Stella Award

...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 - [202] 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:

  1. 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.


  2. 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 before slipping...


  3. 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.


  4. 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...)


  5. 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.


  6. 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 hubcaps.


  7. 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.

By: Kalman Packouz

source of awards:

Doesn't Hold Water

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 degree water.

("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." - Judaism Online