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5 Famous “Frivolous Lawsuit” Stories That Left Out Major Details

frivolous lawsuit

Everyone has a story they’ve heard about a frivolous lawsuit that proves to them how “sue happy” people have become. While it’s true that some people bring pretty ridiculous lawsuits to court, most of the time the stories you hear don’t tell the whole story.

Frivolous lawsuits like these are discussed in the forthcoming second edition of our book ‘Accidents Happen.‘ You can download your free copy here.


5. The “McDonald’s Coffee Lady” Was Literally Maimed And Only Asked For Her Medical Bills To Be Paid

hot coffee lawsuit

Get it out of the way now.  The infamous case of Stella Liebeck. The lady who sued McDonald’s “for millions” because her coffee was too hot. Most people’s knowledge of the story stops there. It’s sad because the part they don’t know is that not only did Ms. Liebeck suffer massive burns over her legs and groin, requiring painful skin grafts — but McDonald’s actually did serve the coffee too hot. They had already settled several lawsuits for serving coffee at near-boiling temperatures, and had been told repeatedly to stop serving it so hot, but never complied. Liebeck also didn’t “sue for millions.” Her original request was for $20,000 to cover medical bills. McDonald’s offered her $800 and a hearty handshake. When the case went to trial, she still was only asking for $800,000. It was the jury that awarded her the $2.7 million that she actually never received.  After appeals, they settled on $600,000.


4. Actually, It Really Was The Phone Company’s Fault That Charles Bigbee Got Hurt In A Phone Booth

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The story of “the guy who sued the phone company because a drunk driver hit his phone booth” traces back to Ronald Reagan telling an anecdote about it at a Chamber of Commerce convention. What The Gipper failed to mention is that Bigbee was in a phone booth that was nothing short of a proven deathtrap. The phone company had already had multiple reports of people being stuck inside the booth because of a jamming door. It was also on an absurdly dangerous corner and had multiple predecessors taken out by other cars. Witnesses reported seeing Bigbee struggling with the door as the drunk driver barreled at the booth. He could have escaped had the perpetually sticky door been repaired. Furthermore, he wasn’t just banged up — Bigbee lost his leg. This made it impossible to continue in his janitorial job. Not only that, but the lady driving the car was never given a blood alcohol test, because her son was a cop and she pulled his business card out. Because of that influence — Bigbee only got $25,000.


3. The “Texting Teen” Who Fell Down An Open Manhole That Was Not Marked Or Guarded In Any Way

texting teen lawsuit

Oh those wacky teens with their texting and their tweeting, with the hippin and the hoppin. While your uncle might retell this story during his “darn Millennials” rant, that’s not how it happened. It is absolutely true that Alexa Longueira fell down a manhole in Staten Island while she was texting and walking simultaneously. And her family did initiate legal action. However, it had nothing to do with Alexa’s texting habit.  The manhole she fell down was uncovered, unmarked, and unattended. DWP workers had opened the manhole before placing safety cones around it. They’re not supposed to do that, since the whole point of safety cones is to prevent people from falling down them.  What caused her to fall in was not the “omg idk” she was sending. It was the complete lack of preventative safety measures on behalf of the DWP.


2. The “Manure Stepladder” Was Actually A Poorly Made Ladder That Broke

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The famous 60 Minutes story about the man who sued a ladder company because it slipped out from under him when the frozen manure it was resting on thawed out. Of course, the general reaction was that the guy was stupid and what did he think would happen? The truth often makes more sense than fiction, and this is one of those times.  In reality, the manure had nothing to do with it. The ladder he was on didn’t so much slip as it did break and completely fall apart. Of course ladders break, but not when they’re rated to hold 1,000lbs and this guy was only 200 lbs. There’s not many clearer examples of a defective product, and there’s nothing frivolous about that.


1. Kids Being Traumatized By Seeing Headless Disneyland Characters Usually Has Another Component

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There’s a couple of stories that float around about people suing Disneyland for umpteen millions of dollars because their child was “traumatized” by seeing a character with the head off.  Granted, that’s second only to seeing two Santa Claus characters in the same place on the scale of kid trauma — but it was never that cut and dry. In one story, the 5 year old had been picked up for shoplifting outside one of the souvenir shops in the park. The family sued for false imprisonment and only mentioned the headless characters as part of the suit. Disney actually settled that one because it was just easier that way. The other story was similar, only the family was the victim of a robbery attempt in the parking lot. They alleged that while giving statements to the park security “backstage”, the young daughter saw characters with no heads, and was traumatized. A judge pointed out that the kid just witnessed an attempted robbery, and threw the case out.


If you’ve been hurt, there’s nothing frivolous about being compensated for your losses. Use our form below to speak with an attorney who can go over your rights with you.

A highly regarded and well-respected trial lawyer, author and speaker, Reza Torkzadeh is the founder and managing attorney of TorkLaw – a premier plaintiff’s personal injury law firm specializing in complex catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases.

Reza’s performance in and out of the courtroom has earned him several of the industry’s top awards and professional recognitions, and a reputation as an elite litigator. He has earned millions in settlements, verdicts, and judgments for his clients.

If you would like a free consultation, please contact us today.