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8 of the strangest lawsuits making headlines

A teacher afraid of children, an airborne ballpark frank and five more strange lawsuits in the news

Terrified Teacher

Maria Waltherr-Willard taught high school French and Spanish in a Cincinnati school district for more than 35 years, until the high school eliminated its French program in 2009. At that time, Waltherr-Willard says, the school district transferred her to its junior high school, even though it had previously promised her that it would not do so, in consideration of her pedophobia, which causes her severe anxiety when she is around young children.

The stress of working with younger pupils sent the teacher’s blood pressure skyrocketing, according to Waltherr-Willard’s lawsuit, and, after the district refused her request to return to the high school, she retired early. She is now suing the school district for discrimination, seeking past and future pay, compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

Benched Basketballers

By many standards, the Nov. 29 San Antonio Spurs-Miami Heat game was a thrilling basketball game, in which the Heat edged out their opponents for a 105-100 victory, despite the absence of four of the Spurs’ five starters. But one fan was so disappointed by the game that he’s suing the Spurs, arguing that head coach Gregg Popovich cheated fans by resting the star players simultaneously.

Popovich says he made the decision because the team had played four games in five days, but the fan in question, Larry McGuinness, says that he suffered “economic damages” when he paid a premium for tickets, only to see bench players instead of starters. Shortly after the game in question, the league fined the team $250,000 over the controversy.

Flying Frank

Few things in life are better than eating a hot dog at a baseball game. Few things are worse than being hit in the eye with a flying hot dog. The latter allegedly befell unfortunate Kansas City Royals fan John Coomer in 2009, when an errant throw by team mascot Sluggerrr sent a hot dog straight into the fan’s eye.

Coomer claimed that the flying frank caused several serious injuries, including a detached retina, and sued the team. A jury ruled against Coomer in March 2011 on the basis that the airborne hot dogs, which Sluggerrr throws to fans between innings, are an inherent risk that Coomer accepted by attending the game. But a state appeals court resurrected the lawsuit last week, ruling that “the risk of being hit in the face by a hot dog is not a well-known incidental risk of attending a baseball game.”

Revolting Rodent

A New York City woman is suing a Times Square club after an uninvited, four-legged guest crashed her birthday celebration. Andrea Veras says she was enjoying her night out at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill when she felt a sharp pain in her toe. Initially, Veras thought that the pain was her friend’s high-heeled shoe digging into her foot, her lawyer says, but upon closer examination Veras’s companion saw a rat hanging off of Veras’s foot. Veras, who says she was treated with antibiotics for the allegedly infected toe, is suing the club for failing keep itself “in a safe and hygienic condition … free of rodents.”

Light Litigation

The holiday spirit didn’t last long for two Ohio neighbors who are sparring over one’s extravagant Christmas light display. Strongsville resident Dan Hoag is known for his annual holiday show, which typically begins with a fireworks display on Thanksgiving.

But there’s one person that doesn’t find the light show so festive: Hoag’s neighbor Kevin Roberts. Roberts has filed a $3,000 lawsuit, claiming that Hoag’s 2011 fireworks display damaged his yard, house and car. He also alleges that a crowd gathered to see the lights harassed his sibling who was leaving his house on Thanksgiving evening.

Problematic Prediction

A former New York City police officer is suing the city for allegedly firing him—not because of any wrongdoing—but because of its belief that he would one day become an alcoholic. Timothy Silo claims his bosses ordered him, along with five fellow probationary officers, to see department psychologists after they were attacked by a group of miscreants outside a bar in December 2009. Even though Silo had never entered the bar—and had only had two drinks at a holiday party earlier that evening—he says that psychologist Casey Stewart interviewed him about his drinking habits for more than eight hours and asked questions about Silo’s alcoholic father.

Even after a second psychologist cleared Silo for duty, Stewart allegedly recommended that the officer be fired because he was likely to become an alcoholic one day. Silo is seeking $5 million in damages from the city and Stewart.

Waiters’ Woes

A popular Philadelphia sports bar is facing an unfair labor practices lawsuit, courtesy of 15 employees who say that the bar’s owners took a portion of their tips, refused to pay them for overtime and forced them to buy their own cleaning supplies. Employees at several Chickie & Pete’s locations say that the restaurant engaged in tip-skimming, in which employees had to pay back two to four percent of gross sales back to the restaurant as part of a “Pete Tax” (in reference to bar owner Pete Ciarrocchi).

 To add insult to injury, the workers claim that they had to buy their own company T-shirts to wear as uniforms and purchase their own vacuum cleaners to clean carpeted sections of the bar.

Wayward Wine

A California vineyard may have thrown several great parties at a rented home during the annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Co., but the house’s owner evidently wasn’t having any fun when he returned home. Aspen resident Larry Saliterman is suing the Jordan Vineyard and its national sales director for allegedly throwing three large parties that resulted in damages to his home. According to Saliterman, he agreed to rent his five-bedroom house to the company, which told him that no more than 35 people would attend any one of its parties.

Over the course of the weekend, however, the vineyard allegedly hosted three bashes with more attendees than had been previously agreed upon. The crowd left “wine stains all over the carpet,” grease stains on the wood floors and filtration problems with the kitchen’s exhaust fans, Saliterman says. The winery put down a $6,000 security deposit, but Saliterman says it doesn’t cover the damages, and is seeking $10,543.

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