7 of the strangest lawsuits making headlines

A nude beauty queen, Humphrey Bogart's coat and five more strange lawsuits in the news

Sorry Charlie...

Many have suffered the injustice of opening a bag of potato chips and finding a few measly crumbs inside, and it appears the problem is spreading. Three major tuna fish companies have agreed to pay $3.3 million to settle charges that they put more liquid than fish in their cans. Several California counties began investigating Starkist, Chicken of the Sea and Bumblebee when an employee at the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture became suspicious of their cans’ liquid to tuna ratio. In addition to paying each county $969,500, the companies will also dole out $300,000 in canned tuna to California food banks.

Testy Truckers

An Oregon truck repair business is suing an advertising company for erecting a billboard that’s offensive to the company’s customer base. But it’s not nudity or profanity that has these truckers ticked off—it’s the sign’s fancy lettering and pastel colors. Coast Truck Centers says that it has final approval on any billboards that Meadow Outdoor Advertising puts up on its land. But the ad company allegedly broke that agreement when it surreptitiously installed an ad for Bonneville Hot Springs Resort & Spa.

Coast Truck Centers says that the billboard’s promotion of “such a lavish, upscale and expensive resort,” combined with its purple hue and “artistic, cursive writing” offends its client base. Spa managers, however, are puzzled by the suit, saying that truckers regularly frequent the resort.

Medical Mishap

A New York family is suing a hospital for allegedly rejecting a man’s corpse because he was overweight. Engineer George Cardel wanted to donate his body to science, so when he suffered a fatal heart attack, officials at Long Island Jewish Medical Center say they tried to send his body to the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine at Hofstra University. But the university, and several other hospitals, rejected Cardel’s 300-pound body and returned him to relatives after 13 days. His family is now seeking $2 million for “grave humiliation.”

Perturbed Prisoner

A former inmate is suing Vermont’s prison system, claiming that it violated the 13th Amendment’s ban on slavery. Finbar McGarry was arrested in December 2008 for aggravated domestic assault. The charges were eventually dropped, but in the interim, McGarry says, he was forced to work long hours in the prison laundry for $0.25 an hour. Although the 13th Amendment does not apply to prison work, the former prisoner argues that his labor constituted forced servitude, as he had not been convicted of a crime. He is seeking $11 million in damages.

Risqué Raid

Last November, Los Angeles County police officers stormed in on former beauty queen Caleche Ranae Manos as she and her fiancé slept and ordered her out of bed, nude, before realizing they were in the wrong apartment. Caleche Ranae Manos, Miss Nevada 2007, says the deputies watched as she got out of bed, questioned her and fiancé Eric Ryder at gunpoint and treated them “in a rough and rude fashion.” When cops realized that their search warrant was for apartment C, not apartment A, they joked that Manos would “have a story to tell” at Thanksgiving dinner. The couple is now suing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office for negligence, false imprisonment, sexual harassment, discrimination and civil rights violations.

Burberry v. Bogart

Burberry Group Plc. is backing down from a fight involving one of Hollywood’s legendary tough guys. Earlier this year, the British luxury goods company sued the heirs of Humphrey Bogart, who were angry about an ad featuring the actor clad in a Burberry trench coat in the film “Casablanca.”  Burberry said that it had licensed the image from a photo provider to show the brand’s historical influence, and it asked a federal judge to declare that the advertisement did not infringe Bogart’s trademark and publicity rights.

Bogie’s estate fired back with its own lawsuit, alleging, among other things, trademark infringement and misappropriation of publicity rights. Last week, Burberry agreed to drop its suit.


Classroom Catastrophe

Plenty of high schoolers would be happy with a C+ in chemistry, but not 17-year-old Bowen Bethards. The student’s family is suing the Albany Unified School District, claiming that his former teacher tried to tank his academic future after he missed a science lab. Bethards says he told teacher Peggy Carlock that he had to miss class to attend an adoption hearing for his younger sister. Carlock allegedly told him that he could make up the lab, only to change her mind later and fail him, dropping his grade from an A+ to a C+.

According to Bethard’s suit, the low grade could jeopardize his chances of being accepted to a prestigious pre-med program. His mother is seeking $10,000 in damages and has requested that the school raise his grade.

Alanna Byrne

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