07 Oct 2016 14:52 IST

Of lawsuits and settlements big and small

A woman sued McDonald’s for a coffee spill and was awarded over $2 million in punitive damages

Know about the woman who sued McDonald’s for a coffee spill and was awarded over $2 million in punitive damages by a New Mexico court in the US? This case has been held up as an example of a “frivolous litigation” by some, but Stella Liebeck, aged 79 at the time of the incident in 1992, suffered third-degree burns from the spill, resulting in hospitalisation, skin grafts, partial disability and continued treatment for two years. McDonald’s had offered $800 as compensation in response to Liebeck’s demand of $20,000 to cover medical and other expenses.

After the suit, a trial court reduced the amount to $480,000 and ultimately both parties settled for an amount lesser than $600,000.

It’s the stuff of urban legend that certain fizzy drinks can dissolve a number of things, including teeth and nails. When Ronald Ball of Illinois, US, filed a case against PepsiCo alleging that a mouse in a can of Mountain Dew had made him ill, the company had an expert testify that even had a mouse fallen into the can, by the time Ball opened it, it would have dissolved into a “jelly-like substance”. Ball had sought damages of over $50,000. Reportedly, the parties finally settled for an undisclosed amount.

A pimp from Oregon, US sued Nike for $100 million for not warning consumers its Air Jordan shoes could be used as dangerous weapons. A customer refused to pay a sex worker Clardy had introduced to him so an angry Clardy, who was wearing theNikes, stomped on his face. The assault led to stitches and plastic surgery for the customer and a 100-year prison sentence for Clardy, who then sued Nike. The judge threw out the case.

There have been several cases of people suing restaurants and other establishments for slipping on French fries and hurting themselves.

In 2008, Huseyin Kalkan, the Kurdish mayor of a town called Batman in Turkey, was reportedly planning to file charges against Warner Brothers and Christopher Nolan, director of the film The Dark Knight, for various reasons, including using his city’s name without permission.

According to him, the city is ancient, while DC Comics created Batman in 1939. He also held the movie responsible for a number of unsolved murders and a high suicide rate among women in the city. In early 2008, Kalkan had been sentenced to prison for 10 months on charges of helping terrorist groups spread their propaganda.

In an August 2007 report, The Guardian had reported that Kalkan had been awarded damages by DC Comics for using the name of the city.

The newspaper’s report was on “honour suicides” of women in the region – family members were forcing girls to kill themselves if they wore ‘modern’ clothes and fell in love with men deemed unsuitable.