What Is a Frivolous Lawsuit?

//What Is a Frivolous Lawsuit?

What-Is-a-Frivolous-Lawsuit?Every year there are thousands of frivolous lawsuits filed that have absolutely no merit under the law. This frivolous litigation is often filed to harass or intimidate another person and most are thrown out of court.  Let’s take a look at some of the most common characteristics of a frivolous suit:

  • No legal merit. The number one characteristic of frivolous lawsuit cases is that they have absolutely no merit under the law. And usually, these silly lawsuits are obviously filed in bad faith so most reputable attorneys won’t take them.
  • They’re messy. Oftentimes even the lawyer filing the frivolous lawsuit knows that the case has no merit so they submit messy paperwork and arguments (and probably not using case management software). They may not have any intention of taking the case to court, they just want to intimidate the other party to get them to pay attention or take a certain action.
  • The author is a serial filer. Where there is one frivolous suit, there is often a filer who has filed crazy lawsuits in the past. Many frivolous lawsuits have at least one filer who is known for filing lawsuits that have no legal merit.

Frivolous Lawsuit Examples

There have been a lot of crazy lawsuits filed in the past. Let’s take a look at four frivolous lawsuits.

Lauren Rosenberg sued Google for over $100,000 in 2009 when Google Maps advised her to walk on the freeway to get to her destination. She followed their directions and got hit by a car. She also sued the driver of the car. Google Maps instructed Rosenberg to walk along Utah State Route 224, a busy freeway without sidewalks, and despite the instructions obviously being wrong or at least dangerous, she hiked along the edge of the road anyway, decided against using common sense and filed a silly lawsuit after the fact. (source)

David Roller filed a $2 million lawsuit against magician David Blaine and a $50 million lawsuit against David Copperfield because he claims the men “stole [his] Godly powers.” Roller claims that the magicians used witchcraft to take his powers. (source)

Dan Shannon and Jay Kelly, two PETA members, struck a deer after leaving an anti-hunting campaign. They decided to sue the Division of Fish and Wildlife in the New Jersey area. According to PETA lawsuit, the two PETA members hit the deer because of the recent deer management program, which stipulated that the Division of Fish and Wildlife increase the deer population to provide more game for hunting season. PETA’s frivolous lawsuit claims that the deer were running across the freeway to escape hunters which is what caused the accident.  (source)

Even the best personal injury claims software or law practice management software couldn’t help Austin Aitken, a 49-year-old part-time paralegal from Cleveland, who sued NBC for $2.5 million claiming that watching a grotesque challenge on Fear Factor allegedly made him vomit and run into a wall in his home. Aitken claims that despite regularly watching the show, the rat eating challenge cause an extreme and damaging reaction.  He also claimed that his blood pressure rose so much that he became disoriented and was unable to see the door on his way to another room.  The judge eventually threw out the frivolous lawsuit.  (source)

Even though these crazy lawsuits were thrown out, sometimes frivolous lawsuits see their day in court and sometimes the filers win.

Crazy Lawsuits That Won

Not every judge can see through a frivolous lawsuit right away. Sometimes lawsuits that are completely outrageous, find their way to a sympathetic judge. Let’s take a look at a few crazy lawsuits that won.

Benjamin Careathers, a regular consumer of Red Bull, sued the company for false advertising, arguing that after 10 years drinking Red Bull he did not get wings nor any enhanced athletic or intellectual performance. This crazy lawsuit resulted in a $13 million settlement and an agreement from Red Bull to refund customers $10. (source)

A Brazilian court ordered McDonald’s to pay a former franchise manager $US17,500 ($18,000) because he gained 29kg while working there for 12 years. The 32-year-old man says he was forced to sample food products each day to ensure that quality standards remained high because McDonald’s hired “mystery clients” to randomly visit restaurants and report on the food, service and cleanliness. (source)

In this crazy lawsuit, a man sued for 75 cents over a flat beer in California Small Claims Court and won. “This man spent $6 to file the case, $14 to serve the papers – he’s spending $20 just to get his 75 cents back,” recalled the judge. “I ruled for the man with the beer.” (source)

Consequences of Frivolous Litigation

When silly lawsuits are filed it can have consequences for the filer, the target, and the lawyer who took on the case. Legal document drafting software won’t be able to help protect you from frivolous litigation, so let’s take a closer look at some of the consequences of a frivolous lawsuit.

  • When someone is hit with a crazy lawsuit that has no basis in reality or in the law, it can still be stressful. The targeted party still needs to respond, seek legal advice and use their energy to deal with the issues.
  • Financial loss. If the frivolous lawsuit isn’t thrown out immediately, the targeted party may waste money hiring a lawyer and lose wages as they take time off work to address the issue.
  • If a judge finds that a lawsuit is frivolous, the filer and his lawyer may be hit with fines and a counter lawsuit that seeks damages. If someone is maliciously filing crazy lawsuits to harass another party, the affected person could seek damages. There can be a high price to pay for filing frivolous lawsuits. If the filer is found to be abusing the legal system to harass another person they could end up paying thousands of dollars in damages to the other party or even to the government.

Even if you find yourself scoffing and laughing at the dumbest lawsuits that won, you should still beware of frivolous lawsuit filers in your practice. Always take the time to thoroughly investigate the issue and make sure that the complaint has solid legal standing. Even if the lawsuit seems legitimate, be careful if it’s filed by someone with a history of filing lawsuits as a form of harassment or intimidation.

 

By | August 7th, 2018|

About the Author:

For years, Josh has helped lawyers become more organized, productive, and profitable. A trained litigator, Josh came to Smokeball from a large east-coast law firm where his practice focused on franchise, insurance, marine, and general litigation. His work with Smokeball, and his continued passion for what he does each day, is driven by a desire to help lawyers and their staff do better in every way. Knowing well the stress and strain put on today’s legal professional, he regularly focuses on improving work and life in the law. He has traveled the country working with and learning from lawyers and their staff. Josh speaks regularly to bar associations about successful law firm practices and other legal topics. Recent notable engagements have been with the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Missouri Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Conference. In addition to his work at Smokeball, Josh serves on the Writing Resource Center staff at The John Marshall Law School. Besides legal technology, his research interests include judicial decision-making, jury decision-making and psychology, and legal writing. He has written and overseen research exploring causal effects of sex/gender on federal appellate court decision-making, and assisted with research for a forthcoming textbook on judicial decision-making. Additionally, Josh sits on the Board of Chicago Fringe Opera Company. Josh holds his J.D., cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as a Senior Editor of the Wash. U. Law Review, held the prestigious Thompson Coburn Research Fellowship, served as Research Assistant to then-Vice-Dean (now Chancellor) Andrew D. Martin, and clerked at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and a B.M. in Music Performance with Honors Scholar distinction from the University of Connecticut, making him a Huskies basketball fan through and through. Follow Josh’s activity on LinkedIn, and keep up with new articles on the Smokeball Blog.

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