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Thursday, August 13 Front Page >> Random Rants >> Lawsuit Loonies

Aug 10, 2002, 2:10pm

These days, I'm offering free consulting to a couple of friends of mine about a product that they are thinking about importing - a product I convinced them would be a good thing to import and sell. It's a coffee roaster called, appropriately enough, the HotTop.

It gets bloody hot. After all, coffee is roasted at 450F, and this bad boy does that temp and then some.

About 25 of the units are in country now, and there's a large beta test group evaluating the product. The big problem is, a couple of people have already burned themselves on it. No one has threatened a lawsuit, but it's showing that the potential for a lawsuit exists - because after all, the roaster is going to be primarily sold in the US, and in the US, there are many folks who would happily sue someone else for their own mistakes, accidents, or outright stupidity.

Check out

Scary stuff. Here's a couple that really stand out:

Work-A-Day Grind
A Florida phone sex operator won a workers’ compensation settlement claiming she was injured after regularly pleasing herself at work. According to Reuters and ABC News, (Nov. 19) the 40-year-old employee developed carpal tunnel syndrome – also known as repetitive motion injury—in both hands from giving herself an orgasm as many as seven times a day while speaking with callers.

and then there is:

Late Night Hit
Can a direct hit by a T-shirt cause $25,000 in damages? Stewart Gregory of Cincinnati, Ohio, is suing NBC, the “Tonight Show” and host Jay Leno, saying he was “battered” and “forcefully struck” in the face on September 11, 1998 when the warm-up comic who preceded Leno on the show blasted a freebie T-shirt into the audience with an airgun. Gregory claimed he was hit in the eye by the T-shirt, traveling at a near supersonic 800 feet per second.

Gregory, who is representing himself without a lawyer, seeks damages in excess of $25,000 for his “pain and suffering, disability, lost wages, emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment”. He is also seeking punitive damages. (Salon has a story on it)

Parenthetically, 800 feet per second is 545 miles per hour, the speed of a jetliner. Experts say a “hard object” the size of a T-shirt traveling at 800 feet per second would have done a lot more than injure his eye, it would have torn his head off.

Here's another, and a scary one too - an evil pickle?

Haunted by Lawsuits
(London and Tennessee). Six years after the famous McDonalds “hot coffee lawsuit” made the U.S. civil justice system the laughingstock of the world, McDonalds has remained a favorite target of lawsuits over food mishaps. In London, several McDonalds customers are suing over hot coffee, hot tea and even hot water. In Tennessee, it was a pickle that did the damage, as a woman and her husband sued the restaurant for $125,000 after a hot pickle from a hamburger fell on her chin. The husband is demanding $15,000 for “loss of consortium”. In other words, the abrasion from the hot pickle put their love life in a deep freeze.

And the Evil PopTart (this one especially focuses on someone not taking the blame for their own stupidity):

Pop Goes The Lawsuit
The Kellogg's Pop-Tart box warns consumers not to "leave the toaster appliance unattended due to possible risk of fire."

Brenda Hurff of Washington Township, NJ didn't heed that commonsense advice when she popped a cherry Pop-Tart into her pop-up toaster in early July and then left the house to drive her children to school. She returned home 10 to 20 minutes later to smoke pouring out of the house and firefighters already on the scene. The cause of the $100,000 fire was listed as "unattended food."

Hurff doesn't think the fire is her fault, so she and her husband have filed a lawsuit against Kellogg's and Black & Decker, the maker of the toaster, asking $100,000. "I never thought a Pop-Tart could turn into a blowtorch," their lawyer, Mauro C. Casci, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Did it pop? Did it not pop? Who knows?"

"Pop-Tarts are safe and do not cause fires," said a Kellogg's spokesman. "Pop-Tarts have been marketed since 1964; they have been thoroughly tested and are safe to toast and eat."

Local fire chief John Hoffman isn't surprised that a Pop-Tart caused a fire, and most five-year-olds probably wouldn't be either. "Go get a Pop-Tart and try it yourself," said Hoffman, "just do it safely."

Of course, Americans aren't the only ones who practice stupid lawsuit games. They just seem to ask for the most money. But citizens in other countries want to get in on the act too. Fortunately, the courts in those countries tend to turn down the frivolous lawsuits more often.:

One Fatty Lawsuit
A man in Germany has sued his butcher for ₤790, after alleging that a fatty meat product prohibited him from kissing.

Sixty-two year old, "Josef M." sued his butcher for selling him a bratwurst that burned his mouth and throat after exploding as he bit into the sausage. Josef claims, that as he took a bite of the meat, hot fat squirted into his mouth and burnt the inside of his throat.

According to Josef, he had to seek hospital treatment and continued to suffer in discomfort for weeks. "I couldn't kiss for four weeks, the sausage was just too fatty," he said.

The court, realizing the silliness in the elderly Casanovas allegations, turned down the claim.

and there's this gem, from my own backyard.

‘Reckless’ Stripper Breaks Patron’s Nose
A Canadian man has filed suit in British Columbia Supreme Court against a strip club in Vancouver, B.C., after being kicked in the head by an exotic dancer. Calling the performance reckless, Greg Bonnett is seeking unspecified damages from both the dancer and the club.

The club’s management was negligent in failing to post prominent signs warning of the risk of sitting too close to the stage, Bonnett alleges. The dancer, identified only as “Jane Doe,” performed a “reckless and negligent” dance routine, in which she swung around a pole, catching Bonnett in the face with her foot and breaking his nose, according to his suit.

Note, I recall this case being thrown out.

Sigh... I worry about my buddies at Baratza with the HotTop roaster :(

3 comments | reply

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