FIRST WORLD LAW: How Far Is Too Far?

Early last week, a 34-year-old British divorcee seeking a wealthy boyfriend successfully sued a dating agency for failing to introduce her to “her perfect match”.

She was awarded £13,100 in damages from elite dating agency Seven Thirty, predominantly because the agency misled her as to the true number of suitable male candidates that matched her desired requirements in a man.  It amounted to £12,600 in damages for deceit and £500 for the distress she experienced throughout the affair.

Tereza Burki is just one of hundreds of thousands of individuals who have similarly sued successfully for seemingly futile incidents, much to the shock and surprise of the general public.

In May this year, two Floridian McDonald’s customers filed a lawsuit against the company for charging the exact same price for a Quarter Pounder with cheese as they did for one without, asking for $5 million in compensation for being “unfairly charged”. Though we are yet to see whether the unhappy customers succeed in their appeal, it’s not the first time the global fast food chain has been sued – in 1992, one woman was awarded more than $2.7 million after she received third-degree burns from a coffee she placed in her lap. The elderly woman was passing through the drive through when she placed the Styrofoam cup between her legs and accidentally scalded herself.

One woman successfully filed a lawsuit against TV weatherman Danny Rup for predicting a sunny day, when in actual fact it went on to rain. The woman dressed lightly, contracted the flu and was forced to pay $38 for medicine. She received $1,000 for stress – and even got an apology from the embarrassed weatherman.

Another woman successfully sued Starbucks for filling her coffee with too much ice, and another couple were sued for overusing the ‘champagne emoji’ in a text conversation with a landlord, giving him the false impression that they were truly buying his house. One beer lover sued Fosters for convincing him that their beer was Australian-made.

Perhaps the most ridiculous case in recent years was a British woman who tried to sue her lawyers on the grounds they ought to have warned her that by getting a divorce, she would be… divorced. The devout Roman Catholic woman argued her legal team should have explained more clearly to her the concept of what divorce actually resulted in – the termination of marriage.  The appeal was dismissed, thankfully.

Then there is the beyond ridiculous – people trying to sue themselves.

In 1995, a prisoner who was serving time in Virginia tried to sue himself for $5 million – a sum he also demanded that the state pay because he had no money to give himself. Why? Apparently, Brock had drunk alcohol a few years’ earlier, which made him commit a crime for which he was arrested. While the case was immediately dismissed (thankfully) the judge did acknowledge the offender for his innovation.

What is next? Suing one’s personal injury lawyer for not having recommended the correct course of physio following an accident? There are real world problems, and there are first world problems. The legal landscape is increasingly reflecting the latter, and failing to draw the line at the ridiculous.

The purposes and functions of law are simple.

As an example, the Defenders criminal lawyers and lawyers in general are supposed to establish standards, maintain order, resolve disputes, and protect liberties and rights. 

Not for garnering attention, making money, or defaming a company or individual in public. But many seem to have forgotten the purpose of the legal system, and perhaps worse – that taxpayers are the ones losing out.

In the state of New York, where about 177,000 lawyers actively practice – making one lawyer for every 112 residents – the distorted legal system gives these money hungry professionals plenty of opportunity to make a decent crust by letting them file whichever lawsuits they desire. But it’s the public that carries the weight of their frivolity – or of their desperation, to be more accurate. Higher taxes, higher auto insurance rates and higher health care costs are the result, plus a decent paycheck for lawyers prepared to represent this type of lawsuit.

Take this case, for example. Lawyers representing the Center for Science in the Public Interest attempted to sue Coca Cola because its Vitamin Water brand didn’t state clearly the sugar content on the bottles. In the end, Coke changed the labels, the consumers received no money – but the lawyers got $2.73 million in fees and expenses.

We live in a litigious world – one where people are increasingly looking for the easiest way to make a buck, and where people are constantly seeking to cast blame on others for their own mistakes, especially if those ‘others’ are very wealthy companies that would much rather quickly pay someone out than engage in long and costly court proceedings. When is enough, enough?

Skip to toolbar