Ten Speciously ‘Ridiculous’ Lawsuits

by Mark Wilson

The 10 Most Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2011. The point of this list, I guess, is to show us that the legal system is wacky-screwed up, and doesn’t there need to be reform? Sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has really no beef at all with large corporations suing smaller corporations or individuals. It’s little guys suing big companies — the Chamber of Commerce’s constituency — that they really hate.

Here’s how I think these lawsuits actually turned out or will actually turn out. (In some cases, the story doesn’t report that these cases were actually dismissed or settled.)

Kidnapper sues couple for not helping him evade the police? This will be dismissed; no cause of action. “Oral contract”? Give me a break.

Man illegally brings gun into a bar, gets injured, and then sues the bar for not searching him for weapons. This one actually was dismissed. The plaintiff filed in federal court, which naturally tossed the thing out. Also, he was filing pro se. The Chamber of Commerce didn’t mention either fact.

Young adults sue mother for playing favorites and sending cards without gifts. Dismissed.

Woman sues for $5 million on 80-cent refund. What you aren’t told is that she’s seeking class action status and was filed by her father, who is a lawyer. This one will get dismissed hard. “Unjust enrichment”? On 80 cents?You can smell the frivolousness from here.

Mom files suit against exclusive preschool over child’s future job prospects. Fraud, maybe? This one actually has a chance of going somewhere. Or probably settling. All the mom wants is the $19,000 in tuition back. Class action status? That’s not happening.

Man suing for age discrimination says his judge is too old. Actually, what happened was that the 88-year-old judge dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The plaintiff re-filed and got the same judge again. The 60-year-old plaintiff was alleging age discrimination in a contest. This wasn’t a job or anything. I think this story is funny just for the irony: guy who says he was discriminated against because he’s too old passes discrimination on to a judge who he claims is to old. (Wouldn’t an older judge be more likely to side with an alleged victim of age discrimination?) I predict: dismissed. Again.

290-pound man sues White Castle for not renovating the restaurant to make booths that accomodate his size. ADA compliance? Maybe not; White Castle claims that they installed chairs, and couldn’t he sit in a chair? This one sounds like it will be dismissed.

And so on. Funny how the Chamber of Commerce didn’t mention AT&T v. Concepcion. You know, the one that locks mandatory arbitration clauses into a contract even if state law forbids it and the contract is unconscionable? You know, a horrendously anti-consumer, pro-corporation decision? Man, I wonder why they didn’t talk about that one.

I understand that even having to respond to an obviously frivolous lawsuit takes time and money. But this is another case of taking an exception and blowing it up to the point where it looks like the rule. The Chamber of Commerce’s ongoing crusade for “tort reform” — which means making it more difficult for any person to file lawsuits — ultimately cuts in their favor. For every baseless 80-cent refund claim, there’s an Escola out there or a McDonald’s hot-coffee case (the woman had third-degree burns in her crotch, for crying out loud). Preventing consumers from filing lawsuits against corporations would be a sure-fire way to encourage corporate corner-cutting.