2 years ago
Following my LAYING BLAME blog about the guy suing William Hill’s because he thinks they should have stopped him gambling, I found this on the old internet about something called the ‘Stella Awards’.
And I thought that rather than try and explain how it works, here is a copy of the ceremony as at August 15th 2010. It all goes like this:
The Stella Awards
It's time again for the annual “Stella Awards.” For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonald's in New Mexico, where she purchased coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Who would ever think one could get burned doing that, right? That's right; these are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S. You know, the kinds of cases that make you scratch your head and say WTF. So keep your head scratcher handy.
So now, without further ado... Here are the Stellas for the past year:
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 store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son.
Start scratching your heads now!
Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles, California, won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbour ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didn't notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbour's hubcaps.
Scratch some more...
Terrence Dickson, of Bristol, Pennsylvania, who was leaving a house he had just burgled by way of the garage. Unfortunately for Dickson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open. Worse still, he couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when Dickson pulled it shut. Forced to sit for eight, count them, EIGHT days and survive on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowner's insurance company claiming undue mental anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay Dickson $500,000 for his anguish. We should all have this kind of anguish.
Keep scratching .. There are more...
Double hand scratching maybe after this one...
* FOURTH PLACE *
Jerry Williams, of Little Rock, Arkansas, garnered 4th Place in the Stella's when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door neighbour's beagle - even though the beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun.
Now pick a new spot to scratch, you're getting a bald spot...
* THIRD PLACE *
Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, because a jury ordered a Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.
Only two more to go so ease up on the scratching....
Kara Walton, of Claymont, Delaware, sued the owner of a night club in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the night club had to pay her $12,000 ... oh, yes, plus dental expenses.
OK. Here we go!!
This year's runaway First Place Stella Award winner was: Mrs. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who purchased new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner's manual that she couldn't actually leave the driver's seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her ~ are you sitting down? ~ $1,750,000 PLUS a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home.
Well alongside that lot, the bloke suing William Hill’s almost seems almost reasonable. But I still find it hard to comprehend the thought processes of the people making decisions like these.
There’s another interesting aspect to this though…
Why are there so many cases like this in the United States? Simple. It’s because there are more lawyers in that country than the rest of the world combined.
It’s also important to get the causality right though…
There aren’t more lawyers because the US population is in particular ‘need’ of legal help. No, the US population is in particular ‘need’ of legal help because there is a proliferation of lawyers.
Let me explain…
For the many years I’ve sold products now, the one question I’ve been asked about every one of them… and more times than I care to remember is always:
“But won’t the market become saturated?”
And in almost every case the answer is no, because what happens is that the market is expanded and extended by the influx of newcomers, creating plenty of new business for everyone as a result.
Markets aren’t of a fixed size. The size of any market can easily be increased by either bringing new customers into the market, by selling more of the product or service to existing users, or by selling ‘range extension’ products to both newcomers and existing customers.
And that’s just what’s happened to the ‘legal market’ in the United States, and is now happening to a certain extent here too.
All these qualified lawyers have to find work, and there simply isn’t enough of the traditional work to go around. So what they’ve had to do is to move into new, related areas… of which fleecing large corporations with seemingly ridiculous claims is just one. And they’re making a great deal of money at it too.
And how have they done it? Simply by marketing themselves and the services they now offer, as hard as they possibly can.
Now if the market for services connected to the seemingly ‘cast in stone’ law isn’t fixed, it seems unlikely that the market you’re operating in is going to be fixed either.
And the bottom line is that, although it makes sense to be riding a wave rather than swimming against the tide, there’s almost always enough room in any market for any newcomers to move in and prosper on a massive scale.
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