7 of the strangest lawsuits making headlines

A sexy Big Bird costume, an “incredibly ugly” baby and five more of the strangest lawsuits in the news

Ersatz Earrings

All that glitters is not gold, at least not at Macy’s Inc., according to a federal class action lawsuit that accuses the retailer of falsely advertising its jewelry. Natalya Barsukova filed the suit, claiming that she purchased a pair of $129 Macy’s earrings that were labeled “fine gold.” When the earrings later became tarnished, she took them to a jeweler, who informed her that they were actually sterling silver coated in gold alloy. Barsukova argues that Macy’s advertising violates Federal Trade Commission rules; she is seeking punitive damages as well as refunds for customers who bought “gold” or “fine gold” jewelry that was actually made of sterling silver.

Contaminated Coke

A Kansas City woman is suing a store that sold her Coca-Cola with an unexpected additive. The good news: It wasn’t a suspected carcinogen. The bad news: It was a laxative. According to authorities, an assistant manager at a Family Dollar store tried to play a prank on a fellow employee known for stealing food by putting 25 laxative tablets into two Coca-Cola bottles and leaving them in the employee refrigerator.

The plan went awry when the coworker noticed the tampering and moved the bottles into a customer cooler. When Nelson drank the contaminated Coke, she allegedly suffered “violent consequences” and “severe mental and physical injuries.” She is suing Family Dollar Stores Inc. for negligence, seeking actual damages in excess of $25,000.

Sexy Sesame Street

As if Big Bird didn’t have enough to worry about after the first presidential debate, the oversized avian is now at the center of a legal battle between Sesame Street Workshop and the makers of a sexy Big Bird Halloween costume. Online retailer Yandy.com’s “Exclusive Yellow Dress and Stockings” costume consists of a short yellow dress, thigh-high stockings and Big Bird feet, which customers can wear with a licensed Big Bird headband.

But although customers may be clamoring for the dress, Sesame Street representatives have sent a cease-and-desist letter to the website “demanding that they stop producing and selling these (obvious) imitations,” according to a company official.

Peeved Parents

Many people find yoga relaxing, but some school-sponsored yoga classes are having the opposite effect on a group of California parents, who claim that the lessons constitute religious indoctrination.

The classes, at the Encinitas Union School District in Encinitas, Ca., are the result of a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes Ashtanga yoga. A lawyer for the angry parents contends that the foundation is an “evangelic yoga foundation” and that yoga has connections to “eastern mysticism and Hinduism.” The parents have threatened to sue the school unless it puts an end to the classes, but a district superintendent argues that “yoga is part of our mainstream culture” and that the lessons have no religious meaning.

Dangerous Delivery

Childbirth is notoriously unpleasant, as is catching on fire. One Minnesota woman was unlucky enough to experience both simultaneously, and she sued both the hospital and her obstetrician in the wake of her ordeal. Kira Reed was undergoing a cesarean section in March 2010 when a surgical tool apparently ignited the alcohol-based DuraPrep antiseptic on her skin, causing her abdomen to catch fire.

Reed did not sue 3M Co., which manufactures DuraPrep, as the company had previously warned hospitals that the solution could be flammable until allowed to dry. Instead, she filed a malpractice suit against Crouse Hospital and Dr. Stephen Brown. She reached an out-of-court settlement with the hospital, but this week a jury found that Brown was not liable, as he was not responsible for prepping Reed before surgery.

Physicist’s Physique

Albert Einstein’s brain has attracted interest for years, but the rest of his anatomy is generally ignored. That is, until General Motors (GM) released a 2009 ad featuring the physicist’s face superimposed onto a buff body, with the caption “Ideas are sexy too.”

The ad was probably disturbing to anyone with the power of sight, but it especially offended the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a beneficiary in Einstein’s will which purports to control his publicity rights. The university sued GM, arguing that it had no right to use the famous scientist’s image. But a U.S. judge found earlier this month that although the ad was “tasteless,” it wasn’t illegal. Judge Howard Matz said in his ruling that “the obviously humorous ad…having been published 55 years or more after Einstein’s death, it is unlikely that any viewer of it could reasonably infer that Einstein…was endorsing the GMC Terrain.”

Horrified Husband

‘Til death (or excessive plastic surgery) do us part? Apparently that was the subtext when Chinese citizen Jian Feng married his wife. The couple’s wedded bliss came to an end following the birth of their first child, who, according to Jian, was “incredibly ugly, to the point where it horrified me.” Jian accused his wife of cheating, arguing that the baby looked nothing like its mother or father.

His wife then admitted that she had undergone $100,000 worth of plastic surgery prior to their marriage, drastically changing her appearance. Upon realizing the ugly truth, Jian filed for divorce and sued his spouse.  A Chinese court agreed that Jian’s wife had tricked him into marriage under false pretenses and awarded him $120,000.

Contributing Author

Alanna Byrne

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