In this increasingly litigious society, it takes an astounding mix of talent and gall to make headlines with a lawsuit, but here are 15 examples of frivolous lawsuits that will make you mad enough to sue.
1. Man Sues Family of Boy He Ran Over
January 2008: Spanish businessman Tomas Delgado sued the family of the 17-year-old boy he’d hit and killed for the damage that the boy’s body did to his Audi. Delgado was speeding at the time, but since the boy was cycling alone at night without reflectors or a helmet, the driver wasn’t charged with anything other than being a complete jerk. Under public pressure, he later dropped his lawsuit.
2. Sleeping Student Sues Teacher for Waking Him Up
March 2008: In Danbury, Connecticut, 15-year-old Vinicios Robacher sued his teacher for slamming her palm on his desk to wake him up during class — an action that he claimed caused him ear damage.
3. Man Sues Michael Jordan for Looking Like Him
July 2006: Portland, Oregon resident Allen Heckard sued former basketball star Michael Jordan and Nike founder Phil Knight for $832 million, claiming that they have made Jordan such a recognizable figure that he has suffered personal harm from being repeatedly mistaken for the basketball player. Within a month, Heckard had dropped the suit.
4. Mayor of Batman, Turkey Sues Batman
November 2008: The mayor of a city in Turkey called Batman sued Warner Brothers and The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan for using the name without permission. Either it took the town’s residents 70 years to realize the superhero’s existence or they just wanted to cash in on The Dark Knight‘s billion-dollar box office take. You be the judge.
5. Man Sues Homeless for $1 Million
January 2007: Karl Kemp, owner of a ritzy antiques store on Manhattan’s Madison Avenue, sued four homeless people who congregate in front of his shop because they scare off potential customers. The amount of the suit: $1 million, payable apparently in shopping carts full of aluminum cans.
6. Inmate Sues Himself
April 1995: Chesapeake, Virginia prison inmate Robert Lee Brock was upset at himself for getting arrested for breaking and entering and grand larceny, so he decided to make himself pay — by suing himself for $5 million. Stating that he violated his own religious beliefs by committing the crime, he sought payment for a civil rights offense. Of course, since he didn’t have $5 million to pay himself, he asked that the state pay on his behalf. His suit was thrown out.
7. Magicians Sued for Stealing God’s Powers
June 2005: Reality-challenged Minnesota resident Christopher Roller sued magicians David Copperfield and David Blaine for using Roller’s “godly powers” without his permission to perform their acts. Roller, by the way, claimed to be a god. He also claimed that the movie The Truman Show was based on his life and that he was married to both Katie Couric and Celine Dion, with whom he planned to father 1 million babies.
8. Shooter’s Mom Seeks Workman’s Comp
October 2003: After Jonathon Russell went on a shooting spree at the manufacturing plant where he worked, leaving three dead and five injured, his mother filed for workman’s compensation benefits on his behalf, citing his “death by gunfire while on company clock.” She was denied.
9. Man Sues Wife for Donated Kidney
January 2009: After Long Island doctor Richard Batista was slapped with divorce papers from his cheating wife, he decided he’d had enough and sued her for the return of a gift he’d give her eight years prior: a kidney. If that wasn’t feasible, he’d “settle” for $1.5 million. You’re welcome.
10. Insurance Company Sues 81-Year-Old Woman for Icy Driveway
February 2007: A “meals on wheels” program was delivering food to 81-year-old Anne Keipper in Brookfield, Wisconsin when the delivery woman — who wasn’t wearing boots — slipped on a patch of ice in the driveway and fell. Three years later, Keipper was notified that she was being sued by Sentry Insurance for the medical expenses it paid related to the delivery woman’s fall. The moral: senior citizens too frail to leave their house to get food should diligently shovel ice off their driveway.
11. Girls Sued for Baking Cookies
July 2005: Two well-meaning teenage girls in Durango, Colorado decided one summer night to bake cookies for their neighbors. They packaged the baked treats in plastic wrap with a heart-shaped message wishing the recipients a good night. When they knocked at the door of Wanita Renea Young, however, the woman became so terrified that someone was outside her house at 10:30 PM that she suffered an anxiety attack and successfully sued the girls for $930 to cover a trip to the emergency room. Her request for money to cover pain and suffering was denied.
12. Student Sues to Get A+
March 2003: High school senior Brian Delekta was so distraught that he got an A in one of his courses that he sued the school system. He felt he deserved an A+. Delekta, who had the highest GPA in his class at the time, felt that a “mere” A would hurt his chances of becoming the valedictorian. The course in question, incidentally, was a work-study program at a law firm. His supervisor in the position lobbied for him to get an A+, but maybe that’s because she’s his mother.
13. Musician Sued for Copying Silence
September 2002: Music publishers for the late avant-garde composer John Cage sued musician Mike Batt for plagiarism after he included a silent song on his album. That’s right: silence. No music or vocals whatsoever. The publishers claimed that Batt’s song, entitled “A Minute’s Silence,” ripped off Cage’s “4’33″, which also contained no music or vocals. Despite the seeming insanity of copyrighting silence, Batt agreed to settle out of court by paying a six-figure amount.
14. Man Sues to Inherit the Money of the Mother He Killed
January 2008: In 1999, schizophrenic Joshua Hoge stabbed his mother and half-brother to death but was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Nine years later, as he sat in a mental hospital, he sued to inherit his mother’s estate, which included a $800,000 payment received from the state when a court ruled that a public-health clinic that failed to give Hoge his medication was partly responsible for the murders.
15. Mr. Frivolous Lawsuit
January 2006 – present: South Carolina inmate Jonathan Lee Riches has become a celebrity of sorts by filing more than 1,000 frivolous lawsuits while in jail. Some highlights:
- August 2007: Sued baseball player Barry Bonds for $42 million for, amongst other things, selling steroids to nuns, giving mustard gas to Saddam Hussien and bench-pressing Riches “to show off in front of his ball park buddies.” Hank Aaron’s bat, which Riches claimed Bonds used to crack the Liberty Bell, was also named as a defendant in the suit.
- September 2007: Sued Elvis Presley for stealing his sideburns, selling him tainted poultry and being in cahoots with Osama Bin Laden. Riches also claims that rap producer Suge Knight hung him from a Econo Lodge balcony with Vanilla Ice and that Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch harbors Hitler’s army.
- September 2007: Claiming that he is a model and actor who’s starred in movies like The Karate Kid, Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and the Paris Hilton sex tape, Riches sued rapper 50 Cent for $35 billion, charging that the musician stole his lyrics and forced him to harass ’80s groups Bananarama and Tears for Fears.
- And the piece de resistance: in March 2006, Riches sued 57 pages’ worth of defendants — including President George W. Bush, Pope Benedict XVI, Bill Gates, Queen Elizabeth, the Gambino crime family, Three Mile Island, Burt Reynolds, Google, the Salvation Army, the Wu-Tang Clan, the Magna Carta, “tsunami victims,” the Kremlin, Nostradamus, the Lincoln Memorial, Nordic gods, Pizza Hut, the European Union, the Methodist Church, Viagra, “ninja samurai fighters” and the planet Pluto — for an unspecified dollar amount for an unspecified civil rights offense.
In March 2008, the Northern District of Georgia made it difficult for Riches to file such frivolous lawsuits by requiring him to agree to be prosecuted for false statements before he submits, but that hasn’t stopped him from filing wacky suits in other districts across the country.