Courtroom comedy

Published 11:17 am Tuesday, February 14, 2012

As is customary at this time of the year, I like to publish the annual “Stella Awards.”

For those of you familiar with these awards, they’re named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself decades ago and successfully sued the McDonald’s in New Mexico where she purchased coffee. You may remember she took the lid off the coffee and put the open cup between her knees while she was driving. Now whose fault was that, but yet she was awarded tons of money by some lame jury.

Number Five:

Terrence Dickson of Bristol, PA who was leaving a house he had just burglarized by way of the garage. The automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get it to open. Worse 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 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.

Number Four:

Jerry Williams of Little Rock, AR was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door neighbor’s beagle, even though the dog 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.

Number Three:

Amber Carson of Lancaster, PA was handed $113,500 after a jury ordered a Philadelphia restaurant to pay her after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor: Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument. What ever happened to people being responsible for their own actions?

Number Two:

Kara Walton of Claymont, Del. 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 she 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 plus dental expenses.

Number One:

The runaway winner of the 2011 Stella Award is Mrs. Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City, OK. who purchased a 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. An Oklahoma jury awarded her $1.75 million plus a new motor home. As a result of the verdict, Winnebago changed their manuals just in case there’s another Mrs. Grazinski out there or if she has any relatives who might also buy a motor home.

On a side note, I just strained my left index finger while typing this column. Wonder if I can sue Dell Computers?


Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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