May it Please the Court:
Many stories are going around the ‘net saying they are “The Stella Awards”. Most of these stories are completely made up — you know, lies! It makes no sense to use false examples of real problems when there are so many true examples that illustrate the actual problem.
The sad part: despite these stories having been debunked years ago, they not only still circulate, but many reporters, columnists and radio “personalities” still talk about them as if they were true, which says a lot about their professionalism. In many outrageous cases, these lazy “news” people will even link to this site as the source of these silly lies! What a ridiculous lack of standards they have!
The most-common email example is the following, which the clerk has marked “Exhibit A”. I’ve received many, many copies of it over the last few years, and no doubt you have too. You’ll see what I mean by “bogus”.
- Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas, was awarded $780,000 by a jury after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running amuck inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving tyke was Ms. Robertson’s son. My Verdict: Fabricated.
- Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles won $74,000 and medical expenses when his neighbor ran his hand over with a Honda Accord. Mr. Truman apparently didn’t notice someone was at the wheel of the car whose hubcap he was trying to steal. My Verdict: Fabricated.
- Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Penn., was exiting a house he finished robbing by way of the garage. He was not able to get the garage door to go up because the automatic door opener was malfunctioning. He couldn’t re-enter the house because the door connecting the house and garage locked when he pulled it shut. The family was on vacation, so Mr. Dickson found himself locked in the garage for eight days. He subsisted on a case of Pepsi he found, and a large bag of dry dog food. Dickson sued the homeowner’s insurance claiming the situation caused him undue mental anguish. The jury agreed to the tune of half a million dollars and change. My Verdict: Fabricated.
- Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas, was awarded $14,500 and medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by his next door neighbor’s beagle. The beagle was on a chain in its owner’s fenced-in yard, as was Mr. Williams. The award was less than sought after because the jury felt the dog may have been provoked by Mr. Williams who, at the time, was shooting it repeatedly with a pellet gun. My Verdict: Fabricated.
- A Philadelphia restaurant was ordered to pay Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her coccyx. The beverage was on the floor because Ms. Carson threw it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument. My Verdict: Fabricated.
- Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware, successfully sued the owner of a nightclub in a neighboring city when she fell from the bathroom window to the floor and knocked out her two front teeth. This occurred while Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the window in the ladies room to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. She was awarded $12,000 and dental expenses. My Verdict: Fabricated.
- The “winner” every year: In November, Mr. Grazinski purchased a brand new 32 foot Winnebago motor home. On his first trip home, having joined the freeway, he set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the drivers seat to go into the back and make himself a cup of coffee. Not surprisingly, the Winnie left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Mr. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not advising him in the handbook that he could not actually do this. He was awarded $1,750,000 plus a new Winnebago. My Verdict: Fabricated — as if there was any doubt!
I believe the fabricated stories originated in 1994, as most versions mention Stella is “81 years old”. She was 81 in 1994, and 91 when she died in 2004.
No evidence to support these stories can be found, including by the leading urban legend debunker, Snopes.com. The bottom line: after all these years it’s completely ridiculous for individuals to be fooled by these cases, yet every year even “legitimate” newspapers run these very cases crying “Ain’t it awful?” — and sometimes they even attribute these old dumb jokes to this site, which shows just how poorly they do when it comes to fact-checking.
I’ve said it before, and will say it again: Truth is stranger than fiction. It makes no sense to use made-up stories to illustrate a real problem when there are real cases of lawsuit abuse going on all the time. And that’s what fills the True Stella Awards book.
StellaAwards.com, In Pro Per
Again, you can no longer subscribe to the True Stella Awards. But you can use the form below to subscribe to my This is True weekly newsletter: