Real Injuries or Frivolous Lawsuits? You Make the Call!

Coffee too hot? Or perhaps the dry cleaners lost a favorite pair of pants? Maybe, like one Colorado inmate who hurt himself rappelling down a jail wall claimed, sheriff's officials made escaping a little too easy.

Those are a few of the allegations in controversial lawsuits that have been filed recently.

Hundreds of lawsuits are filed every day in the United States, for claims ranging from legitimate to ridiculous. A survey of 34 state court systems found 433,000 new tort cases in 2006, down from 547,000 in 1997, according to the National Center for State Courts.

A woman famously sued McDonald's in the early 1990s after she spilled scalding coffee on her legs. A jury awarded her more than $2 million, which was reduced by a judge. A Michael Jordan look-alike sued Nike and Jordan for $862 million because he found it distressing to be mistaken for the basketball star. He dropped his suit after a wave of negative news articles.

"When people bring suits they often sue for the moon," says Phillip Howard, chairman of Common Good, a legal reform coalition. "Some people will bring suits over any accident or perceived slight and the broad effect of that is that people in society go through the day looking over their shoulders."

Here are a few of the more controversial recent lawsuits.

Hold The Pickles, or Else

Darius Dugger wanted his sandwich without onions, pickles and tomatoes.

Dugger is seeking $100,000 in damages after a Burger King franchise allegedly messed up his order, making him sick, according to the Virginian Pilot newspaper.

Dugger claims he suffered a "severe allergic reaction" to the condiments, costing him thousands of dollars in medical bills and forcing him to miss work.

His "specific request for the omission of onions, pickles and tomatoes had not been complied with," the lawsuit claims, the paper reported.

Lawyers for Dugger and the Burger King franchise did not return calls for comment.

A similar lawsuit against McDonald's was recently dismissed. Jeromy Jackson sued the fast food chain for $10 million after he said he had a severe allergic reaction to the cheese on his quarter pounder, according to the Charleston Gazette.

He claimed he was assured his burger wouldn't have any cheese. In a lawsuit filed in 2007, he alleged he "was only moments from death" by the time he reached the hospital.

Scalding Coffee Leads to Lawsuit

One of the most famous lawsuits, which became the poster child for those who advocate for reforms to lower jury verdicts, was a result of McDonald's coffee.

Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque, N.M., was severely burned by the chain's coffee in February 1992. Her lawyer argued that the hot coffee was unreasonably dangerous.

Liebeck, then 79 years old, had set a cup between her legs while sitting in a parked car. She spent a week in the hospital, and then returned a month later for skin grafts to heal the second- and third-degree burns, according to the Legal Times.

A jury awarded Liebeck more than $2 million. The judge reduced the total award to about $640,000. The two sides settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

The $54 Million Pants

Former Washington, D.C., Administrative Judge Roy Pearson made headlines in 2007 when he sued a local dry cleaner, claiming it had lost a prized pair of pants he planned to wear on his first day on the bench in 2005. Pearson initially asked for $67 million but later reduced that to $54 million.

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