Ever heard the story about the guy who sued Winnebago over its cruise control? According to the story, he set the cruise control while driving and then left his seat to brew some coffee. Of course, he crashed. And, as the story goes, he was mad that the instructions didn’t warn him not to do this, so he sued.
If you’ve heard about this, you’re not alone. It’s part of a viral email note about five crazy lawsuits that received the so-called “Stella Awards.” The names and personal information about the five “winners” change from time to time, but the circumstances always stay the same. People around the world forward this email to me many times a year.
The awards are named after the woman who spilled coffee on herself and sued McDonald’s. Her name was Stella Liebeck, and I’m sure that whoever started this award named it after her because if there is one lawsuit that everyone in America has heard about, it’s her infamous case.
The problem is, all the stories are fake. That’s right, they’re urban legends. It’s easy to believe them, though, because so many real lawsuits are just as outrageous.
While I’ve done my own research on this, the leading debunker of urban legends, Snopes.com, has also exposed this email as a fraud, and you can see their take on it here. After revealing that the “Stella Awards” are pure fiction, Snopes also takes the time to point out that there is no shortage of outrageous lawsuits in the courts that are real. Many of the real lawsuits they cite were brought to their attention by yours truly over the years.
Of course, there are a lot better places for information about how junk lawsuits are affecting America than through phony emails. This blog is just one, and some of the ridiculous lawsuits we have highlighted include:
- the woman who walked into a ladder while texting on her phone, sued, and won a huge award
- the Plano, Texas parents who were sued by their next-door neighbors because they didn’t like the sound their children made when playing outside
- the federal government’s lawsuit against a home for the hearing-impaired that the government helped build (HUD claimed it housed too many hearing-impaired people), and
- the woman who sued a four-year-old over a bike accident.
The next time you see the Stella Awards email note, remember to check back here. The lawsuits you will find us talking about on this blog and on the websites I just mentioned prove that truth is often stranger than fiction.