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Law&Crime Examines Craziest Lawsuits of 2017


We all know that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Therefore, we’ve scoured the Internet and court dockets in a number of states to compile what could be the craziest list of lawsuits filed or otherwise litigated in the 2017 calendar year.

While some of these cases have strong legal merit, and while we certainly neither wish harm on plaintiffs nor desire to make light of it, we here at Law&Crime think the facts and circumstances of these cases are beyond ordinary and therefore warrant inclusion in this list.

(12) Plaintiffs fight the makers of “Garden Veggie Straws” because the food doesn’t contain actual veggies.

Two New York men sued food manufacturer Hain Celestial Group in federal court after finding out that bags of “Garden Veggie Straws” don’t contain actual vegetables. At issue for the plaintiffs were photos of actual vegetables on the bag which depicted an actual potato, some actual spinach, and an actual tomato.

The lawsuit was said to argue that the bag did “not contain any of the actual vibrantly depicted vegetables,” according to this report from the New York Post. The suit accused the company of “misleading” customers “who consciously seek out healthy foods and snacks,” the Post noted.

The product’s actual ingredients are potato starch, corn starch, tomato paste, and spinach powder. One commentator called the lawsuit just one in a growing number of “courtroom food fights” over food ingredients.

The plaintiffs further claimed they were afraid the photos on the bags could surreptitiously dupe children into thinking they were eating healthy foods when, indeed, they arguably were not. In the manufacturer’s defense, the snack is said to contain 30% less fat than ordinary potato chips.

We at Law&Crime do enjoy salad bars, but we’ve never seen “Garden Veggie Straws” in a dish on ice at any of our favorite haunts.

(11) Jelly Belly gets sued because athletes wouldn’t expect to find sugar in so-called “Sport Beans.”

A California class action lawsuit argues that Jelly Belly pulled a fast one on a woman (and a class of others) by failing to list “sugar” as an ingredient in a product marketed as “Sport Beans.” Sports Beans are said to contain electrolytes, vitamins, and that old standby:  “evaporated cane juice.” Does that term really fool anybody? The plaintiff claimed it fooled her and argued that Jelly Belly was trying to get athletes to buy “Sport Beans” by sneakily failing to list sugar among the ingredients on the label.

The company responded that the plaintiff’s lawsuit was “nonsense.” It further said that “[n]o reasonable consumer could have been deceived” by the labeling, because “evaporated cane juice” is factored into the product’s sugar content on the nutritional facts panel.

The plaintiff claimed the company violated California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, False Advertising Law, and Unfair Business Practices Law.

The underlying legal issues are interesting. This case is said to be one of many concerning a May 2016 Food and Drug Administration determination that “evaporated cane juice” is, indeed, sugar. The FDA said that “sweeteners derived from sugar cane should not be declared on food labels as evaporated cane juice,” but the key word — “should” — means the opinion is “not binding.”

We athletes at Law&Crime are reminded of our youths. Our parents told us that sugar made us hyper and that we should run it off by doing fifty laps around our houses.

(10) Gun-toting Santa claims Facebook photo cost him his real-life job.

A Michigan man who works as a child protective services worker for the state Department of Health and Human Services is suing his employer in federal court because he says he got fired for dressing up as Santa Claus and posing with a rifle in a Facebook photo. That’s according to this report in the Detroit Free Press and this report on Courthouse News. The plaintiff, who apparently dresses up as Santa for charity events, claims he got a pink slip at the end of a year-long employment probation period because his boss didn’t like the photo.

The plaintiff, an army veteran, sued on accusations that three bosses and, therefore, the state violated his First Amendment right to free speech, his Second Amendment right to bear arms, and for discrimination (since he also has PTSD).

The photo was taken in the plaintiff’s own home. In the background, the plaintiff’s military medals and Christmas tree are visible. One of the bosses allegedly told co-workers to beware of the plaintiff “because he was a veteran, owned firearms, and ‘looked crazy’ in the picture,” the Press reported. Bosses reportedly told the plaintiff he was fired for bad grammar and for falling behind on case documentation, but the plaintiff claims others who did the same things didn’t get in trouble. He was finally told he was “emotionally unfit for the job,” the Press reported.

We at Law&Crime want to remind everyone that when it comes to Santa Claus, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness’ sake.

(9) Man trips over Christmas tree, sues landlord.

A 73-year-old New Jersey man sued the owners of an apartment complex in state court on accusations they negligently left a Christmas tree partially on a sidewalk, according to several local reports. The plaintiff claims he “suffered severe and permanent injuries, was disabled and disfigured, has suffered and will continue to suffer great pain and torment, both mental and physical” when he apparently tripped over the tree. He also claims he hasn’t been able to work or proceed with normal daily activities. The tree was apparently left out for trash collection.

(8) Woman slams into ladder while texting, gets huge jury award.

A Georgia woman sued after walking past a ladder at a shopping center several times. On the final pass, she slammed into the ladder while she was messing around on her phone. She actually won $161,000 after a jury trial. The jury found she was only 8% liable for her injuries, leaving the business she sued on the hook for 92% of the original $175,000 award.

The ladder was out while workers were replacing a sign at the shopping complex. The company the plaintiff sued originally offered her $5,000, which the plaintiff rejected. Even the plaintiff’s own lawyer was reportedly shocked at the amount of the verdict.

(7) One lawyer sues another lawyer after painful handshake.

One Florida lawyer sued another after claiming a “negligent handshake” left him “in pain for years” due to the tightness of the grasp, according to Florida court records reviewed by Law&Crime and the Sun-Sentinel. The 76-year-old plaintiff says he screamed “holy cow!” and admitted he probably wouldn’t have sued had the other lawyer merely apologized. The plaintiff described the handshake as “unexpected, unprovoked, uninvited, unauthorized, uncalled for, and most certainly negligent,” the newspaper reported. Apparently, the men had been friends for years and had shaken one another’s hands before.

The defendant denied that the handshake caused any injury.

The jury trial ended without the plaintiff getting a dime.

We at Law&Crime encourage the parties to greet one another in the future with a hearty . . . lukewarm smile and a slight nod of the head.

(6) Does woman make an a** of herself by suing after falling off a donkey?

A Florida woman sued a restaurant in state court after climbing onto a donkey statue, falling off, and fracturing her spine. Apparently, climbing on top of the statue is a popular patron pastime at the particular eating place. The plaintiff claimed the restaurant should have added safety features to the statue, such as, perhaps, steps, a ladder, or non-slip markings. She described the surface as “smooth and slick.” The plaintiff sought damages for $15,000. Loyal customers took to social media and launched a “For the Donkey” group to fight to keep the statue.

A Law&Crime look at the court record revealed that the case was dismissed with prejudice (which means the plaintiff can’t re-file it) less than a month after the plaintiff filed it.

(5) ‘Satanic’ lead singer sued for putting “darkness” into the lives of bandmates.

Former musicians with the Grammy-award-winning band “Ghost,” which styles itself as a satanic doom metal band, sued the band’s lead singer, publicly known as “Papa Emeritus” for his “greed” and “darkness,” according to this report and this analysis. The lead singer, whose real name is revealed in the lawsuit as Tobias Forge, “forced [band members] to clean his musty costumes, clashed with them while on tour and financially shortchanged them,” the lawsuit reportedly claimed. The band members, known as the “Nameless Ghouls,” were looking for compensation of $22,000. One plaintiff argued, perhaps poetically, that the lead singer carried “a darkness that pushes a person to betray his best friends when fame and fortune appear within reach.”

The lead singer claimed they “were only musicians for hire, and thus were never a crucial part of the band,” according to one analysis.

We at Law&Crime really want to characterize that response as a legitimate “burn,” but we’re not sure if a satanic band would consider that a bad thing or a good thing.

(4) Teen sues his mother for taking away his phone.

A 15-year-old in Spain sued his mother for “mistreatment” and even tried to get court officials to throw her in jail for nine months after she took away his phone. Apparently, the mother just wanted the boy to study. The case occurred in Almeria, which is in southern Spain. The judge ruled in favor of the mother, reportedly stating that she was “well within her rights” by disciplining the teenager. “She would not be a responsible mother if she allowed her son to be distracted by the mobile phone and fail to study,” the judge reportedly said.

We hope the teen wasn’t using a study app.

(3) Sports fan sues rival team for diminishing the value of his tickets.

A Texas plaintiff who is a die-hard fan of the San Antonio Spurs sued rival team the Golden State Warriors and Warriors player Zaza Pachulia in state court for on-the-court conduct against Spurs player Kawhi Leonard. The plaintiff claimed the defendants “devastated the quality of the Spurs’ chances” of winning games and, therefore, diminished the value of the plaintiff’s tickets.

How? The plaintiff claimed that “without excuse or justification,” Pachulia “intentionally and maliciously invaded the landing zone of an opposing athlete, Kawhi Leonard.” That move, the plaintiff claimed, caused further injury to Leonard’s ankle, which was already sprained. Leonard missed additional games after the aggravated injury. Indeed, the team’s head coach is quoted in the lawsuit as calling the play “dangerous,” “unsportsmanlike,” “just not what anybody does to anybody else,” and that the offending competitor had a reputation for doing it. However, the NBA did nothing to punish Pachulia.

The lawsuit named an individual and a local sports store as co-plaintiffs. It sought money damages, a temporary restraining order, and a temporary injunction. A judge refused to grant the restraining order according to reports, but as of December 2017, a Law&Crime review of an electronic court docket stated the case status as “pending.”

The lawsuit appears to argue that players of competitor teams have a duty to ticket-holders of home teams not to diminish the value of said season-holder’s tickets through moves that are “outside the rules of the game.” The suit further appears to argue that the memorabilia store’s business drops off when the local team doesn’t do well, and that visiting teams therefore owe a duty to play ‘clean’ basketball so as not to affect local memorabilia sales.

The plaintiff had floor seats for Spurs games and says he “has grown with the team throughout his life, modelling his own quest for personal and professional excellence and distinction as the team and organization have themselves also sought and attained the highest level of success, sportsmanship, and ethics.”

Read the lawsuit here.

(2) Man sues Uber for millions after he blames the app for his divorce.

A man in France sued Uber for a cab-stopping $48 million because he claimed the service ruined his marriage. The man argued that Uber’s app allowed his wife to see his travel itineraries. He said he used his wife’s phone to log into Uber. However, after he logged off, the app still relayed notifications on his whereabouts back to her phone.

The wife, apparently unhappy with what he was up to, subsequently divorced him.

The businessman asked Uber to fork over $45 million Euros, which is apparently about $48 million American dollars, in compensation.

We at Law&Crime are curious to know if the man took Lyft away from his home after his wife kicked him out.

(1) Man sues his date to recoup cost of movie ticket.

A plaintiff in Texas sued his date in small claims court for texting during a movie the two went to see (or, in her case, didn’t see?).

The 37-year-old man (who reportedly owns a communications company) asked for $17.31, the price of a ticket to see a 3-D showing of Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2. The woman he sued, who appeared to have been notified of the claim by a local reporter, exclaimed, “oh, my God . . . this is crazy!”

The man said he met the woman online and described his date as “kind of a first date from hell.” He said the woman started texting fifteen minutes into the movie, which he said was “one of [his] biggest pet peeves.” He said he asked his date to stop, but she refused. He said he then suggested she step outside to continue the conversation. She left and didn’t return, he said.

According to the local paper, the woman drove the man to the theater, which Law&Crime notes did indeed violate the inviolable rule of meeting people online and traveling together to a first date. Regardless, sadly — or hysterically — the woman’s departure ultimately left the man stuck at the theater without a ride. He later asked her to kindly reimburse him for the ticket, but she wouldn’t, he said. She said the man offered to take her out on a date, so she figured it was up to him to eat the cost of the ticket. (Apparently the man didn’t bother asking for the cost of an alternate ride home.)

The woman and the man dispute the number of times she was on her phone during the movie by a wide margin. The woman said she was texting a friend who was in turn fighting with her boyfriend.

The small claims petition said, “[w]hile damages sought are modest,” the “defendant’s behavior is a threat to civilized society.”


A local business owner apparently said he’s step in and pay for the movie ticket.

We at Law&Crime are engaged in a heated debate about whose dating life the lawsuit harmed the most.

[Image via Facebook.]

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Aaron Keller holds a juris doctor degree from the University of New Hampshire School of Law and a broadcast journalism degree from Syracuse University. He is a former anchor and executive producer for the Law&Crime Network and is now deputy editor-in-chief for the Law&Crime website. DISCLAIMER:  This website is for general informational purposes only. You should not rely on it for legal advice. Reading this site or interacting with the author via this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. This website is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney. Speak to a competent lawyer in your jurisdiction for legal advice and representation relevant to your situation.