The Stella Awards - The True, The False, the Simply Nuts!

There are awards of all sorts that are aimed at rewarding excellence and recognising creativity and ingenuity in any field. Then there are awards that are meant to call out the mediocre and the frankly bad as well. These ‘awards’ are badges of derision and a mark of disapproval rather than anything else. So while the Oscars reward good movies, the Razzies or the Golden Raspberries are awards given out for the worst movies, the most abysmal acting and so on. Then there are the Stella Awards

The Stella Awards

These ‘awards’ were initiated by Randy Cassingham meant to mock and call out the American justice system that entertains bogus suits and rewards frivolous litigants. From 2002 to 2007, these awards were ‘presented’ for the most outrageous law suits; where courts ordered defendants to pay compensation in truly ludicrous matters.

The inspiration

Stella Liebeck is famous for having sued McDonalds and being awarded an incredible $2.86 million dollars in damages by a New Mexico civil jury. And why? Because Liebeck accidentally spilled hot coffee in her lap and suffered third degree burns. The argument was the McDonald’s coffee was defective because it was too hot!

2002 winner

Sisters Janice and Dayle accompanied their mother Nita to hospital for a minor procedure. There was a complication and doctors had to rush Nita to emergency. The sisters sued. Not for medical malpractice it may be noted, but for "negligent infliction of emotional distress"! - The supposed distress was caused because of witnessing their mother being rushed to emergency! The matter went up to the California Supreme Court but fortunately the frivolous sisters did not ultimately succeed.

2003 award

Policewoman Marcy Noriega had just arrested a man and handcuffed him in the back of her police car. When the man resisted, Marcy drew what she thought was a stun gun. Only it was a real gun! She ended up killing the man instantly. However the lawsuit against her for wrongful death failed. It was held that this was not her fault because "any reasonable police officer" could "mistakenly draw and fire a handgun instead of the Taser device"

2004 winner

Mary Ubaudi was a passenger in a car that got into an accident. She decided to sue – not the driver or the other vehicle, but… hold your breath: the car manufacturer Mazda! She demanded $150,000 in damages because Mazda "failed to provide instructions regarding the safe and proper use of a seatbelt."

2005 winner

Christopher Roller of Burnsville, Minn. Roller thought he was God. He also could not figure out how illusionists David Copperfield and David Blaine performed their illusions. He filed suits for $50 million and $2 million (10% of their life earnings respectively) because, according to Roller, they were using ‘godly powers’; in other words his own powers and hence owed him for ‘stealing’ his power.

2006 winner

Allen Ray Heckard claimed that he looked like basketball legend Michael Jordan and often got mistaken for the star (though he was three inches shorter and 8 years older). This apparently resulted in “defamation and permanent injury" and "emotional pain and suffering". He also decided to sue Nike co-founder Phil Knight. He sued for a grand total of $832 million; a suit he rapidly withdrew when he realised the perils of being counter sued.

2007 Stella Award

Roy L. Pearson Jr., an Administrative Law Judge himself, decided to sue a laundry for losing his pants. He sued for $65 million and proceeded to cry in court to demonstrate the pain caused to him by the loss of his pants. The superior court judge admonished Pearson for vexatious litigation and awarded damages to the dry cleaners.

The false awards

Over the years many fabricated cases and bogus Stella Awards also circulated in newspapers, social media and elsewhere. The Stella Awards site lists some of the finest bogus cases; here is a screengrab of some juicy ones. Enjoy! But remember these are fabricated; not true

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