May it Please the Court:
Unlike the fake cases that have been highly circulated online for years, the following cases have been researched from public sources and are confirmed true by the only legitimate source for the Stella Awards: StellaAwards.com.
The 2004 True Stella Awards Winners
by Randy Cassingham
Issued 31 January 2005
- The Tribune Co. of Chicago, Ill. The newspaper chain owns several newspapers, as well as the Chicago Cubs baseball team. One of its newspaper carriers was Mark Guthrie, 43, of Connecticut. One of its ball players was Mark Guthrie, 38, of Illinois. The company’s payroll department mixed the two up, putting the ballplayer’s paycheck into the paper carrier’s bank account. The carrier allowed them to take back 90 percent of the improperly paid salary, and said they could have the rest after they gave him a full accounting to ensure he not only got his own pay, but wouldn’t have any tax problems for being paid $300,000(!) extra. The Tribune Co., rather than provide that reasonable assurance, instead sued him for the rest of the money.
- “High Tech” retailer Sharper Image sells a lot of its “Ionic Breeze” air filters. As part of a comparative review of many air filters, Consumer Reports magazine found the “Ionic” unit was the worst performer. SI complained, saying it didn’t do a “fair” test. CU asked what sort of test should be done, but SI never replied — until it sued CU. A federal judge ruled the suit not only had no merit, but was actually an illegal attempt to squelch public discussion. SI was ordered to pay CU $400,000 to cover its legal defense costs.
- Edith Morgan, mother of Kansas City Chiefs football star Derrick Thomas, who died after being thrown from his SUV in a crash while speeding in a snowstorm. Morgan said Thomas’s neck was broken because the SUV’s roof collapsed a few inches — not from rolling down the highway because he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt — and sued General Motors. Her lawyer begged jurors to award more than $100 million in damages, perhaps more — he “did not want to put an upper limit on it.” GM pointed out that Thomas’s oversize SUV was exempt from federal roof crush standards, yet it met them anyway. The jury sent a message: of that $100 million, it awarded Morgan …nothing.
- Tanisha Torres of Wyndanch, N.Y. The woman sued Radio Shack for misspelling her town as “Crimedanch” on her cell phone bill. She didn’t even ask them to change it; she just sued. “I’m not a criminal,” she whined. “My son plays on the high school football team.” Yeah, that makes sense. The name “Crimedanch” is a common joke; police in the area confirm it’s a high-crime area. Still, Torres claimed she suffered “outrage” and “embarrassment” at having to see that spelling on her private phone bill. The suit seeks unspecified damages.
- Homecomings Financial, a subsidiary of GMAC Financial Services, which is a division of General Motors. The finance company accepted a change of address notice from identity thieves for the account belonging to Robert and Suzanne Korinke. The thieves ran up a $142,000 debt, and the Korinkes notified Homecomings of the fraud the moment they discovered it. Homecomings sued them two years later, saying the couple’s “negligence” is what “caused the injury to Homecomings,” not the fact that the company accepted a change of address from fraudsters — and then gave them all the money they could drain. The victims got the company to drop the suit, which demanded $74,000 plus attorney’s fees, after shelling out $5,000 in legal fees — an outcome the couple’s lawyer called “really lucky”.
- And the winner of the 2004 True Stella Award: Mary Ubaudi of Madison County, Ill. Ubaudi was a passenger in a car that got into a wreck. She put most of the blame on the deepest pocket available: Mazda Motors, who made the car she was riding in. Ubaudi demands “in excess of $150,000” from the automaker, claiming it “failed to provide instructions regarding the safe and proper use of a seatbelt.” One hopes Mazda’s attorneys make her swear in court that she has never before worn a seatbelt, has never flown on an airliner, and that she’s too stupid to figure out how to fasten a seatbelt.
StellaAwards.com, In Pro Per
Note: The capsule summaries above are just that — very brief summaries of significantly longer case writeups included in my book.
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