Frivolous lawsuits are about as American as Abraham Lincoln. We all love to make fun of the people who, after some minor inconvenience, take someone to court demanding untold thousands of dollars. But we’re probably also a little jealous of the people who’ve ended up winning!
Of course, plenty of lawsuits are filed every year over legitimate claims that deserve to be taken seriously and often deserve a major payout, even if they sound ridiculous in a headline. Remember the infamous case of the woman who sued McDonald’s after she was burned by hot coffee? She got mocked mercilessly for years but, years later, people finally realized how terrible her injuries were and how little she actually demanded from the company.
We’ve rounded up some of the most bizarre lawsuits to ever make headlines. Are they all without merit, or do some of these plaintiffs deserve some respect? You be the judge.
1. Man Wants To Pick His Age
At a time when legal changes to a person’s name and gender are fairly commonplace, a man in the Netherlands sued for the right to change his own age in 2018.
Emile Ratelband made headlines for the lawsuit, which was filed because he said he was being discriminated against by prospective Tinder dates because he was 69 years old. Ratelband maintained that he had the looks of a 49-year-old man, so he wanted the right to officially cut his age by 20 years.
His lawsuit was quickly denied because of the harmful precedent the court thought it would set, due to many rights being based on a person’s age.
2. Customers Angry About Where Beer Is Made
A class-action lawsuit filed in 2017 shows that people really put trust into the pictures on beer labels. Unsatisfied customers sued Kona Brewing Co. after they suddenly realized that much of their beer is made in states like New Hampshire and Tennessee, rather than Hawaii.
The brewery clearly states on its bottles that it makes beer in these locations. But given the Hawaii-themed beer names and labels the company uses, customers felt duped when they read closer. This lawsuit had precedent, with brewers like Red Stripe and Foster’s having also been sued previously for “false advertising” about where they made their beers.
In June 2019, Kona Brewing finally settled this lawsuit, agreeing to pay out a maximum of $20 per household for customers who had a valid proof of purchase and a maximum of $10 per household for customers who didn’t have a proof of purchase. It’s not yet clear how much this lawsuit will end up costing the company.
3. Woman Says Jelly Belly Lied To Her
A California woman filed a mind-blowing lawsuit in 2017 when she felt misled by the fact that Jelly Belly candies contained sugar, Jessica Gomez filed a complaint against the jelly bean maker over its use of the term “evaporated cane juice” appearing on the packaging for Jelly Belly Sport Beans.
She said she thought it meant the candies were sugar-free and that they were a healthier snack option. The candy company called the suit “nonsense” and urged the courts to drop it because the product’s nutrition label clearly shows its sugar content.
The case was dismissed after the cart ruled that the plaintiffs failed to show facts specific to their purchase and reliance on advertising.
4. Parents Sue Son For Mooching
Here’s a recent classic that many parents may want to use as precedent. In 2018, a New York couple took their 30-year-old son to court in hope that a judge would force him to move out of their house. Mark and Christina Rotondo sent their son a series of eviction notices, even offering more than $1,000 to help him land on his feet in a new place.
After the notices failed, the parents filed for the court to order Michael to pack his stuff and go. Their son didn’t have a job and refused to leave in a timely manner, so a judge sided with them and ordered Michael to vacate the home.
5. Woman Wants $30,000 For Bad Hair
An Australian woman sued a salon in 2018 after she claimed the stylist ruined her hair, seriously damaging it with a botched dye job.
Jessica Bray claimed a colorist at Melbourne’s Saint James Hair Studio did such a bad job bleaching her roots that it caused a lot of her hair to fall out. Rather than simply writing a bad review on Yelp and asking for a refund, she decided to sue the salon for about $30,000, citing humiliation and wig expenses.
The court called the lawsuit “excessive” and awarded Bray about $400 for the incident.
6. The ‘First Date From Hell’
A Texas man made international news and became a poster boy for pettiness when he sued a woman after what he called the “first date from hell.”
Brandon Vezmar, 37, went on a date with a woman he met on Bumble in 2017 and was angered when she apparently spent the whole night on her phone. Vezmar sued the woman, hoping to get back the $17.31 he spent taking her to the movies.
The woman eventually just gave him the money back, so he’d drop the whole thing and leave her alone.
7. Customer Wants $5 Million Over Deflated Basketball
There’s something to be said for claims of false advertising, but lawsuits can quickly turn wacky when the plaintiff gets greedy.
One such case came in 2016 when a New York man went after a basketball maker after his ball lost some of its air prematurely. Jaish Markos accused Russell Brands, the makers of Spalding Neverflat basketballs, of misleading him when his ball went flat, despite advertisements saying the ball would stay inflated for a year.
It’s certainly worth asking for a refund, but Markos wanted $5 million for the faulty product. The case appears to be ongoing.
8. Subway’s Footlong Goes To Court
In one of the most famous recent examples of a lawsuit about false advertising, a group of disappointed Subway sandwich eaters sued the restaurant chain when they realized their “footlong” sandwiches came up a little short.
In 2013, a customer in Australia measured his Subway footlong sandwich to find the bread only came in at about 11 inches. A class-action lawsuit was put together, and it took four years to finally settle, with a court eventually tossing it out in 2017 after the judge realized the attorneys behind the case were going to make far more money from it than the actual plaintiffs. Subway said it would do better in making its bread more uniform.
9. Gamer Says His Hobby Ruined His Life
Anyone who’s ever played video games probably knows the feeling of not wanting to put down the controller for hours at a time — but did you ever think to sue someone over that feeling?
In 2016, a Russian man sued the American video game company Bethesda Softworks because he said his addiction to the game “Fallout 4” ruined his life. The man claimed he lost his job, his wife and his friends because he couldn’t stop playing the game.
He was asking for about $7,000 in damages — but it’s unlikely he ever got paid.
10. Junior Mints Sued Over Air In Boxes
We’ve all had the thought that snack packages, whether it be boxes of candy or bags of chips, contain more empty space than actual food.
Well, a group of angry customers took the makers of Junior Mints to court because of that issue. The lawsuit was filed against Tootsie Roll Industries, claiming that the company was duping buyers by leaving about one-third of every Junior Mints box empty.
A federal judge in New York threw out the claim in 2018, saying any “reasonable” customer would expect some empty space inside each box.
The perfect blend of mint and chocolate! 😋 pic.twitter.com/tkvyByxeoU
— Junior Mints (@JuniorMints) February 27, 2019
11. Diet Pepsi Sued For Not Spurring Weight Loss
False advertisement lawsuits are a dime a dozen, but this one was particularly frivolous. In 2018, two women took PepsiCo to court, arguing that using the word “diet” in Diet Pepsi’s name made them believe the beverage was a weight-loss aid.
A federal judge ended up siding with the soda maker. He tossed the lawsuit because he believed that, when it comes to the context of sodas, consumers understand that the word “diet” simply means fewer calories and not that it will cause drinkers to lose weight.
12. Student Sues University After Failing Classes
In 2015, a college student in Pennsylvania made national news when she sued her school after a pair of failing grades. The woman, who was studying nursing at Misericordia University, blamed the school’s officials for not helping her enough when she failed the same required course on two different occasions.
The student wanted punitive damages because the school allegedly discriminated against her disabilities of anxiety and depression when it came time to take final exams. The woman ended up dropping the lawsuit shortly afterward.
13. Red Bull Sued Because It Doesn’t ‘Give You Wings’
Here’s a rare example of a brand getting sued over its slogan — and actually having to pay up!
You’ve probably heard Red Bull’s slogan that the energy drink “gives you wings,” a claim that obviously isn’t meant to be taken literally but still landed the company in court. Disappointed drinkers sued the company because they claim advertisements led them to believe that Red Bull would give them some kind of physical performance boost.
In 2014, the company actually agreed to settle the lawsuit for $13 million, offering every unsatisfied customer either a check for $10 or a certificate for $15 of Red Bull drinks.
14. Sleepy Baseball Fan Sues ESPN For Defamation
So many of these amazing lawsuits have come out of New York, and this was one of the best.
When Andrew Rector, a used car salesman, attended a New York Yankees game in July 2014, he fell asleep in the stands. ESPN, which happened to be broadcasting the game, caught Rector on camera during his snooze, and its announcers poked fun at him. The man decided to sue the TV network for defamation, demanding $10 million in damages because he believed the announcers’ barbs hurt his reputation.
A judge threw out the suit in 2015, saying Rector was only on camera for about 30 seconds and that the jokes didn’t amount to anything as serious as defamation.
15. Firefighter Wants Disability Pay For Fear Of Fire
Disability claims are no light matter, but this one had some people rolling their eyes in 2014.
A firefighter in Houston, Texas, sued the fire department he worked for under the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming he had a debilitating fear of fire that made him unable to do the job. After poor performance at multiple fires, the man was demoted to a job outside of the field, which led to the lawsuit.
A jury actually sided with the man, awarding him $362,000 in damages. But a judge in the Texas Supreme Court disagreed, stripping the decision upon appeal and saying the man didn’t prove he was considered “disabled” under the ADA’s protections.
16. Gambler Sues Casino After Blowing $500,000 In A Night
Everyone knows that casinos will gladly take as much money from you as you care to play with — but one gambler felt like his rights were violated after an unlucky night.
Mark Johnston, a California man, sued the Downtown Grand casino in Las Vegas after he claimed he lost $500,000 playing there. His basis for the lawsuit? Johnston said he was too drunk to responsibly gamble, making his losses the casino’s fault.
In a shocking twist, it turned out Johnston himself actually ripped the casino off for $500,000 by writing phony checks to borrow money from it. That led the Downtown Grand to countersue him, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
17. Fan’s Burned Butt Means Lawsuit For Dallas Cowboys
In 2012, a Dallas Cowboys fan sued her favorite football team after she claimed she suffered severe burns after sitting on a hot bench at a game. Jennelle Carrillo, herself a Texan, got lawyers involved after attending a team scrimmage in August 2010 and unwittingly sitting on a very hot seat.
The temperatures that day were more than 100 degrees and the bench itself was black, but Carrillo claimed she had no way of knowing that the seat would be so hot because the team didn’t have signs posted warning fans.
The lawsuit disappeared after initial media mentions.
18. Kidnapper Sues Victims For Turning Him In
Fugitives are known to do some desperate things to stay out of jail, but Jesse Dimmick pulled one shameless move after he got caught for a crime in 2009.
He was on the lam from a murder charge in Kansas when he broke into a couple’s home and held them at knifepoint. When the couple got away from him as he slept, they told police where he was, and Dimmick was quickly caught.
Dimmick sued the couple because he said they’d made a legally binding oral agreement that they’d help him stay free in return for money. A judge dismissed Dimmick’s lawsuit in 2012.
19. Man Sues Over Boss’s Gas
In the land down under, a 56-year-old man sued his former employer because he said he was forced to put up with his ex-boss, who would allegedly fart around him constantly.
David Hingst called his former supervisor’s behavior bullying and sought about $1.3 million in damages. Hingst said the boss would come into his small, windowless office and fart at least five times a day, thinking it was funny.
A judge in Australia dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, saying they didn’t think flatulence could be defined as bullying.
20. Man Sues Parents Over Destroyed Pornography
Suing over destroyed property is a legitimate legal claim — but when you’re suing mom and dad for your missing porn stash, it might be best to just cut your losses.
A man in Indiana failed to accept fate, though, when he told the court in 2019 that several boxes loaded with pornography and sex toys mysteriously vanished after he moved in with his parents in Michigan following a divorce. The man estimated that his entire collection was worth close to $30,000.
The man’s father admitted to destroying the collection in an email, so this one could actually end up earning the plaintiff some money.
21. Football Fans Sue For Right To Curse At Players
While watching sports is often considered a family-friendly activity, some fans like to work blue. Such was the case with two New York Giants fans who sued police officers at San Francisco’s Levi’s Stadium for what they considered a violation of their First Amendment rights.
The men, who are brothers, said they were removed from an NFL game in 2017 for cursing at players and flipping them off. The overzealous fans also said the officers who kicked them out of the game used excessive force, including zapping one of them with a Taser.
22. Couple Sues McDonald’s For Cheese Charge
McDonald’s has been on the receiving end of plenty of lawsuits, but one that was deemed to have no merit happened in Miami in 2018.
A miffed couple filed a lawsuit over the fact that the burger chain charges as much for a Quarter Pounder with cheese as it does for one with no cheese. The angry eaters said they ordered the burger with no cheese and were shocked to see the price was the same — so they wanted $5 million in damages, naturally.
A Florida judge tossed it out, finding that the couple couldn’t prove how they were harmed by the additional charge.
23. ‘Crazy’ Pet Duck Prompts Lawsuit
A woman in Washington was no lover of her neighbor’s pet duck, which she called “crazy” in a 2014 lawsuit. Cynthia Ruddell sued Lolita Rose after she claimed the woman’s duck attacked her, leading to injuries.
Ruddell said the duck, which Rose apparently allowed to roam free, flapped its wings at her and knocked her back as she was walking down the street one day. Ruddell said the duck scared her and that the fall led her to suffer injuries, including the breaking of her wrist.
She was seeking $275,000 in damages and medical expenses. This lawsuit also disappeared from public view.
24. Man Sues Wife Over ‘Ugly’ Baby
This is about as brutal as a lawsuit gets. In 2012, a Chinese man took his wife to court after she gave birth to their daughter, and he was shocked by how “ugly” the child was.
He accused his wife of having an affair, but the case took a bizarre twist when the woman confirmed the child was his but admitted she’d had about $80,000 of plastic surgery to change her own looks before she’d met him, which she had never told him.
In light of that fact, a judge awarded the man about $100,000, saying the woman swindled him into marrying her and having children.
25. Man Wants Damages After Tripping On Christmas Tree
This lawsuit surely puts a damper on Christmas spirit. In 2015, a 73-year-old New Jersey man sued an apartment building after he tripped over a discarded Christmas tree that had been left on the sidewalk.
Kyu Taik Chung claimed that he suffered permanent injuries because of the incident and accused the apartment complex of being negligent in where they left the tree. There’s been no more news on the lawsuit, so it’s unclear if Chung ever got his payoff.
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