Thanks to the infamous “hot coffee” lawsuit against McDonald’s in 1992 in which a jury awarded Stella Liebeck $2.86 million, outrageous claims have exploded in the courts. Although the vast majority of personal injury cases are legitimate, a few bad apples have snuck into our court system over the years. Whether someone’s blaming a table saw manufacturer for not mentioning its slicing-off-the-fingers capability (worth $1.5 million in court, in case you’re wondering) or claiming a lack of knowledge that five double cheeseburgers a day causes weight gain, people seem ready to try anything to make a buck. To prove it, here is a list of the 10 most outrageous personal injury lawsuits in history:
- Don’t shake and drive. After a man stopped at a McDonald’s drive-thru, he attempted to reach for a few French fries while driving when the milkshake that he’d placed between his knees exploded all over his lap. Distracted, he collided with another car. The driver of that car blamed McDonald’s for his minor injuries. After all, the restaurant didn’t have a specific warning on the label regarding the dangers of eating and driving. Although the case went all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court before being thrown out, in the end McDonald’s did not have to pay the injured man anything.
- Church lady turned nympho. In an older lawsuit that occurred in 1964, a woman named Gloria Sykes experienced a minor accident on a cable car, which caused her some bumps, bruises and…wait for it…a ravenous case of nymphomania. The woman claimed that after the accident, she developed an insatiable appetite for sex (up to 50 men per week) that didn’t exist before the accident happened. The jury awarded her $50,000 for her troubles, and the case is one of the first court-recognized instances of post-traumatic stress disorder. Shockingly, Sykes is now in a mental institution.
- To the moon and back. You wouldn’t think that pulling your pants down and leaning your backside out of a window could end badly. But for a college student in Idaho, what started with a prank ended with a four-story fall and an injured pelvis. The kicker is that he tried to sue the school for not properly explaining the danger of living on the fourth floor.
- A wee case of stage fright. If you thought the only problem that a man attending a Billy Joel/Elton John concert would experience is a sense of emasculation, you thought wrong. A man sued Jack Murphy Stadium (now known as Qualcomm) and the city of San Diego because of their unisex bathroom policy. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to “perform” in the presence of women, thus causing him emotional and physical distress by having to “hold it.” He lost his $5.2 million lawsuit.
- Where the ladies at? Advertising can be persuasive, and especially so for Richard Overton, who sued Anheuser-Busch for false advertising in 1991. When bikini-clad women failed to materialize out of thin air after Overton started drinking the beverage, the man claimed he experienced depression and emotional distress. It took three years for the case to play out, and Overton didn’t win his $10,000. He continues to drink beer.
- Not everyone wants to be like Mike. Allen Heckard apparently spent 15 years suffering from “defamation and distress” because he claimed that he was constantly mistaken for NBA star Michael Jordan. By 2006, he’d had enough, and so he sued Jordan and Nike founder Phil Knight for a total of $862 million. To summarize what he allegedly said when asked how he came up with that high figure, he explained that he multiplied his age by 7 and turned the number around and that’s how he figured it out. Heckard dropped the case when he learned how to do math.
- The Wizarding World of Wal-Mart. Proving that stupidity is an international phenomenon, Jerry Rose accused several corporations, including Wal-Mart and Microsoft, of practicing witchcraft, sorcery and satanic rituals to boost profit and practice mind control on him. Rose sought $2 billion in the 2008 case, and Microsoft’s lawyer had this to say: “I think this is akin to someone saying they sustained injuries because their boat fell off the edge of the world.”
- What the flock? In 2002, when Darlene Griffin and her son were visiting Okeeheelee Park in Palm Beach County, Florida, they were suddenly charged by a wild goose. The woman claimed that she was knocked to the ground and sustained an injury to her tailbone. She attempted to sue the county, but was unsuccessful. More experienced by nine years, the goose continues to cruise the dark swamps of Florida, looking for victims.
- Five-day falsecast. One morning in 1996, an Israeli woman set out dressed for sunshine, because that’s what her local weatherperson had told her to expect. Very strangely, it rained instead. Because of this odd lapse in forecasting accuracy, the woman got the flu, missed work and spent money on medication. She therefore did the logical thing and sued the television station for $1,000. 10. 1-800-OOPS. In 2007, Leroy Greer sued 1-800-Flowers for $1.5 million. The reason? The company unintentionally revealed to his wife that he was cheating on her. The flower company had sent a thank-you note to Greer’s home for flowers that he’d purchased for his mistress.
There you have it. Personal injury lawsuits come in all shapes and sizes. While most of them are legitimate and should be settled in court, others, while entertaining, can be a waste of time. Although most personal injury lawsuits are completely legitimate, crazy cases like these serve as examples that some people (and their lawyers) take things a bit too far.