...Recently I purchased an
Eveready pen flashlight. I was fascinated by the warning on the package: "If
swallowed, promptly see doctor; have doctor phone (202) 625-3333 collect."
When I read this, immediately a number of questions popped into my head:
1) How many people swallow pen flashlights?
2) How many of the people who swallow pen flashlights have saved the
packaging with the phone number and have access to it at the time they
swallow the flashlight?
3) Who is at the other end of that telephone number and what do they
advise if you swallow a pen flashlight?
It turns out that the phone number leads to the National Poison Center
and National Battery Center (you might want to copy it down and put in on
your fridge -  625-3333). The lady I spoke with informed me that to the
best of her recollection she didn't know of anyone who had swallowed a pen
flashlight, but if they did it would need to be removed - though there is
little to worry about leakage from the batteries.
I began to wonder why a reputable, respected company would put such a
seemingly ridiculous warning on their packaging. Then I received via email
an article about the Stella Awards. And if you ask, "What are the Stella
Awards?", I remind you of Stella Liebeck who collected $2.9 million dollars
from McDonalds for spilling hot coffee on herself. The Stella Awards are
given for the most frivolous lawsuits in the United States.
Here is a run down of contenders for the Stella Award:
- Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware who collected $12,000 from a night
club for knocking out two front teeth while falling from a bathroom window
to avoid a $3.50 cover charge for entering the club. The jury also awarded
her dental care to fix her teeth.
- Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania who was awarded $113,000 from
a Philadelphia restaurant when she slipped on a floor wet from a soft
drink and broke her tailbone. How did the floor get wet? She threw the
soft drink at her boyfriend (ex-boyfriend?) in a fit of anger 30 seconds
- Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas received $14,500 and medical
expenses from his jury for injuries on his glutimus maximus (the buttocks)
where he was bit by his neighbor's beagle. The beagle was chained in the
neighbor's fenced-in yard. The jury kept the monetary award to a minimum
since Jerry was provoking the dog immediately preceding the bite by
repeatedly shooting the dog with a pellet gun.
- Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pennsylvania received $500,000 for his 8
days of mental torment from being locked in a garage with only a case of
Pepsi and a bag of dog food to subsist on. It seems that after robbing the
home, he decided to escape through the garage, but couldn't get the garage
door up or get back into the house. The family was on vacation. (I wonder
if the award would have been less if it had been a case of Coke...)
- Kathleen Robertson of Austin Texas benefited $780,000 and medical
expenses for tripping over a toddler in a furniture store. It made no
difference that it was her own kid.
- Carl Truman of Los Angeles was compensated $74,000 and medical
expenses when his neighbor ran over Carl's hand with his Honda Accord.
Carl didn't know his neighbor was in the car when he started to steal the
- The winner, however, was Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City who bought a
new Winnebago Motor Home. While driving home on the freeway he engaged the
Cruise Control and then left the driver's seat to go back in to the motor
home to make a cup of coffee... He received $1,750,000 plus a new motor
home ... and an addendum in the Winnebago owner's manual advising owners
not to leave the wheel after engaging Cruise Control.
It could be that the people at Eveready Battery Company had heard about
the Stella Awards when they designed their packaging...
What does all of this mean to us? It is easy to laugh at the foibles,
irresponsibility and greed of others, but remember that when you point a
finger at someone three fingers point back to you. There is something deep
in our psyche that looks to place blame with others when really we should be
looking at our own behavior and our own personal responsibility.
The parents of a man who was found dead in a killer whale’s pool at Sea
World Orlando sued claiming the theme park caused his death by portraying
the dangerous 5-ton orca as safe and huggable.
Twenty-seven-year-old Daniel Dukes was found dead in the early morning hours
draped over the back of the largest killer whale in captivity. Dukes,
scratched and bruised, was clad only in his underwear. Authorities concluded
he suffered hypothermia and drowned.
Dukes, a drifter, was trespassing when he took a dip in the frigid cold 50
("Not a Whale of a Lawsuit," San Antonio
Express-News, Sept. 26, 1999)
("Seaworld Death a Puzzling Case," San Antonio Express-News, July 26)
Flaming Pop-Tart Becomes Burning Courtroom Issue
A New Jersey couple is suing the Kellogg Co., as well as appliance maker
Black & Decker Corp., for $100,000 in damages, alleging that a cherry
Pop-Tart they put in their toaster turned into a blowtorch and burned down
their house. The couple admitted to leaving their house while the Pop-Tart
was heating up, despite the warning label on the box advising against
leaving food unattended in the toaster.
(“From toaster to lawsuit”, The Philadelphia Inquirer, July 28, 2001)
The Case of Sand Box Situation
A sand box fight between a couple of three-year-olds has ended up with a
lawsuit and a restraining order to keep the two warring toddlers apart.
Boston attorney Howard Speicher, who is a neighbor of the child being sued
said, “this is something that really never should have left the playground.
It’s an incident that happens in every sandbox in the country, and somehow
people manage to deal with it every day."
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