6 of the strangest lawsuits making headlines

Florida’s smartphone ban, rats on a plane and four more strange lawsuits in the news

 

Candy Crush

A family trip to the Big Apple wasn’t so sweet for Beth Flickinger, after a 25-pound candy dispenser fell on her at a Times Square Toys R Us. Flickinger says that she and her sons visited the toy company’s flagship store to stock up on candy and toys for their journey home. But the afternoon took a painful turn when the trio attempted to fill up their bags with M&Ms from one of the store’s self-serve dispensers, only to have the 25-pound bin somehow fall on Flickinger.

The Pennsylvania woman says she suffered a herniated disk and severe headaches, along with a loss of income and a diminished sex life following the incident. But a series of juries evidently wasn’t sympathetic—they cleared the dispenser’s maker and Toys R Us employees of any wrongdoing in the case. Flickinger previously reached an undisclosed settlement with M&Ms maker Mars Inc.

Waxing Woes

When Jennifer Finley was hired as an esthetician at Pittsburgh’s European Wax Center, she knew she would be giving Brazilian waxes to customers. What she didn’t know, she says, was that she would be expected to undergo a wax herself. Finley claims that on her second day of training she learned that she and her fellow trainees would be waxing each other.

The would-be esthetician claims that she was willing to have other, less sensitive parts of her body waxed, but she refused the Brazilian, because no one had ever told her it would be a mandatory part of training. When she complained to the salon’s owner, he allegedly fired her. Finley is now suing the center for sexual harassment, wrongful termination, gender discrimination and retaliation.

Seed Snafu

In a case that proves that what’s funny on television is not always so entertaining in real life, a Pennsylvania woman who had her newborn taken away after she mistakenly failed a hospital drug test recently settled a lawsuit over the incident. Elizabeth Mort delivered her daughter Isabella at Jameson Hospital in April 2010. But three days later, child welfare agents took the baby away, claiming that Mort had tested positive for opiates during a drug test at the hospital.

It later emerged that Mort had failed the test because she had eaten a poppy seed bagel shortly before arriving at the hospital. Isabella was returned after five days, but Mort sued the hospital and the child welfare agency, arguing that no one at the hospital ever told her about her failed drug test or asked her if she had eaten anything that could result in a false positive. Her suit also alleged that the hospital used a much lower threshold for drug testing than federal guidelines mandate. Earlier this month, the two defendants agreed to pay $143,500 to settle the case.

Pet Problems

An American Airlines flight attendant accused of bringing some unsavory carry-on baggage to work is suing her employer for discrimination. The trouble started back in February 2012, when a pilot claimed that he saw “a bulge” in stewardess Louann Giambattista’s pocket, which he believed to be a live pet. During a subsequent flight, another flight attendant accused Giambattista of sneaking her pet rats onto a plane and feeding them during the flight. When her fellow flight attendants reported their suspicions to officials, Giambattista claims that immigrations and customs agents questioned her and went through her belongings for an hour.

The questioning continued every time she went through customs for more than a year, even though officials never found any rats, Giambattista claims. She also alleges that she was once questioned in an employee break room, with other workers looking on. The repeated interrogations reportedly left Giambattista with “debilitating anxiety,” but the airline refused to transfer her to domestic flights so that she could avoid customs. She is seeking at least $150,000 in damages for discrimination.

Discriminatory Document

Three former Target Corp. employees are suing the company over a set of “multi-cultural tips” that were allegedly more racist than enlightened. According to Robert Gonzales, Pedro Garcia-Ayala and Bulmaro Fabian, Target provided its warehouse managers with a document called “Organization Effectiveness, Employee and Labor Relations Multi-Cultural Tips,” which allegedly informed managers that not all Hispanic employees eat tacos and burritos, wear sombreros or dance to salsa music.

The handbook reportedly contained other gems of cultural wisdom, including “[Hispanic employees] may say ‘OK, OK’ and pretend to understand, when they do not, just to save face.” The document was purportedly less-than-successful, since the plaintiffs claim that their mostly white managers regularly subjected them to racial slurs. The three former employees are suing Target for harassment, age and race discrimination and retaliation.

Silenced Smartphones

If you’re in Florida and reading this on a smartphone, you may be breaking the law, according to a new suit targeting recently enacted state legislation. In April, the Sunshine State passed a bill banning slot machines and Internet cafes that allow certain types of online gambling. The measure passed after an racketeering investigation into Allied Veterans of the World, a supposed charity that allegedly operated as an illegal gambling operation.

But the law may have shut down much more than phony charities: The measure bans “any system or network of devices” that can be used in a game of chance. A new lawsuit filed by an Internet café owner argues that that broad language includes smartphones and laptops. Incredible Investments argues that “in a frenzy fueled by distorted judgment in the wake of a scandal” the state passed an overly broad statute “based upon an unreasonable and arbitrary classification.”

Contributing Author

Alanna Byrne

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