It's time once again to review the winners of the Annual "Stella Awards." The Stella Awards are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck, who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonald's in New Mexico. That case inspired the Stella Awards for the most frivolous, ridiculous, successful lawsuits in the United States. (In fact, some of these seem SO ridiculous that I can hardly believe their genuineness.)
Here are this year's winners:
5th Place (tie):
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 owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving little toddler was Ms. Robertson's own son.
5th Place (tie):
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.
5th Place (tie):
Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pennsylvania, 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 since 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, and Mr. Dickson found himself locked in the garage for eight 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. (In my opinion this is so outrageous that it should have been 2nd 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. 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 just a little provoked at the time by Mr. Williams, who had climbed over the fence into the yard and was shooting it repeatedly with a pellet gun.
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.
Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware, successfully sued the owner of a night club in a neighboring city when she fell from the bathroom window to the floor and knocked out her two front teeth. This occurred while Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the window in the ladies room to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. She was awarded $12,000. and dental expenses.
This year's runaway winner was Mrs. Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Mrs. Grazinski purchased a brand new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home (from an Oklahoma University football game), having driven onto the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the drivers seat to go into the back and make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the RV left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not advising her in the owner's manual that she couldn't actually do this. The jury awarded her $1,750,000 plus a new motor home. The company actually changed their manuals on the basis of this suit, just in case there were any other complete morons around.