It is estimated that at least 40 million lawsuits are filed in the United States alone every year, and the United States is only one of the 195 countries that exist today. There are times when people have dragged famous corporations into the court for really interesting reasons that are something we don’t often hear of. This list of ten such lawsuits will make an interesting read.
1. The Captain Crunch cereal company was sued by a woman because she believed that “crunch berries” were real fruit for four years and then found out that they were just cereal.
For four years, Janine Sugawara bought the Cap’N Crunch cereal as she thought that “crunch berries” were real fruit. Cap‘N Crunch is a cereal product that was introduced in 1963 and manufactured by the Quaker Oats Company since 2001. When Sugawara learned that these crunch berries were not berries at all and were just brightly colored cereal, she sued Captain Crunch citing that they had falsely advertised their product. She also brought claims of breach of warranty and fraud against the company under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act and California Unfair Competition Law.
The judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California dismissed Sugawara’s complaint on May 21, 2009, stating this:
“In this case . . . while the challenged packaging contains the word ‘berries,’ it does so only in conjunction with the descriptive term ‘crunch.’ This Court is not aware of, nor has Plaintiff alleged the existence of, any actual fruit referred to as a ‘crunch berry.’ Furthermore, the ‘crunchberries’ depicted on the box are round, crunchy, brightly-colored cereal balls, and the box clearly states both that the Product contains ’sweetened corn & oat cereal’ and that the cereal is ‘enlarged to show texture.’ Thus, a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the Product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist. . . . So far as this Court has been made aware, there is no such fruit growing in the wild or occurring naturally in any part of the world.”
2. A man who drank Red Bull for ten years sued the company for “false advertising” stating that he neither grew wings nor had any enhanced intellectual or athletic performance.
A very famous drink sold by an Austrian company Red Bull GmbH, Red Bull has the highest market share of any energy drink globally with 6.302 billion cans sold across the world as of 2017. Its famous slogan, “Red Bull gives you wings,” is figurative to most who see the ads, but one man, Benjamin Careathers, took it literally.
After ten years of drinking Red Bull, he filed a suit against the company for false advertising and said, that he “neither had wings nor any enhanced athletic or intellectual performance.” He alleged that the firm misled the consumers to earn millions of dollars and to rise above its competitors.
Red Bull, who did not want a trial that would cost it its reputation, settled the mattered out of court and offered a refund of $10 to any consumer in the United States who had purchased the drink since 2002 (an estimated 1.4 million customers that had to file a claim through a website—www.energydrinksettlement.com). It also promised to amend its advertisements. The settlement cost Red Bull GmbH 13 million dollars, with 6.5 million going to a fund through which the refunds were to be processed. (1, 2)
3. The inventor of intermittent windshield wipers, Robert Kearns, faced rejection from the auto industry when he tried to sell his idea. But when these wipers began showing up on new cars, he sued the manufacturers and won millions of dollars in settlements.
Thanks to Robert Kearns, we have intermittent windshield wipers on our cars today. Before Kearns took inspiration from an “eyelid that blinked” to create the wipers, there were only two settings the cars had, one for heavy rain and for light rain. When Kearns approached several companies from the automobile industry with his invention, they did not buy his idea. Then, his idea was translated into reality and began appearing on several cars. He first saw it on a Mercedes in 1976, and that is when it all began.
In 1993, Kearns filed a suit against General Motors after defeating Ford and Chrysler for infringing his patent. He won millions of dollars in settlements. Against Chrysler and General Motors, Kearns represented himself. He filed so many lawsuits after that against almost all auto companies that it became all that his children knew, and four of them began working for him full time, being able to draft legal papers without any formal training. Kearns spent his life defending an innovator’s idea, sparking a debate on the issue. A film Flash of Genius was made on his life in 2008. (1, 2)
4. A man named Jonathon Lee Riches got his name included in the Guinness World Records after having filed the highest number of lawsuits in the world. When he got to know about this, he sued the Guinness Book of World Records.
Since January 8, 2006, Jonathon Lee Riches has filed more than 2,600 lawsuits in various district courts of the United States. Many of these cases were in the media spotlight. Some of the famous defendants of his lawsuits include the former President of United States, George Bush, Martha Stewart, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, Steve Jobs, Britney Spear, and even the Somali pirates!
In May 2009, he filed a suit against the Guinness Book of World Records asking for an injunction. He wanted to stop them from listing him as “the most litigious individual in history.” When the spokesperson for Guinness said that they had no such plan and they did not have such a category, the case was dismissed.
Riches is a former prisoner who was incarcerated at Federal Medical Centre, Kentucky for wire fraud. (source)
5. A woman based in the United States sued WalMart for overcharging her for two cents. This was her fifth lawsuit against the Delmont store and she had won them all.
Mary Bach, a consumer activist, won about 100 dollars in damages and about 80 dollars in legal costs in her fifth suit against the WalMart store in Delmont. While shopping at the store, she picked up a package of Banquet Brown ‘N Serve sausages whose price was listed as 98 cents. But when the cashier charged her, it showed as one dollar on the receipt. This was the first time, so Bach pointed out the error and got a refund of two cents.
When she returned to the store and was charged extra once again, she filed a civil suit against WalMart. This was her fifth suit which she had won relating to the same issue of charging at the checkout counter more than what was written as the shelf price of the product. (source)
6. After claiming to have found a mouse in his can of Mountain Dew, a man tried to sue Pepsi. The lawyers for Pepsi defended the case by proving that a mouse would dissolve in the can after a few months, and so the claim was false.
Ronald Ball from Illinois sued PepsiCo for 50,000 dollars after he claimed to have found a mouse in his can of Mountain Dew. PepsiCo defended themselves by stating that the mouse would have dissolved turning into a jelly-like substance in 30 days, which meant that the man could not have found the mouse after 78 days of the sealing the can as it was scientifically impossible. The plaintiff questioned PepsiCo’s tests.
There is evidence that citrus soda can eat away bones and teeth in a matter of months, so it was possible that what PepsiCo said about the rodent was true as these drinks had a very low pH value of three which meant it was very acidic. Even though the 2009 suit was settled out of court in 2012, PepsiCo had a mark on its reputation as the dangers of consuming such sodas that came to light since it was accepted by PepsiCo itself through its defense in this case. (1, 2, 3)
7. A couple had already paid for the house they bought but Bank of America erroneously foreclosed on their house. They sued them and won, but when they didn’t get reimbursed for the court battle, they foreclosed on the bank.
When Warren and Maureen Nyerges bought a 2,700-square-foot foreclosed home in Naples, California in 2009, they had no idea that legal troubles would come their way. They paid Bank of America 165,000 dollars in cash when they bought the house, but four months later they received a notice from the bank of foreclosure. Warren then told the server, “You must have the wrong house. We bought a foreclosure and don’t have a mortgage.”
Warren, a 46-year-old retired police officer. called over 25 law firms and all of them refused to take his case until he found a lawyer named Todd Allen. Whenever he called the bank. all they told him was to come up to date with the payments. They won the case and the court ordered the Bank of America to pay the couple 2,534 dollars as costs in September 2010. But when in June 2011, Nyerges had not been paid, he sought permission from a judge to seize the assets of the bank. In the apology the bank made to the couple after paying up, they misspelled Warren’s name. (source)
8. Stella Liebeck sued McDonald’s after she spilled hot coffee onto her lap that left her with third-degree burns in 1994. She sued for 20,000 dollars, but the jury awarded her 2.7 million dollars as punitive damages which was reduced to 640,000 dollars by the judge.
Known as “the hot coffee lawsuit,” Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman, was awarded 2.7 million dollars (she received only 640,000 dollars later after the trial judge reduced the amount) in punitive damages from a New Mexico jury after she spilled hot coffee on her pelvic region. The coffee was purchased for 49 cents from McDonald’s, and she suffered third-degree burns on February 27, 1992. She had to be hospitalized for eight days as she underwent skin grafting and had to have two more years of medical treatment. Later on, the parties settled for an amount that was undisclosed to the public.
Liebeck’s lawyers argued that the coffee that was served by McDonald’s Albuquerque, New Mexico branch was too hot at 88-89°C, and was more highly likely to cause serious injury than the coffee that was served at other establishments. Many term this case as an example of frivolous litigation as it was Liebeck who held the coffee cup between her knees and pulled the lid off to add sugar and cream while she was sitting in her car. It was this that lead to the spilling of the coffee and the third-degree burns. (source)
9. A man was sent a letter with an offer of a credit card. He altered the terms of the credit card to include unlimited credit at 0% interest which the bank accepted without reading. When they tried to void his card, he sued the bank for not sticking to the terms of the contract and won.
Remember those emails you get with offers for a credit card you never asked for? Dmitry Argarkov got a letter with an offer like that in Russia from Tinkoff Credit Systems. But Argarkov did not like the terms. So he scanned the paper, altered the terms to include unlimited credit and 0% interest and sent it back to Tinkoff who did not read the amendments and signed the contract, sending him a credit card.
But then the bank sued Argarkov for 45,000 rubles for fees and charges for overdue payments that were not in Argarkov’s version of the contract. The judge of a Russian court found in Argarkov’s favor and asked him to pay only the actual amount he had spent which was 19,000 rubles. Argarkov went a step further and sued Tinkoff for breach of contract demanding 24 million rubles, but Tinkoff said that instead, he could be serving a prison sentence for fraud as it was a matter of principle. (source)
10. Hooters, a restaurant company offered its employees a chance to win a Toyota. The waitress who won was given a “toy Yoda” action figure instead as a prank. She sued and won enough money to chose whatever kind of Toyota she wanted.
Jode Berry was a 27-year-old when she was working as a waitress at the Panama City Beach Hooters and took part in a sales contest which had a Toyota as its prize in 2002. She was happy and believed that she had won the contest as she was escorted to the parking lot of the restaurant, blindfolded. Excited to have a look at her new car, Berry instead saw a toy Yoda action figure from Star Wars when her blindfold was taken off. It was meant to be an April Fool’s joke.
Infuriated, she sued Hooters and settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Her lawyer, David Noll, said that the amount was enough for her to go to a “local car dealership and pick out whatever type of Toyota she wants.” (source)