We still reward foolishness

Every so often it’s fun to relay the silly things that happen in the news.

For example, every year the “Stella Awards” are published. For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after Stella Liebeck, 81, who spilled hot coffee on herself, then sued the McDonald’s restaurant in New Mexico where she bought the coffee.

Liebeck apparently took the lid off her coffee, then used her knees to hold it while she was driving. Who would ever think they could get burned from doing that?

It seems like each year the lawsuits and verdicts get even more ridiculous than the year before. The following are the most recent suits and verdicts in 2016.

The seventh-place award went to Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas, who was awarded $80,000 by a jury after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store. The store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son.

Sixth place honors went to Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles, who received $74,000, plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didn’t notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor’s hubcaps.

Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pa., placed fifth. According to legal documents, he was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open.

Even worse, he couldn’t re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut. He was forced to sit for eight days surviving on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food. He sued the homeowner’s insurance company claiming undue mental anguish.

The jury found in Dick­son’s favor and ordered the insurance company to pay him $500,000 for his anguish.

In fourth place is Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Ark., who awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by his next door neighbor’s beagle, even though the beagle was on a chain in its owner’s fenced yard.

Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.

Third place went to Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pa., after a jury ordered a Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she spilled a soft drink, slipped and broke her tailbone.

The reason the soft drink was on the floor was because Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.

In second place, Kara Walton of Claymont, Del., sued the owner of a nightclub in a nearby city after she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth.

Never mind that Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying a $3.50 cover charge. The jury said the nightclub had to pay her $12,000, plus dental expenses.

The 2016 first-place Stella Award goes to Merv Grazin­ski of Oklahoma City, who purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game, she set the cruise control at 70 mph on the freeway, then calmly left the driver’s seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich.

The motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner’s manual that she couldn’t actually leave the driver’s seat while the cruise control was set. The jury awarded her $1.75 million, and a new motor home.

Patty Decker writes news and features for the Free Press. you can reach her at patty@hillsborofreepress.com