Personal injury cases are a way for people to be compensated for the wrongdoings of a third party that culminated in them sustaining an injury. In order to receive adequate compensation, it is very important to seek proper legal advice. These types of cases are governed by tort law. Personal injury cases are ruled upon on an almost daily basis. Let’s take a look at ten cases that are truly famous – if not infamous.
1. Suing the Weatherman
This case did not take place in this country, but it is one of the most famous examples of the lengths people would go to for compensation. In Israel, a woman took a weatherman to court as his weather prediction was wrong. Good weather had been predicted, but rain materialized. The woman claimed that this fact meant that she was inappropriately dressed and this led to her sustaining an injury, as she caught the flu and was unable to go to work. Furthermore, she had to spend money on medication. She was awarded the equivalent of $1,000.
2. Suing Trains
In New York City, a woman laid down on the subway tracks in an attempt to commit suicide. When the train arrived, it didn’t kill her but injured her instead. She then sued the city of New York for these injuries. She was awarded $14.1 million by the Supreme Court.
3. Liebeck vs McDonald’s Restaurants
This is perhaps one of the best known personal injury claims in the world. The Liebeck vs McDonald’s case started in 1994, when Stella Lieback, an elderly woman, purchased a coffee at the drive-thru of McDonald’s. This coffee was spilled in her lap, leading to her suffering burns to her upper legs and groin. She sued for $20,000 as it was found that the coffee at McDonald’s restaurants was indeed slightly hotter than average cups of coffee. McDonald’s believed they would win the case and didn’t settle, taking the case to court instead. This was a mistake, as the judge awarded Liebeck $200,000, of which she would receive $160,000 as it was felt she held 20% of the responsibility instead. The case continued and she was eventually awarded $2.7 million for punitive damages.
4. Defective Doorknobs
Cedrick Makara, New York City claims examiner, filed a negligence case against Newmark Realty and 40 Worth Associates. Makara went to a bathroom without a doorknob and when he tried to come out of the toilet, pushing the door open, a second person had tried to enter the cubicle. In the process, his thumb was seriously injured. In his claim, he stated that he required surgery and was unable to work for six months. The jury agreed with him and awarded him $3 million. Furthermore, his wife was awarded $750,000 as well.
5. Trapped Burglar
In a more unusual case, Bristol, Pennsylvania thief Terrence Dickinson planned to burgle a property. In so doing, he found himself trapped in the property because the garage door, which was his exit point, didn’t work properly. He then tried a different door, which was also faulty. He found himself trapped in the property for eight days, surviving on dry dog food and Pepsi. He sued the homeowners for his mental distress and was awarded $500,000.
6. CBS Sued by Bret Michaels, Lead Singer of Poison
Bret Michaels, the lead signer of rock band Poison, sued CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System) when he suffered an injury at the Tony Award broadcast, which happened in 2009. He claimed to not have been properly instructed on how to leave the stage, leading him to get hit in the head by a set piece. Neil Patrick Harris, the host of the show, jokingly said that Michaels had taken “head banger” to a whole new level, but it quickly became clear that it was not a joke. Michaels broke his nose and he suffered brain hemorrhage a few months later, something he believed was caused by the accident. The courts ruled in his favor. Unfortunately, the amount he was awarded has not been disclosed.
7. Gloria Estefan Accident and Recovery
In 1990, singer Gloria Estefan was touring with her band when their tour bus was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer that had jack knifed. Estefan suffered a broken back and had to miss a year of touring and concerts. She had to learn to walk again, as well as having to be able to stand the stresses of touring and being on stage. The tractor trailer company was held liable for the incident. The lawsuit was filed by Estefan and her husband and they filed for medical expenses, lost income as Estefan could not perform, as well as pain and suffering. $8.95 million in damages were awarded. Interestingly, the company that owned the truck then sued the company that operated the truck, in an attempt to earn back some of the money they lost.
8. Car Accident Causing Emotional Distress
In 1988, Julie Miramon, a university student, was involved in two vehicle accidents. The first one was a serious accident, the second involved her being rear-ended. She did not suffer any significant physical injuries during either accident. However, she did suffer serious mental distress, causing her to develop an eating disorder and anxiety. During testimony, she stated how her life had changed because of this. According to medical professionals, it was the second accident that caused any unresolved issues from the first accident to be amplified. In the initial ruling in the Miramon v. Bradley case, she was not awarded any damages. However, she appealed and was awarded $790 to cover medical expenses, as well as a further $6,000 for pain and suffering.
9. Shared Fault in Car Accidents
In the Koste v. Chambers case, George Chambers was driving a vehicle and Rita Madsen was his passenger. They both sued David Koste, a driver of a different vehicle. Rather than going to trial, the case was heard under arbitration in order to find a reasonable solution. During arbitration, it was found no blame lay on the part of Rita Madsen. It was ruled that Koste should pay her $24,000 in damages, which he immediately paid. Chambers also claimed against Koste, however, and in this case it was found that both parties were at fault. Koste then sued Chambers for his part of the accident, to recoup some of the damages he had to pay to Madsen.
10. The 9/11 Attacks
On September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda terrorists attacked the Twin Towers in New York City. The human and financial losses were tremendous, and various lawsuits were started. Within just a few years, many victims of the attack had received compensation. However, “Ground Zero” workers started lawsuits that claimed that they had sustained illnesses due to the environmental conditions they were subjected to during the rescue and cleanup efforts. These cases took much longer to resolve, not in the least because they were filed individually, rather than in a class action suit.
In 2009, over 9,000 individual Ground Zero workers cases were filed against private contractors and government agencies alike. In all suits, it was claimed that not enough was done to prevent the workers from contracting various illnesses from the Ground Zero environment, which was highly toxic. Most of the cases were filed by police offers, firefights and construction workers. They looked at being compensated for respiratory diseases and cancer in the main. However, the defendants contested these claims, saying the link between the illnesses and the Ground Zero conditions were not proven. Furthermore, the City of New York itself claimed legal immunity, basing this on the fact that the attack was a national emergency. If the city would have to pay damages, this would come out of local taxpayers’ contributions, which would not be fair.
The cases took a long time to be heard, but a settlement of $712 million was approved in 2011 for over 95% of the claims. Those with severe illnesses will receive no more than $1.8 million each. The $712 million has been placed in a fund to provide financial assistance to those with lung illnesses. In the same year, President Barack Obama signed the Zadroga Act, which provides further billions to ensure 9/11 victims can be monitored and treated. Not just those who filed the lawsuit are able to apply for these funds, but also anyone else who worked or lived in the area at the time of the attack. The funds do not yet cover cancer treatments, but if it is proven that there is a link between cancer and the attacks, then this will change.
Additionally, the Act reactivated the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which had been closed in 2003. This fund exists for those who have sustained partial or full disabilities as a result of an illness linked to the attacks. It is in place not just to compensate people for economic losses, but also for their sustained pain and suffering.