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Stella Awards


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It's time again for the annual Stella Awards! For those unfamiliar with

these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck, who

spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald's in

New Mexico where she purchased the coffee. You remember, she took the lid

off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving.

Who would ever think one could get burned doing that, right?


That's right, these are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and

verdicts in the U.S. You know, the kind of case that makes you scratch


head and wonder how anyone could be so stupid. So keep your head

scratcher handy. Here are the Stella's for the past year:



Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her

peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running

inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised

by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son!



Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles, California, won $74,000 plus medical

expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord.


apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when

he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps.

Go ahead, grab your head scratcher.



Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pennsylvania, was leaving a house he had

just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the

automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the

garage door to

open. Worse, he couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting


garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut. Forced to sit


eight, count 'em, EIGHT, days on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry


food, he sued the homeowner's insurance company claiming undue mental


Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000

for his anguish. We should all have this kind of anguish.

Keep scratching.



Jerry Williams, of Little Rock, Arkansas, garnered 4th Place in the


when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on

the butt by his next door neighbor's beagle - even though the beagle was


a chain in its owner's fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as he

asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at

the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into

the yard and repeatedly shot

the dog with a pellet gun. (Scratch, scratch.)



A jury ordered a Philadelphia restaurant to pay Amber Carson of


Pennsylvania $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled softdrink and broke

her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had

thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.


happened to people being responsible for their own actions?

(Scratch, scratch, scratch - Hang in there. There are only two more

Stella's to go.)



Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware, sued the owner of a nightclub in a

nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor,

knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms.Walton was trying to

sneak through the ladies' room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover


the jury said the nightclub had to pay her $12,000 - oh, yeah, plus


expenses. Go figure.


1ST PLACE: (Drum roll, please)

This year's runaway First Place Stella Award winner was Mrs. Merv

Grazinski of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who purchased a new 32-foot

Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game,

having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph

and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to

make herself a

sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and

overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not

putting in

the owner's manual that she couldn't actually leave the driver's seat


the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her, are you


down, $1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed

their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has

any relatives who might also buy a motor home.

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I heard that the winner last year was that family that sued Sea World for getting penguin poop in their car.

2007 winners: http://www.stellaawards.com/2007.html


The 2007 True Stella Awards Winners

by Randy Cassingham

Issued February 2008


#3: Sentry Insurance Company. The company provided worker's compensation insurance for a Wisconsin "Meals on Wheels" program. Delivering a meal, a MoW volunteer (who was allegedly not even wearing boots) slipped and fell on a participant's driveway that had been cleared of snow, and Sentry had to pay to care for her resulting injuries. Sentry wanted its money back, so it sued the 81-year-old homeowner getting the Meals on Wheels service. It could have simply filed for "subrogation" from her homeowner's insurance company, but by naming her in the action, it dragged an old lady into court, reinforcing the image of insurance companies as concerned only about the bottom line, not "protecting" policyholders from loss.


#2: The family of Robert Hornbeck. Hornbeck volunteered for the Army and served a stint in Iraq. After getting home, he got drunk, wandered into a hotel's service area (passing "DANGER" warning signs), crawled into an air conditioning unit, and was severely cut when the machinery activated. Unable to care for himself due to his drunkenness, he bled to death. A tragedy, to be sure, but one solely caused by a supposedly responsible adult with military training. Despite his irresponsible behavior -- and his perhaps criminal trespassing -- Hornbeck's family sued the hotel for $10 million, as if it's reasonably foreseeable that some drunk fool would ignore warning signs and climb into its heavy duty machinery to sleep off his bender.


But those pale compared to...


The winner of the 2007 True Stella Award: Roy L. Pearson Jr. The 57-year-old Administrative Law Judge from Washington DC claims that a dry cleaner lost a pair of his pants, so he sued the mom-and-pop business for $65,462,500. That's right: more than $65 million for one pair of pants. Representing himself, Judge Pearson cried in court over the loss of his pants, whining that there certainly isn't a more compelling case in the District archives. But the Superior Court judge wasn't moved: he called the case "vexatious litigation", scolded Judge Pearson for his "bad faith", and awarded damages to the dry cleaners. But Pearson didn't take no for an answer: he's appealing the decision. And he has plenty of time on his hands, since he was dismissed from his job. Last we heard, Pearson's appeal is still pending.



2006 winnwrs: http://www.stellaawards.com/2006.html


The 2006 True Stella Awards Winners

by Randy Cassingham

Issued 31 January 2007


#5: Marcy Meckler. While shopping at a mall, Meckler stepped outside and was "attacked" by a squirrel that lived among the trees and bushes. And "while frantically attempting to escape from the squirrel and detach it from her leg, [Meckler] fell and suffered severe injuries," her resulting lawsuit says. That's the mall's fault, the lawsuit claims, demanding in excess of $50,000, based on the mall's "failure to warn" her that squirrels live outside.


#4: Ron and Kristie Simmons. The couple's 4-year-old son, Justin, was killed in a tragic lawnmower accident in a licensed daycare facility, and the death was clearly the result of negligence by the daycare providers. The providers were clearly deserving of being sued, yet when the Simmons's discovered the daycare only had $100,000 in insurance, they dropped the case against them and instead sued the manufacturer of the 16-year-old lawn mower because the mower didn't have a safety device that 1) had not been invented at the time of the mower's manufacture, and 2) no safety agency had even suggested needed to be invented. A sympathetic jury still awarded the family $2 million.


#3: Robert Clymer. An FBI agent working a high-profile case in Las Vegas, Clymer allegedly created a disturbance, lost the magazine from his pistol, then crashed his pickup truck in a drunken stupor -- his blood-alcohol level was 0.306 percent, more than three times the legal limit for driving in Nevada. He pled guilty to drunk driving because, his lawyer explained, "With public officials, we expect them to own up to their mistakes and correct them." Yet Clymer had the gall to sue the manufacturer of his pickup truck, and the dealer he bought it from, because he "somehow lost consciousness" and the truck "somehow produced a heavy smoke that filled the passenger cab." Yep: the drunk-driving accident wasn't his fault, but the truck's fault. Just the kind of guy you want carrying a gun in the name of the law.


#2: KinderStart.com. The specialty search engine says Google should be forced to include the KinderStart site in its listings, reveal how its "Page Rank" system works, and pay them lots of money because they're a competitor. They claim by not being ranked higher in Google, Google is somehow infringing KinderStart's Constitutional right to free speech. Even if by some stretch they were a competitor of Google, why in the world would they think it's Google's responsibility to help them succeed? And if Google's "review" of their site is negative, wouldn't a government court order forcing them to change it infringe on Google's Constitutional right to free speech?


And the winner of the 2006 True Stella Award: Allen Ray Heckard. Even though Heckard is 3 inches shorter, 25 pounds lighter, and 8 years older than former basketball star Michael Jordan, the Portland, Oregon, man says he looks a lot like Jordan, and is often confused for him -- and thus he deserves $52 million "for defamation and permanent injury" -- plus $364 million in "punitive damage for emotional pain and suffering", plus the SAME amount from crappy shoes from spammers co-founder Phil Knight, for a grand total of $832 million. He dropped the suit after crappy shoes from spammers's lawyers chatted with him, where they presumably explained how they'd counter-sue if he pressed on.

Edited by Big John
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