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5 of the strangest lawsuits making headlines

Amelia Earhart's plane, a controversial advice column and three more lawsuits in the news

Successful Search?

The 1937 disappearance of Amelia Earhart is one of the world’s great unresolved mysteries. Now, a new lawsuit alleges that the mystery was actually solved years ago, but the answer was then kept secret for monetary reasons.

Wyoming philanthropist Timothy Mellon says that he gave The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) $1 million to search for the aviatrix’s downed plane. The aircraft recovery group contends that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, crash-landed on the isolated South Pacific atoll of Nikumaroro, although TIGHAR says it has not yet found the plane. Mellon, however, claims that a series of aerial photos taken in 2010 show the wreckage of Earhart’s Lockheed Electra and human remains underwater. According to Mellon’s suit, TIGHAR found the debris years ago, but kept the news under wraps to get more money out of him for unnecessary searches.

Slip & Scald

In a case that gives a whole new meaning to the term “freezer burn,” a Long John Silver’s employee is suing the restaurant after allegedly suffering serious burns while melting ice in a walk-in freezer. Joshua Shepard says that in early 2011 the walk-in freezer at one of the chain’s West Virginia locations sprung a leak, coating the freezer floor with ice. Instead of fixing the leak, restaurant supervisors reportedly asked Shepard to melt the ice with 200-degree water.

As is wont to happen when walking on icy surfaces, Shepard reportedly slipped and poured scalding water all over himself. He suffered first-, second- and third-degree burns over 12 percent of his body, according to his lawsuit. He claims that the injuries resulted in severe pain and interfered with his daily activities, and is now seeking more than $1 million.

Deaf Discrimination

A group of deaf customers are suing Starbucks Corp., claiming that the coffee shop’s employees denied them service and repeatedly mocked them because of their disability. One of the 12 plaintiffs, for instance, claims that when he attempted to place a written order at one of the chain’s Manhattan locations, a worker told him that the store would not serve deaf patrons.

The most egregious alleged offense came in March 2013, when the plaintiffs say that a Starbucks manager called the police to break up their monthly “Deaf Coffee Chat.” According to the suit, the employee told the police that most of the group members were not paying customers—since some had brought their own coffee—and that they did not have a permit to meet at the store. The police reprimanded the employee for the call, according to the lawsuit, which is seeking unspecified damages.

Abolished Advice

What would Dear Abby say? For decades, John Rosemond has written a nationally syndicated parenting column, known for recommending tough love tactics and conservative, often faith-based principles. But the advice columnist has now come under fire from the Kentucky Board of Examiners of Psychology, which sent Rosemond a cease-and-desist letter after he published a column that purportedly “constituted the practice of psychology.”

Kentucky law prohibits anyone from using the title “psychologist” without a state license and Rosemond—who is regularly identified as a “family psychologist” in his columns—is licensed only in North Carolina. The board wants Rosemond to stop referring to himself as a psychologist, but the columnist says that the organization is trying to censor him because of his political and parenting views. He is suing the board in federal court, arguing that its cease-and-desist order is a violation of his First Amendment rights. 

Devastating Diagnosis

Herlinda Garcia got some good news and some bad news at a 2011 doctor’s appointment. The good news: She didn’t have cancer. The bad news: She had undergone seven months of unnecessary chemo-therapy treatment after a doctor allegedly misread her lab results. Garcia underwent surgery to remove a benign tumor from her breast in 2009, but just a month later Dr. Ahmad Qadri diagnosed her with terminal breast cancer.

Garcia says that she started a seven-month course of chemotherapy treatments, was put on anxiety medications, gave away many of her belongings and enlisted hospice care. But in 2011, when she went to the hospital for anxiety treatments, a scan revealed that Garcia was cancer-free—and had been since the April 2009 tumor removal surgery. A jury awarded Garcia $367,500 in damages last week, ruling that Qadri, who has since died, misread a scan when arriving at the cancer diagnosis.

Alanna Byrne

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