5 of the strangest lawsuits making headlines

Hemingway’s cats, an exploding ice cream scoop and three more strange lawsuits in the news

Scoop Shrapnel

A woman looking for a sweet treat got an unappetizing surprise when the ice cream scoop she was using allegedly exploded. Angela Carlson says she was washing the scoop, which was manufactured by the Zeroll Co. and distributed by The Pampered Chef, when “the end cap … suddenly and unexpectedly exploded off the base of the product.”

Carlson says that the cap struck her face, causing her to develop glaucoma, headaches, asymmetry of the pupil and post-traumatic stress disorder. She is suing Zeroll for negligence, breach of warranty and failure to warn, and seeking at least $25,000 in damages. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a voluntary recall of a Zeroll ice cream scoop last December, noting that liquid within its cap, when heated, could fly off of the scoop’s base.

Trucker Translation

A Utah truck driver has filed a federal discrimination suit against FedEx, claiming that the company had him fired because of his Russian accent. Ismail Aliyev says that several months after he started work at GNB Trucking Co., which owns and operates FedEx-branded trucks, a weigh station in Iowa gave GNB a citation because of Aliyev’s inability to communicate clearly in English.

Aliyev says that FedEx, concerned over his supposedly strong accent, ordered GNB to terminate Aliyev without speaking to him, even after he offered to fly to its headquarters to demonstrate his language skills. But FedEx maintains that the driver was fired for three safety violations.

Deceptive Diamonds

It’s that time of year again: the time for cheesy jewelry commercials to take over the airwaves. But one of those commercials isn’t just cheesy—it’s deceptive, at least according to Sterling Jewelers Inc. The Akron-based retailer, which owns Kay Jewelers and J.B. Robinson Jewelers, is targeting ads from its rival, Zales Corp., in which the latter claims that its Celebration Fire diamond is “the most brilliant diamond in the world.”

Zales ads touting the gemstone say that independent laboratory testing has verified its unmatched brilliance. But, according to Sterling’s lawsuit, “Zale’s claim that it has proven its Fire diamonds to be more brilliant than any other cut of diamond in the world can be true only if its Fire diamonds have been tested against every other cut of diamond in the world,” and Zales only tested its stone against selected other diamonds. Sterling is seeking an injunction against Zales’ purportedly false ads, as well as unspecified monetary damages.

Lacking Legos

His lawsuit involves toys, but William Probert isn’t playing around. The Connecticut man is suing Toys ‘R’ Us, claiming that the retailer promised to include free LEGO building sets worth $15 each with his order of four additional LEGO sets, only to swap the pricier toys out for cheaper substitutes, such as a magnet and a Christmas tree figurine.

Probert, who is a master LEGO builder and has constructed museum exhibits using the toys, says that the promised $15 gifts were part of the reason he made a purchase at Toys ‘R’ Us in the first place. He is seeking class action status for his suit.

Federal Felines

Apparently Big Brother has jurisdiction over Papa’s cats, according to a recent 11th Circuit ruling that gave control of felines at Ernest Hemingway’s Key West estate to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The cats—which are famous for their unusual six toes—have helped to draw visitors to the writer’s house for decades.

The court case started 10 years ago, when a visitor raised concerns over the felines’ treatment. The USDA responded with an investigation, and ordered the museum to obtain an exhibitor’s license, tag the cats for identification, make modifications to the pets’ shelters and pay a penalty for failing to comply with the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

The museum argued that the agency had no jurisdiction over the cats, but a unanimous three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit disagreed. In its ruling, the court noted that federal regulations did apply, since “the exhibition of the Hemingway cats is integral to the museum’s commercial purpose, and thus, their exhibition affects interstate commerce.”

Alanna Byrne

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