Bil Browning

2006 Stella Awards

Filed By Bil Browning | July 01, 2006 12:35 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment

UPDATE: I have been informed that the Stella Awards is an urban legend. Still fun reading though! And thanks to Best Gay Blogs for picking up the story - even if it's not true!

Time once again to review the winners of the Annual "Stella Awards."

The Stella Awards are named after 81 year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonald's (in NM). That case inspired the Stella Awards for the most frivolous, ridiculous, successful lawsuits in the United States. Here are this year's winners:

5th Place (tie): Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas, was awarded $80,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running inside a furniture store.

The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving little toddler was Ms. Robertson's son.

5th Place (tie): 19-year-old Carl Truman of Los Angeles won $74,000 and medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord.

Mr. Truman apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbor's hubcaps.

5th Place (tie): Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pennsylvania, was leaving a house he had just finished robbing by way of the garage. He was not able to get the garage door to go up since the automatic door opener was malfunctioning. He couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the house and garage locked when he pulled it shut. The family was on vacation, and Mr. Dickson found himself locked in the garage for eight days. He subsisted on a case of Pepsi he found, and a large bag of dry dog food.

He sued the homeowner's insurance claiming the situation caused him undue mental anguish. The jury agreed to the tune of $500,000. In my opinion this is so outrageous that it should have been 2nd Place!

4th Place: Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas, was awarded $14,500 and medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by his next door neighbor's beagle. The beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard.

The award was less than sought because the jury felt the dog might have been just a little provoked at the time by Mr. Williams who had climbed over the fence into the yard and was shooting it repeatedly with a pellet gun.

3rd Place: A Philadelphia restaurant was ordered to pay Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, $113,500 after she slipped on a soft drink and broke her coccyx (tailbone).

The beverage was on the floor because Ms Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.

2nd Place: Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware, successfully sued the owner of a night club in a neighboring city when she fell from the bathroom window to the floor and knocked out her two front teeth.

This occurred while Ms.Walton was trying to sneak through the window in the ladies room to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. She was awarded $12,000 and dental expenses.

1st Place: This year's runaway winner was Mrs. Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Mrs. Grazinski purchased a brand new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, (from an OU football game), having driven onto the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the drivers seat to go into the back & make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the RV left the freeway, crashed and overturned.

Mrs.Grazinski sued Winnebago for not advising her in the owner's manual that she couldn't actually do this. The jury awarded her $1,750,000 plus a new motor home. The company actually changed their manuals on the basis of this suit, just in case there were any other complete morons around.

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Mrs. Grazinski is known to her friends as "opus"

Urban legends.

Oh, and McDonald's deserved what it got:

Liebeck offered to settle for $20,000 and McDonalds had received something like 700 complaints about the temperature of its coffee which it required its franchises to serve about 50 degrees above the typical temperature.

Yeah, these need to be exposed as urban legends. I find it particularly disturbing when my lawyer friends spread these things around. And yes, McDonald's deserved it.

Thanks for the fact-checking, guys! I admit, I fell for it hook, line and sinker. I got this from my brother who is usually very picky about checking Snopes and other sites before forwarding this kind of stuff. Since it came from him, I didn't bother to check myself - even though I wondered about the lawsuits. Worse, the stories have been around since 2001! D'oh!

Unfortunately in this case, part of what makes a good urban legend is that the probability of truth is very high.

If only we could expect that everyone would "do the right thing" we wouldn't have to worry about these.

However, the person suing sees this type of thing as buying a lottery ticket (maybe I'll get lucky and win), and the person being sued probably cut corners somewhere that shouldn't have been cut.

Yeah, I'm painting with a broad brush, but from 30,000 feet, those are the two things that bring these types of lawsuits on, both ridiculous in the first case and valid in the second.

Or maybe validity and frivolity are in the eyes of the beholder.

Well, in the case of Stella Liebeck, third degree on one's genitals is hardly frivolous; and the $20,000 for which she was willing to settle doesn't strike me as particularly greedy or like playing the lottery.

Correct, Doug, that is the second case, cutting corners or doing something other than "the right thing" on the part of the one being sued.

There are people on both sides of the, what is it, bench? guilty of not "doing the right thing".

The Stella Awards, if they really exist, highlight the litigants that aren't doing the right thing.

The Republican obsession with doing away with trial lawyers figures into the whole thing somewhere, but I'm not sure where. Probably frustration born as a product of bad lawsuits and ambulance chashers.

Otherwise, if they are just trying to absolve a corporation of whatever it has left of a soul or responsiblity to anything other than the bottom line, that is just plain wrong.

Well, I've seen these particular items for years now. As for Stella, I wish I had a nickel for every time I spilled hot coffee from McDonald's on my lap. Sue? Never thought of it. Let's see - I want coffee....I want it hot.....sue McDonald's? What an idea.......Sorry.....doesn't sit well with me....

There is a website that researches the legal issues and has covered the original Stella story. They also have the True factual StellaAwards. The site is run by Randy Cassingham. Ex-JPL and writer of This is True newsletter at