3 Outrageous Personal Injury Lawsuits

There are lawsuits that can be classed as frivolous and then there are those cases that go a step beyond.  Some of these cases are so absurdly ridiculous that you just have to laugh when you hear the details.  The amusing fact is that people will go to great lengths to make a million or two.  Here are a few comical cases that you won’t believe.

1. The Coffee Conundrum

Perhaps one of the most publicized lawsuits in recent history was levied against McDonald’s restaurant in 1994.  The accusation came from an elderly woman, Stella Lieback, who was burned by a coffee she purchased from the fast food chain.  Originally, Lieback sought $20,000 in damages.  And the hamburger giant did, in fact, serve coffee a few degrees hotter than the average brew.  However, McDonald’s made a mistake by refusing to settle out of court.  Lieback was eventually awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages but that amount was reduced to $160,000 because it was determined that she was 20% responsible for the incident.  That’s not where it ended though.  Eventually, Lieback received 2.7 million in punitive damages.

2. Thumbs Down

Newmark Realty and 40 Worth Associates was sued for negligence by a New York City claims examiner, Cedrick Makara.   Apparently, Makara was using a bathroom that didn’t have a doorknob.  He claims that when he tried to open the door to exit another patron pushed the door open at the same time, injuring his thumb.  He also claimed that the injury was so serious that it cost him six months of missed work and that it required surgery.  The jury sided with Makara and awarded him $3 million dollars as well as $750,000 for his wife.

3. It’s a Steal

Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pennsylvania was a thief by trade.  Upon burglarizing a house one particular evening he became trapped.  Apparently, the garage door he attempted to use as an exit did not function properly.  He then tried to escape through another door, but that one was faulty as well.  Dickson was trapped in the house for eight days only eating dry dog food and Pepsi.   Dickson sued the homeowners for much mental anguish.  A jury awarded him $500,000 for his trouble.

Just because people will do almost anything to get a huge settlement doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea.  These cases are funny to hear about on the news but it’s important to remember that what is not reported is that ultra-frivolous cases don’t usually make it past the appeals process.  And they can be costly affairs for the plaintiff.

Guest contributor Kevin Krist is a Houston personal injury attorney. A Doogie Howser of the law, Kevin has been practicing law since he was 22 years old and is known in his parts to be one of the best and brightest personal injury trial attorneys around. And he blogs at his Personal Injury Blog!

Post image via Shutterstock.

Guest posts at Bitter Lawyer are often filed under the name of Bitter Contributor. You too can become a contributor, though we are fairly picky. Find out how.


  1. Daniel Kuhn

    November 15, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Wow, Bitter Lawyer, epic fail.

    First, the Stella case… You claim she “eventually” received $2.7 million? False. The damages were appealed (by both sides) and eventually, she settled out of court for less than $600,000 total. You also neglect to mention that, before her case, McDonalds had received over 500 complaints of people being burned by hot coffee, and had been told by their own internal documents that their coffee was (1) too hot for immediate consumption, but (2) was being immediately consumed by many customers. In fact, they previously settled many claims for amounts up to $500,000. Liebeck had over a year of medical treatment, including painful and expensive skin grafts. I’m a defense attorney, and even I think McDonalds screwed that one up royally. Hardly “frivolous”.

    Second, the Makara case was likely cut WAY down on appeal, and as far as his medical bills – he needed surgery. Is the cost of surgery somehow “frivolous”? The bills are what they are, and frankly, not out of line for what he’d receive if he’d filed this as a Workers’ Comp case.

    But that’s not the worst one in your column. The worst one is that #3, Terrance Dickson, IS AN OUTRIGHT MYTH. It’s not a real lawsuit, it’s an urban legend. Can’t you be bothered to check Snopes before you write? Source: http://www.snopes.com/legal/lawsuits.asp

    Next time you get a “Doogie Howser” to write a piece, make sure he’s a real legal eagle, and not just playing one on TV.

    • Max Kuhn

      November 15, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      I didn’t see this reply before writing my comment. Funny how we both noticed this was on Snopes, and we’ve got the same last name.

  2. Michael J. Walsh

    November 15, 2012 at 10:28 am

    The Terrence Dickson story is a well-publicized and long-debunked hoax, and Stella’s case was meritorious. The only thing outrageous about it was how much the jury gave her – a problem that the judge fixed post-trial.


  3. Max Kuhn

    November 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    In the first case (Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants), the coffee wasn’t “a few degrees hotter than the average brew,” it was almost 200 degrees compared to the 140-160 degrees at which coffee is usually served. The plaintiff had to spend over a week in the hospital for third-degree burns and received skin grafts.

    The third “case” is actually taken from a chain email. It never happened.

    See item #3 on the Snopes page: http://www.snopes.com/legal/lawsuits.asp

  4. Brielle

    November 15, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I have been researching personal injuries for my law class. These are three that have come up a few times. I just think the last one is actually kind of funny. It stinks that people would sue others for that much money though. But I guess it happens. When I talk to a Philadelphia personal injury lawyer for my class I will bring these three situations up and get their perspective on it. Thanks so much for sharing this post!

  5. Richard Hunter Carlisle 2

    November 15, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    A Doogie Howser of the law, Kevin has been practicing law since he was 22 years old and is known in his parts to be one of the best and brightest personal injury trial attorneys around.


    • Sam Glover

      November 15, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      Wait, can you be “a Doogie Howser of the law” with “more than 25 years of experience?” I thought the whole thing about Doogie Howser was the fact that he was so young.

      • Keith Lee

        November 15, 2012 at 1:36 pm

        Wait Sam, I’m confused.

        You’re ridiculing a “guest post” on . . . a site you own? Do you not exert some sort of editorial control over what is put up here?

        • Sam Glover

          November 16, 2012 at 10:19 am

          I’m not the EIC here, but if I were in his shoes, I might have posted this, too. It’s hilarious.

      • Bitter Editor

        November 15, 2012 at 1:46 pm

        Well, Doogie eventually got older, right? But he was still Doogie. The point here is that Doogie was doctoring at a very young age. Likewise, Mr. Krist started lawyering at a young age: 22. For most lawyers it takes several years after college to figure out that they don’t know what to do with their lives and therefore should go to law school. And sure, Doogie had just gone through puberty when he started performing brain surgery, but whatever. The similarities are there. More or less.

        • Ashley Casas

          November 19, 2012 at 12:26 pm

          I enjoyed the comments section than the post itself.

  6. Bitter Editor

    November 15, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Our elite team of unpaid interns are investigating this matter. A hearing is scheduled for later this afternoon and our findings will be published soon thereafter.

    Until then, check out our comics from Albert Wang! They’re intended to be funny. And distracting (hopefully). http://www.bitterlawyer.com/author/albertwang/

    • Keith Lee

      November 15, 2012 at 2:06 pm


      “Hey guys! We screwed up bad! Uh….look at this shiny thing over here!”

      • Bitter Editor

        November 15, 2012 at 11:27 pm

        How dare you suggest such a thing! The nerve!

  7. Mark W. Bennett

    November 15, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Kevin Krist? Never heard of him, but this post looks like the kind of “guest blog post” that real blogs are offered every day. I’m betting that Krist didn’t write it, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t responsible for it.

    • Dan

      November 15, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      He is so good his website has THREE pictures of him on the front page:


      • Mark W. Bennett

        November 15, 2012 at 2:16 pm


        • Jordan Foster

          November 20, 2012 at 1:48 pm

          Not only four pictures, but all very cliche attorney pics: (1) picture with open book, plus reading glasses and pen in hand; (2) picture with law books in background; (3) picture with Lincoln in background.

  8. Eric T.

    November 15, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    I can’t believe you turned your blog over to this “guest” for this crap.

  9. Max Kennerly

    November 16, 2012 at 6:39 am

    Hey Kevin,

    Do you tell your personal injury clients that you like to repeat insurance company lies on the internet? That you are part of the problem for your clients, not the solution?

  10. angela_harry

    November 20, 2012 at 3:17 am

    I’ve been searching the net about this information. I am glad to finally found this in your blog. I need this information for the case of my son. I am thankful to your blog for posting an article about this.

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