Liebeck v. McDonald’s
Perhaps the most famous “frivolous” lawsuit, Liebeck v. McDonald’s is a case in which 80-year-old Stella Liebeck spilled a McDonald’s coffee in her lap, causing third-degree burns on her legs, lap, and groin area. After she filed the lawsuit, many people criticized her without hearing the full story. After all, coffee is supposedto be hot. In reality, McDonalds has had over 700 complaints filed concerning the scalding temperatures of its coffee, which is served between 180 and 190 degrees for “optimum flavor.” To put that in perspective, coffee at most restaurants is served at around 140 degrees. Liebeck tried to solicit McDonald’s for a mere $800 to cover the skin grafts required for her injuries, but McDonald’s refused. Ultimately, the jury settled, awarding Liebeck $2.7 million.
Overton v. Anheuser-Busch
Richard Overton sued Anheuser-Busch for false advertising when drinking a six-pack of Bud Light failed to produce visions of beautiful women on a balmy beach. He sought damages for $10,000, claiming that this deceptive marketing caused him emotional and psychological distress. The case was dropped, of course. Hopefully Overton learned a lesson or two about the difference between fantasy and reality.
Norman v. Honda
The parents of Karen Norman sued Honda when their daughter died from not being able to escape from her Civic after backing into Galveston Bay. At first, the case sounds somewhat legitimate, until you learn the rest of the facts. For example, the Normans sued Honda because their daughter was unable to hit the emergency release button on the seatbelt. However, she failed to hit the button most likely because she had a blood-alcohol level of 0.17 and shouldn’t have been driving in the first place. The incident happened at 2 a.m. with passenger Josel Woods in the passenger seat. Woods was able to swim to safety. Here’s the kicker: the jury actually awarded the parents with just 25% of the damages considered contributorily negligent. Thus, the Normans basically sued and won against Honda in spite of their daughter’s obvious irresponsibility for driving under the influence.
Aitken v. NBC
Austin Aitken sued NBC for $2.5 million after a particularly grotesque challenge on Fear Factor allegedly made him vomit and run into a wall. According to Aitken, he was a regular watcher of the show and nothing had previously caused such a reaction until he witnessed contestants competing in a rat-eating challenge. In the show, the rats had been processed in a blender and then served to the contestants, which Aitken claimed caused his blood pressure to rise so much he became disoriented and was unable to see the door on his way to the other room. Aitken claimed that the $2.5 million was an arbitrary amount and that he simply wanted to send networks a message that shows have become too graphic. The judge ultimately threw the suit out.
Peters v. Universal Studios
57-year-old Cleanthi Peters filed a suit against Universal Studios for $15,000 because she claimed the annual Halloween Horror Nights haunted house was too scary. After visiting with her 10-year-old granddaughter in 1998, she claimed the haunted house caused her emotional distress. While exiting the haunted house, she was supposedly chased down by a chainsaw-wielding Leatherface (from the movieTexas Chainsaw Massacre), causing her to trip and fall.