John Edwards has a weak spot. . .
The 2003 True Stella Awards Winners
by Randy Cassingham
Issued 21 January 2004
#8: Stephen Joseph of San Francisco, Calif. Joseph runs a non-profit group whose goal is to ban the “trans fats” used in many processed foods and which are indeed very unhealthy. But to help gain publicity for his cause, Joseph, an attorney, chose one food that uses trans fats — Oreo cookies — and sued Kraft Foods for putting the stuff in the snack. The resulting publicity over “suing Oreos” was so intense that Joseph dropped the suit after just 13 days. He never even served the suit on Kraft, showing that he had no interest in actually getting the case heard in court. What real cases got pushed aside during his abuse of the courts to get publicity for his pet organization?
#7: Shawn Perkins of Laurel, Ind. Perkins was hit by lightning in the parking lot Paramount’s Kings Island amusement park in Mason, Ohio. A classic “act of God”, right? No, says Perkins’ lawyer. “That would be a lot of people’s knee-jerk reaction in these types of situations.” The lawyer has filed suit against the amusement park asking unspecified damages, arguing the park should have “warned” people not to be outside during a thunderstorm.
#6: Caesar Barber, 56, of New York City. Barber, who is 5-foot-10 and 270 pounds, says he is obese, diabetic, and suffers from heart disease because fast food restaurants forced him to eat their fatty food four to five times per week. He filed suit against McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC, who “profited enormously” and asked for unspecified damages because the eateries didn’t warn him that junk food isn’t good for him. The judge threw the case out twice, and barred it from being filed a third time. Is that the end of such McCases? No way: lawyers will just find another plaintiff and start over, legal scholars say.
#5: Cole Bartiromo, 18, of Mission Viejo, Calif. After making over $1 million in the stock market, the feds made Bartiromo pay it all back: he gained his profits, they said, using fraud. Bartiromo played baseball at school, but after his fraud case broke he was no longer allowed to participate in extracurricular sports. Bartiromo clearly learned a lot while sitting in federal court: he wrote and filed his own lawsuit against his high school, reasoning that he had planned on a pro baseball career but, because he was kicked off the school’s team, pro scouts wouldn’t be able to discover him. His suit demands the school reimburse him for the great salary he would have made in the majors, which he figures is $50 million.
#4: Priest David Hanser, 70. Hanser was one of the first Catholic priests to be caught up in the sex abuse scandal. In 1990, he settled a suit filed by one of his victims for $65,000. In the settlement, Hanser agreed not to work with children anymore, but the victim learned that Hanser was ignoring that part of the agreement. The victim appealed to the church, asking it to stop Hanser from working near children, but the church would not intervene. “It’s up to the church to decide where he works,” argued the priest’s lawyer. When the outraged victim went to the press to warn the public that a pedo priest was near children, Hanser sued him for the same $65,000 because he violated his own part of the deal — to keep the settlement secret. The message is clear: shut up about outrageous abuse, or we’ll sue you for catching us.
#3: Wanda Hudson, 44, of Mobile, Ala. After Hudson lost her home to foreclosure, she moved her belongings to a storage unit. She says she was inside her unit one night “looking for some papers” when the storage yard manager found the door to her unit ajar — and locked it. She denies that she was sleeping inside, but incredibly did not call for help or bang on the door to be let out! She was not found for 63 days and barely survived; the formerly “plump” 150-pound woman lived on food she just happened to have in the unit, and was a mere 83 pounds when she was found. She sued the storage yard for $10 million claiming negligence. Even though the jury was not allowed to learn that Hudson had previously diagnosed mental problems, it found Hudson was nearly 100 percent responsible for her own predicament — but still awarded her $100,000.
#2: Doug Baker, 45, of Portland, Ore. Baker says God “steered” him to a stray dog. He admits “People thought I was crazy” to spend $4,000 in vet bills to bring the injured mutt back to health, but hey, it was God’s dog! But $4,000 was nothing: he couldn’t even take his girlfriend out to dinner without getting a dog-sitter to watch him. When the skittish dog escaped the sitter, Baker didn’t just put an ad in the paper, he bought display ads so he could include a photo. His business collapsed since he devoted full time to the search for the dog. He didn’t propose to his girlfriend because he wanted the dog to deliver the ring to her. He hired four “animal psychics” to give him clues to the animal’s whereabouts, and hired a witch to cast spells. He even spread his own urine around to “mark his territory” to try to lure the dog home! And, he said, he cried every day. Two months in to the search, he went looking for the dog where it got lost — and quickly found it. His first task: he put a collar on the mutt. (He hadn’t done that before for a dog that was so “valuable”?!) After finding the dog, he sued the dog sitter, demanding $20,000 for the cost of his search, $30,000 for the income he lost by letting his business collapse, $10,000 for “the temporary loss of the special value” of the dog, and $100,000 in “emotional damages” — $160,000 total. God has not been named as a defendant.
And the winner of the 2003 True Stella Awards: The City of Madera, Calif. Madera police officer Marcy Noriega had the suspect from a minor disturbance handcuffed in the back of her patrol car. When the suspect started to kick at the car’s windows, Officer Noriega decided to subdue him with her Taser. Incredibly, instead of pulling her stun gun from her belt, she pulled her service sidearm and shot the man in the chest, killing him instantly. The city, however, says the killing is not the officer’s fault; it argues that “any reasonable police officer” could “mistakenly draw and fire a handgun instead of the Taser device” and has filed suit against Taser, arguing the company should pay for any award from the wrongful death lawsuit the man’s family has filed. What a slur against every professionally trained police officer who knows the difference between a real gun and a stun gun! And what a cowardly attempt to escape responsibility for the actions of its own under-trained officer.