Weird Things I Can Sue For
We are a litigious society. More than 100 million lawsuits are filed in state courts each year. Add another 400,000 cases in federal courts. That's more than one lawsuit for every three Americans.
While some court cases may seem outright ridiculous — check out FindLaw's Don't Judge Me Podcast — you may be surprised to see those that have resulted in settlements or even victories. We highlight a few of them here. If you want to learn more about whether you might have a possible claim, check FindLaw's Can I Sue pages.
Before we get started, note that most of the cases we discuss below were brought by individuals who were not represented by lawyers. If you believe you have been wronged, you may want to consult one before you go to court. If nothing else, you may avoid the embarrassment of filing a frivolous lawsuit.
Woman Sues Because Coffee Was Hot
This one you may have heard about. Stella Liebeck was a passenger in a McDonald's drive-thru and ordered a coffee. Her hot coffee spilled, causing her third-degree burns. She sued McDonald's, claiming that McDonald's should have told her the coffee was hot. McDonald's responded that you shouldn't need to be told coffee is hot — everyone knows it's hot.
The case went to a jury, which awarded Stella nearly $3 million in compensatory damages and punitive damages. Now McDonald's coffee comes with a warning label just in case you weren't aware that your coffee may be hot.
Woman Sues Over Wrong Weather Forecast
After getting the day's forecast from a local television station, an Israeli woman chose to wear light clothing. Instead of clear weather, it rained. The woman got sick and missed several days of work.
She sued the station, arguing that had they not gotten the forecast wrong, she wouldn't have gotten sick and missed work. She was awarded $1,000 in an out-of-court settlement.
Trespassers Sue Property Owners for Personal Injuries
Two teenagers trespassed on property owned by a railroad. They were severely burned by electric wires. They filed a lawsuit in federal court, claiming that even though they were trespassers, the railroad was nonetheless responsible for their injuries.
The jury agreed and awarded them $24.2 million.
Unhappy With an A, a Student Sues for an A+
As part of a school project, a high-school senior interned at his mother's law office. The teacher gave him an A. That didn't sit well with his overachieving parents.
His parents sued, arguing that their son should have gotten an A+. Had he gotten the A+, the argument went, he would have been valedictorian of his class, which would have helped his college prospects.
They lost their case.
Teenager Sues Mom for Taking His Phone
In an attempt to get her 15-year-old son to study, a mother in Spain confiscated his phone. Rather than study, the teenager sued his mother claiming that she had abused him. He asked the judge to jail her and for her to pay his legal expenses.
The judge was not sympathetic. Dismissing the case, the judge ruled that the mother was within her rights to take the phone away and was only acting as a responsible parent.
Man Sues Himself
Here's an example of what can happen if you spend too much time in the legal system.
In 1995, Robert Lee Brock, an inmate at the Indian Creek Correctional Center, filed a civil rights action against — himself. His position was that drinking alcohol violated his religious beliefs and that, when intoxicated, he had committed the crimes that led to his incarceration. He demanded $5 million from himself, but he argued that because he was a ward of the state, the state should pay the damages to him.
Another example of what can happen if you spend too much time in the legal system.
In 2005, new Administrative Law Judge Roy Pearson brought a pair of pants to a dry cleaner for alterations. They lost his pants. He demanded that they buy him a new suit. After negotiations broke down, Judge Pearson sued the family-owned business for $67 million for emotional distress, legal fees, 10 years of car rental fees (he needed to drive to another dry cleaner, you see), and the cost of the pair of pants.
Judge Pearson lost the case. He was ordered to pay the family's attorney fees, and a judicial panel recommended that he not remain on the bench due to his disturbing behavior.
Allen Heckard was not happy that he resembled basketball legend Michael Jordan. He complained that he was continually mistaken for the famous athlete and decided to do the only rational thing he could. Although Heckard, a Black man with a shaved head and an earring, may have looked like Jordan, he was six inches shorter and eight years older.
In 2006, Heckard sued Jordan for $416 million and the owner of Nike for another $416 million, claiming emotional distress and personal injury. He came up with the figure by multiplying his age by seven and adding some zeros. He dropped his lawsuit shortly thereafter.
Man Sues to Change His Age
Emile Ratelband, a 69-year-old Dutch man, sued to have his age changed. He believed he had been a victim of ageism on Tinder and other popular dating apps.
The judge dismissed the case, gently explaining to Ratelband that many legal rights are age-based and that changing someone's legal age could have many legal complications.
Woman Sues Because Jelly Beans Have Sugar
This one falls in the “do you really need to be told that" category.
A California woman sued jellybean manufacturer Jelly Belly for misrepresenting the sugar content in its jellybeans. Jelly Belly's ingredients label stated that its candy contained “evaporated cane juice," which is one of the 61 names for sugar, and specified the total grams of sugar per serving.
Her fraud claim was dismissed.
Firefighter Who Fears Fire Files Discrimination Lawsuit
A firefighter in Houston was afraid of fire. He was reassigned to an office position so he wouldn't have to be exposed to his fear, but for some reason, he wanted to stay in his fire suppression position. Perhaps he just liked his co-workers.
The firefighter filed a civil rights claim against the city. He argued that his fear of fire was a “disability," and that by reassigning him to the office position, the fire department had discriminated against him on the basis of his disability. His case made it all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, which ruled against him.
Sleeping Student Sues School for Waking Him Up
In 2006, Danbury High School student Vinicios Robacher fell asleep in his math class. His teacher woke him up by slamming her hand on Robacher's desk.
Robacher's parents sued Danbury High School, the Connecticut Board of Education, and the City of Danbury, claiming that his math teacher caused him severe injuries to his left eardrum. His case was dismissed.
Kidnapper Sues Hostages
In 2009, Jimmy Dimmick, a fugitive facing a murder charge, thought he'd add to his problems by kidnapping a Kansas couple. When Dimmick fell asleep, they managed to escape. Dimmick was subsequently arrested.
The couple sued Dimmick for more than $75,000. Dimmick responded by suing them back. His argument? That they had a legally binding oral agreement to hide him from the police.
Dimmick's claims were dismissed.
Beer Doesn't Make You Beautiful
Anheuser-Busch, the company that makes Budweiser, advertises its product with beautiful models. Richard Overton's takeaway from those ads was that the more beer he drank, the more attractive he'd become to beautiful women. Suffice it to say, it didn't work.
In 1991, Overton sued Anheuser-Bush for emotional distress, mental injury, and financial loss. His lawsuit was dismissed.
A Footlong Isn't a Footlong
In 2013, a teenager measured his Subway footlong sandwich and found it was only 11 inches. A few years later, some lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit against Subway claiming fraud and breach of warranty.
The parties reached a settlement. Subway promised to make its footlongs a foot long and the lawyers got $520,000 in fees. The judge believed that the settlement was unfair, threw it out, and dismissed the case.
A Lawyer Can Help You
Several of these ridiculous lawsuits would never have been filed if the plaintiff had only talked to a lawyer first. An experienced injury attorney won't just represent you in court. A good lawyer will also tell you when you shouldn't go to court.
If you believe that you have been wronged, do your research first. If you still think you may have a legal claim, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney near you (they don't just handle car accidents). That way, you won't end up on this list or be featured in FindLaw's Don't Judge Me Podcast.