As a small-business owner in America, you've probably heard about a fair amount of crazy lawsuits. News outlets often hype those made-for-media cases, which is why so much of the world thinks Americans are lawsuit-happy. In reality, tort (i.e., personal injury) cases represent only 5 percent of all incoming civil cases, according to The National Center for State Courts.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that your small business won’t face a frivolous lawsuit at some point. If a meritless claim is brought against your business, you still have to prepare a defense, hire lawyers, and pay court fees – and those expenses add up. A “frivolous lawsuit” that never makes it to court costs an average of $2,000 to $5,000.
Let’s look at eight frivolous General Liability claims that will leave you shaking your head.
General Liability Lawsuit #1: A Thorny Debate
Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Probably, and it would still have thorns. Charles Imwalle bought roses at grocery chain Winn-Dixie. He pricked his finger on a rose’s thorn. Imwalle filed a lawsuit against Winn-Dixie and Passion Growers LLC, the flower importer, for $15,000 in damages, The Orlando Sentinel reports. The suit alleged the thorny puncture caused him to suffer pain, disfigurement, and lost wages.
General Liability Lawsuit #2: Tiger Catfight
Tony the Tiger has been the face of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes since 1952. Few trademark mascots are more recognizable. But Kellogg felt Exxon Mobil’s cartoon tiger infringed on the cereal company’s own trademark tiger by selling food in gas station convenience stores. According to Forbes, the Exxon tiger has been featured in ads since the mid-1960s, urging consumers to “put a tiger in your tank.” The suit started in 1998, but eventually, the two companies settled.
General Liability Lawsuit #3: Dizzying Designs
Have you ever noticed some intricate carpets have a kaleidoscope effect? One Texas resident blamed a busy carpet pattern for a tumble he took at Kampus Korner Restaurant. Danny Stilley claimed the excessive pattern on the carpet made it difficult to navigate near an elevated step, according to The Southeast Texas Record. The lawsuit sought damages for medical expenses, mental anguish, pain, and impairment.
General Liability Lawsuit #4: Breaking News: Lions Bite
Lions may look soft and cuddly, but the price of petting one may be a finger, as Renae Ferguson found out. She lost her finger while trying to pet a caged lion at a Michigan zoo. Ferguson claimed personnel at Sunrise Side Nature Trail and Exotic Park gave her permission to pet the lion, according to NY Daily News. Despite several warning signs displayed, Ferguson said there weren’t enough precautions taken by the zoo to warn patrons about dangerous animals.
General Liability Lawsuit #5: Play with Coffee, Get Burned
In the infamous McDonald’s lawsuit from the 1990s, an old woman spilled hot coffee into her lap, requiring skin grafts for third-degree burns. Copycat Selena Edwards claimed an unsecured lid caused hot McDonald’s coffee to spill on her right hand, severely burning it, according to the Los Angeles Times. Edwards sought $10,000 from McDonald’s, providing photos and medical documents as proof. Turns out, she took the photos from the Internet. Whoops. Edwards faces 21 felony counts of insurance fraud.
General Liability Lawsuit #6: Running into Trouble
In November 2009, Erica Tamburin was allegedly hurt in a Cabela’s store parking lot when another driver hit her truck. Tamburin sued Cabela’s over the car crash in 2011, citing injuries, pain, and emotional anguish, according to Business Insurance. Imagine the outdoor store’s surprise upon learning that Tamburin competed in a local half marathon in May 2010, finishing 50th out of 173 participants. The defendant’s attorney said, “I’m very pleased to hear that [Ms. Tamburin has] gotten better and has resumed her normal activities.”
General Liability Lawsuit #7: Baffling Bats
DC Comics opened a legal dispute with Liga Giants Valencia, a Spanish soccer club, for using a bat in its logo like Batman’s symbol, according to Bleacher Report. Valencia’s logo has been in use since 1919, well before the Caped Crusader made his first comic book appearance. Aside from the identical subject matter of a bat, the logos have distinct differences.
General Liability Lawsuit #8: Banana Peel Fraud
This textbook slip-and-fall case isn’t textbook at all. Maurice Owens sued the Washington Metro Transit Authority for $15,000 after allegedly slipping on a banana peel (yes, really) when exiting a station elevator, according to the Washington Post. Unfortunately for Owens, authorities proved that he orchestrated the whole event and the claim was thrown out. How? Station cameras caught the entire incident. Owens was accused of fraud and arrested.
Frivolous Litigation Frenzy
General Liability claims can lurk around any corner. Even if you’ve done nothing wrong, you can still be sued. That’s why General Liability Insurance is smart investment to handle any zany claims that come your small business’s way. For free quotes, use our easy online insurance application.