10 strangest lawsuits of 2012

From an ugly baby to a mouse-contaminated Mountain Dew, here are our picks for the most bizarre cases of the year

Missing Mouse

If you look at a soda can label, you’ll likely find plenty of unhealthy ingredients. Hopefully “decomposing mouse” isn’t one of them. But that’s what Ronald Ball says he found when he purchased a can of Mountain Dew from a vending machine. According to Ball, who sued PepsiCo for damages in excess of $50,000, he discovered the dead rodent only after the contaminated soda caused him to vomit.

The accusations were bad enough, but Pepsi’s defense didn’t do much to further its cause: The company said that if a mouse had in fact made it into the Mountain Dew, it would have dissolved by the time it reached the vending machine. The two sides eventually settled for an undisclosed sum in August.

Surprise Surgery

They say blood is thicker than water, but it wasn’t thicker than ugly for one Chinese father. Jian Feng was shocked when his apparently beautiful wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, a baby that Jian said was “incredibly ugly, to the point where it horrified me.” In fact, the baby looked so different from both its parents, that the father accused his wife of having an affair.

Jian’s wife denied cheating on him, but admitted to having had more than $100,000 of plastic surgery prior to their nuptials. Jian divorced and sued his wife, and a sympathetic Chinese court awarded him $120,000, after ruling that his spouse had tricked him into marriage under false pretenses.

Scalded Soles

Apparently Kurt Gies has never heard the expression “no pain, no gain.” The Orlando resident sued Carnival Cruise Lines after he allegedly suffered severe burns in pursuit of a coveted title: hairiest man on the cruise ship. According to Gies, the contest took part on the ship’s deck, which was so hot that it badly burned his bare feet. He sued the cruise line for damages and medical costs, claiming to have “lost the value of his cruise vacation.”

Carnival, however, said that video of the contest showed that “several guests, including the plaintiff, were barefoot and do not exhibit any signs of distress during the video.”

Planetary Proprietor

Many people file lawsuits looking for money, but Canadian man Sylvio Langevin had bigger things on his mind with his suit—namely, ownership of the universe. Specifically, Langevin sued for control of the Earth, all other planetary bodies, four of Jupiter’s moons and the space in between, saying that he wanted to collect planets “like others collect hockey cards.”

But Langevin’s quest for galactic domination was thwarted by an unsympathetic judge, who tossed the case and banned the Quebec resident from filing any future lawsuits without written permission from a judge.

Photo by Adam Sundana

Bieber Brawls

If this slideshow were an awards ceremony, Justin Bieber would certainly win the title of Best Male Performer. The teen pop star was a frequent target of litigation, much of it strange. First, in March, the Biebs was hit with a lawsuit involving an app named—what else?—“Joustin Beaver.” The game featured a floppy-haired beaver named JB who signs “Otter-graphs” and escapes “Photo-Hogs.” The trouble began when Bieber’s lawyers sent the app’s maker, RC3, a cease-and-desist letter, and the company fired back with a preemptive lawsuit claiming that the game, as parody, was protected under the First Amendment.

In another case, Oregon woman Stacey Betts sued the star for $9.2 million over a concert she attended in July 2010. Betts claimed that she suffered hearing loss and severe tinnitus after Bieber “enticed the crowd into a frenzy of screams by continuously waving his arms in a quick and upward motion.”

Photo by David Shankbone

Litigious Lady

Justin Bieber’s female counterpart this year was reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who faced a number of equally bizarre lawsuits in 2012. Some of Kardashian’s legal troubles involved allegations that several of the products she endorses, including the QuickTrim diet system and TRIA hair removal products, are ineffective. Another lawsuit, filed by Kardashian herself, accused retailer Old Navy of damaging her reputation by using a look-alike model in its advertising.

Kim even had the honor of being sued by Jonathan Lee Riches, reported to be the most litigious man in America. Riches, a former inmate, filed multiple complaints against the star and her famous family. In one, he claimed that he encountered the Kardashians in a secret Al-Qaeda training camp in the hills of West Virginia. In another, he accused Kim’s sister Khloe of dressing up in a sumo wrestler suit and chasing him around DisneyWorld.

Contentious Captor

No good deed goes unpunished, even if that deed is compelled at knifepoint. Newlyweds Jared and Lindsay Rowley had their post-nuptial bliss destroyed when fugitive murder suspect Jesse Dimmick crashed a stolen van into their lawn, broke into the couple’s house and held them captive.

The Rowleys eventually managed to escape and alert police to Dimmick’s whereabouts. The fugitive suffered a gunshot to the back when a police officer’s rifle accidentally discharged during the capture. In an effort to recoup a supposed $160,000 in medical bills, Dimmick sued the couple, arguing that they breached a binding oral contract to hide him in exchange for payment.


Saucy Sweet

Ben & Jerry’s is no stranger to creative ice cream titles. The Vermont-based ice cream maker has introduced flavors such as Cherry Garcia, Imagine Whirled Peace and even Karamel Sutra. But the company still wasn’t pleased when adult filmmakers Rodax Distributors and Caballero Video introduced its “Ben & Cherries” series, featuring spicy titles that allegedly infringed on Ben & Jerry’s trademarked ice cream names.

The flavors in question included “Coconut Seven Layer Bar,” which became “Coconut 7 Lay-Her Bar,” and “Peanut Butter Cup,” which was transformed into “Peanut Butter D-Cup.” The California moviemakers eventually agreed to remove the titles from shelves and destroy them.

Finger Fracas

It’s only right that a roundup of the year’s strangest lawsuits include a severed finger: In 2012 digits were detached by everything from crossbows to airport luggage carts. But the strangest story came courtesy of Washington D.C. lawyer Robert Dyer, who lost his appendage during a night out at a Georgetown bar.

Dyer says the problems started when he attempted to pay his tab, only to find that he was $18 short of the bar’s minimum for credit card charges. To make up the difference, bartenders allegedly gave Dyer three shots of vodka and Red Bull, even though the attorney says they “should have known that [he] was not in a position…to continue to consume alcohol.” They then attempted to eject Dyer from the bar, during which time he stumbled and grabbed onto the front door for support. When an employee allegedly slammed the door, the impact reportedly severed Dyer’s left pinky finger.

Perhaps the strangest part of this case is that Dyer only noticed that he had lost a finger when a police officer drew the injury to his attention. He is now suing the bar for at least $500,000 in damages.

Fast Food Floozy?

Of all the workplace lawsuits this year, one of the most bizarre came courtesy of Shelley Lynn, a former McDonald’s employee who accused the fast food company of forcing her into prostitution. According to Lynn, her ex-husband (and McDonald’s franchise owner) Keith Handley forced her into sex work after hiring her to work at his restaurant.

McDonald’s was also at fault, Lynn says, because it failed to pay her adequately, had no procedure for filing complaints against employers and “failed to conduct a due diligence into the moral character of Handley.”

Contributing Author

Alanna Byrne

Bio and more articles

Join the Conversation

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.