6 of the strangest lawsuits making headlines

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

Salt Snafu

Talk about pouring salt in a wound. A Grand Blanc, Mich. woman is suing Wal-Mart and Morton Salt after suffering an injury allegedly caused by a defective bag of salt. Judith Custer says she was shopping for a 40-pound bag of Morton salt rust-remover pellets at a local Wal-Mart when the bag’s handle snapped, causing her to hit herself in the right eye. As a result, she claims she suffered injuries including temporary loss of vision, a possible retinal tear and detachment and a partial vitreous detachment.

Custer and her husband Aaron say that Morton was negligent in manufacturing a defective bag, and that Wal-Mart employees mishandled the bag, causing it to tear more easily. The couple is seeking at least $25,000 in damages from the two companies.

Sammy Squabble

At first, it sounds like a sad but standard story about a pair of exes waging a bitter custody battle. But Scott Smith and Anna Camara aren’t fighting over a child—they’re fighting over custody of their dog’s website.

Smith’s 7-year-old Pomeranian, Sammy, rose to Internet fame last year when Smith and Camara launched “Sammy and the City,” a website featuring pictures and videos of the dog’s wanderings through New York City. Sammy’s exploits garnered 40,000 monthly website visitors, 51,000 Instagram followers and more than 10,000 Facebook and Twitter followers.

Unfortunately, Sammy’s fame outlived Smith and Camara’s relationship. When the couple split last year, they continued to work on the website together. But Smith says his ex-girlfriend recently changed the passwords, locking him out of the site. He’s now suing her for $500,000 in lost revenue, even though he acknowledges that “the site never made a penny.”

Airport Anguish

Between the luggage fees, security lines and flight delays, going to the airport can be a hassle for just about everyone. But one Miami woman had an especially bad trip when she reportedly lost part of her finger to an airport Smarte Carte. According to Fidelina Cordero’s lawsuit, she rented one of the luggage carts while traveling for Thanksgiving, when it “tipped over for unknown reasons, causing her to amputate the tip of her right index finger.”

Cordero is suing Smarte Carte Inc. for negligence, saying it “should have known that the luggage cart would tip over when operated on irregular surfaces.” She also claims that the cart was “devoid by design of any stabilization device,” and that it had inadequate warnings and usage instructions.

Faulty Fluids

A novelty beverage maker is suing several packaging companies, claiming that their errors rendered its popular products unfit even for the undead. Harcos Labs says that its Blood and Zombie Blood drinks, red and green fluids packaged in IV bags, initially “met with a phenomenal success” and “virtually flew off the shelves at such retailers at Hot Topic.” But in August 2010, customers began to complain that Zombie Blood tasted like yogurt and that Blood pouches smelled bad and spontaneously exploded.

Harcos says the defects arose when Power Brands Consultants added a protein to the drink mix during production, causing spoilage and leading to the “failure of the Blood and Zombie Blood products in the marketplace.” The company is suing Power Brands and several other manufacturers for unspecified damages.

Restaurant Row

In 2003, restaurant reviewer Matthew Evans fumed over the $50 entrees at a Sydney, Australia eatery. Little did he know that his publisher, John Fairfax Publications, could eventually shell out out much more than that in a subsequent defamation suit with the restaurant.

In a review in the Sydney Morning Herald, Evans blasted the ritzy restaurant Coco Roco, calling it “a bleak spot on the culinary landscape.” But Coco Roco was actually two restaurants: the upscale Coco, which Evans found unpalatable, and the more modest Roco, at which he never ate. Both restaurants shuttered in the wake of the review.

The restaurant’s owners sued the newspaper’s publisher for defamation, arguing that Evans had failed to distinguish between the two restaurants. An Australian court agreed, even though Evans’ review specified that he was only reviewing Coco. Now the two parties are fighting over damages, which a judge previously set at $80,000 per capita.

Banned Beer

First came “Five Wives” vodka. Now a Maryland brewery has landed in hot water for its purportedly offensive beer labels. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Flying Dog Brewery introduced a Belgian beer called “Raging Bitch,” advertising the brew as “Two inflammatory words…one wild drink.” It sold the beer in 27 states, but ran into some trouble in Michigan when the state’s Liquor Control Commission (LCC) initially refused to license the beverage, saying that the label was degrading to women and “detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the general public.”

The LCC eventually relented and licensed the beer, but Flying Dog still filed a federal lawsuit in the case, arguing that the commission had violated its First Amendment rights and caused it to lose revenue during the ban. Last week, Judge Robert Jonker decided the commission was immune to the lawsuit, as it serves “a judicial function.”

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