7 of the strangest lawsuits making headlines

A mock sword fight goes awry, two superheroes join forces and five more strange lawsuits in the news

Radiation Rumble

They say good fences make good neighbors. Unfortunately for Arthur Firstenberg, fences can’t keep out electromagnetic radiation. In 2010, Firstenberg sued his neighbor, Raphaela Monribot, for $1 million, claiming that her use of electronic equipment such as cellphones and wireless routers had caused him to suffer a disorder called electromagnetic stimulus (EMS) and forced him to leave his home. “Whenever I returned home, even for a few minutes, I felt the same sickness in my chest and my health was set back for days,” he claimed in court documents.

But when Firstenberg refused to submit to testing to examine his supposed pain, a district judge ruled that he had “failed to carry his burden of proof that the evidence he seeks to admit is scientifically reliable,” noting that several reliable studies have failed to prove any link between the electromagnetic radiation and EMS.

© Nottage Design

Tarnished Table

Scratching is never a good thing in billiards, especially when what you’re scratching isn’t the cue ball, but your $73,000 glass pool table. The owner of such a table is suing the maker, Nottage Design of Australia, claiming that his pricey purchase was “scuffed, scratched, damaged—essentially destroyed” after he played on it with standard pool balls.

According to the lawsuit, Nottage assured customers that the table’s finish was “inherently scratch-resistant, so scratching through normal usage does not occur.” But after buying the table, the owner received a stack of shipping papers that included “an inconspicuous bullet point on a sheet of paper in a thin sealed envelope” informing users that only custom pool balls should be used on the surface. The buyer claims that this amounted to hiding the information, and is seeking $219,000 for the alleged deception.

Sword Shard

A quest for some Middle Ages flavor turned unexpectedly authentic for two South Dakota newlyweds, when a mock sword fight at a Medieval Times dinner theater allegedly left one of them blind. Dustin Wiseman and his wife Melissa, who were on their honeymoon at the time, say they were watching the fight from the front row at the company’s Buena Park, Calif. location when a shard of metal from a titanium sword flew into Dustin’s eye.

According to the couple’s attorney, Wiseman has undergone at least three surgeries, but is still legally blind in his left eye. The pair is seeking $10 million from Medieval Times, arguing that it failed to properly protect its guests from injury.

© Chris Litherland

Prohibited Preaching

When you think of Bourbon Street, preaching isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, probably because a New Orleans city law restricts religious or political speech on the infamous avenue after dark. The year-old ordinance specifically bans anyone from spreading “any social, political or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise” and is ostensibly intended to help with crowd control and deter con artists.

But, following the arrests of several would-be redeemers last month, other preachers challenged the ban in court, claiming that it violates their First Amendment right to free speech. On Sept. 24, U.S. District Judge Eldon Fallon temporarily blocked the law, pending an Oct. 1 hearing.

Cartoon Conflict

Over the years, Batman and Spiderman have taken on a pantheon of adversaries, from the Joker and Bane to Doctor Octopus and the Green Goblin. But now the companies behind the two superheroes are teaming up to battle the “Kippa Man,” an Israeli vendor known for his yarmulkes, also called kippot. Avi Binyamin’s Jerusalem store attracts crowds of tourists looking to buy his colorful head coverings, but DC Comics and Marvel aren’t too pleased about skullcaps featuring the images of Batman and Spiderman.

Each of the companies is suing Binyamin for $25,500, claiming that his merchandise violates their intellectual property rights. But the vendor says that his products are made in China and that many other sellers tout similar kippot.

Sickening Sewage

On the list of things that can drag down property values, raw sewage has to be near the top. So perhaps it’s not surprising that residents of two Utah towns are suing a local sewer district over its production of “humanure,” hundreds of tons of human waste mixed with wood and grass clippings and left in piles to compost.  Although the Timpanagos Special Services Sewer District uses a special tarp designed to eliminate the offending smells, when the piles are uncovered, they release “substantial, noxious and foul odors through several miles of surrounding commercial and residential areas,” according to the lawsuit.

The residents of Pleasant Grove and American Fork say that the “humanure” has dragged down property values, “forced numerous persons to take sick days, closed entire offices and forced the cancellations of numerous meetings and events.” The towns estimate that the plant has caused property value loss and tax revenue of $75 million, and will result in cumulative future losses in excess of $350 million.

Quiz Question

Quick: According to the data security firm Imperva, what is the most common computer password? If you answered “password,” you would be wrong, just like Andrew and Patricia Murray, who are suing the now-defunct Fox game show that asked them the supposed trick question. The couple appeared in the first episode of “Million Dollar Money Drop” and wagered $580,000 on the above answer, only to learn that the correct response was “123456.”

According to the couple, however, Imperva’s data was based on its examination of only one hacking incident. “If the plaintiffs had known that the question was pertaining to a single, random incident…they would have hedged their bets and played differently,” their suit says. The Murrays are suing Fox Broadcasting Co. and several other production companies for $580,000 plus punitive damages, despite having signed a release that prevents them from suing the show.

Contributing Author

Alanna Byrne

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