7 of the strangest lawsuits making headlines

Angry Yelpers, exploding manhole covers, and five more strange suits in the news

Bite Me

Labor and employment suits over unpaid labor are nothing new — just ask Warner Music. But what about unpaid laborers that aren’t technically employees of a company, but are still the backbone of a company’s massive worth? That’s what a court will need to answer (again) when it rules on a suit brought by Yelp users seeking payment for their reviews.

In the complaint, the Yelp users say that they do the exact same work as certain paid Yelp employees, rating restaurants on a number of different characteristics. Because the company pays some of these writers and not others, the Yelpers say that they should be entitled to money under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which protects against discretionary pay methods. “This is a lawsuit merely to provide the wages to all writers of Yelp and not just the ones which Yelp, Inc. chooses to pay in wages,” the complaint says, according to Eater.com.

The plaintiffs will likely have an uphill battle: A similar suit against Yelp was thrown out earlier this year. However, the company may not be fully out of the legal woods. It is also facing a shareholder suit claiming that they were misled about the “quality of reviews” on the website.

Drugs

 

The Real Reality

I believe MTV should call the next episode of their hit show “True Life: I’m Facing a Lawsuit.”

According to TMZ, drug supplier David Nickell says that MTV and producers of the channel’s show “True Life” set him up to be arrested. Nickell provided drugs to a woman profiled on the show, in an episode titled “True Life: I’m Addicted to Pills.” According to Nickell, the producer of the show told him that he wouldn’t get in trouble for appearing on camera, nor for providing the woman the pills while her five-year-old child sat in the backseat.

Turns out, reality TV producers aren’t exactly the best legal counsel. Soon after the episode aired, local police picked up both Nickell and the woman for the crime. In fact, footage from the episode was even used in court to help convict Nickell. He later served seven months in jail for the crime. Nickell is now suing the producer, MTV and its parent company Viacom.

Pancake

 

The Newest Pancake Topping

When it comes to breakfast, many Americans see Aunt Jemima just as much as their own families. But with any iconic brand comes a price, and according to the real Aunt Jemima’s great-grandchildren, that price should be $2 billion.

Family members of Anna Short Harrington, the inspiration for Aunt Jemima, have filed a proposed class action lawsuit in federal court in Illinois against a group of companies, including PepsiCo and its subsidiary The Quaker Oats Company, for a percentage of the proceeds accumulated by the brand over the years. In the suit, led by Harrington’s great-grandson D.W. Hunter, the family claims that Harrington signed a “written contractual agreement to play the actress role of Aunt Jemima” that entitled her to a portion of the product’s proceeds. The family also says that Quaker Oats took complete control of her recipes without adequate compensation.

Fortune says the family seeks $2 billion from the defendants over a number of charges, including breach of contract, conspiracy, and fraud. The lawsuit also says that Quaker Oats engaged in “industrial espionage” to procure Harrington’s recipes. Quaker Oats says that the company feels the lawsuit is without merit.

Doctor

 

An Odd Diagnosis

I think we all know what we’re worried about when reading up a doctor’s report — a bad back, some unwanted tendonitis, high cholesterol, and that worst of chronic problems... homosexuality?

46-year-old Matthew Moore has had “homosexual behavior” as a “chronic problem” on his doctor’s report for over a year, despite numerous complaints to get it removed. Now, Moore, who is gay, is taking what he sees as a last resort: suing his doctor and his Southern California healthcare network, the Torrance Health Association, over what he views as intentionally distressing behavior.

“It was infuriating. It was painful,” Moore told NBC Los Angeles. “It was another attempt by this doctor and this medical group to impose their agenda of discrimination and hate onto a gay patient.”

Moore claims that his doctor, Dr. Elaine Jones, defended the doctor’s report, saying that the medical community has gone “back and forth” as to whether it was a chronic problem. Moore then complained to Torrance, and although he received an apology, the report did not change. In the suit, Moore alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress and libel, and he seeks punitive and compensatory damages.

Manhole

 

Red Light Surprise

I know that the most recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie just came out, but it’s safe to say that most people still view manhole covers and the connected sewer system as relatively safe. That’s what made it such a shock, though, when a couple in Graniteville, N.Y., received an unexpected surprise when a manhole cover exploded beneath their car while they were stopped at a stop light.

On Nov. 3, 2013, husband and wife Stacy Tubens and Maryann DiGiovanni were waiting for the light to change when the manhole cover exploded. Their car was lifted off the ground and pushed forward before returning back to earth, injuring both passengers in the process. According to their lawyer, utility company Con Edison told the pair that explosions had been occurring because of excessive salt seeping into the manhole. The lawyer also said, “My clients were told by a Con Edison representative that they were lucky.”

Their lawyer says that both have continued to seek treatment as a result of the accident, although their luck could have been much worse. But luck wasn’t enough for Tubens and DiGiovanni; they wanted damages. The Staten Island Advance reports that they have filed suit against Con Edison and the city for an unspecified amount. A spokesman for the city said it is evaluating the complaint, while a spokesman for Con Edison said the company had not yet been served papers.

Judge Judy

 

Judge Trademark

If there’s one woman that has seen her fair share of courtroom disputes, it’s Judge Judy. That’s why, even if you’re a lawyer as well, it has to be a little intimidating to see the judge sitting across the settlement negotiating table.

But that’s the situation Connection lawyer John Haymond found himself in when, according a Judge Judy Sheindlin lawsuit, he used her likeness in advertising without her permission. The New York Post reports that the lawsuit alleged Haymond’s advertisements combined footage of the Judge Judy TV show with images of himself and his daughters. Judge Judy’s producer claims he told Haymond to quit running the advertisements in Connecticut and Massachusetts, but he persisted.

The terms of the settlement were not released, although Scheindlin had sought more than $75,000 in her initial complaint. In a statement, she said the settlement funds would “solely benefit the girls of Her Honor Mentoring Program.”

 

Image via Wikipedia

Marijuana

 

That’s a Pot Shot

Regulations surrounding the legalization of marijuana in Colorado have provided headaches for a number of businesses, but the Denver County Fair wasn’t expecting to be one of them. That is, until Colorado resident Jordan Coombs overdosed on the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana after eating candy bars obtained at the fair, then promptly sued the fair and vendor LivWell, a Denver-based marijuana dealer, for negligence.

At the Denver County Fair, vendors were allowed to set up at a section of the fair called the “Pot Pavilion.” It is there that Coombs received the chocolate bars from a LivWell representative. Once he ingested the candy and got in his car, Coombs says he began projectile vomiting and rushed himself to the hospital. Doctors there told him that he had overdosed on THC.

Sounds like he simply had too much? Well, there’s one key sticking point to the suit: The Denver County Fair advertised that no actual marijuana would be allowed on the grounds, even in the Pot Pavilion. All goods sold in the area were expected to be marijuana-free. “During our event we had a very strict policy that all of our vendors agree to, banning all marijuana ... products from the fair,” Denver County Fair officials said in a statement to NBC News.

Assistant Editor

author image

Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

Bio and more articles

Join the Conversation

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.