Stella Awards Annual Lawsuit Finalists Announced

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Finalists for the "Award" for the Most Ridiculous-but-True Civil Lawsuits Filed or Decided in 2004. The list, announced annually by, includes both corporations and individuals, and this year includes a woman who claimed her auto accident injuries were due to the car manufacturer's "failure to provide instructions regarding the safe and proper use of a seatbelt."

The finalists for the "True Stella Award", which "honors" the [ most ridiculous lawsuit of 2004, have been announced at

The Award finalists are:

+ A mortgage company which sued one of its customers who was the victim of identity theft -- even though the theft was the result of company's own negligence.

+ A woman who sued after a car wreck, claiming the auto manufacturer was at fault because it "failed to provide instructions regarding the safe and proper use of a seatbelt."

+ A newspaper which grossly overpaid one of its delivery carriers. He gave all the excess back except 10 percent, which he said he would return after they gave him an accounting for tax purposes. Rather than grant that reasonable request, it sued him to get the money back.

+ A woman who sued because her town's name was misspelled on her cell phone bill.

+ The mother of a pro football star who died after crashing while speeding in a snowstorm; she sued the manufacturer of his car for $100 million.

+ A company that received a bad review of its product from Consumer Reports magazine. Rather than improve the product, it sued the magazine.

"While on one level the cases are quite entertaining to read," says Randy Cassingham of, "there is of course a larger point. Stella Awards works to drive public discussion of the issue of lawsuit abuse, which is growing toward crisis levels in the U.S."

Civil litigation, both frivolous and legitimate cases, soak up well over 2 percent of the USA's Gross Domestic Product. By comparison, the United Kingdom's "lawsuit load" is less than 1 percent of its GDP.

The True Stella Awards features real lawsuits that have been filed in U.S. courts. The 2004 winner from the list of finalists will be announced on Monday, January 31, and media outlets are welcome to publish the results. For more information see

The Stella Awards were named for Stella Liebeck, who sued McDonald's after spilling hot coffee in her lap -- and won. Her case spawned a popular urban legend e-mail of ridiculous cases, but those cases are made-up jokes, Cassingham says. "The True Stella Awards is an attempt to bring legitimacy to the debate," Cassingham says. "The bogus cases don't do that -- what's the point in using fake evidence to illustrate a real problem?" Those urban legend cases are debunked on Cassingham's site at

The True Stella Awards are a project of "This is True", featuring bizarre-but-true news reports online since 1994. For details see


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