We all know the most famous frivolous lawsuit story. Stella Liebeck sued McDonald’s back in 1992 when she spilled hot coffee on herself. “But coffee is meant to be hot” we all cry. Dig a little deeper into the case however and it starts to look less frivolous. The coffee caused 3rd degree burns for a start. Secondly, McDonald’s had already received over 700 complaints about its temperature (which was 30-40 degrees too hot). Finally, Liebeck had only requested $800 to cover the cost of her skin grafts. It seems that the negative press was all drummed up by McDonald’s in the hope of swaying public opinion. Clearly it worked.
In the interests of righting this wrong, we have gone out and found some truly frivolous lawsuits. From litigous monkeys to dangerous breasts, here’s our top five most frivolous lawsuits.
Monkey vs Photographer
PETA, an organisation well known for rational responses, take the biscuit with this lawsuit. They sued a photographer on behalf of a macaque monkey. The monkey had taken a selfie using the photographer’s camera for which PETA believed it should enjoy copyright protection. We’re sure it would be intellectually fun to argue whether a monkey can possibly enjoy copyright protection. However, the internet is already full of selfies. Perhaps we shouldn’t be encouraging the animal world to join in. Ducks might bring back duck face, after all.
We advise against swimming with killer whales
Daniel Dukes was a man with a plan. That plan was to swim with a killer whale. Unfortunately, after sneaking into Sea World one night, Daniel’s plan came to fruition. Inevitably, Tillikum the killer whale followed through on the promise of his name and Daniel ended up sleeping with the fishes (see what we did there?) Anyway, the distraught parents of Mr Dukes went on to sue Sea World. It was their contention that Sea World had made killer whales seem too friendly by selling plush toy versions of them. This cuddly image ultimately led to their son’s demise. One has to wonder how their name wasn’t already a sufficient deterrent.
A very expensive weather forecast
The weather. It’s an unpredictable beast. Except maybe here in the Netherlands where we can be almost guaranteed it’s raining outside, whatever the time of year. Weather forecasters in Israel however, need to keep an eye on their predictions. A woman successfully sued a weather station for $1,000 after an inaccurate prediction led to her catching a cold. According to the plaintiff, she dressed light after seeing the prediction for good weather. This led to her getting the flu, missing a week of work, and spending a considerable amount on medication. Does it still count as a windfall if it was caused by rain?
A man visits a nude bar. We’re not sure how the joke normally goes, but in this instance it ends up in court. In 1996 a a man named Paul Shimkonis sued his local topless bar claiming a dancer’s breasts had given him whiplash. Shimkonis described the breasts as ‘cement blocks’ which had caused him physical and mental anguish. His request fro $15,000 in damages was denied by the judge. We find ourselves wondering what sort of dance move can cause that level of momentum.
Geography is tough
In 2014 Edward Gamson went about planning a dream trip to Granada. Gamson had a lifelong interest in Islamic art and was himself of Spanish-Jewish heritage. So, in spite of very clearly stating his desire to travel to Granada, imagine his surprise when he landed in Grenada. Grenada, as you geography buffs will be aware, is in the Caribbean, not Spain. Gamson sued British Airways after they refused to refund his first class tickets. Still, how mad can you be when you’re sitting on a beach?