Everyone knows about the Emmy, Tony, and Oscar Awards, but what about the Stella Awards? A “Stella” is awarded to those litigants who file the most frivolous lawsuits each year. The award is named after Stella Liebeck, the 79 year old woman who successfully sued McDonald’s Restaurants in 1992 when she spilled hot coffee on herself. Her original payout was $2.9 million which included punitive damages, however, on appeal she received far less.
Ironically, although outrageous lawsuits continue to clutter our court dockets, Stella’s case was bonafide. The rarely published facts included the following:
1. She was badly burned. The reports say that either 6% or 16% of her body was burned.
2. She underwent treatment for two years including multiple skin grafts.
3. She offered to settle her lawsuit with McDonald’s for $20,000.00, but the company declined.
4. Between 1982 and 1992 McDonald’s dealt with about 700 spilled coffee cases, many of them resulting in serious injuries.
So, perhaps undeservedly, Stella is the namesake for vexatious litigants.
Recent Stella runners-up include:
Allen Ray Heckard who, although shorter and heavier than Michael Jordan, sued him because Heckard said that people frequently mistook Mr. Heckard for Air Jordan. He sought hundreds of millions of dollars for defamation and emotional suffering. Looking for even deeper pockets, he also sued the owner of Nike for the same relief. After a brief chat with a phalanx of corporate litigators, Mr. Heckard abandoned his lawsuit.
Speciality search engine Kinderstart.com sued Google in an attempt to have Google list their website, explain their Page rankings and pay compensation to them as a Google competitor. They claimed that Google breached their constitutional right to freedom of speech by failing to rate them higher.
You’ve got to be kidding! Who are the lawyers that take these cases?
The clever owner of stellaawards.com should begin a new website to “out” the lawyers and law firms that participate in this nonsense. It could be as popular as the United Kingdom website “Solicitors from Hell”!