2019’s Top Outrageous Lawsuits

Another year of lawsuits and outrageous claims

Every new year brings its surprises and this year was no exception. At the end of every calendar year, The Chamber Institute for Legal Reform releases a list of the year’s most outrageous lawsuits. For 2019, the list ranged from a lip balm dispute to vegan butter to the worldwide video game sensation, Fortnite.

Vegan butter labeling causes problems

A group of trial lawyers recently filed a claim against Miyoko’s Creamery, a vegan cheese company located in Sonoma, California. One of their most popular products is a vegan butter spread. The female plaintiff is suing Miyoko’s for confusing labels on the vegan butter. The woman says the product isn’t real butter because of milk or dairy ingredients that the product supposedly doesn’t have.

Studies show that the majority of consumers understand the difference between vegan butter and normal butter. We expect she’ll be spread a little thin when this lawsuit is over.

Coffee shop sued for improper labels

Proposition 65 was a huge California lawsuit against 90 coffee companies. Jones Coffee Roasters in Pasadena, California, owned by Chuck Jones, was one of those companies. The suit claimed the companies failed to put labels on their coffee, explaining to consumers that they had been exposed to a chemical called acrylamide. Proposition 65 claims that coffee contains acrylamide and may cause cancer.

Several organizations have spoken out against these statements. The National Cancer Institute said that acrylamide does not cause cancer, and there is no evidence to suggest that it would.

In an attempt to settle, plaintiffs wanted Chuck’s profits from the previous 10 years. This would ultimately have put him out of business. However, in 2018, an agency in California exempted coffee from the Proposition 65 list just after a judge ruled that proper labels need to be on coffee cups warning consumers of chemicals.

Despite coffee’s removal from the Proposition 65 list, the lawsuit persists. This lawsuit has been going on for seven years now with no real end in sight. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent toward legal fees. This is money that Chuck won’t get back, and his business will never have.

Lawyers of NBA player try to take advantage of BP oil spill

Years after the BP oil spill catastrophe, former NBA basketball player David West and his lawyers thought they had found a clever loophole. West had a $45 million-dollar contract with the New Orleans Hornets that was about to expire in 2010 right when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded.

The settlement for the incident was set up for individuals who had reportedly earned less money after the rig exploded. West’s income was less in 2010 compared to 2009. He proposed that this was a result of the oil spill, which affected the level of tourism for the New Orleans area.

However, they found that the spill did not affect how much West earned. West’s contract was signed in 2003, granting him more money upfront. This meant that he would receive less money toward the end of his contract. The case was thrown out, justice was served, and now, David West can return home to work on his jump shot.

Scary lawsuit or scary poster?

New York City has been sued by a woman who fell down the steps of a New York subway station after seeing a poster for the popular television show Dexter. She said the poster was so frightening that it distracted her and caused her to lose her balance and fall down the stairway.

Local New York citizens were asked about the poster and agreed the claim was ridiculous. After five long years, the case was finally dismissed.

More labeling issues stump Godiva

Godiva has been sued by a Washington D.C. man for fraud. He apparently purchased $15,000 worth of chocolate. The man said the company asserts that they sell premium chocolate from Belgium and can thus charge higher prices. The company has many factories located in the United States despite being based in Belgium. The D.C. man requested $74,000 from the company for the false labeling of their Belgium products given so much of their chocolate is made in the United States.

Doctor serves as an expert witness with no answers

A group of trial lawyers put an “expert medical witness” on the courtroom stand. Their claims were against a popular multi-vitamin in a $600 million class-action lawsuit.

The witness claimed to be a forensic nutritionist. The lawyers wanted him to refute advertised claims about the multi-vitamin and make the case that the vitamin had absolutely no real health benefits. Their key witness stumbled on the stand and found it impossible to come up with actual evidence. The trial lawyers had a chance to make millions off the case in legal fees yet walked away with nothing of the sort.

Lawsuits and lip balm

Blistex is being sued by a woman for packaging deception. Blistex packaging states that their lip balm products contain 0.15 ounces of balm. A test revealed that, based on how the packaging was designed, about 11% of the balm gets stuck at the bottom of the container.

The woman was upset about having to use her fingers to dig out the rest of the product. Her lawyers are doing everything in their power to keep her lips from getting chapped.

Unfriendly lawsuit presented against Friendly’s ice cream

Friendly’s vanilla ice cream apparently contains more than just vanilla. Its ingredients also include annatto and turmeric from the achiote tree in South America to help add to the flavor, and a certain customer is not happy about it. The customer is claiming that the fact that the ice cream is just labeled as vanilla is misleading and deceiving. So, they’ve hired a team of lawyers to make things right and save the world from unwanted vanilla ingredients. Hopefully, the courts saved room for dessert.

Animal hospital sues dog owner for online review

After a Florida man’s dog was unable to get the medical attention it needed at a local animal hospital, the owner took action. The man wrote a very negative online review stating the hospital was responsible for his dog’s death. The animal hospital disagreed with the review and felt the need to take legal action to silence him. The man’s online post ended up costing him a $26,000 bill in legal defense costs.

Fortnite faces its biggest battle yet

In 2018, Fortnite allowed gamers to enter their own dance moves into an official Fortnite dance contest. A particular entrant quickly rose to the top, and after many petitions, his dance won.

Epic Games, which owns Fortnite, has been sued over ownership of this dance. The law firm filing the action has already taken action against Epic for previous dance moves used in Fortnite. However, Fortnite made it very clear that their contract allowed them to use dance moves from entrants without payment of any compensation. The Supreme Court recently paused the case. We will have to wait and see what lies in store for Fortnite and its gamers.

Protect yourself against frivolous lawsuits

Even frivolous lawsuits can result in tens of thousands of dollars in legal defense costs. If you have any questions about your coverage or would like to receive a quote, please contact us to discuss your options.

Source: Top 10 Most Ridiculous Lawsuits of 2019: U.S. Chamber.” Insurance Journal. December 18, 2019.
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