There are many similarities between the United States and the United Kingdom. We eat the same processed crap; speak the same language; watch the same TV; and we seem to be hated equally by other countries (for us it’s France, for you it’s everybody). Most of my clients are in the US, as is my agent and my publisher, so I have been closely connected with it for several years now.
I love it. I really do. And I’m not just saying that because I know most people reading this will be American (and, by definition, will own a gun). But sometimes you really do cross into the bizarre. From a nation that regularly eats dried blood for breakfast, is governed by a nonagenarian who doesn’t actually have any power and considers darts a sport, I know that’s saying something, but shut up, this is about you, not us.
To illustrate my point, here are some of the most bizarre lawsuits in US law.
You’re Kid-napping Me
Maybe my view of the United States is obscured by action and horror movies, but I always imagined that kidnappings ended in a cataclysm of violence, cool quips and heroic deeds. But apparently, they end with both parties bickering and trying to sue each other.
Jesse Dimmick was a fugitive wanted for murder when he kidnapped a young couple. Clearly not the sharpest tool in the shed, the aspiring Darwin-award winner entered into a “deal” with his victims which was so obviously an escape plan that I’m surprised they weren’t winking at him when they suggested it.
He fell for it though and after he was shot in the back by the police and then arrested, he decided to sue the couple for breaking their verbal contract. This was actually a countersuit and it came after the victims sued for “emotional distress.” Because apparently the real life reward for escaping a kidnapping is not health, happiness and a passionate kiss as the credits roll, but a shit-load of money.
And no. I’m not going to apologize for that title.
Just Sue Me
A good criminal defense lawyer can overturn the prosecution and turn the jury to your side. But what if you are both the prosecution and the defense?
In 1995 Virginian prisoner Robert Brock decided to sue himself for breaking his own religious beliefs. According to Brock, he had violated these beliefs by getting drunk and committing a crime. He wanted $5 million dollars. And because he was in prison and therefore not able to pay, he wanted the state to pay.
The case was dismissed but Brock’s plan very nearly worked, as his intention all along was to be transferred into a mental institution.
Beer, Women and Stupidity
In 1991 Richard Overton drank his way through several Bud beers and when a horde of half-naked women failed to show up and dance with him, like they did in the commercial, he decided to sue. Overton claimed that this was an unrealistic expectation and that the commercial did not reflect reality.
It is unclear whether he was still drunk at the time or whether he later tried to sue regarding the lack of talking frogs, but I can confirm that the lawsuit was promptly dismissed.
In 2006, Alan Heckard – most notable for not being a professional basketball player and sporting legend – sued Michael Jordan – notable for all of those things – or being “too similar.” According to Heckard, his life has been ruined because Jordan looked too much like him.
Minus the tinfoil hat, Jordan did look a lot like Heckard. But not enough to justify a $400 million lawsuit. Thankfully, the suit was dropped.