Flickr/ Jin Choi
It’s been said time and time again that we live in a litigious society, where everybody sues everybody over seemingly miniscule offenses. While most people are perfectly fine with handling their disagreements without getting lawyers involved, for others it’s the first thing that comes to mind whenever they feel that they’ve been slighted.
Back in 1973, actor Yul Brenner (best known for portraying the King of Siam in The King and I) ate some pork spare ribs at the New York outpost of legendary Tiki-themed restaurant Trader Vic’s, located in the basement of the Plaza Hotel. He came down with a case of trichinosis which he blamed on the restaurant, and sued for $3 million. The case was settled out of court four years later; Brenner was awarded $125,000 and the restaurant vowed to serve only well-done meat going forward.
In July 2010, a woman named Allysen Kauppinen dropped into a Ypsilanti, Mich. restaurant called Luca’s and ordered eggs and corned beef hash. Unfortunately for her, the hash was scorching hot, and it allegedly burned her mouth. Instead of complaining, she took the restaurant to court, seeking $25,000 in damages for the “great emotional upset, embarrassment, and pain” the traumatic event caused. No details are available on how the case played out.
Flickr/ Jin Choi
One of the most famous (and infamous) lawsuits of all time, this one stems from a very hot cup of McDonald’s coffee that was served to one Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old Albuquerque woman who was sitting in the passenger seat of a parked car when it spilled on her lap. The normal coffee temperature is around 140 degrees, but this was closer to 190, leading to third-degree burns over six percent of her body. She took McDonald’s to court, and was awarded $160,000 in compensatory damages and $2.7 million in punitive damages, which a court later reduced to $480,000. Both sides appealed, and the case was settled out of court of an undisclosed sum, but the case went down in history as a textbook example of an overly-litigious society.
All Webster Lucas wanted was an extra napkin with his McDonald’s order, but upon being asked for it, the manager on duty reportedly became argumentative and mumbled something that the African-American Lucas took to be racially discriminating. Lucas was "unable to work because of the undue mental anguish and the intentional infliction of emotional distress," and is suing the chain for $1.5 million.
Yelp/ Keila N
Under what circumstances do you think it would be appropriate to sue over a restroom mirror? For one disabled customer at a California restaurant called La Casita Mexicana, the mirror being too high for customers in wheelchairs set off a lawsuit. The plaintiff had in fact filed more than 500 Americans with Disabilities Act-related lawsuits, and when surveillance footage revealed that he’d never even visited the restaurant, the case was thrown out.
A man named Caesar Barber was dealing with obesity and other related health problems stemming from eating fast food four or five times per week, so he decided to do something about it: no, not to start exercising and eating healthier, but to sue McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and KFC. In a class-action lawsuit filed with other fast-food junkies, he demanded that fast food chains "offer a larger variety to the consumers, including non-meat vegetarian, less grams of fat, and a reduction of size.” The case was dismissed a year later.
If an underage woman drinks excessively at a sports bar, gets behind the wheel, and then crashes her car, who’s responsible, her or the bar? Most would agree that the woman, 20-year-old Chelsea Hess, shouldn’t have been drinking in the first place, but she still sued the Bluffton South Carolina restaurant where she over-imbibed for negligence. She also sued the state’s department of transportation for not properly maintaining the road she was driving on when she crashed. No word on how the lawsuit played out.
Here’s an odd one: In 2005, a woman named Anna Ayala filed a claim against a Wendy’s franchise owner after claiming that she found a human fingertip in her chili. The negative publicity reportedly cost the chain more than $21 million in lost sales, but authorities simply could not figure out where in the supply chain the finger could have made its way into the chili. The culprit? Ayala herself, whose husband took the finger from a co-worker who lost it in a work-related accident so that she could hide it in her dinner. Ayala was found guilty of extortion and served four years in prison.
After Subway was caught red-handed selling “footlong” sandwiches that were actually only 11 inches long, three class-action lawsuits were filed in Illinois, New Jersey, and California. “The length of the bread baked in the restaurant cannot be assured each and every time as the proofing process may vary slightly each time in the restaurant,” Subway countered, but the 11 plaintiffs didn’t give up, and the case was settled a year later.