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5 of the strangest lawsuits making headlines

A prematurely exploding bottle rocket, an especially bad meal and three more strange lawsuits in the news

Risky Rocket

Any story involving a bottle rocket being shot out of someone’s rear end is bound to end badly, as a lawsuit filed by a West Virginia fraternity member proves. Perhaps the only surprise in the case is that the student suing Marshall University is not the one who actually fired the rocket.

Instead, the litigious undergrad is Louis Helmberg III, who says he was merely an innocent bystander when his Alpha Tau Omega fraternity brother, Travis Hughes, decided to launch the rocket while standing on the deck of the frat house. When the rocket prematurely detonated, Helmberg was allegedly so startled that he jumped backwards and fell off the deck in the process. He subsequently sued the fraternity, Hughes and the university, claiming that his injuries left him unable to play for the university’s baseball team and cost him significantly in medical expenses.

Helmberg argued that the defendants should be subject to strict liability, because “firing bottle rockets out of one’s own anus constitutes an ‘ultra-hazardous’ activity.” But earlier this month a court dismissed the university from the lawsuit over a procedural error.

Frightening Photo

When Alfred Lolange was hired as the head chef at New York’s Z-Two Diner & Lounge he was promised a weekly salary of $2,500, but when his first paycheck arrived it amounted to just $2,000. The diner’s owner, Steve Osman, allegedly explained that he was withholding the rest for taxes. Lolange accepted this explanation, and, at the start of tax season, asked his boss for a copy of his W-2 form, showing the taxes that the restaurant had withheld from his checks.

Instead of giving Lolange the form, however, Osman allegedly showed him something a bit more sinister—a photograph of a person whose fingers had been cut off. “This is what happens to people with a big mouth,” Osman told his employee, according to the suit. Several months later, Lolange reportedly tried to change back into his street clothes after his shift, only to discover that someone had slashed them. He was fired shortly afterward, and is now suing his former employer for lost wages.

Slippery Surface

Talk about a greasy spoon. West Virginia resident Mary Carpenter is suing a Chinese restaurant after she allegedly slipped and fell on a puddle of grease. Carpenter claims that the Dragon Garden Buffet Corp. was negligent for allowing grease to accumulate on the floor near its buffet, leading to a Dec. 10 fall that left her with serious injuries, ongoing pain and mental distress.

Carpenter is now seeking compensatory damages with interest, arguing that the restaurant failed in its duty to keep its customers safe.

Foul Food

Prison food isn’t known for its culinary merits, but is it bad enough to warrant $1 trillion in restitution? That’s what Arizona inmate Dale Maisano is arguing, in a new lawsuit over a severe stomachache. In the suit, Maisano claims that prison officials fed him a “nonmedical diet” earlier this month, leaving him with a case of stomach cramps so severe that it “caused [him] to lose the ability to sleep and wonder if they [tried] to kill him.” He is suing the state of Arizona and the prison’s food service contractor, along with various state and prison officials.

Apparently not content with the prospect of a $1 trillion fortune, Maisano has also filed a related lawsuit asking for an additional $10 trillion, claiming that he developed an eating disorder when his food was delivered late two days in a row. This is reportedly the 328th lawsuit that Maisano has filed in federal court.

Malfunctioning Machine

In a lawsuit that has echoes of the famed McDonald’s hot coffee case, a New Jersey woman is suing the Wawa convenience store chain after a malfunctioning cappuccino machine allegedly left her with severe burns. Tracie Hanson was a “business invitee” at a Wawa store last July when she attempted to make herself the fateful cup of coffee.

According to Hanson, the malfunctioning cappuccino machine suddenly sprayed hot water onto her arm, resulting in “severe physical injury, including … permanent scarring, disfigurement and deformity, as well as psychological and emotional anguish, grief and torment.” Hanson claims that the store did not properly inspect the machine, and that it either knew or should have known that it was defective. She and her husband are suing the chain for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Alanna Byrne

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