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8 of the strangest lawsuits making headlines

Exploding toilets, a nasty class pet and six more strange lawsuits in the news

Legitimate Latino?

In an election year, some politicians will do almost anything to get into office. Now a political blogger is suing one candidate for allegedly using a Latino name on the ballot for political gain. Steven Chavez Lodge, a candidate for Anaheim City Council, was born Steven Albert Chavez, but changed his last name to Lodge when his mother married his stepfather.

Blogger Cynthia Ward says that he has only reverted to his birth name to curry favor with Latino voters. “He’s been known as Steve Lodge in a lot of the documents I’ve seen for years,” she said. “I’ve found him going by Steve Lodge from as far back as at least high school.” Ward wants a judge to decide if Lodge should be allowed to use the name “Chavez” on the ballot.

Gambling Goof

It wasn’t Lady Luck, but an unshuffled deck of cards that allowed 14 gamblers to win more than $1.5 million. Now the casino wants the card manufacturer to pay up. In April, the gamblers were playing a game of mini-baccarat at the Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City, N.J., when they realized that the same sequence of cards was being dealt over and over. The pattern continued for 41 hands, during which time the players upped their bets from $10 to $5,000 a hand.

The casino initially sued the players, saying that they had violated state gambling regulations that require all casino games to offer fair odds to both the house and the players. But a federal judge rejected this reasoning, and ordered the Golden Nugget to pay the group their winnings. Now, the casino has sued the card maker, Kansas City-based Gemaco Inc., which admitted that the cards were not properly preshuffled.

Pernicious Pet

Class pets are supposed to be cute and cuddly, or at least not violent. But that may not have been the case at one Indiana charter school, where a pet rat allegedly bit one student three times over the course of several months. Glenda Calhoun is suing the Xavier School of Excellence, claiming that the rat bit her son after a teacher told him to pick the pet up. The student’s catalogue of injuries from the latest bite includes “an infection due to the bite wound, torn tendon surgery, permanent injury and emotional damage.” His mother is also claiming unspecified damages for medical bills, emotional damage and “a loss of love and affection.”

Terrible Teeth

Oregon resident Devin Bost probably hoped that a decade of wearing braces would leave him with perfect teeth. But when his orthodontia was removed, the 22-year-old says many of his teeth were rotten through to the jaw, requiring extensive—and expensive—treatment. He is now suing his orthodontist, Brad Chvatal, for allegedly leaving the braces on for 11 years, far longer than average. Chvatal says that he only became licensed as an orthodontist in 2002, and that another dentist installed Bost’s braces.

Workout Wooer

People go to the gym to get a workout. But, according to a recent lawsuit, the owner of one New York fitness studio found another way of burning calories. Renee Linnell is suing her ex-boyfriend Billy Macagnone, founder of the Body Evolutions spa. Linnell claims that she invested $225,000 in the business at Macagnone’s urging, only to discover that his sex addiction was ruining the business. According to the lawsuit, Macagnone seduced trainers and clients before dumping them on Facebook, and took regular “naps to preserve his energy for those activities.” Macagnone denies the charges, claiming that Linnell is “romantically obsessed” with him.

Arresting Art

New York City will reportedly pay $15,000 to settle allegations that police officers treated a painted woman like, well, a painted woman. Last summer, model Zoe West was part of a body-painting exhibition in Times Square, which required her to disrobe and be covered in paint. Several police officers promptly intervened, arresting a still-naked West, and keeping her at the police station for two hours.

West’s lawyer, Ron Kuby, filed a false-arrest lawsuit against the city, maintaining that “public nudity is legal in New York City as long as it’s done for purposes of a performance, exhibition or show.” Now, the city will reportedly pay up to settle the case, proving that, in Kuby’s words, “The beauty of New York City is a naked girl can win a nice suit.”

Fried Feet

An Orlando man seeking accolades for his hairy chest says he suffered serious injuries to another part of his anatomy during a Carnival cruise ship contest. Kurt Gies claims that he was taking part in the cruise line’s hairiest man competition, which requires hirsute hopefuls to parade around on the ship’s deck. Gies says that standing barefoot on the hot surface caused painful burns and “serious and permanent scarring, disfigurement and embarrassment.”

He is suing the cruise line for damages and medical costs. But Carnival says that Gies never sought medical attention from ship doctors, and that “based on video evidence of the contest…several guests, including the plaintiff, were barefoot and do not exhibit any signs of distress during the video.”

Treacherous Toilets

The last place you need anything exploding is in the bathroom. So imagine the shock of hundreds of unsuspecting Americans whose toilets have exploded during use. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 304 toilets containing the Flushmate III Pressure-Assist Flushing System have burst, leaving 14 people with laceration and impact injuries. Now, a class of plaintiffs has reportedly filed a $5 million federal lawsuit against Flushmate owner Sloan Valve Co.

Although the toilet is subject to a recall, plaintiffs’ attorney David Birka-White says that customers simply receive a repair kit and are expected to fix the toilets themselves. “Even if it’s not leaking, what are you supposed to think of a toilet that has a propensity to blow up?” Birka-White said. “How comfortable can you be with a toilet like that in your home?”

Contributing Author

Alanna Byrne

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