The Stella Award

Our thanks to Joseph Perkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune for inagurating the "Stella" awards to honor, or, as Perkins says, dishonor, the "most outlandish lawsuits of the year." The Stella Award is suitably named for Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque who won a $2.7 million judgment against McDonald's last year for spilling hot McDonalds coffee on her own lap.

Among Perkins' first annual Stella awardees is Carol Roland, who was awarded $2.1 million by a New Hampshire jury after she was attacked by a pit bull in her friend's apartment. Ms. Roland faced legal bills of approximately $40,000. But did Ms. Roland sue her friend, the owner of the pit bull? Why no. Ms. Roland sued the owner of the building. Does anyone doubt that her attorneys helped Ms. Roland identify the deeper pockets?

We have found the following and believe that they deserve consideration:

1.    January 2000: Kathleen Robertson, of Austin, Texas, was awarded $780,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running amuck inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving little imp was Ms. Robertson's son.

2.    June 1998: 19-year-old Carl Truman, of Los Angeles, won $74,000 and medical expenses when his neighbour 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 neighbour's hubcaps.

3.    October 1998: 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, because 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. 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. Mr. Dickson sued the homeowner's insurance claiming the situation caused him undue mental anguish. The jury agreed to the tune of half a million dollars.

4.    Car Crash Leads to Switched Gears in Man's Sex Drive
Ann Landers column has provided another look at an outlandish jury award from a bizarre lawsuit. A 27-year-old Michigan man was awarded $200,000 after claiming a rear-end auto collision with a truck turned him into a homosexual. The man filed suit against the owners of the truck, alleging that the accident left him unable to carry on a normal sexual relationship with his wife. Furthermore, his attorney told the jury, the man left his wife, moved in with his parents, began frequenting gay bars and perusing homosexual literature.

In addition to the $200,000 awarded to the man, the jury also awarded $25,000 to his wife.

5.    This space is reserved for your submission. If you know of any lawsuit deserving 'The Stella Award', Please send it to 


Other Legal Matters and Humor

From the Washington Times (May 30) comes the tale of a woman who is considering a negligence suit against Pfizer, the maker of the anti-impotence drug Viagra, because her 70-year-old live-in lover left her after taking the drug. Says her attorney: "The makers of Viagra should be liable for something like this. It's like giving a loaded gun to someone who has not been trained to shoot."

He's Dead, But Still Practicing Law

The following is a transcript of a line of questioning between a lawyer and a doctor, as printed in the Notes and Asides section of the National Review magazine, August 3, 1998:

Q: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
A: No.
Q: Did you check for blood pressure?
A: No.
Q: Did you check for breathing?
A: No.
Q: So then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
A: No.
Q: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
A: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
Q: But could the patient have been alive nevertheless?
A: It is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law somewhere.

Lather, Rinse, Litigate
The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports that, citing liability concerns, officials at the Town Center Club of Bonaventure and Century Village in Pembroke Pines, Florida have banned soap from their gym showers. "We do not provide soap in the showers because, God forbid, someone might slip," explained Tony Gleeson, vice president of the clubhouse at Pembroke Pines.

The Bonaventure Town Center has already paid out $50,000 to settle just such a claim after a resident who slipped in the shower filed suit. Consequently, the clubhouse has removed all soap from its showers and is now posting signs warning bathers not to bring their own.

"What will be good is that we'll document the people using soap so if they slip, they'll know the warnings won't look good in a jury's eye," said Bob Fedderwitz, club executive director.

Lawsuits Upon Lawsuits Within Lawsuits
A group of Texas lawyers have apparently filed pre-emptive lawsuits against ex-clients, anticipating malpractice lawsuits filed against them over another lawsuit. Confused?

According to the Dallas Morning News, one hundred former clients of Roberto M. Garcia, Craig L. White, John Phillip Watking and Patrick J. Boon have filed a malpractice suit against them accusing malpractice, fraud and negligence in their representation of them in another lawsuit against the Dallas-based Fina Oil and Chemical Company. But this recent malpractice suit only comes after the lawyers filed a pre-emptive lawsuit against 38 of the former clients asking the court to declare that nothing improper happened during the original lawsuit.

From Donna J. Thanks
Let's see if I understand how North America works lately...
If a woman burns her thighs on the hot coffee she was holding in her lap while driving, she blames the restaurant.
If you smoke three packs a day for 40 years and die of lung cancer, your family blames the tobacco company.
If your daughter gets pregnant by the football captain you blame the school for poor sex education.
If your neighbor crashes into a tree while driving home drunk, you blame the bartender.
If your cousin gets AIDS because the needle he used to shoot heroin was dirty, you blame the government or not providing
clean ones.
If your grandchildren are brats without manners, you blame television.
If your friend is shot by a deranged madman, you blame the gun manufacturer.
And if a crazed person breaks into the cockpit and tries to kill the pilots at 35,000 feet, and the passengers kill him instead,
the mother of the deceased blames the airline.
I must have lived too long to understand the world as it is anymore.
So if I die while my old, wrinkled ass is parked in front of this computer, I want you to blame Bill Gates, OK?
***Note*** Maybe we can add to this list. Any ideas. Please email them to

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