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6 of the strangest lawsuits making headlines

The following lawsuits exemplify the lighter, and sometimes bizarre, side of the legal world.

Phillie Phanatic

Deservedly or not, Philadelphia sports fans have a reputation for being violent, loud and unruly, and their team mascots aren’t helping to change that impression. A woman has sued the Phillie Phanatic, the Philadelphia Phillies and a New Jersey hotel, after the mascot allegedly tossed her into the hotel’s swimming pool in July 2010.

Suzanne Peirce says she suffered numerous injuries to her “head, neck, back body, arms and legs, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and tissues” after the mascot picked up her lounge chair and threw her into the pool.

Unfortunately, Peirce couldn’t determine the identity of the costumed mascot: She is suing Tom Burgoyne and Matt Mehler—both of whom play the Phanatic—along with “any currently unknown or unnamed individual to play the role of the Phillie Phanatic.”

Shopping Spree

A Texas woman found the limits of Neiman Marcus’s famously generous return policy when she unsuccessfully tried to return $1.4 million in merchandise. Patricia Walker spent three years bedridden following a car accident, during which time her ex-husband Roger Tennison racked up astronomical bills at the luxury department store.

To make matters worse, Tennison’s shopping sprees were allegedly motivated by his illicit affair with Favi Lo, a Neiman Marcus personal shopper, who earned substantial commissions on the purchases. Walker’s suit claims that “Neiman Marcus had actual and/or constructive knowledge of Lo’s extramarital affair,” and that the store “directly profited from Lo’s deceit.”

Walker is seeking damages for fraud and breach of fiduciary duty.

Arby’s Agony

Kenneth DeJoie got more than just a hot lunch when he stopped at an Arby’s restaurant two years ago. The Colorado man claims that while he was using one of the restaurant’s urinals, a jet of hot steam abruptly shot out, scalding his genitals.

When he told employees of his plight, they reportedly said, “we have that bathroom problem again” and informed DeJoie that “this happens when the sink in the kitchen is running.” DeJoie is seeking damages for negligence, premises liability and loss of consortium.

Driver Discrimination

An aspiring racecar driver filed a discrimination suit against NASCAR, claiming that the racing association refused him a place in its “Drive for Diversity” program because he looked “too Caucasian." Michael Rodriguez—whose grandfather is Puerto Rican—was invited to the program in 2005 and 2006, but was never actually allowed to drive.

Rodriguez’s father claims that when his son tried to register, a program employee remarked that Michael “looks like the poster boy for the Ku Klux Klan.” NASCAR argues that Rodriguez was barred from the event because he was disoriented after hitting his head before the race.

The driver, now 22, sued NASCAR and Access Communications, which administered the program. One day after jury selection, Rodriguez settled with Access, after NASCAR was dismissed as a defendant.

Vindictive Vampire

Vampires are everywhere these days, from Bon Temps, La., to Forks, Wash. and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But a federal appeals court ruled this week that the ranks of the undead do not include Texas inmate Courtney Royal.

Royal—who is serving a life sentence for charges including aggravated assault, robbery and escape—filed a civil rights suit against prison officials two years ago, claiming that they would not let him practice religious beliefs related to vampirism.

In his suit, Royal claimed the exalted title “Vampsh Black Sheep League of Doom Gardamun Family Circle Master Vampire High Priest” and demanded a spiritual advisor, rugs, a black Bible and other religious items. Unfortunately for the aspiring Nosferatu, the 5th Circuit rejected his case as frivolous last week.

Dating Disaster

Online dating can be awkward in the best of cases, but it’s a rare date that ends in a $900,000 lawsuit. An Oregon jury awarded the hefty sum to a 49-year-old woman who contracted herpes after having unprotected sex with a 69-year-old retired dentist she met on eHarmony.

The anonymous plaintiff says she offered her date a condom, but that his “advance overtook her too quickly.” It was only after their sexual encounter that he told her he had herpes; two weeks later, she tested positive for the disease.

The man testified that he did not know he was contagious, as he was not having an active outbreak at the time, but a jury still ruled that his actions constituted battery.

Alanna Byrne

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