A List of Hard-to-Believe Court Awards That Have Inspired the “Stella Awards”-Fiction!


Summary of eRumor:

This email lists seven alleged court decisions in various states in the U.S. that awarded large cash awards to people under apparently absurd circumstances, including occasions when they were responsible for their own injury or loss.  Later versions say these court cases have won the “Stella Award,” named after an elderly woman who won a large award from a lawsuit against McDonalds’s.

The Truth:

TruthOrFiction.com has checked court records and news archives for the cities mentioned, and have not found any documentation for any of these stories.

When this eRumor started circulating, we didn’t find anything that resembled the “Stella Awards,” but there is a group that has now started such an award at http://www.stellaawards.com.

The court case involving Stella Liebeck is true and is widely known because of it being the little old lady who got millions because of what seemed like a small incident.

She spilled hot coffee on herself after the drive-through at a McDonald’s in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
She was sitting in the passenger seat of her grandson’s car.
The spill caused severe burns over 6 percent of her body.
She spent a week in the hospital, underwent several skin drafts, and ended up with permanent scarring on 15 percent of her body.
According to the Washington State Trial Lawyer’s Association, Liebeck sued McDonalds only after the company refused to pay her medical expenses.
The WSTLA says her bills added up to $11,000, but McDonalds offered to pay only $800.
A mediator recommended a $250,000 settlement, which McDonald’s turned down.
One of the issues in the trial was that Liebeck’s lawyers said there had been several hundred similar cases that McDonald’s had ignored and that the company had refused to reduce the temperature of the coffee machines.
A jury gave Stella Liebeck $160,000 but also fined McDonald’s a punitive damage of $2.7 million.
A judge later reduced that amount to $480,000 then McDonald’s settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

1. January 2000:

Kathleen Robertson of Austin Texas was awarded $780,000
by a jury after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler
who was running inside a furniture store. The owners of
the store were understandably surprised at the verdict,
considering the misbehaving little bastard was
Ms. Robertson’s son.

2. June 1998:
A 19 year old Carl Truman of Los Angeles won $74,000 and
medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with
a Honda Accord. Mr. Truman apparently didn’t notice there
was someone at the wheel of the car, when he was trying to
steal his neighbor’s hubcaps.

3. October 1998:
A Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pennsylvania was leaving
a house he had just finished robbing by way of the garage.
He was not able to get the garage door to go up since the
automatic door opener was malfunctioning. He couldn’t
re-enter the house because the door connecting the house
and garage locked when he pulled it shut. The family was
on vacation. Mr.Dickson found himself locked in the garage
for eight days. He subsisted on a case of Pepsi he found,
and a large bag of dry dog food. He sued the homeowner’s
insurance claiming the situation caused him undue mental
anguish. The jury agreed to the tune of half a million

4. October 1999:
Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas was awarded $14,500
and medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by
his next door neighbor’s beagle. The beagle was on a chain
in it’s owner’s fenced-in yard. The award was less than
sought because the jury felt the dog might have been just
a little provoked at the time by Mr. Williams who was
shooting it repeatedly with a pellet gun.

5. May 2000:
A Philadelphia restaurant was ordered to pay Amber Carson
of Lancaster, Pennsylvania $113,500 after she slipped on a
soft drink and broke her coccyx. The beverage was on the
floor because Ms. Carson threw it at her boyfriend 30
seconds earlier during an argument.

6. December 1997:
Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware successfully sued the
owner of a night club in a neighboring city when she fell
from the bathroom window to the floor and knocked out her
two front teeth. This occurred while Ms Walton was trying
to sneak through the window in the ladies room to avoid
paying the $3.50 cover charge. She was awarded $12,000
and dental expenses.

7.  And the winner is:
Mr Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City.
In November 2000 Mr Grazinski purchased a brand new 32 foot
Winnebago motor home. On his first trip home, having joined
the freeway, he set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly
left the drivers seat to go into the back and make himself
a cup of coffee. Not surprisingly the Winnie left the
freeway, crashed and overturned. Mr Grazinski sued Winnebago
for not advising him in the handbook that he couldn’t actually
do this. He was awarded $1,750,000 plus a new Winnie. (Winnebago
actually changed their handbooks on the back of this court
case, just in case there are any other complete morons
buying their vehicles.)