Dec 30, 2015 - 4:15pm

Monkey Selfies, a Hug, and a Football Game Make the List of Most Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2015


Senior Editor, Digital Content

The U.S. legal system continues to be a magnet for costly abuse. The U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform collected the ten most ridiculous lawsuits of 2015.

“These stories will make you laugh, but sadly, frivolous lawsuits are all too common,” said Institute president, Lisa Rickard. “As a society we’re too quick to sue, and issues that could be settled outside of the courtroom result in expensive and unnecessary litigation and wasted time.”

This year’s list stars a monkey, a hug, a catch that wasn’t, and a lot of hot coffee.

10. California Woman Allegedly Fakes Coffee Burns and Then Sues McDonald’s

To borrow from Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” In 1994 a New Mexico woman was awarded $2.86 million for spilling hot coffee on herself that she purchased from a McDonald’s.

Jump 20 years later and we find a California woman so intent on suing McDonald’s that she allegedly faked burns to her hand from spilled hot coffee with photos and medical documents pulled off the internet.

State insurance investigators told The Los Angeles Times, “We contacted her medical provider and discovered she hadn’t received any medical treatment.”

9. Missouri Woman is Claiming Injury From a Flying Dinner Roll

Heads up in Missouri. A woman who ate at Lambert’s Café, famous for their “throwed rolls,” sued the restaurant for $250,000—a lot of dough--after getting hit by a bun.

8. An Officer in North Carolina is Suing Starbucks for $750,000 Over Hot Coffee

Coffee makes a second appearance on the list. A Raleigh, N.C. police officer sued Starbucks for $750,000 after he spilled hot coffee on himself. The wrinkle here was the java was supplied gratis.

7. Florida Woman is Suing FedEx for Tripping Over a Package Left at Her Doorstep

A Florida woman is suing FedEx for doing its job—delivering a package to her doorstep. Unfortunately, she tripped over the package and claims to have suffered “severe physical pain, mental anguish and humiliation.”

Imagine the field day plaintiffs' lawyers will have when drone deliveries become a reality.

6. Colorado Inmate is Suing the NFL for $88 Billion Over the 2015 Dallas Cowboys' Playoff Loss

This one is dear to my heart. After the Dallas Cowboys’ playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers (I’m a lifelong fan) that involved a controversial incompletion call on the Cowboys’ wide receiver Dez Bryant, a Colorado inmate sued the NFL for $88 billion for “negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and also reckless disregard.”

Two points: 1) Serving time shouldn’t mean abusing the legal system; and 2) The referees got it right.

5. Two New York Women File $40 Million Lawsuit Over ‘Like, Five or Six Scratches’ They Received From a Gas Explosion Blocks Away

Two New York City twenty-somethings filed a $40 million lawsuit after a gas explosion leveled an apartment building a few blocks away. One of the plaintiffs didn't suffer any injuries, while the other said she got “like, five or six scratches.”

4. Pennsylvania Nursing Student Fails a Course Twice and Sues the School for Not Helping With Anxiety

A Pennsylvania nursing student suffering from anxiety and depression failed to pass a course not once but twice, even with the professor offering a distraction-free environment, extended deadlines, and letting her ask for help in her second attempt.

How did she respond to this generosity? After she failed the course for a second time, the student sued her professor, the department chairwoman, and the president of her school for failing to accommodate her disability.

3. 8-Year-Old New York Boy is Sued by His Aunt for a “Careless” Hug

Here’s a case that gives a new meaning to “Family Feud.” After receiving injuries from a hug from her eight-year-old nephew at his birthday party, a New York woman sued the boy for $127,000 for negligence.

2. Armed Bank Robber in California is Suing Over Injuries Incurred While Fleeing the Scene

Who said crime doesn’t pay? In Washington State, a bank robber flees the scene of the crime, is chased by police, and shot. The robber then sues the sheriff’s department for $3.6 million.

1. Animal Rights Group Sues on Behalf of Monkey for Ownership of “Selfies”

If you thought selfie sticks were bad, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) filed a lawsuit on behalf of a monkey who took a few photos of himself in an Indonesian jungle.

UPDATE: A federal judge in San Francisco ruled that the monkey could not own the intellectual property rights of the selfies, Ars Technica reports:

[U.S. District Judge William Orrick] said during a brief hearing that he would dismiss the suit in an upcoming order, and at one point said PETA's argument was a "stretch."

"I'm not the person to weigh into this," Orrick said from the bench in San Francisco federal court. "This is an issue for Congress and the president. If they think animals should have the right of copyright they're free, I think, under the Constitution, to do that."

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About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.