Frivolous Lawsuit

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I sued Verizon, 'cause I get all depressed any time my cell phone is roaming.
I sued Colorado, 'cause you know, I think it looks a little bit too much like Wyoming!
I sued Neiman Marcus, 'cause they put up their Christmas decorations way out of season.

I sued Ben Affleck ... aww, do I even need a reason?
—I'll Sue Ya, "Weird Al" Yankovic

Our hero is idling her car out of the driveway when she accidentally bumps into a stranger. "Ow, my back!" the stranger exclaims. "The pain is immeasurable! I'll sue you! I'll sue!"

Someone — usually a stranger, sometimes a friend — has decided to sue our hero in the wake of some minor accident. The plaintiff suffered no real injury, but is suing out of greed or perhaps a desire for revenge, often with the help of an Ambulance Chaser or otherwise Amoral Attorney. If the judge doesn't laugh the guy out of court, though, our hero must often resort to some variety of Courtroom Antic to discredit her adversary.

The classic sitcom lawsuit is almost always a tort action: the plaintiff is claiming the defendant's negligence harmed them in some way, and is demanding monetary compensation. The actual injury sustained is always minuscule and the amount of damages claimed has to be at least five times what the hero earns in a year. The complaint itself is often just plain silly, such as suing Pizza Hut because the X-Treme Meatsa-Treatsaria did not truly deliver "gut-busting meat flavor" as promised.[1]

Technically, a frivolous lawsuit is one brought in bad faith — i.e., brought with no intention, expectation, or chance of success. Calling an action frivolous is like calling the lawyer a certified loon, who really does seem like he stepped out of a Perfect Strangers episode. Much more common than frivolous lawsuits are frivolous claims in otherwise reasonable lawsuits and frivolous courtroom motions that only serve to prolong the legal process. In real life, actual frivolous lawsuits will be over long before they get near an actual jury. Repeated filing of frivolous lawsuits, frivolous claims, and frivolous motions will often be met with "contempt of court" charges; and attorneys have been disbarred for excessive frivolous filings.

Often this trope is invoked to make an argument about Tort Reform, i.e. limiting the ability to file claims or capping the liable amount of damages. On the one hand, everyone can agree that there sure seem to be a lot of unnecessary cases brought to court which takes up both time and money that can be better spent. On the other hand, it's hard to argue that the mere fact that someone with an illegitimate claim asks for ludicrous amount of money means that someone with a legitimate claim should have their legal recourse limited. Particularly since—in the United States at least—most defendants in tort cases insist on a jury trial, and the jury is responsible both for determining fault and deciding the amount of damages to award (if any).

Examples of Frivolous Lawsuit include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Scrooge McDuck once crashed a plane and a man who had nothing to do with this threw himself at the wreckage and sued Scrooge for one "Maximajillion" dollars. To give an idea of how absurd this amount of money is, Scrooge's fortune isn't enough to make it and he didn't expect to earn enough to make up for the difference even if he spent the rest of his life working.


Film[edit | hide]

  • In the Babylon 5 Made for TV Movie River of Souls, a holographic entertainment operator attempts to sue the station with the help of an Ambulance Chaser whom Captain Lochley refers to in those exact terms. At the end she takes great pleasure at informing him that, since the business in question was destroyed in the course of the film's events, the grievance was now a moot point and he'd be going home empty-handed. Add to that, part of the lease agreement the owner signed waived rights to sue if damage is done to his property during the course of protecting the station itself, which Lochley has a dozen affidavits attesting to this fact.
  • Older Than They Think entry: The Three Stooges try their hands at this once they hear of someone slipping in a hotel lobby and suing for thousands (this is before 1950, folks). Naturally, they find ways to fail at pratfalling before they find the owner of the hotel is herself impoverished.
  • The plot of the film The Man Who Sued God. The main character is a fisherman whose boat is destroyed by lightning, but he isn't allowed to claim damages from his insurance company because the lightning was "an act of God." So he sues God. (God is represented in court by clergymen.) In the end, the main character drops his lawsuit, but his efforts aren't in vain since he's won a moral victory. The clergymen then announce that they'll be suing the insurance companies for unauthorised use of their Lord's name.
  • In Liar Liar, Jim Carrey plays Fletcher Reede, an unscrupulous lawyer who, it is implied, specializes in these sorts of cases. One scene also references the famous Urban Legend of the burglar who injures himself trying to break into a house and successfully sues the homeowner (in the film, it really happened—to a friend/relative of Fletcher's secretary).
  • A string of these set off the plot of The Incredibles. After one man wins a lawsuit blaming Mr. Incredible for injuries incurred while saving his life, so many people follow that all superheroes are forced into retirement and hiding.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In My Sister's Keeper, one thing that attracts Anna to come to the Attorney Campbell to sue for bodily emanipation is Campbell's involvement in a case where a boy sued God for his injury.
  • This is the background to the toad in the Discworld novel The Wee Free Men. He was a lawyer who was employed by a woman to sue her fairy godmother, on the grounds she was promised health, wealth and happiness, and didn't feel particularly happy one day. The godmother's response was to turn him into a toad, and his client into a small hand mirror. The worst part, he says, was when the judge applauded.
    • This seems to be a common thing for magic-users:

Archchancellor Ridcully: "Oh, please. Sue the University. We've got a whole pond full of people who tried to sue the University!"

  • A minor character in The Hound of the Baskervilles liked to sue people as a way of showing off his knowledge of law, including the more obscure points. He was particularly proud of getting one man convicted of trespassing on his own property.
  • Albert Haddock sometimes started these in AP Herbert's Misleading Cases in the Common Law. The intent was for Herbert to demonstrate how preposterous the law was, and it was sometimes suggested that that was why Haddock was doing it as well.
  • In Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years, Adrian's mother sues a shoe shop because the stilettos she bought there fell apart while she was climbing a mountain in them. To Adrian's surprise, she wins the case, when her lawyer successfully argues that the shop ("Shoe Mania!") should have removed the exclamation mark from its name so as not to excite hormonal middle-aged women into making rash purchases.
  • The Bible

Isaiah 59:4: No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.

  • Deconstructed in the Diogenes Club short story "Clubland Heroes", which first portrays the meaningfully named Peeter Blame as a petty man, constantly threatening legal action for trivial reasons, and by the end shows him as someone who was absolutely justified in many of his complaints, and was driven to despair by increasing evidence that while the law was on his side, the legal system wasn't.
  • The trial in Annie On My Mind is this through and through. The entire reason Liza and the two teachers are brought to trial is because a homophobic teacher catches Liza and Annie in Ms. Winthrop and Ms. Stevenson's house. The teachers lose their jobs, but the school trustees call the trial ludicrous and fire the corrupt principal.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The Golden Girls: Blanche gets in a minor accident driving Rose's car and the man she rear ended sues Rose.
  • The Brady Bunch was once sued by a man who claimed whiplash in the wake of a collision with the Brady family car. His case was discredited in court when Mike deliberately dropped his briefcase on the floor behind the guy, whose prompt and obviously painless spin in place to face the noise demonstrated just how real his injuries were.
  • In a possible case of a Recycled Script, a similar episode appeared on The Partridge Family, which ran on the same network in the following timeslot.
  • The second season of Joan of Arcadia featured the title character's family being sued for "emotional damages" by the boy who caused the accident that paralyzed Joan's older brother. The lawsuit was dropped abruptly after an extended Arc, and the character in question was never seen again.
  • Malcolm in the Middle's evil grandma does this after slipping on a leaf on the main character's front porch. She is forced to back down when her lawyer meets the family and decides that even if they took the family for everything his cut of the profits wouldn't be as much as he wanted.
  • In an episode of Coach, Luther sues Hayden after burning his mouth on a hot-off-the-grill bratwurst at Hayden's barbecue. He nearly wins the lawsuit; however, the judge eventually decides that, as Hayden is merely a tenant, he is not liable; the owner of the property is. Since the owner is Luther's girlfriend and both men's boss, he immediately drops the suit before the verdict is officially announced.
  • Played with a bit on Married... with Children. After Bud and Kelly get into a fender bender with a Mercedes, Al bemoans society's litigiousness. But when Bud tells Al that the other guy was at fault, he immediately decides to sue, and has the children play up the severity (read: existence) of their injuries in court.
    • In another episode, a burglar broke into the Bundy family home while Al was asleep on the couch. As Al woke up, he accidentally touched the burglar on the behind, before realizing what was going on and pummeling the burglar. He was later sued by the burglar for "sexual harassment" and being unable to "work", claiming that Al's punch ruined his career as a burglar, greatly exaggerating his injuries. However, Al got the last laugh when he decked the burglar again, and won a Frivolous Lawsuit of his own by claiming he hurt his hand on the burglar's face.
    • In another episode, a thief entered the shoe store where Al works and Jefferson suggested Al could sue the mall for four million dollars, claiming the incident made him afraid of shoes. The mall sent an investigator who kept an eye on Al. To make matters worse, Al's bowling team were finalists in a tournament and the bowling hall wouldn't let him play barefoot because the last one to do so there sued the place for three million dollars. Eventually, Al decided the championship was more important than money.
    • In another episode, Peggy watched a tv ad about a lawyer who helped a woman to get 2.5 million dollars from her husband for asking her to cook. Peggy tried it with Al by volunteering to cook but Al was so focused on some idea he refused the offer and the lawsuit idea went unmentioned for the rest of the episode.
    • Jefferson once fell inside Al's workplace when a wall gave in. Jefferson's claims of injury ended as soon as Al stated they had no insurance.
  • An episode of CSI New York revolved around the murder of a woman who made a living from multi-million dollar Frivolous Lawsuits (for reasons many of which are implied to have been set up by herself). The murderer turns out to be a chef whose life she had completely destroyed and had recently gotten back on his feet... only for him to see her getting ready to pull the same stunt again at his new place of business. You almost feel bad for the guy.
  • Seinfeld had the Ambulance Chaser Jackie Chiles (an obvious parody of Johnnie Cochran) in at least three cases of this. Every time, he wound up humiliated due to Kramer acting stupid and ignoring his legal advice.
    • In "The Postponement", Kramer sues a coffee chain for burning himself with hot coffee. In the next episode "The Maestro", we meet Jackie Chiles for the first time as Kramer settles the case for free coffee for life, passing up a large cash award in his stupidity.

Company Representative: We're prepared to offer you free coffee for life, and-
Kramer: I'll take it!

    • In "The Caddy", Kramer and Elaine sue a woman for "distracting" Kramer while he was driving because she was wearing only a bra top. Jackie Chiles' remark that a bra has to fit "like a glove" is a reference to the O.J. Simpson trial. Kramer's stupidity was again the cause of losing this case, since Jackie had it in the bag when he insisted on checking to see if the bra would fit her.
    • In another episode, Kramer turns his apartment into a cigar bar/smoking room, and the cumulative effects of hours upon hours of concentrated smoke make his skin pallid. They sue the tobacco companies and settle for making Kramer the new Marlboro Man.
  • Archie Bunker tries to cook up a whiplash suit in "Oh My Aching Back", a first season episode of All in The Family. Because of his unambiguous prejudices, he also insists on having a Jewish lawyer. He gets one, but said lawyer senses the case isn't kosher, and bails.
  • An episode of Babylon 5 has a short skit where a man sues a Vree (aliens that look like Greys and whose ships are flying saucers) because the Vree's great-grandfather abducted the man's great-grandfather and conducted experiments on him. The judge laments under his breath that he always seems to get these sort of cases.
    • Even more amusingly (from the things the judge says), it seems that there's actually a treaty between the Vree government and the Earth Alliance that governs exactly such cases, meaning that these cases must happen all the time in the B5 universe.
    • According to fluff, the Vree aren't the ones doing the abducting. It was most likely the Vorlons and the Streib (who look similar to the Vree but don't have flying saucers).
      • In this specific case, the man claimed to have found records proving it was the ancestor of the specific Vree he was suing.
  • Steve Bosell from The Phil Hendrie Show is pretty much this trope incarnate. He regularly sues anyone and anything for any slight, no matter how minor. For example when his oh so hated neighbor cracks a joke at Steve's expense (often warranted), Steve not only sues him, but his son for laughing at the joke. If he was only in the presence of his neighbor because his wife asked him to, say, pick up groceries or trim the hedges, he will sue her for putting him in a dangerous position. The number of lawsuits Steve filed over the course of the show are innumerable, and every one as inane as the last.
  • Parodied by Saturday Night Live ads for the law firm of Green & Fazio ("Call 1-800-HARASSS. The extra "S" is for extra harassment!").
  • In Only Fools and Horses episode "Hole in One", Del Boy decides to sue the Nag's Head after Uncle Albert falls into its cellar, despite the fact that he incurred no injury (they base the suit on emotional damages) and the Nag's Head offered Del a large settlement. The suit ends up being thrown out when the defense points out that Albert is a trained paratrooper (thus having knowledge of how to fall without injuring himself) and that he has "accidentally" fallen down pub cellars numerous times in the past, and taken the settlements.
  • On Becker, Becker is sued by his patient, when Becker takes him to the gym for rehab-purposes, and the patient suffers a heart-attack as a result—even though Becker saves his life, and Becker was rehabilitating him in order to prevent an inevitable heart-attack, and accompanied him there for safety-purposes. Becker's insurance company wants to settle, and agrees to clear Becker of all liability and expense; however Becker refuses on principle, even though it costs him considerable time, money and harassment. He ends up managing to get the suit dismissed after a lengthy rant on the stand; however, his behaviour and personality has so antagonised the trial judge that she ends up throwing him in the slammer for contempt.
  • A very mild example from Doctor Who—in "The Runaway Bride", Donna threatens to sue a cab driver who refuses to take her to her wedding in Chiswick... because neither she nor The Doctor are carrying any means of paying the fare.
  • Happens in an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. During the trial, the unwitting hillbillies do very little to help their case until they accidentally divulge the fact that the guy suing them has a girlfriend on the side, at which point, his accomplice lets the cat out of the bag.
  • In an episode of Lois and Clark, a man pretends to be injured after Supes saves his life, helped by an Ambulance Chaser who thinks successfully suing Superman will make him famous. He even pretends to get further injury when Supes takes a bomb out of the court (through the roof), but then his girlfriend snaps and spills the truth.
  • In an episode of Smallville, Clark beats up a guy for attempting to sexually assault Lana, but the man sues him for his injuries. Clark's X-Ray Vision shows him that the jerk isn't even injured, but of course he can't tell anybody that.
    • How about insisting on an X-ray?
  • In one episode of Frasier, a man in the coffeehouse takes Frasier's seat and acts very rudely to him. Frasier, who has been on the receiving end of much rudeness all day, finally snaps, lifts the man up by his armpits and throws him out of the shop. The next day he goes back to the man to apologise, only for the man to sue for assault. Niles however starts insulting the man, goading him until he very lightly pokes Niles in the chest. Niles immediately throws himself into the nearest table and threatens to counter sue. Frasier is quickly persuaded to play along:

Man: I barely touched him!
Frasier: Then you admit you touched him! He admits it! You're all witnesses!

    • Interestingly, Niles is spot on here. In common law, battery is any offensive touching. Assault can be either an attempted battery or placing someone in reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm. You don't even need to touch someone to complete an assault and the guy poking Niles is a textbook definition of battery.
  • Mash has several examples of frivolous court martial attempts. In The Trial of Henry Blake, Henry has to defend himself against gurney races, and Radar selling shoes and other things. General Steele brings in several charges against Hawkeye, including impersonating a civilian (The General Flipped at Dawn). In The Novocaine Mutiny, Frank charges Hawkeye with mutiny for disobeying some idiotic orders. In all cases, all the charges are dropped.
  • The West Wing has the President getting sued over his comments regarding car seatbelts.
  • Batman: This is the plot of the pilot episode; the Riddler invokes this when he cleverly tricks the dynamic duo into false arresting him and then he demands batman for a million dollars (in the sixties!). The point is not only the money (Bruce Wayne can afford it) but the fact that batman must reveal his Secret Identity and ruining his Superhero career.


Newspaper Comics[edit | hide]

  • In U.S. Acres, when Orson read the tale of Goldilocks and the three bears and asked if any of the listeners knew what she did after trying the too hot and the too cold bowls of porridge, Lanolin suggested she sued the bears.


Music[edit | hide]

  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "I'll Sue Ya" is about a guy who does this.
    • Notable for the verses "If I twist my ankle while I'm robbing your place / If break my knuckles while punching ya in the face / I'm gonna sue".
  • DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's "You Saw My Blinker" tells the story of Will being rear-ended and sued by a half-blind 90 year old woman who shows up to court in a wheelchair and a neck brace.


Mythology[edit | hide]

  • Probable Ur Example: an Egyptian myth about a thief who breaks into a house via a window, but breaks his leg because of the window's shoddy construction. The homeowner blames the carpenter who put the window together, the carpenter blames a beautiful woman who distracted him, and the woman blames the fellow who dyed her dress red. That dress-dyer doesn't fit in a cell, so a shorter dress-dyer is hauled in, and he can't come up with an excuse to get out. The focus, incidentally, is not on the burglar, but on how crazy the judge authorizing it all is.
    • A variation exists where the last man recommends to hang the thief, the thief is too tall to hang, so a shorter man is brought. The man recommends to dig a hole below the thief's feet. The thief urges them to hurry so that he'll be able to get to heaven soon because a king is needed there... So the local king (who's also the crazy judge) orders himself hanged.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • In Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines, several of the adverts you can hear on the radio are political broadcasts for a fictional Republican senator. The first two imply his Democratic opponent has committed vehicular homicide (on the basis he owns a car of the type responsible for one in the area) and child pornography (on the basis he has not yet stated his opinion on the subject). When he sues the Republican, a third ad notes the Democrat had previously claimed to be against clogging up the courts with frivolous lawsuits, and implies he is a hypocrite ("Would you want your children to become hypocrites? Vote Republican candidate Robert Thorne, the candidate not accused of being a murderous child pornographer!")

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The New Batman Adventures parodied this with an unnamed Johnnie Cochran lookalike popping up to say a catchy line to support a lawsuit. In the commentary for one such episode, the creators note how dated the joke wound up being.
    • In "Over the Edge," Batman's identity is exposed. Minor villains launch a billion dollar lawsuit against Wayne Enterprises. JC pops in: "If the bat's on a spree, Wayne must pay the fee!"
    • When the Joker somehow acquired vast wealth, he used high-powered lawyers to get acquitted of his various crimes (clearly referencing Cochran's most famous case): "If a man's filled with glee, that man must go free!"
  • Subverted in Clerks the Animated Series. Jay slips on a wet mess that Randall left on the floor, and Randall taunts him about it. "What are you going to do, sue?" Right on cue, a lawyer walks in to buy some conveniences- but when Randall (yes, Randall) asks him to take on the case, he refuses and leaves. Randall then begins a concerted campaign of harassment until the lawyer finally gives in and agrees to take on the case- against Dante, since he was the store manager at the time.
    • At trial, the lawyer doesn't even show any significant effort, presenting the bare facts of the case without any grandstanding. Unfortunately, Dante still ends up looking really bad because his boss hired Randall (yes, Randall), who presents an incompetent defense.
  • In an episode of The Boondocks, Riley and his grandpa sue the school after Riley has been called a "Nigga" with the Revered Rollo Goodlove; with fantasies of getting a large sum of money.
  • Happens in an early Simpsons episode "Bart Gets Hit by a Car" (1991). Mr. Burns accidentally hits Bart with his limo; the family attorney "tricks" Homer into exaggerating the resulting injuries to squeeze more money from Burns.

Lionel Hutz: Doctor, are you sure there isn't a little soft tissue trauma in the facial area?
Dr. Nick: Oh yeah, tons of it! [wrapping Bart's head with bandages] Just say when!

    • There is also Homer vs. an "all you can eat" seafood restaurant. If they kick Homer out before he has had "all he can eat," does this make it fraudulent publicity?
      • They actually settled that one out-of-court; they invite him back, but set him up in a display and let people gawk at him pigging out. It draws boatloads of customers who come to watch, but decide to try some themselves because it has to be pretty good if he's eating like that. Well, Homer was happy, the owner of the restaurant was happy, Marge... not so much.
    • Hutz also mentioned in that episode that he sued The Neverending Story for false advertising.
    • Selma has claimed that she has a lucrative hobby filing nuisance lawsuits.
  • South Park took this idea to their usual ridiculous extremes in the episode "Sexual Harassment Panda", where Kyle's dad (a lawyer) encourages a string of frivolous sexual harassment suits that culminates in a suit called "Everyone vs. Everyone". In which he represented both sides.
    • In "200", Tom Cruise sues the town for mocking him, and recruits the help of every celebrity who has ever been portrayed on the show, all because Stan called him a fudge packer when that was literally what he was doing.
  • An episode of SpongeBob SquarePants had Plankton feign serious injury from slipping and falling in the Krusty Krab just so he could sue Mr. Krabs for everything he owned (including, of course, the secret recipe for Krabby Patties).
  • Happened both ways on Wait Till Your Father Gets Home. Harry slips on a dropped piece of butter in a restaurant and falls down. The restaurant owners are heavily insured, and out of fear of Harry filing a lawsuit, they offer him a settlement. Harry doesn't want to take it citing the fact he didn't injure himself, but his honesty is not respected by his family and neighbors who try to pressure him into taking the easy cash being offered. Later on, Harry becomes the defendant when a bicyclist crashes into his stopped car and decides to sue him. His lawyer (Special Guest Don Adams) is particularly inept and Harry is only saved from a losing judgment when the plaintiff suddenly decides to drop the case.
  • On My Gym Partner's a Monkey, Principal Pixiefrog's fear of lawsuits often either drove or exacerbated the wacky hijinks of the episode.
  • In the original Grand Finale of King of the Hill, Lucky accidentally gets injured in Dales house so he can sue him so he can have an expensive wedding with Luanne. It turns out that Dale built his own house, makes his own poison, & is his own boss. Lucky's lawyer tries to sue Strickland Propane because Hank suggested that Dale hire Lucky.
    • A trait that made him The Scrappy to fans was that Lucky entirely sustained himself on frivolous lawsuits and refused to get a job. When we first meet him, he's gotten a new truck with money taken from "Slippin' on pee-pee on th' Costco." When picked up by an ambulance, he even knows the exact amount of morphine to be given that will dull his pain without damaging his ability to testify.
      • Lucky later manages to turn this around. After the Lawyer refuses to drop the case due to "malpractice reasons", Lucky fakes a video of him not being injured, thus making his suit void. The Lawyer tried to "unfake" it to get the suit through, but Lucky and Dale manages to get "injured" again in the Lawyer's office. Turns out the Lawyer's colleagues are just as unscrupulous as him, since Hank's threat of taking the case to any other man in the building was fairly creditible.
    • On another episode, Dale sues the tobacco companies, lying to claim that years of second-hand smoke have made his wife unattractive and destroyed his marriage. When he discovers that the company has (electronic) bugs planted in his house, he tries to exploit it by insulting Nancy at every opportunity, which completely destroys her self-esteem and nearly does destroy the marriage. When Dale finally figures out what he's doing, he cross-examines himself and convinces everyone that he still finds Nancy gorgeous.
      • Ironically he was suing to get money for Nancy so she could get cosmetic surgery.
  • An episode of Gravedale High featured a woman who cried whiplash after her car was slightly nudged by one of the students during driving lessons, and sued the teacher for a million dollars. Turns out she did that 8 times already, but always wins anyway. She wins the case this time too (entering in a wheelchair), but the case finally gets overturned when she tries the same trick in a minor collision with the judge. Yeah, so when a plaintiff gets into an accident involving the judge of a previous case, that judge is allowed to declare the lawsuit against himself and his old court ruling void.
  • On Rocko's Modern Life, Rocko swats a fly while cooking burgers. The fly sees an ad on TV saying how he can make money by suing someone... and he sues Rocko. Rocko is sentenced to 30 days... as a fly. (Until the judge sees him at a fancy restaurant, completely uninjured, and turns Rocko back.)
  • In the Futurama "movie" Beast With a Billion Backs, Bender is caught in an explosion on Zapp Branigan's ship, and screams that he can't feel his legs and will never walk again. Kif tells him in a bored voice that you can't sue the military, and Bender gets up.
  • Courtney from Total Drama Island. Her first lawsuit wasn't so unjustified (fellow competitor Harold rigged the votes against her, sending her home instead, and the host of the show didn't care), but she also bargained for unfair advantages (most notably contact with the outside world via her PDA) along with reentry into the second season. Once she was back in the game, she threatened to sue the producers again every time something didn't go her way.


Real Life[edit | hide]

  • As a preface:
    • Most frivolous lawsuits are not even considered by lawyers, who are required by law to make "reasonable inquiry" into the case to determine good faith and reasonableness. Most lawsuits lambasted as "frivolous" by the media have simply not been laughed out of court yet—someone has filed a silly claim, and the judicial system will throw out the case as frivolous at the first opportunity, but that doesn't stop the media from reporting on it as if it would go anywhere. Of those "frivolous" cases that actually make it to trial, most are actually different than reported—i.e. the standard example of "the criminal suing their victim," is often based on a false claim of self-defense, or the use of force that grossly exceeds the amount warranted by law.
    • Large cash awards are often due to punitive damages (fining the company more than the victim's loss, as a punishment to a company for whom one individual's lifetime income is pocket change). Punitive damages are illegal in many states, but the flip side is, a company that knows its product is dangerous may simply decide to keep selling it if no one who sues can really hurt them.
    • Another reason for large awards can be to compensate for large actual losses. For example, 2 million dollars sounds like a lot, but it's a small proportion of the lost wages and lifetime care expenses of a quadriplegic.
    • Many civil cases are decided by juries, not judges. The defendant often requests a jury because juries tend to have this trope stuck in their heads and are more likely to be sympathetic to the defense. "Runaway juries" are largely a myth, because you and people just like you are the ones sitting on the jury—and you think your own judgment is good, don't you?
    • Finally, the Plaintiff's demand for money in the initial complaint has no legal weight whatsoever. It is merely meant to notify the defendant how much the plaintiff intends to ask for at trial, and is therefore often grossly inflated to act as negotiation posturing. Even if the plaintiff wins, they still have to prove the value of their injuries. This does not stop the media from loudly declaring that "X has sued Y for $10 million in damages!"
    • In addition, awards are often reduced on appeal. The larger the award, the more likely it will be massively reduced. The press reports the $10 million dollar award but never bothers to report when eighteen months later the appeals court reduces it to $70,000.
    • It should be noted that in some cases where a celebrity or a company sues someone for an apparently stupid reason, often it is the lawyers and/or legal department that has instituted the suit without the person or company necessarily realizing it has happened until the inevitable media backlash.
  • While real life examples are too numerous to list, special mention must be given to the band The Romantics vs. Activision because "the cover band in Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s sounds too good". The case got thrown out by the judge.
  • The example that everybody thinks of is that of Stella Liebeck, the woman who ultimately won roughly $600,000 after suing McDonald's because she spilled the company's coffee on her lap, causing third degree burns. On the one hand, she surely must share some of the blame for putting a cup of coffee between her legs (to clarify, her car was not moving at the time of the spill), and the judge and the jury in the case seemed none too unbiased in the matter. On the other hand, McDonald's repeatedly refused to settle for the direct cost of injuries, she wanted to settle outside of court. McDonald's had been warned for years that its coffee was served dangerously hot, with a good 700 serious injuries from the company's coffee in the ten years leading up to the case. Though to be fair, 700 such injuries is less than 0.001% of the tens of millions of cups served in said 10 year period, which is reasonably low by almost anyone's standards.
    • Also, to clarify, Liebeck was found 20% liable, which of course means McDonald's was found 80% liable. She was found 20% liable because guess what? She didn't read the warning labels.
    • However, all of the jokes about how rich Liebeck got off the settlement? Nope. McDonald’s ended up not even having to pay most of it—the trial court reduced the punitive damages awarded by the jury (2.7 million, or about two days of McDonalds’ coffee sales) to $480,000—or three times the compensatory damages of $160,000. And the money went for Liebeck's medical bills (a live-in nurse and skin grafts on her genitals, as her labia was sealed shut by the scalding hot coffee).
    • When she sued McDonald’s, it wasn’t for millions of dollars, it was for $20,000 to cover hospital costs and court fees. The court awarded her $640,000.
  • Another prominent example would be Nancy Stouffer, author of The Legend of Rah and the Muggles, who sued J. K. Rowling in 1999 for "plagiarism", because among other things, Rowling used her "Muggles", even though Stouffer's alien Teletubby-like goblins had nothing to do with Rowling's normal humans, (and weren't actually called muggles; that was something Stouffer made up to increase her chances of winning) and the word 'muggle' already existed as a somewhat antiquated term for 'dullard'. Once the judges saw Stouffer's book was a terribly written piece of wall fragment, they dropped the case as fast as it came. Hoping to cash in the No Such Thing as Bad Publicity, a small-time publisher picked the vanity published original (because no respectable publisher would dare touching it) and did a small printing run of Stouffer's book in 2001. The next year, the publisher folded.
  • In the music world, the incident of Versailles (a US solo act) vs. Versailles (a Japanese band that pre-dated her by years). The US artist freaked at the thought that the Japanese band was "stealing" google searches from her, didn't trademark the name until after she'd found out about their existence, and tried to sue them to keep them from ever playing in the United States. As placation, they've agreed to go by "Versailles JP" if they ever do play in the States, but as her case only exists in that one country, they are still just "Versailles" everywhere else.
    • Not to mention the stupidity of the idea of "Google searches theft"... when you will maybe appear on the tenth page, after all the websites about the French historical city.
  • This legal threat deserves mention for combining (the threat of) a Frivolous Lawsuit with a Critical Research Failure as the would-be plaintiff doesn't seem to understand the difference between a civil and a criminal matter.
  • A shining example. In retaliation for bad customer service, as delivered by a "Spanish woman", a man attempted to sue the Bank of America for "1,784 billion, trillion dollars". (Read: More money than actually exists.)
  • The Church of Happyology, every time you say anything at all that may be criticizing them. Seriously. If what you say is (according to them) false, it's libel or slander (depending on the medium of dissemination). If it's true, and about any of their doctrine, dogma or practices, it's copyright infringement. Other cases, they just dig around until they find something to pick at. No matter how little the chance of you being a threat. Mind you, they don't do it for the money, they do it to bankrupt their victims with legal fees, thus shutting them up, plus the potential intimidation factor against people who might want to criticize the Church but would rather not risk getting sued to oblivion for doing so (given that they fought the U.S. Government and won).
    • Awesomely, this has led to an Anonymous-"led" series of protests under the banner of Project Chanology. Since Anon is an amorphous, leaderless collective, it pretty much can't be sued; Project Chanology participants and organizers are also careful to hide their identities, preventing individual lawsuits. The only way for Happyology to win is to get the people arrested or to follow and identify them illegally, and since the protests are conducted legally, the only way for them to sue is through illegal means. Score one for the internet.
  • (Former) Senator Ernie Chambers, tired of hearing about frivolous lawsuits, decided to make a point and file one of his own... against God. The kicker? Chambers is agnostic.
    • On the other end of the aisle in almost every way: your life sucks? Sue Satan, of course!
      • A Crowning Moment of Awesome goes to the judge who drafted that opinion. To begin with, the "unofficial account" comes from a fictional novel and the whole thing reads with such a Deadpan Snarker tone that it's impossible not to laugh. Good luck getting that subpoena served, as it requires Satan be a resident of the state of Pennsylvania. While not binding precedent in Pennsylvania, the record of Stone v. Scratch may provide some guidance on that count. Even if you get past all that, Satan is a lawyer.
  • Jonathan Lee Riches. He's filed thousands of these suits against various celebrities and political figures for questionable reasons, but that's not what pushes him over the edge. No, what pushes him past the Refuge in Audacity line is that his lawsuit against George W. Bush names 783 other defendants, including Marco Polo, "various Buddhist Monks", Google, The Da Vinci Code, Norse Gods, Adolf Hitler's National Socialist Party, the Gambino crime family and the Taliban, Mein Kampf, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Garden of Eden, the Ming Dynasty and former planet Pluto.
    • The most recent edition of the Guinness Book of Records has an entry for him as "The world's most litigious man". He's now suing the Guinness Book of Records for understating the number of lawsuits he's filed.
  • Leo Stoller, a self-styled "intellectual property entrepreneur" (read: con artist), trademarked such words and phrases as Stealth, Sentra, Dark Star, Air Frame, Stradivarius, Havoc, Chestnut, Trillium, White Line Fever, Fire Power, Love Your Body, Terminator, and many, many more. Once he trademarked a word or phrase, he immediately launched million-dollar lawsuits against people and companies who were casually using those words. His lawsuits have pretty much consistently been laughed out of court.
  • Another one in the same vein: Former South Dakota lawmaker convicted of raping his two foster daughters sends news organizations what he claims is a copyright notice that seeks to prevent the use of his name without his consent.
  • Moral Guardian Jack Thompson was infamous for his lawsuits and legal threats directed at companies ranging from Take Two Interactive to Nintendo to Wendy's to Penny Arcade to Wikipedia to Facebook. Thankfully, he has limited himself to helping state legislators draft unconstitutional bills ever since he was permanently disbarred by the Florida Bar Association, for including gay pornography in one of his court filings.
  • Possibly the most frivolous of all real life lawsuits, the administrative law judge Roy Pearson who sued a small, family-owned laundromat for fifty-four million dollars in damages after they misplaced a pair of his trousers for a day or two. It was finally settled once and for all after roughly four years. He lost, but not before making the life of the laundromat owners thoroughly miserable, even after they made repeated offers to settle for $3000, $4600, and $12000. He's also no longer a judge, thanks in part to this suit.
  • Valery Fabrikant is a man who walked into Concordia University in Montreal and shot many of his colleagues. During his life sentence he's become famous for filling these. So many that in 2000, the Quebec Superior Court declared him a vexatious litigant (meaning he needs the approval of a judge to take any legal proceedings against someone else). A bid to clear that status was dismissed by the Court in 2007. The man is Ax Crazy and a Conspiracy Theorist.
  • In his book Somebody's Gotta Say It, talk show host Neal Boortz related a story from his legal days where a man entered his office and tried to start a lawsuit over a mislabeled beverage can. Boortz's response was "Get the hell out of my office."
  • Staff Cast Members were filming a training film at Disneyland on what to do if there's been an accident. As soon as the actor fell down, a lawyer appeared from among the bystanders encouraging the "injured" man to sue Disneyland and continued to do so after they walked past the camera.
    • Many, many people have tried to sue Disneyland, and for the most part they lose or occasionally settle.
    • One of the more odd and, frankly, amusing lawsuits against Disney was when hyena researchers sued Disney for defamation of character for their portrayal of the hyena trio in The Lion King. Now, if any researchers should have a beef with Disney, it's herpetologists for the constant use of Reptiles Are Abhorrent.
  • "Dr." Tim Langdell, CEO of Edge Games, claims to own the video game trademark for the word "Edge." The man hasn't made a video game since the 80's, but whenever a video game with the word "Edge" in its name is announced, he jumps on the developer and publisher with a trademark infringement lawsuit. His downfall came when he announced "MIRRORS a game from EDGE" a while ago (well after Mirror's Edge came out) and promptly sued Electronic Arts over it. EA managed to get Langdell's trademarks pulled and set him and his company up for some serious fraud charges.
  • Westboro Baptist Church does this to its critics. Its most often-used defense is that its right to free speech is being violated. These are the people who picket military funerals because they see the deaths of soldiers as divine punishment for serving a country that tolerates gay people. They even picketed Heath Ledger's funeral. Why? For playing the role of a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain. The general opinion of many people (even in the American Civil Liberties Union) is that they're doing it for money. The fact that at least eighteen of the 80 or so members are attorneys couldn't possibly have anything to do with that, could it?
    • One theory is that they are deliberately antagonizing people so that they can be assaulted, only to sue for damages.
      • This became more apparent as they're running out of people to sue. They launched a protest at the funerals of four Tennessee cheerleaders, claiming that God hated Tennessee for tolerating gays. Tennessee is one of the most conservative states in the Union (to the point of still enforcing "Blue Laws" that ban the sale of alcohol on Sundays), and the city of Knoxville has the highest practicing Christian population in the country. After the shooting tragedy in Tuscon, Arizona, they were planning to protest the funeral of a 9-year-old shooting victim. When they agreed not to, they did so in order to receive airtime on two radio stations. It's become clear that they're just scrambling for exposure and suing anyone they can to keep their operation afloat.
    • Fred Phelps, Sr. (the leader of this church) was an attorney until he filed a frivolous lawsuit of his own against a court reporter, which ultimately led to his disbarrment. The suit was because the court reporter had not given him a report on time as he had asked. He sued her for $22,000. The thing that got him disbarred was the fact that he falsified eight sworn statements, which he claimed to have obtained, but he had never contacted any of the people.
  • In 2009 there was a class action lawsuit in progress against Apple because some older iTunes gift cards advertised that "songs are 99 cents" (there are now some songs that cost $1.20). Apple settled the case in 2012, offering $3.25 credit to anyone who bought the higher-priced songs with those cards.
  • In an instance nicely averted by a cry of "Have your attorney talk to my attorney", self-proclaimed psychic Sylvia Browne threatened to sue Robert Lancaster, manager of a website devoted to debunking Browne's claims. Her—or her lawyers' -- argument was that by (back then) calling his site "Stop Sylvia Browne", Lancaster was infringing trademark: his use of her name, the claim went, "misleads the consumer as to the source or affiliation". They were arguing that someone reading his site, on which nearly every word criticized Sylvia Browne, might mistake it for Browne's own website! (Mr. Lancaster had his own lawyers reply to this blatant attempt at a SLAPP; Ms. Browne's lawyers have not to date followed up.)
  • When David Letterman left NBC for CBS, NBC threatened to sue him if he used intellectual property from Late Night such as "Stupid Pet Tricks" and the Top Ten list. The problems with this include top ten lists preceding Letterman's show, and the fact that Stupid Pet Tricks actually came from a show which Letterman legally owned the intellectual property of. When both Letterman and Jay Leno mocked them for it, the issue was dropped.
  • Orly Taitz. Despite her numerous lawsuits (all claiming that Barack Obama is not a US citizen and therefore ineligible to be president) being tossed out of court left, right and centre; being fined $20,000 effectively for wasting the court's time and a public perception that she is completely barking mad, she keeps right on filing them.
  • Universal Studios once tried to sue Nintendo over allegations that Donkey Kong infringed on the King Kong copyright. What makes this frivolous is that not only was King Kong a Public Domain Character, but Universal themselves had proven he was in an earlier lawsuit. Needless to say, they lost.
    • Nintendo was so grateful to the lawyer who defended them in the lawsuit that they gave him exclusive rights to name his yachts "Donkey Kong" and later named a successful video game franchise after him. The lawyer's name was John Kirby.
  • In a joke/urban legend somebody insured his cigars against fire; after smoking them all, he tried to collect the insurance. The insurance company turned the table on him by charging him with arson.
  • Spike Lee's attempt to sue the newly renamed Spike TV. The common joke at the time quickly became wondering if he was going to sue railroad spikes next.
  • The reason the film The Last Airbender doesn't have "Avatar" in its title is James Cameron threatened to sue Paramount for supposedly infringing on the title of his film Avatar. Note that not only did the animated series beat him to the punch by four years, the word is as old as The Bible. Paramount undoubtedly could have won, but saw it as too much money to spend on so small a point.
    • At least two different versions of this story have surfaced. In one, "Avatar" was dropped from the title not because Cameron threatened to sue, but because Paramount or M. Night Shyamalan was worried that the potential confusion of the two films might reduce ticket sales for The Last Airbender.
  • Singer Lady Miss Kier, of the former group Deee-Lite (of "Groove Is In The Heart" fame) sued Sega, claiming that popular space reporter Ulala of the Space Channel 5 dance game series, was created based on her likeness. She promptly lost the lawsuit, as Sega claimed that the creators of Ulala did not even know who Lady Miss Kier or Deee-Lite were when they created her.
  • Monster Cable Products will threaten to sue (and has occasionally filed suit against) anyone who uses the word "Monster" to sell anything. Monster Energy Drink, Monsters, Inc., Monster Mini Golf, and Monster.com have all been pressured by the company.
  • In 2011, Valerie Joyce Wilson Turks sued P. Diddy for $1 trillion for causing 9/11 and also for allegedly date-raping her and impregnating her 24 years earlier. $900 billion is for child support and $100 billion is for loss of income. This is roughly the GDP of a decent-sized country (2010, Mozambique). Note that Diddy himself is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in hip hop, and he's worth only about half a billion. As of 2016, the suit seems to have simply vanished from the legal system.
  • Record labels want $75 trillion for copyright-related damages. That's five times the US national debt in 2011, and more money than exists on the planet (The Global GDP being somewhere on the order of US$61 Trillion).
  • The fact Private Eye does actually lose a lot of libel cases means that pretty much anyone who gets criticised in the magazine thinks it's worth a shot. Most of them receive "the reply given in Arkell v. Pressdram". In one recent example, the owners of The Daily Telegraph threatened to sue over a spoof Telegraph front page treating their own financial arrangements like the MP expenses scandal the paper broke. The Eye pointed out that this was clearly in the "joke" section of the magazine, and could no more be mistaken for a real Telegraph headline than The New Coalition Academy could be mistaken for a real school newsletter.
  • The Room director Tommy Wiseau made an even bigger laughingstock of himself when he threatened lawsuits to various negative video reviews of the film, claiming that their use of clips from the film violated copyright (regardless of the fact that video reviews good and bad do this all the time). Most notably, among his targets were two videos on That Guy With The Glasses, whose massive fanbase put Wiseau on the end of an Internet Counterattack of epic proportions. They eventually got him to back down, and the reviews are now back up.
  • A famous Pepsi ad showed a series of goodies a kid could get for turning in Pepsi points, culminating in a Harrier jet with the caption "7,000,000 POINTS." Some kid actually tried to purchase one with a $700,000 check at ten cents a point (actual unit price of an AV-8B Harrier - $30 million), and sued Pepsi when they declined.[2] Among other things, he demanded a jury composed of "The Pepsi Generation" to hear his claim. The Judge threw the case out, noting that any reasonable person would get the joke.
  • Katy Perry (stage name) tried to sued an Australian designer named Katie Perry (birth name) to stop her from using her real name for her label. Katy Perry eventually dropped the suit because it was ridiculous.
  • Al Franken was sued by the Fox News Channel for his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right for using Fox News's motto: "Fair and Balanced". The judge heard both sides' arguments and told them he needed a moment to consider. He stepped out of the courtroom for two seconds before returning and saying, "Your (Fox's) claim is completely without merit, both legally and factually."
  • A man named Leroy Greer bought flowers from 1-800 Flowers with a love note. That wasn't a big deal...until a "Thank you for doing business with us" letter came in the mail to his home and was found by his wife. She had not received any flowers, nor had she any knowledge of a recent floral purchase, so she called the company to see what was up. Turns out some flowers had been purchased...for another woman he was seeing on the side.[3] So he decided to sue the florist's ass off for delivering the thank-you note, even though that's their standard business procedure and they had sent it to his (and his soon-to-be-ex-wife's) house... because now that there was proof of adultery, he was going to have to pay his soon-to-be-ex-wife a higher settlement.
  • Namco Bandai filed a suit against CD Projekt Red for publishing rights, and the removal of DRM, which was, according to them, a violation of agreement. They won, however.
  • While this is definitely the "will be laughed out of court ten seconds later" version, a guy who drove under the influence of booze, Xanax, and cocaine and killed three people (a couple and the wife's mom) on Christmas Day (a fourth, the wife's stepfather, died a few years later, and injuries from that accident did play some part) decided that wasn't bad enough and added epic douchebaggery to his rap sheet: Why not sue the victims (which means the victims' families, since the victims are slightly dead) for "pain and suffering," "mental anguish," and the "loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life" (y'know, 'cause you can't enjoy life while in prison for driving while hammered and stoned and killing three, now four, innocent people.) There's a special hell... The only reason his attorney, Debra Tuomey, even considered filing this is because she's his sister.
    • Update: In June 2012, Belniak lost his lawsuit, while his victims' families won theirs and were awarded US$14 million in damages. As proof of her brother's "suffering", Tuomey had him display a small scar on his elbow. The court was not impressed.
  • In May 2015, a 67-year-old Nebraska woman named Sylvia Driskell attempted to sue every gay person on earth in United States Federal Court on the behalf of God in an effort to thwart LGBT rights and shame them back into the closet. The judge dismissed the suit as soon as the ball landed in his court. (No pun intended.)
  • Yarbrough v. Sturm Ruger & Co: After a Ruger Blackhawk had an accidental hammer drop and shot himself in the leg and successfully sued Ruger for half a million. The fact that James Yarbrough stole the gun was blocked from court.
  1. "The meat flavor left my gut completely intact, your honor!"
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_v._Pepsico,_Inc.
  3. The Greers were separated, beginning divorce proceedings, but were still legally married as the divorce was not yet final