclaimed, yet the store graciously offered him $2,000 anyway. Dougherty complained the offer is "insulting" and filed suit demanding $3 million.
Winner 2005 :
Christopher Roller of Burnsville, Minn. Roller is mystified by professional magicians, so he sued David Blaine and David Copperfield to demand they reveal their secrets to him -- or else pay him 10 percent of their lifelong earnings, which he figures amounts to $50 million for Copperfield and $2 million for Blaine. The basis for his suit: Roller claims that the magicians defy the laws of physics, and thus must be using "godly powers" -- and since Roller is god (according to him), they're "somehow" stealing that power from him.
Moral of the stories : Keep your eyes open. You're probably a minute away from a million dollars, if only you know where to look. Opportunity isn't a turn away. It's probably in the next coffee you're served. Ask Stella. Oh, and beware of robbers too. Heaven forbid, they get hurt escaping.