Love them or hate them (or really, really hate them), lawyers serve a crucial purpose in our society. They keep the gears of justice moving forward, and whether you’re injured on the job or wrongfully accused of a crime, your safest course of legal action is always to consult with an experienced attorney. However, not every case is worth bringing to the courtroom.
There are tons of reasonable and justified lawsuits, but there are also tons of really ridiculous suits out there. We have all been a victim of an unfortunate circumstance, and most of us just blame bad luck. There are, however, some people who take it to the extreme and sue (or try to, anyway).
Though most of these crazy suits don’t even make it to the courtroom, sometimes they do, and the person wins a lot of money. Read on for some of the craziest lawsuits and lawyer stories from the news and Reddit.
When you get a ridiculous request, sometimes the best solution is to take it seriously.
“My father is a patent attorney, and when I was around 14, he told me about a guy who wanted to patent the iPhone 3 because ‘aliens’ had given him the design for it,” wrote Reddit user censqred. “My father told him that if the aliens originally designed it, they were the ones that had to patent it, not him.”
Apparently, this is a common approach in intellectual property law; Reddit user MtAlbertMassive has a fairly similar tale.
“I was working in a law firm and got a call from reception advising that someone had arrived needing some intellectual property advice,” they wrote. “I arrived at reception to find a clearly disturbed woman with a persistent facial twitch and a small wheeled suitcase.”
“I took her to a conference room to discuss, making sure I kept a good line of sight to reception. She put the suitcase on the table and opened it to reveal a stack of thousands of handwritten pages and one half of a pair of scissors (so I guess a scissor?).”
“She explained that she had written a manuscript about how the city council gave her schizophrenia and hepatitis, aliens stole her pets, and that it was all part of a bigger conspiracy involving the Army and the Illuminati. She was worried that our local newspaper was going to steal her thoughts and publish her manuscript without her consent and wanted to register the copyright in her manuscript.”
“We then had a perfectly rational and reasonable discussion about copyright laws. I explained that in our jurisdiction, she didn’t need to register it, and that she had rights as an author automatically on creation of the work.”
“I told her the most useful thing she could do is ensure she had evidence of her creative work, and that she should send a digital copy to herself and a friend, and also leave a copy with a friend. That way, if it was published without her consent, she could prove it was her work. We spoke for nearly an hour, she thanked me and then left. She got free legal advice, and I didn’t get stabbed with a scissor. I hope she found the help she needs.”
In a later update, MtAlbertMassive clarified that the last part was a joke.
“I was a junior and just tried to treat the client with respect and empathy. The scissor gave me pause, but I never felt in danger. I was relieved she had a real legal question, and we focused on that rather than her delusions, and in that sense, it wasn’t a ‘stupid’ case. I will say this: As a society, we don’t do enough to look after our most vulnerable people, including those with serious mental health issues.”
Prosecuting attorneys and public defenders are used to dealing with strange cases.
“I’m a prosecutor, so I don’t get hired to represent anyone—I work for the government,” wrote CalgaryAlly. “But I do have discretion over how the prosecution progresses, for instance, deciding to proceed, deciding what to offer in the event of a plea bargain, deciding to withdraw the charges, etc.”
“I had a case a few months ago where a man was charged with shoplifting. Turned out, he was 70 years old, had absolutely no criminal record, and had shoplifted a sandwich, which he ate politely in the store. He honestly thought he had paid for it.”
Fortunately, there are good attorneys in the world.
“I was so angry that he was ever charged in the first place. When I saw him in court, he was absolutely terrified. I withdrew the charges and wished him well. I have no idea how it progressed that far.”
“Something kind of similar happened to my late uncle,” wrote Monkibizness, another Reddit user, in a response to the comment. “He was in his late 70s and loved going to the grocery store and just buying a ton of random new foods to cook.”
“One day, he was accused of putting a pickle in his pocket and trying to walk out with it. They actually had loss prevention deal with him and empty his pockets and stuff…he didn’t steal a pickle. I can just imagine how frightened he was when he saw security coming up to him.”
Many people think they understand their legal options; most don’t.
“I had a client come in saying that he ‘needed to sue Stu for robbing all his checks,’” wrote _TheConsumer_. “When I asked him if Stu had a last name, he said no. When I asked him if he knew any Stu, he said no. When I asked him what proof he had that Stu was robbing him, he showed me all of his pay stubs.”
“There were clear, monthly deductions by ‘SCU.’ As soon as I saw it, I knew. I asked: ‘Do you have children?’ He said yes.”
“I then told him: ‘Your Stu is the SCU, the Support Collection Unit. They take money out of your check to pay for your child.’ He left the office insisting that we needed to find Stu.”
At least that person didn’t have to present a defense to a jury.
“When I was in law school, I did the criminal defense clinic where we ‘help’ a public defender,” sdamh5621 wrote. “I say ‘help’ because they just give you small cases to do by yourself.”
“I had a guy accused of shoplifting a yellow FUBU shirt. Guess what he wore to the trial? A [damn] yellow FUBU shirt.”
“I asked the prosecutor to re-offer the plea deal, she did, and I convinced the guy to take community service and probation, if I remember correctly. Our public defender system is tragically overworked and underfunded.”
Sometimes, your attorney just doesn’t have the answers.
“I used to represent mentally ill patients who were involuntarily committed in a psychiatric facility,” JackEsq wrote. “Needless to say, some of my clients’ requests weren’t possible in a courtroom or any known realm of reality.”
“One client wanted to be released from the hospital. I asked, ‘Do you have any money to care for yourself?’ He explained he was a Holy Admiral in the United States Navy, and his paycheck was printed on the International Space Station. He was also part of the security detail protecting Hillary Clinton.”
Hey, at least he was employed. This next guy wasn’t—thanks to an ice cream company.
“Let me preface this: I had heard about this guy before I had actually met him,” wrote 8MileAllstars. “I thought this guy was an urban legend—until he came into my office one day.”
“A guy in his late 50s or early 60s comes into the lobby area of my office and starts a commotion that freaks out the receptionist. I was the closest attorney to the lobby, so I go out and talk to the guy.”
“He was clearly mentally disturbed and presented the following story: Someone had implanted a device in his brain that was controlling his behavior. He believed it was being controlled by Baskin-Robbins and a former mayor of Detroit.”
So far, so good.
“He believed they were forcing him to do random things like going to bars, taking the wrong turn when driving, forcing him to retire from his job, and a lot of other very intricate things. After asking him if he had seen any doctors regarding the ‘implant,’ he got really upset and said that he thought the doctors were in on it as well.”
“After telling him I couldn’t help him and suggesting that he find some new doctors, he asked me if I knew any lawyers who specialized in his kind of case. I often wonder if the lawyer I referred him to was able to help him.”
Some people are just looking for an easy payday.
Remember, kids: You don’t always have legal recourse simply because something bad happens to you.
“I worked as a receptionist at a small personal injury firm and was the first line of defense against the more outlandish cases,” wrote skye9. “One of the most ridiculous calls I took involved a woman wanting to sue her cat’s veterinarian for malpractice because her cat scratched her, which in turn supposedly caused [the woman’s] liver to fail and a slew of other health problems. She believed the vet was at fault because she was convinced the cat was carrying some obscure disease, and the vet had failed to catch it.”
“It was my second day on the job, so I put her through to an attorney, not yet knowing what else to do with such a ridiculous situation. She got a firm ‘sorry, can’t help you’ from our office, in part because we did not do malpractice—veterinary or otherwise—but also because she sounded like a one-way ticket to Crazy Town.”
If only the woman had sought counsel from Ted Nugent, she might have gotten some answers.
“The woman may have actually had cat scratch fever, which could, in theory, lead to a legitimate claim,” skye9 notes. “However, when she called, she presented it as ‘I got sick, and then someone told me it was from my cat. My vet never told me my cat was sick! Can I sue him for malpractice?’”
“Apparently, vets do not regularly test for cat scratch fever unless you bring your cat in for certain symptoms. This was clearly an ‘I see a chance for a cash payout!’ situation, and we would get calls like that all the time with both bizarre and banal stories behind them. Either way, she would have needed someone more specialized than the firm I worked for, which primarily handled car accidents, not cats.”
Unfortunately for this man, most warranties don’t cover anger-management issues.
“I run a consumer advocacy firm,” wrote ThunderNumber2. “I had a client come in and tell me that he bought a product, and the company refused to honor the warranty after the product broke.”
“I asked for details, and he just started screaming in my face, asking if I was going to take his money or not. I decided then that I wasn’t taking him on as a client, but I wanted to know what was going on. I convinced him to tell me what happened.”
“Turns out, he bought a computer back in the 1990s. It had just recently died, but not because it was old and just stopped working. It was slow, so he picked it up and threw it out of a two-story window. And then he wanted to sue the manufacturer for breaking the warranty.”
In case you’re wondering whether this stuff happens to divorce attorneys…
Well, of course it does.
“My friend’s girlfriend filed for divorce a few weeks ago,” wrote captainkrunch71.
Wait, girlfriend? Not wife?
“That’s right. They aren’t married, and common law doesn’t apply in Washington state. They lived together for five years. She has a job, she isn’t on the mortgage, and she left him a few months ago. There are no kids involved. They were never engaged.”
“In the ‘divorce,’ she wants him to leave his house, and she wants to move back in. She wants him to pay her $2,800 a month, for some reason. I referred him to my divorce attorney, and now that attorney is probably going to represent him. The chick is nuts. She has already tried to get a restraining order against him that was dismissed.”
Some attorneys don’t have the luxury of choosing their clients.
“A woman wanted to sue Walmart because they called the police, who then arrested her for disorderly conduct because she got into a physical altercation with an employee,” wrote theboozecube. “While doing her intake, I made a bullet-pointed list titled ‘Why We Shouldn’t Take This Case.’ One of the points was that she had a history of suing her former attorneys.”
“My batsh**-crazy boss forced me to take the case—and her retainer—anyway. I wrote a memo explaining why she had no viable case, hoping she’d at least get some closure out of it. She didn’t. And to no one’s surprise, she sued me. I got it dismissed in about five minutes, but I still had to show up in small claims court over some pointless nonsense I didn’t want to do in the first place.”
As unpleasant as that must have been, it has nothing on this next story.
“I worked as a public defender and did a short stint doing juvenile cases,” imlost19 wrote. “A kid was arrested for battery because he threw a tomato slice at his mother.”
“Our defense was self-defense. The mom made him a sandwich, and he whined because he didn’t like tomato. His mother then threatened to slam his face in the sandwich if he didn’t eat it. The kid picked up the tomato slice with his fingers and proceeded to fling it at his mom.”
“The state tried to argue that the mother was exercising corporal punishment, but we countered by saying that slamming his face into a sandwich is beyond the scope of corporal punishment and could lead to serious bodily injury, thus necessitating a preemptive self-defense. The judge bought it. Or maybe he thought it was too ridiculous—who knows? ‘Not guilty’ is all we cared about.”
Sometimes, the story’s so dumb that you just stop caring about the truth.
“I defended a guy who was charged with theft for stealing some crowbars,” wrote vespolina12. “The crowbars were found in the back of his pickup truck.”
“At the trial, the ‘victim’ (of the ‘theft’) and two of his buddies came in and testified that the crowbars—which had been taken into evidence and properly labeled for the trial—definitely belonged to the victim. The buddies remembered seeing the victim use them.”
“Then, my client and his brother and girlfriend testified that the crowbars were definitely my client’s. They had all been using them together earlier in the day. That was pretty much it.”
We’ll note at this point that crowbars are fairly cheap; you can get one on Amazon for less than $20.
“The jury found my client not guilty, and one juror later wrote a letter to the judge saying that she was a high school civics teacher, that she believed jury duty was very important, and that the trial was the stupidest waste of time she had ever endured. I never did figure out whose crowbars they were. Everyone involved was a crazy lying redneck.”
This case is full of bologna, and yes, that’s a play on words.
“After law school, I took a job in a little law office in a very rural town,” wrote Uncle_Erik. “One day, a cousin of one of the partners comes riding up on his bike. The partner said he didn’t want to deal with it, so he told me to handle his cousin.”
“The cousin reaches into his jacket and pulls out a Ziploc bag with a slice of bologna inside. The bologna has a piece of metal in it, probably something that fell in during processing. He thinks he has a multi-million dollar product defect case and wants us to sue. Alright.”
That led to a brief (but hilarious) conversation.
“Did you eat a piece of bologna with metal in it and were harmed?”
“‘No, I saw the metal before I ate it.’”
“Was anyone else harmed?”
“‘No, we passed it around and looked at it.’”
“If you aren’t harmed by a slice of defective bologna (and, to be fair, this was a defective slice of bologna), then your damages are going to be limited to your costs. I told him that I could probably get him a free pack of bologna, and that was about it. He was really disappointed and he left the slice of bologna at the office. I told him that I’d have his cousin—the partner—take a look at it. Then he left.”
“I took the slice of bologna back to the partner’s office, and he nearly [wet] himself laughing when I told him the story. The secretaries came in to see what was up, and everyone just lost it. That was a fun day. The slice of bologna went into the freezer at the firm and, as far as I know, it’s still there.”
A sleepy baseball fan sued the MLB, ESPN, and the New York Yankees.
Suing one major corporation is bold enough…but three?! It has to be one airtight lawsuit to get past their defenses. Watch the video below to find out about one man’s attempt to get some cash through a lawsuit that was anything but airtight:
This one, of course, is about an apartment filled with other people’s poop.
Yes. You read that correctly. And there’s no exaggeration here. Jocelyn Shepherd moved into her Atlanta apartment in 2013 and shortly after saw a few problems coming up. There were some more-or-less normal things like issues with water, but then something else happened: Poop.
We’ve all heard the phrase “s*** happens.” Well, in Shepherd’s case, it was quite literal. Feces from the other apartments in the building (not just her apartment) began seeping from the toilet, sinks, and even the pipes in the walls and the floors and was spilling out into her apartment.
According to AOL, Shepherd told WXIA-TV in Atlanta, “My bathroom is just full of everybody’s feces. The tub, filled with feces. There’s mildew, mold coming down the wall.”
Her children went to stay with a family friend but Shepherd stayed put (for some reason), but she refused to pay rent. This, in turn, caused the property manager to refuse any repairs because the tenant wasn’t paying her rent. Talk about a stinky, vicious cycle.
However, AOL explained, “Landlords who don’t comply by keeping their property habitable can face law enforcement action, including fines and/or jail time. Depending on state law, tenants who find themselves in a situation like Shepherd’s have the right to withhold rent until the problem is fixed, or even end a lease agreement and move out without paying the full term of the agreement.”
A woman sued McDonald’s for hot coffee burns (and won).
On Feb. 27, 1992, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old grandmother, driven by her nephew, ordered a cup of coffee at a McDonald’s drive-thru. She placed the cup in her lap as her nephew pulled the car forward; when she went to open the lid to add cream and sugar, the entire cup spilled into her lap. She sued McDonald’s for her resulting burns.
Now, while this seems absurd and definitely the fault of the person opening the coffee, the fact is she did sustain some serious injuries including third-degree burns on 16 percent of her body. This led to an eight-day stay in the hospital as well as several skin grafts to help repair the burnt skin. Her medical bills totaled around $11,000 and she originally asked McDonald’s for $20,000.
McDonald’s then countered with an offer of $800 (which is just as absurd). This went back and forth until finally, Liebeck’s counsel sued McDonald’s for a “defectively manufactured” product saying the coffee was so hot that it was defective and dangerous. This argument is pretty solid: The coffee was typically served at 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit—a temperature capable of causing third-degree burns in two seconds. McDonald’s said essentially it was her fault, and they refused to settle.
The case went in front of a jury and after the trial, McDonald’s had to pay Liebeck $160,000 (originally $200,000 but the jury said the incident was 20 perfect her fault). Then came the punitive damages, which is the real kicker. McDonald’s had to pay Liebeck $2.7 million. The judge lowered this amount to $400,000, which resulted in more back and forth until they settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
One guy sued the government for a falling pine cone.
Sean Mace was visiting San Francisco for the Fleet Week air show when he found a nice place to lay down and take a nap. He never suspected he was sleeping under a tree that could change his life the way it did.
The bunya pine tree under which he was sleeping produces massive pine cones that can weigh up to 40 pounds; one of them happened to fall and land directly on Mace’s head. It was only about 15 pounds, but the result was a crushed skull.
So, as silly as a falling pine cone sounds, it was actually a serious matter. The San Francisco Gate explains, “He was rushed to the hospital and had immediate surgery to remove bits of skull and relieve the pressure on his brain.”
Following the surgeries he had to endure, his lawyers said the pine cone incident left him with a traumatic brain injury. That is why they sued the U.S Department of National Parks for $5 million. Mace wants there to be appropriate signage around to warn park-goers, especially children.
A neighbor sued over a barking dog. They won.
Woodrow Thompson sued Denise Norton for her dog, Cawper, in a 36-page document.
ABC News reported on Thompson’s claims, saying, “The lawsuit called the dog an outrage, with intentional infliction of emotional distress, and claimed the dog’s barking caused profound emotional distress.”
Thompson says the dog’s bark reached 128 decibels, which is as loud as a bolt of thunder being heard through double-pane windows. To the common person, that is just ludicrous, which is exactly what Norton thought when she received the suit. And that‘s the reason why she didn’t respond: She thought it was a joke.
“In my head, everything was so bogus that he’d been doing, I don’t know why, I just didn’t think it was real or something,” she said.
As a result of doing nothing, she lost the case by default and is supposed to pay Thompson the $500,000. She appealed the ruling, of course—as of now, there’s no update on the case.