Our hero is idling her car out of the driveway when she accidentally bumps into a stranger. "Ow, my back!" the stranger exclaims. "The pain is immeasurable! I'll sue you! I'll sue!"
Someone—usually a stranger, sometimes a friend—has decided to sue our hero in the wake of some minor accident. The plaintiff suffered no real injury, but is suing out of greed or perhaps a desire for revenge, often with the help of an Ambulance Chaser or otherwise Amoral Attorney. If the judge doesn't laugh the guy out of court, though, our hero must often resort to some variety of Courtroom Antic to discredit her adversary.
The classic sitcom lawsuit is almost always a tort action: the plaintiff is claiming the defendant's negligence harmed them in some way, and is demanding monetary compensation. The actual injury sustained is always minuscule and the amount of damages claimed has to be at least five times what the hero earns in a year. The complaint itself is often just plain silly, such as suing Pizza Hut because the X-Treme Meatsa-Treatsaria did not truly deliver "gut-busting meat flavor" as promisednote "The meat flavor left my gut completely intact, your honor!".
Technically, a frivolous lawsuit is one brought in bad faith—i.e., brought with no intention, expectation, or chance of success. Within the legal system, calling an action frivolous is like calling the lawyer who brought it a certified loon. Much more common are frivolous claims in otherwise reasonable lawsuits and frivolous courtroom motions that only serve to prolong the legal process and harass participants. In real life, actual frivolous lawsuits will be over long before they get near actual jury. Repeated filing of frivolous lawsuits, frivolous claims, and frivolous motions will often be met with "contempt of court" charges; and attorneys have been disbarred for excessive frivolous filings. Likewise, litigants known for repeatedly bringing them can be labeled by the courts as "vexatious" and enjoined from ever filing another without getting court approval first.
Often this trope is invoked to make an argument about Tort Reform, i.e. limiting the ability to file claims or capping the liable amount of damages. On the one hand, everyone can agree that there sure seem to be a lot of unnecessary cases brought to court which takes up both time and money that can be better spent. On the other hand, it's hard to argue that the mere fact that someone with an illegitimate claim asks for ludicrous amount of money means that someone with a legitimate claim should have their legal recourse limited. Particularly since — in the United States at least — most defendants in tort cases insist on a jury trial, and the jury is responsible both for determining fault and deciding the amount of damages to award (if any).
Subtrope of Hilarity Sues.
Scrooge McDuck once crashed a plane and a man who had nothing to do with this threw himself at the wreckage and sued Scrooge for one "maximajillion" dollars. To give an idea of how absurd this amount of money is, Scrooge's fortune isn't enough to make it and he didn't expect to earn enough to make up for the difference even if he spent the rest of his life working.
Played with in Ultimate Spider-Man. After Peter Parker is bitten and receives his powers, he begins to stand up for himself more, eventually refusing to take crap from Jerk Jock Flash Thompson. Flash responds by challenging Peter to a fight and, not knowing his own strength, Peter easily breaks his hand. Flash's family demand the Parkers pay his medical bills for the incident or they'll sue, ignoring the fact that Flash had been beating up Peter for years and he was the one who instigated the fight.
For added bitterness, earlier in the volume, the spider bite made Peter ill enough to go to a hospital, and Oscorp wound up sending the Parkers a gift basket and footed the bill out of fear that they'd sue the company. Uncle Ben later explains he knew it was an accident and Peter wound up fine a few days later, so he'd never consider suing.
In the Babylon 5Made-for-TV MovieRiver of Souls, a holographic entertainment operator attempts to sue the station with the help of an Ambulance Chaser who Captain Lochley refers to in those exact terms. At the end she takes great pleasure at informing him that, since the business in question was destroyed in the course of the film's events, the grievance was now a moot point and he'd be going home empty-handed. Add to that, part of the lease agreement the owner signed waived rights to sue if damage is done to his property during the course of protecting the station itself, which Lochley has a dozen affidavits attesting to this fact.
The plot of the film The Man Who Sued God. The main character is a fisherman whose boat is destroyed by lightning, but he isn't allowed to claim damages from his insurance company because the lightning was "an act of God." So he sues God. (God is represented in court by clergymen.) In the end, the main character drops his lawsuit, but his efforts aren't in vain since he's won a moral victory. The clergymen then announce that they'll be suing the insurance companies for unauthorised use of their Lord's name.
In Liar Liar, Jim Carrey plays Fletcher Reede, an unscrupulous lawyer who, it is implied, specializes in these sorts of cases. One scene also references the famous Urban Legend of the burglar who injures himself trying to break into a house and successfully sues the homeowner (in the film, it really happened — to a friend/relative of Fletcher's secretary).
A string of these set off the plot of The Incredibles. After one man wins a lawsuit blaming Mr. Incredible for injuries incurred while saving his life, so many people follow that all superheroes are forced into retirement and hiding.
In My Sister's Keeper, one thing that attracts Anna to come to the Attorney Campbell to sue for bodily emancipation is Campbell's involvement in a case where a boy sued God for his injury.
This is the background to the toad in the Discworld novel The Wee Free Men. He was a lawyer who was employed by a woman to sue her fairy godmother, on the grounds she was promised health, wealth and happiness, and didn't feel particularly happy one day. The godmother's response was to turn him into a toad, and his client into a small hand mirror. The worst part, he says, was when the judge applauded.
This seems to be a common thing for magic-users:
Archchancellor Ridcully: "Oh, please. Sue the University. We've got a whole pond full of people who tried to sue the University!"
Mr. Frankland, a minor character in The Hound Of The Baskervilles, liked to sue people as a way of showing off his knowledge of law, including the more obscure points. He was particularly proud of getting one man convicted of trespassing on his own property.
Albert Haddock sometimes started these in AP Herbert's Misleading Cases in the Common Law. The intent was for Herbert to demonstrate how preposterous the law was, and it was sometimes suggested that that was why Haddock was doing it as well.
In Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years, Adrian's mother sues a shoe shop because the stilettos she bought there fell apart while she was climbing a mountain in them. To Adrian's surprise, she wins the case, when her lawyer successfully argues that the shop ("Shoe Mania!") should have removed the exclamation mark from its name so as not to excite hormonal middle-aged women into making rash purchases.
Isaiah 59:4: No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.
Deconstructed in the Diogenes Club short story "Clubland Heroes", which first portrays the meaningfully named Peeter Blame as a petty man, constantly threatening legal action for trivial reasons, and by the end shows him as someone who was absolutely justified in many of his complaints, and was driven to despair by increasing evidence that while the law was on his side, the legal system wasn't.
The trial in Annie On My Mind is this through and through. The entire reason Liza and the two teachers are brought to trial is because a homophobic teacher catches Liza and Annie in Ms. Winthrop and Ms. Stevenson's house. The teachers lose their jobs, but the school trustees call the trial ludicrous and fire the corrupt principal.
The protagonist of The Dresden Files spent years dealing with harassing lawsuits from Larry Fowler after blowing out most of his talk show's electronics. Given that the only way to find him guilty was for a judge to accept the existence of magic, this mainly served to drain Dresden's bank accounts.
One minor character in the Carl Hiassen novel Striptease spends the entire book trying to arrange things so he can start one with some wealthy person/organization just so he can be given a large cash settlement to shut up. In the last chapter, he gets into a minor car accident on land owned by a sugar company and sues the property owners, claiming wildly exaggerated injuries.
Live Action TV
The Golden Girls: Blanche gets in a minor accident driving Rose's car and the man she rear ended sues Rose.
The Brady Bunch was once sued by a man who claimed whiplash in the wake of a collision with the Brady family car. His case was discredited in court when Mike deliberately dropped his briefcase on the floor behind the guy, whose prompt and obviously painless spin in place to face the noise demonstrated just how real his injuries were.
The second season of Joan of Arcadia featured the title character's family being sued for "emotional damages" by the boy who caused the accident that paralyzed Joan's older brother. The lawsuit was dropped abruptly after an extended arc, and the character in question was never seen again.
In an episode of Coach, Luther sues Hayden after burning his mouth on a hot-off-the-grill bratwurst at Hayden's barbecue. He nearly wins the lawsuit; however, the judge eventually decides that, as Hayden is merely a tenant, he is not liable; the owner of the property is. Since the owner is Luther's girlfriend and both men's boss, he immediately drops the suit before the verdict is officially announced.
Played with a bit on Married... with Children. After Bud and Kelly get into a fender bender with a Mercedes, Al bemoans society's litigiousness. But when Bud tells Al that the other guy was at fault, he immediately decides to sue, and has the children play up the severity (read: existence) of their injuries in court.
In another episode, a burglar broke into the Bundy family home while Al was asleep on the couch. As Al woke up, he accidentally touched the burglar on the behind, before realizing what was going on and pummeling the burglar. He was later sued by the burglar for "sexual harassment" and being unable to "work", claiming that Al's punch ruined his career as a burglar, greatly exaggerating his injuries, this along with obvious signs that the burglar's attorney was having a relationship with the judge, and even tried to shake Al's hand with the one in said sling after he won. However, Al got the last laugh when he decked the burglar again, and won a Frivolous Lawsuit of his own by claiming he hurt his hand on the burglar's face.
In another episode, a thief entered the shoe store where Al works and Jefferson suggested Al could sue the mall for four million dollars, claiming the incident made him afraid of shoes. The mall sent an investigator who kept an eye on Al. To make matters worse, Al's bowling team were finalists in a tournament and the bowling hall wouldn't let him play barefoot because the last one to do so there sued the place for three million dollars. Eventually, Al decided the championship was more important than money.
In another episode, Peggy watched a tv ad about a lawyer who helped a woman to get 2.5 million dollars from her husband for asking her to cook. Peggy tried it with Al by volunteering to cook but Al was so focused on some idea he refused the offer and the lawsuit idea went unmentioned for the rest of the episode.
Jefferson once fell inside Al's workplace when a wall gave in. Jefferson's claims of injury ended as soon as Al stated they had no insurance.
An episode of CSI: New York revolved around the murder of a woman who made a living from multi-million dollar Frivolous Lawsuits (for reasons many of which are implied to have been set up by herself). The murderer turns out to be a chef whose life she had completely destroyed and had recently gotten back on his feet... only for him to see her getting ready to pull the same stunt again at his new place of business. You almost feel bad for the guy.
Seinfeld had the Ambulance Chaser Jackie Chiles (an obvious parody of Johnnie Cochran) in at least three cases of this. Every time, he wound up humiliated due to Kramer acting stupid and ignoring his legal advice.
In "The Postponement", Kramer sues a coffee chain for burning himself with hot coffee. In the next episode "The Maestro", we meet Jackie Chiles for the first time as Kramer settles the case for free coffee for life, passing up a large cash award in his stupidity.
Company Representative: We're prepared to offer you free coffee for life, and- Kramer: I'll take it!
In "The Caddy", Kramer and Elaine sue a woman for "distracting" Kramer while he was driving because she was wearing only a bra top. Jackie Chiles' remark that a bra has to fit "like a glove" is a reference to the O.J. Simpson trial. Kramer's stupidity was again the cause of losing this case, since Jackie had it in the bag when he insisted on checking to see if the bra would fit her.
In another episode, Kramer turns his apartment into a cigar bar/smoking room, and the cumulative effects of hours upon hours of concentrated smoke make his skin pallid. They sue the tobacco companies and settle for making Kramer the new Marlboro Man.
Archie Bunker tries to cook up a whiplash suit in "Oh My Aching Back", a first season episode of All in the Family. Because of his unambiguous prejudices, he also insists on having a Jewish lawyer. He gets one, but said lawyer senses the case isn't kosher, and bails.
An episode of Babylon 5 has a short skit where a man sues a Vree (aliens that look like Greys and whose ships are flying saucers) because the Vree's great-grandfather abducted the man's great-grandfather and conducted experiments on him. The judge laments under his breath that he always seems to get these sort of cases.
Even more amusingly (from the things the judge says), it seems that there's actually a treaty between the Vree government and the Earth Alliance that governs exactly such cases, meaning that these cases must happen all the time in the B5 universe.
According to fluff, the Vree aren't the ones doing the abducting. It was most likely the Vorlons and the Streib (who look similar to the Vree but don't have flying saucers).
In this specific case, the man claimed to have found records proving it was the ancestor of the specific Vree he was suing.
Steve Bosell from The Phil Hendrie Show regularly sues anyone and anything for any slight, no matter how minor. For example when his oh so hated neighbor cracks a joke at Steve's expense (often warranted), Steve not only sues him, but his son for laughing at the joke. If he was only in the presence of his neighbor because his wife asked him to, say, pick up groceries or trim the hedges, he will sue her for putting him in a dangerous position. The number of lawsuits Steve filed over the course of the show are innumerable, and every one as inane as the last.
Parodied by Saturday Night Live ads for the law firm of Green & Fazio ("Call 1-800-HARASSS. The extra "S" is for extra harassment!").
In Only Fools And Horses episode "Hole in One", Del Boy decides to sue the Nag's Head after Uncle Albert falls into its cellar, despite the fact that he incurred no injury (they base the suit on emotional damages) and the Nag's Head offered Del a large settlement. The suit ends up being thrown out when the defense points out that Albert is a trained paratrooper (thus having knowledge of how to fall without injuring himself) and that he has "accidentally" fallen down pub cellars numerous times in the past, and taken the settlements.
On Becker, Becker is sued by his patient, when Becker takes him to the gym for rehab-purposes, and the patient suffers a heart-attack as a result— even though Becker saves his life, and Becker was rehabilitating him in order to prevent an inevitable heart-attack, and accompanied him there for safety-purposes. Becker's insurance company wants to settle, and agrees to clear Becker of all liability and expense; however Becker refuses on principle, even though it costs him considerable time, money and harassment. He ends up managing to get the suit dismissed after a lengthy rant on the stand; however, his behaviour and personality has so antagonised the trial judge that she ends up throwing him in the slammer for contempt.
A very mild example from Doctor Who — in "The Runaway Bride", Donna threatens to sue a cab driver who refuses to take her to her wedding in Chiswick... because neither she nor The Doctor are carrying any means of paying the fare.
Happens in an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies. During the trial, the unwitting hillbillies do very little to help their case until they accidentally divulge the fact that the guy suing them has a girlfriend on the side, at which point, his accomplice lets the cat out of the bag.note The hillbillies had not only seen the plaintiff with his girlfriend; part of the plaintiff's case was based on being wheelchair-bound. But he'd stood up to hug his girlfriend, which the defendants saw.
In an episode of Lois and Clark, a man pretends to be injured after Supes saves his life, helped by an Ambulance Chaser who thinks successfully suing Superman will make him famous. He even pretends to get further injury when Supes takes a bomb out of the court (through the roof), but then his girlfriend snaps and spills the truth.
In an episode of Smallville, Clark beats up a guy for attempting to sexually assault Lana, but the man sues him for his injuries. Clark's X-Ray Vision shows him that the jerk isn't even injured, but he can't tell anybody that. (Apparently Clark's lawyer didn't think of asking for doctor's records, including more conventional X-rays.)
In one episode of Frasier, a man in the coffeehouse takes Frasier's seat and acts very rudely to him. Frasier, who has been on the receiving end of much rudeness all day, finally snaps, lifts the man up by his armpits and throws him out of the shop. The next day he goes back to the man to apologise, only for the man to sue for assault. Niles however starts insulting the man, goading him until he very lightly pokes Niles in the chest. Niles immediately throws himself into the nearest table and threatens to counter sue. Frasier is quickly persuaded to play along:
Interestingly, Niles is spot on here. In common law, battery is any offensive touching. Assault can be either an attempted battery or placing someone in reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm. You don't even need to touch someone to complete an assault and the guy poking Niles is a textbook definition of battery.
MASH has several examples of frivolous court martial attempts. In The Trial of Henry Blake, Henry has to defend himself against gurney races, and Radar selling shoes and other things. General Steele brings in several charges against Hawkeye, including impersonating a civilian (The General Flipped at Dawn). In The Novocaine Mutiny, Frank charges Hawkeye with mutiny for disobeying some idiotic orders. In all cases, all the charges are dropped. note The US Army permits defying orders that are idiotic, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, or otherwise objectional -but the soldier had better be ready to defend his actions at the inquiry afterwards.
The West Wing has the President getting sued over his comments regarding car seatbelts.
Batman: This is the plot of the pilot episode; the Riddler invokes this when he cleverly tricks the dynamic duo into falsely arresting him and then he sues Batman for a million dollars (in the sixties!). The point is not only the money (Bruce Wayne can afford it) but the fact that Batman must reveal his Secret Identity, which would ruin his Super Hero career.
Penn And Teller Bullshit: An episode arguing against requirements for handicapped access uses as evidence the example of a handicapped man who would sue commercial shops en masse for not providing him with handicapped access. It would cost more to fight him than to pay the low damages he requested, netting him quite a hefty amount of money. He apparently hadn't even visited many of the stores he claimed to have attempted to enter, because some of them did have handicapped access.
In U.S. Acres, when Orson read the tale of Goldilocks and the three bears and asked if any of the listeners knew what she did after trying the too hot and the too cold bowls of porridge, Lanolin suggested she sued the bears.
Danae's dad: Okay, I'll bite. What was the stupidest? Danae:That there's no shortage of lawyers willing to take the case.
"Weird Al" Yankovic's song "I'll Sue Ya" is about a guy who does this. Lyrics include, "If I twist my ankle while I'm robbing your place / If break my knuckles while punching ya in the face / I'm gonna sue".
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince's "You Saw My Blinker" tells the story of Will being rear-ended and sued by a half-blind 90 year old woman who shows up to court in a wheelchair and a neck brace.
Probable Ur Example: an Egyptian myth about a thief who breaks into a house via a window, but breaks his leg because of the window's shoddy construction. The homeowner blames the carpenter who put the window together, the carpenter blames a beautiful woman who distracted him, and the woman blames the fellow who dyed her dress red. That dress-dyer doesn't fit in a cell, so a shorter dress-dyer is hauled in, and he can't come up with an excuse to get out. The focus, incidentally, is not on the burglar, but on how crazy the judge authorizing it all is.
A variation exists where the last man recommends to hang the thief, the thief is too tall to hang, so a shorter man is brought. The man recommends to dig a hole below the thief's feet. The thief urges them to hurry so that he'll be able to get to heaven soon because a king is needed there... So the local king (who's also the crazy judge) orders himself hanged.
In Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, several of the adverts you can hear on the radio are political broadcasts for a fictional Republican senator. The first two imply his Democratic opponent has committed vehicular homicide (on the basis he owns a car of the type responsible for one in the area) and child pornography (on the basis he has not yet stated his opinion on the subject). When he sues the Republican, a third ad notes the Democrat had previously claimed to be against clogging up the courts with frivolous lawsuits, and implies he is a hypocrite ("Would you want your children to become hypocrites? Vote Republican candidate Robert Thorne, the candidate not accused of being a murderous child pornographer!")
The old flash series Attention Deficit Disorder Man featured Lawsuit Larry, a supervillain who took control over hundreds of organizations by injuring himself on their premises and suing them into oblivion. In the end, he managed to sue and control entire countries; the only way ADD Man was able to defeat him was by making him injure himself from his own products, giving him nobody to sue but himself.
In "Over the Edge," Batman's identity is exposed. Minor villains launch a billion dollar lawsuit against Wayne Enterprises. JC pops in: "If the bat's on a spree, Wayne must pay the fee!"
When the Joker somehow acquired vast wealth, he used high-powered lawyers to get acquitted of his various crimes (clearly referencing Cochran's most famous case): "If a man's filled with glee, that man must go free!"
Subverted in Clerks: The Animated Series. Jay slips on a wet mess that Randall left on the floor, and Randall taunts him about it. "What are you going to do, sue?" Right on cue, a lawyer walks in to buy some conveniences- but when Randall (yes, Randall) asks him to take on the case, he refuses and leaves. Randall then begins a concerted campaign of harassment until the lawyer finally gives in and agrees to take on the case- against Dante, since he was the store manager at the time.
At trial, the lawyer doesn't even show any significant effort, presenting the bare facts of the case without any grandstanding. Unfortunately, Dante still ends up looking really bad because his boss hired Randall (yes, Randall), who presents an incompetent defense.
In an episode of The Boondocks, Riley and his grandpa sue the school after Revered Rollo Goodlove vocally expresses his N-Word Privileges; with fantasies of getting a large sum of money.
Happens in an early Simpsons episode "Bart Gets Hit by a Car" (1991). Mr. Burns accidentally hits Bart with his limo; the family attorney "tricks" Homer into exaggerating the resulting injuries to squeeze more money from Burns.
Lionel Hutz: Doctor, are you sure there isn't a little soft tissue trauma in the facial area?
Dr. Nick: Oh yeah, tons of it! [wrapping Bart's head with bandages] Just say when!
There is also Homer vs. an "all you can eat" seafood restaurant. If they kick Homer out before he has had "all he can eat," does this make it fraudulent publicity?
They actually settled that one out-of-court; they invited him back, but set Homer up in a glass display and let all the people gawk at him pigging-out! It draws boatloads of customers who came to watch, but they decide to try some food- because this restaurant has to be pretty good if he's eating like that. Well, Homer was happier, owner of restaurant was happiest, Marge... not so much!
Selma has claimed that she has a lucrative hobby filing 'nuisance lawsuits'.
Deconstructed in one of the frequent "future episodes", Bart is an unemployed loser who frequently files these to make a quick buck, but it's deconstructed in that none of his ridiculous cases; which include suing a restaurant for an over-salted french fry; Disneyland for a spider bite recieved on the premises; and a messenger company for refusing to pay him for his first two weeks of employment, ever go to court, and it's implied Bart can't find a lawyer to take them all...
One time Moe was able to sue a rope company when the rope that he was using to hang himself was weak, he won the case, got a good sum out of it, and a brand new rope to hang himself with.
Once, Homer tripped over a hole in the ground next to the church and so sued the church. There was no way that Rev. Lovejoy could afford the sum he wanted so he won the church in court.
In "Sexual Harassment Panda", Kyle's dad (a lawyer) encourages a string of frivolous sexual harassment suits that culminates in a suit called "Everyone vs. Everyone". In which he represented both sides.
In "200", Tom Cruise sues the town for mocking him, and recruits the help of every celebrity who has ever been portrayed on the show, all because Stan called him a fudge packer when that is what he was doing.
As in he was working at a candy factory, packing fudge into boxes, while wearing the uniform of an employee of that company.
An episode of Spongebob Squarepants had Plankton feign serious injury from slipping and falling in the Krusty Krab just so he could sue Mr. Krabs for everything he owned (including the secret recipe for Krabby Patties).
Happened both ways on Wait Till Your Father Gets Home. Harry slips on a dropped piece of butter in a restaurant and falls down. The restaurant owners are heavily insured, and out of fear of Harry filing a lawsuit, they offer him a settlement. Harry doesn't want to take it citing the fact he didn't injure himself, but his honesty is not respected by his family and neighbors who try to pressure him into taking the easy cash being offered. Later on, Harry becomes the defendant when a bicyclist crashes into his stopped car and decides to sue him. His lawyer (Special Guest Don Adams) is particularly inept and Harry is only saved from a losing judgment when the plaintiff suddenly decides to drop the case.
On My Gym Partner's a Monkey, Principal Pixiefrog's fear of lawsuits often either drove or exacerbated the wacky hijinks of the episode.
Lucky and Dale were pretending to swordfight with poison wands, Lucky jumps onto a railing in the basement, which breaks and causes him to fall and hurt his back
so he can sue him so he can have an expensive wedding with Luanne. It turns out that Dale built the railing himself—without a permit, makes his own poison (he's an exterminator), is his own boss, and made up a fake liability insurance carrier just to shut Hank up. Lucky's lawyer tries to sue Strickland Propane because Hank suggested that Dale hire Lucky.
A trait that made him The Scrappy to fans was that Lucky entirely sustained himself on frivolous lawsuits and refused to get a job. When we first meet him, he's gotten a new truck with money taken from "Slippin' on pee-pee on th' Costco." When picked up by an ambulance, he even knows the exact amount of morphine to be given that will dull his pain without damaging his ability to testify.
Lucky later manages to turn this around. After the Lawyer refuses to drop the case due to "malpractice reasons", Lucky fakes a video of him playing golf, thus making his suit void. The Lawyer tried to "unfake" it to get the suit through, but Lucky and Dale manages to get "injured" again in the Lawyer's office. Turns out the Lawyer's colleagues are just as unscrupulous as him, since Hank's threat of taking the case to any other man in the building was fairly creditible.
On another episode, Dale sues the tobacco companies, lying to claim that years of second-hand smoke have made his wife unattractive and destroyed his marriage. When he discovers that the company has (electronic) bugs planted in his house, he tries to exploit it by insulting Nancy at every opportunity, which completely destroys her self-esteem and nearly does destroy the marriage. When Dale finally figures out what he's doing, he cross-examines himself and convinces everyone that he still finds Nancy gorgeous.
Ironically he was suing to get money for Nancy so she could get cosmetic surgery.
On Rocko's Modern Life, Rocko swats a fly while cooking burgers. The fly sees an ad on TV saying how he can make money by suing someone... and he sues Rocko. Rocko is sentenced to 30 days... as a fly. (Until the judge sees him at a fancy restaurant, completely uninjured, and turns Rocko back.)
In the Futurama "movie" Beast With a Billion Backs'', Bender is caught in an explosion on Zapp Branigan's ship, and screams that he can't feel his legs and will never walk again. Kif tells him in a bored voice that you can't sue the military, and Bender gets up.
Professor Farnsworth considers one against the Wongs in Where the Buggalo Roam:
Mrs. Wong: Phew! Everyone OK? No one considering lawsuit?
Professor Farnsworth: Hmm, I might have mental anguish...
Courtney from Total Drama Island. Her first lawsuit wasn't so unjustified (fellow competitor Harold rigged the votes against her, sending her home instead, and the host of the show didn't care), but she also bargained for unfair advantages (most notably contact with the outside world via her PDA) along with reentry into the second season. Once she was back in the game, she threatened to sue the producers again every time something didn't go her way.
As a preface:
Most frivolous lawsuits are not even considered by lawyers, who are required by law to make "reasonable inquiry" into the case to determine good faith and reasonableness. Most lawsuits lambasted as "frivolous" by the media have simply not been laughed out of court yet — someone has filed a silly claim, and the judicial system will throw out the case as frivolous at the first opportunity, but that doesn't stop the media from reporting on it as if it would go anywhere. Of those "frivolous" cases that actually make it to trial, most are actually different than reported— i.e. the standard example of "the criminal suing their victim," is often based on a false claim of self-defense, or the use of force that grossly exceeds the amount warranted by law: for instance, the fellow who was seriously injured when he stumbled upon a spring gun while robbing an empty house. It helps to remember that unlike criminal law, tort law isn't particularly concerned with moral desert; it's more concerned with ensuring that people pay for the damage they cause to others and to discourage people from doing that damage in the first place (wouldn't you rather people put up alarm systems or locks or maintained their houses properly rather than putting automatic spring guns that could kill or injure someone?).
Large cash awards are often due to punitive damages (fining the company more than the victim's loss, as a punishment to a company for whom one individual's lifetime income is pocket change). Punitive damages are illegal in many states, but the flip side is, a company that knows its product is dangerous may simply decide to keep selling it if no one who sues can really hurt them.
Interestingly, many law professors have argued that caps on punitive damages are actually the problem, and have advocated for punitive-damage floors. The theory here is that damage caps benefit those who only barely deserve punitive damages, while injuring those who actually do. Consider: a woman who was slapped around by her husband once and another woman whose husband beat her with an iron pipe daily. In both cases, the husband is liable to the wife for battery and (should the jurisdiction allow it) intentional infliction of emotional distress, both of which are intentional torts which carry punitive damages. In a state with a cap on damages, it's likely that both the woman whose husband slapped her once will receive as much money in punitive damages as the one who got beaten with a weapon daily.note The one who got beaten with a pipe will probably get higher compensatory damages, as the medical bills, pain and suffering, and emotional damages would be higher, but that's often a pittance compared to the punitives—and besides those are often capped, too. In a state with a floor on punitive damages, the woman who got slapped once would only receive (tiny) compensatory damages, as the amount of punitive damages suitable for the tort would not meet the floor, while the woman who got beaten daily would receive a very large verdict.
Another reason for large awards can be to compensate for large actual losses. For example, 2 million dollars sounds like a lot, but it's a small proportion of the lost wages and lifetime care expenses of a quadriplegic. Consider someone with severe spinal damage from a neck injury:
You deprive them of the ability to work unassisted in any position.
You deprive them of the ability to work in any position that requires writing or typing—a quadriplegic would need an assistant or special machinery to do that.
You deprive them of the ability to walk—which includes a lot of kinds of work, including all manual labor.
If the victim is male, you almost certainly leave him utterly unable to enjoy sexual relations of any kind. He won't be able to get it up—so until the advent of modern reproductive technology, he would face the prospect of not only no sex but also no children.
If the victim is female, she will still probably not be able to enjoy sex, although she will probably still be able to have children. However, that in itself is risky.
The person responsible for the injury is liable for future expenses, including hospital treatments, assistants, physical and psychological therapy, and mobility machines.
Many civil cases are decided by juries, not judges. Generally speaking juries favor plaintiffs (especially in product-liability cases, where the plaintiff is an ordinary person who suffered greatly and can cry or show a horrible disfigurement, while the defendant is a faceless, unfeeling corporation), but when the claim is particularly far-fetched or outrageous, the defense will prefer to have a jury trial, as most jurors have this trope stuck in their heads. "Runaway juries" are largely a myth, because you and people just like you are the ones sitting on the jury — and you think your own judgment is good, don't you?
Finally, the Plaintiff's demand for money in the initial complaint has no legal weight whatsoever. It is merely meant to notify the defendant how much the plaintiff intends to ask for at trial, and is therefore often grossly inflated to act as negotiation posturing. Even if the plaintiff wins, they still have to prove the value of their injuries. This does not stop the media from loudly declaring that "X has sued Y for $10 million in damages!"
In addition, awards are often reduced on appeal. The larger the award, the more likely it will be massively reduced. The press reports the $10 million dollar award but never bothers to report when eighteen months later the appeals court reduces it to $70,000.
In some cases where a celebrity or a company sues someone for an apparently stupid reason, often it is the lawyers and/or legal department that has instituted the suit without the person or company necessarily realizing it has happened until the inevitable media backlash.
While real life examples are too numerous to list, special mention must be given to the band The Romantics vs. Activision because "the cover band in Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks the 80s sounds too good". The case got thrown out by the judge.
Stella Liebeck, the woman who ultimately won roughly $600,000 after suing McDonald's because she spilled the company's coffee on her lap. Her case became the go-to example for Frivolous Lawsuits, though a lot of misinformation has been spread around the case. Liebeck spilled coffee on her lap in the passenger seat of a parked car (she was holding the coffee between her legs, because this was The Nineties and most cars on the road did not have cup-holders as a standard option), suffering third-degree burns and requiring skin grafts and other treatment (in some very sensitive areas, we might add) over the next two years. McDonalds repeatedly refused to settle for the direct cost of her injuries, forcing Liebeck to take the company to court. Her lawyers argued that the coffee was served at an unusually high temperature compared to other restaurants, making it dangerous to the consumer. McDonalds argued that it serves its coffee at high temperature to ensure that it stays hot after a car drive. Ultimately the jury found Liebeck to be 20% liable, for failing to heed warning labels, and McDonald's 80% liable, for providing inadequate warning and unsafe coffee, and determined the monetary result based on the sales of two days worth of coffee.
A few points should be made to emphasize the shear jerkishness of McDonalds. First, Stella was 79 years old. Instead of the $20,000 she initially sought for medical expenses and lost wages, McDonalds offered $500. McDonalds had received 700 complaints about burns from coffee, which their quality control manager testified was not enough to make them reevaluate how hot it should serve its coffee, as well as testifying that anything served over 54C was too dangerous to serve, when McDonalds coffee was served at 88C. enough to cause third degree burns in two seconds. Stella also didn't win $600,000: she and McDonalds eventually did settle out of court, though after a few appeals.
Several obese people have attempted to sue McDonald's because the food made them fat. The company was found partially responsible because at the time of the lawsuits, there were no nutritional labels in any of the restaurants, thus the consumer would have no idea how much fat or the like was in their foods. Most of the lawsuits filed were tossed out due to the people suing lacking common sense after they admitted to eating McDonald's several times a day everyday for years. However, the lawsuits left the company with a bad image, so they tried to avoid having the same problems pop up again by including nutrition labels on every meal they serve and they also attempted to be more health aware by offering healthier alternatives, such as salads, as well as doing away with Super Size options.
Nancy Stouffer, author of The Legend of Rah and the Muggles, who sued J. K. Rowling in 1999 for "plagiarism", because among other things, Rowling used her "Muggles", even though Stouffer's alien Teletubby-like goblins had nothing to do with Rowling's normal humans, (and weren't actually called muggles; that was something Stouffer made up to increase her chances of winning) and the word 'muggle' already existed as a somewhat antiquated term for 'dullard'. Once the judges saw Stouffer's book was a terribly written piece of wall fragment, they dropped the case as fast as it came. Hoping to cash in the No Such Thing as Bad Publicity, a small-time publisher picked the vanity published original (because no respectable publisher would dare touching it) and did a small printing run of Stouffer's book in 2001. The next year, the publisher folded.
In the music world, the incident of Versailles (a US solo act) vs. Versailles (a Japanese band that pre-dated her by years). Both are, of course, named after a French city that predates them by centuries. The US artist freaked at the thought that the Japanese band was "stealing" Google searches from her, didn't trademark the name until after she'd found out about their existence, and tried to sue them to keep them from ever playing in the United States. The band eventually changed their name to "Versailles Philharmonic Quintet" for their US releases and performances, although they continue to go by simply "Versailles" everywhere else.
Another music one from Japan itself involved Hiroshi Matsumoto, brother of the late hide filing a Frivolous Lawsuit against Yoshiki Hayashi of X Japan for using hide's image in X Japan, never mind that X Japan had been the band hide had been with the longest (from 1987 to 1997) and where he had first earned widespread fame. The judge threw out the lawsuit around a month after its filing, actually calling it a Frivolous Lawsuit in the brief doing so and prohibiting Hiroshi or his lawyers from filing again over that particular use of hide's image.
This legal threat deserves mention for combining (the threat of) a Frivolous Lawsuit with a Critical Research Failure as the would-be plaintiff doesn't seem to understand the difference between a civil and a criminal matter.
The Church of Happyology, every time you say anything at all that may be criticizing them. Seriously. If what you say is (according to them) false, it's libel or slander (depending on the medium of dissemination). If it's true, and about any of their doctrine, dogma or practices, it's copyright infringement. Other cases, they just dig around until they find something to pick at. No matter how little the chance of you being a threat. They don't do it for the money, they do it to bankrupt their victims with legal fees, thus shutting them up, plus the potential intimidation factor against people who might want to criticize the Church but would rather not risk getting sued to oblivion for doing so (given that they fought the U.S. Government and won).
Awesomely, this has led to an Anonymous-"led" series of protests under the banner of Project Chanology. Since Anon is an amorphous, leaderless collective, it can't be sued; Project Chanology participants and organizers are also careful to hide their identities, preventing individual lawsuits. The only way for Happyology to win is to get the people arrested or to follow and identify them illegally, and since the protests are conducted legally, the only way for them to sue is through illegal means. Score one for the internet.
(Former) Senator Ernie Chambers, tired of hearing about frivolous lawsuits, decided to make a point and file one of his own... against God. The kicker? Chambers is agnostic.
On the other end of the aisle in almost every way: your life sucks? Sue Satan!
A Crowning Moment of Awesome goes to the judge who drafted that opinion. To begin with, the "unofficial account" comes from a fictional story and the whole thing reads with such a Deadpan Snarker tone that it's impossible not to laugh. Good luck getting that subpoena served, as it requires Satan be a resident of the state of Pennsylvania. While not binding precedent in Pennsylvania, the record of Stone v. Scratch may provide some guidance on that count. The judge also notes that the plaintiff neglected to give the court directions on how to serve Satan the tort. Even if you get past all that, Satan is a lawyer.
The most recent edition of the Guinness Book of Records has an entry for him as "The world's most litigious man". He's now suing the Guinness Book of Records for understating the number of lawsuits he's filed.
Leo Stoller, a self-styled "intellectual property entrepreneur" (read: con artist), trademarked such words and phrases as Stealth, Sentra, Dark Star, Air Frame, Stradivarius, Havoc, Chestnut, Trillium, White Line Fever, Fire Power, Love Your Body, Terminator, and many, many more. Once he trademarked a word or phrase, he immediately launched million-dollar lawsuits against people and companies who were casually using those words. His lawsuits have consistently been laughed out of court.
Moral GuardianJack Thompson was infamous for his lawsuits and legal threats directed at companies ranging from Take Two Interactive to Nintendo to Wendy's to Penny Arcade to Wikipedia to Facebook. Thankfully, he has limited himself to helping state legislators draft unconstitutional bills ever since he was permanently disbarred by the Florida Bar Association, for including gay pornography in one of his court filings.
Possibly the most frivolous of all real life lawsuits, the administrative law judgeRoy Pearson who sued a small, family-owned laundromat for fifty-four million dollars in damages after they misplaced a pair of his trousers for a day or two. It was finally settled once and for all after roughly four years. He lost, but not before making the life of the laundromat owners thoroughly miserable, even after they made repeated offers to settle for $3000, $4600, and $12000. He's also no longer a judge, thanks in part to this suit.
Valery Fabrikant is a man who walked into Concordia University in Montreal and shot many of his colleagues. During his life sentence he's become famous for filling these. So many that in 2000, the Quebec Superior Court declared him a vexatious litigant (meaning he needs the approval of a judge to take any legal proceedings against someone else). A bid to clear that status was dismissed by the Court in 2007. The man is Ax Crazy and a Conspiracy Theorist.
In his book Somebody's Gotta Say It, talk show host Neal Boortz related a story from his legal days where a man entered his office and tried to start a lawsuit over a mislabeled beverage can. Boortz's response was "Get the hell out of my office."
Cast Members were filming a training film at Disneyland on what to do if there's been an accident. As soon as the actor fell down, a lawyer appeared from among the bystanders encouraging the "injured" man to sue Disneyland and continued to do so after they walked past the camera.
Many, many people have tried to sue Disneyland, and for the most part they lose or occasionally settle.
One example is a man jumping off Tomorrowland's People Movers in an attempt to injure himself and sue the park. He not only lost the case, he fell in a tree a short way down that softened his fall and prevented him from any serious injury. Nevertheless, the theme parks removed the People Movers in case someone tried it again. Then again though, given that The People Mover had a reputation for attracting some of the most idiotic parkgoers...that was probably the straw that broke the camel's back.
One other humorous example is someone claiming that one of the three little pigs sexually harassed her and caused her to gain weight. She was laughed out of court because the costumes were shown as having inoperable stub-arms...
One of the more odd and, frankly, amusing lawsuits against Disney was when hyena researchers sued Disney for defamation of character for their portrayal of the hyena trio in The Lion King. Now, if ANY researchers should have a beef with Disney, it's herpetologists for the constant use of Reptiles Are Abhorrent.
"Dr." Tim Langdell, CEO of Edge Games, claims to own the video game trademark for the word "Edge." The man hasn't made a video game since the 80's, but whenever a video game with the word "Edge" in its name is announced, he jumps on the developer and publisher with a trademark infringement lawsuit. His downfall came when he announced "MIRRORS a game from EDGE" a while ago (well after Mirror's Edge came out) and promptly sued Electronic Arts over it. EA managed to get Langdell's trademarks pulled and set him and his company up for some serious fraud charges.
Westboro Baptist Church does this to its critics. Its most often-used defense is that its right to free speech is being violated. These are the people who picket military funerals because they see the deaths of soldiers as divine punishment for serving a country that tolerates gay people. They even picketed Heath Ledger's funeral. Why? For playing the role of a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain. The general opinion of many people (even in the American Civil Liberties Union) is that they're doing it for money. The fact that at least eighteen of the 80 or so members are attorneys couldn't possibly have anything to do with that, could it?
One theory is that they are deliberately antagonizing people so that they can be assaulted, only to sue for damages.
This became more apparent as they're running out of people to sue. They launched a protest at the funerals of four Tennessee cheerleaders, claiming that God hated Tennessee for tolerating gays. Tennessee is one of the most conservative states in the Union (to the point of still enforcing "Blue Laws" that ban the sale of alcohol on Sundays), and the city of Knoxville has the highest practicing Christian population in the country. After the shooting tragedy in Tuscon, Arizona, they were planning to protest the funeral of a 9-year-old shooting victim. When they agreed not to, they did so in order to receive airtime on two radio stations. It's become clear that they're just scrambling for exposure and suing anyone they can to keep their operation afloat.
Fred Phelps, Sr. (the leader of this church) was an attorney until he filed a frivolous lawsuit of his own against a court reporter, which ultimately led to his disbarment. The suit was because the court reporter had not given him a report on time as he had asked. He sued her for $22,000. The thing that got him disbarred was the fact that he falsified eight sworn statements, which he claimed to have obtained, but he had never contacted any of the people.
There is now a class action lawsuit in progress against Apple because some older iTunes gift cards advertised that "songs are 99 cents" (there are now some songs that cost $1.20).
In an instance nicely averted by a cry of "Have your attorney talk to my attorney", self-proclaimed psychic Sylvia Browne threatened to sue Robert Lancaster, manager of a website devoted to debunking Browne's claims. Her — or her lawyers' — argument was that by (back then) calling his site "Stop Sylvia Browne", Lancaster was infringing trademark: his use of her name, the claim went, "misleads the consumer as to the source or affiliation". They were arguing that someone reading his site, on which nearly every word criticized Sylvia Browne, might mistake it for Browne's own website! (Mr. Lancaster had his own lawyers reply to this blatant attempt at a SLAPP; Ms. Browne's lawyers have not to date followed up.)
Lawsuits of this nature, especially in countries where free speech is constitutionally protected (like America), are generally tactical devices used to get insulting websites taken down, because the law of libel may not provide a remedy when the free speech defense is in effect.
When David Letterman left NBC for CBS, NBC threatened to sue him if he used intellectual property from Late Night such as "Stupid Pet Tricks" and the Top Ten list. The problems with this include top ten lists preceding Letterman's show, and the fact that Stupid Pet Tricks actually came from a show which Letterman legally owned the intellectual property of. When both Letterman and Jay Leno mocked them for it, the issue was dropped.
Orly Taitz. Despite her numerous lawsuits (all claiming that Barack Obama is not a US citizen and therefore ineligible to be president) being tossed out of court left, right and center; being fined $20,000 effectively for wasting the court's time and a public perception that she is completely barking mad, she keeps right on filing them.
The reason Orly Taitz remains a Karma Houdini so far, is that she's usually suing persons in their official government capacity. That means they're usually represented by a deputy attorney general (or someone from the attorney general's office), whose primary goal is to have the case kicked out, and who have no interest in going back to court for a hearing on why Taitz should be punished.
Universal Studios once tried to sue Nintendo over allegations that Donkey Kong infringed on the King Kong copyright. What makes this frivolous is that not only was King Kong a Public Domain Character, but Universal themselves had proven he was such in an earlier lawsuit. Needless to say, they lost.
Nintendo was so grateful to the lawyer who defended them in the lawsuit that they gave him exclusive rights to name his yachts "Donkey Kong" and later named a successful video game franchise after him. The lawyer's name was John Kirby.
In a joke/urban legend somebody insured his cigars against fire; after smoking them all, he tried to collect the insurance. The insurance company turned the table on him by charging him with arson.
Spike Lee's attempt to sue the newly renamed Spike TV. The common joke at the time quickly became wondering if he was going to sue railroad spikes next.
The reason the film The Last Airbender doesn't have "Avatar" in its title is James Cameron threatened to sue Paramount for supposedly infringing on the title of his film Avatar. Not only did the animated series beat him to the punch by four years, the word is as old as The Bible. Paramount undoubtedly could have won, but saw it as too much money to spend on so small a point.
At least two different versions of this story have surfaced. In one, "Avatar" was dropped from the title not because Cameron threatened to sue, but because Paramount or M Night Shyamalan was worried that the potential confusion of the two films might reduce ticket sales for The Last Airbender.
Singer Lady Miss Kier, of the former group Deee-Lite (of "Groove Is In The Heart" fame) sued Sega, claiming that popular space reporter Ulala of the Space Channel 5 dance game series, was created based on her likeness. She promptly lost the lawsuit, as Sega claimed that the creators of Ulala did not even know who Lady Miss Kier, or Deee-Lite was when they created her.
Monster Cable Products will threaten to sue (and has occasionally filed suit against) anyone who uses the word "Monster" to sell anything. Monster Energy Drink, Monsters Inc., Monster Mini Golf, and Monster.com have all been pressured by the company.
A woman is suing P. Diddy for $1 trillion for causing 9/11 and also for allegedly date-raping her and impregnating her 24 years ago. $900 billion is for child support and $100 billion is for loss of income. This is roughly the GDP of a decent-sized country (2010, Mozambique). Diddy himself is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in hip hop, and he's worth only about half a billion.
Record labels want $75 trillion for copyright-related damages. That's five times the US national debt in 2011, and more money than exists on the planet (The Global GDP being somewhere on the order of US$61 Trillion).
The fact Private Eye do actually lose a lot of libel cases means that anyone who gets criticized in the magazine thinks it's worth a shot. Most of them receive "the reply given in Arkell v. Pressdram". In one recent example, the owners of The Daily Telegraph threatened to sue over a spoof Telegraph front page treating their own financial arrangements like the MP expenses scandal the paper broke. The Eye pointed out that this was clearly in the "joke" section of the magazine, and could no more be mistaken for a real Telegraph headline than The New Coalition Academy could be mistaken for a real school newsletter.
Allegedly it is considered a mark of seniority amongt the relevant section of the English Bar, much like the first time one buys a round for their old man, or first drives a car, to have represented Pressdram Inc. (the Eye's publisher) in a court case. Of course, this may simply be the Memetic Badass-ery of Private Eye as a maniacal offending machine.
The Room director Tommy Wiseau made an even bigger laughingstock of himself when he threatened lawsuits to various negative video reviews of the film, claiming that their use of clips from the film violated copyright (regardless of the fact that video reviews good and bad do this all the time). Most notably, among his targets were two videos on That Guy with the Glasses, whose massive fanbase put Wiseau on the end of an Internet Counterattack of epic proportions. They eventually got him to back down, and the reviews are now back up.
A famous Pepsi ad showed a series of goodies a kid could get for turning in Pepsi points, culminating in a Harrier jet with the caption "7,000,000 POINTS." Some kid actually tried to purchase one with a $700,000 check at ten cents a point (actual unit price of an AV-8B Harrier - $30 million), and sued Pepsi when they declined.note http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_v._Pepsico,_Inc. Among other things, he demanded a jury composed of "The Pepsi Generation" to hear his claim. The Judge threw the case out, noting that any reasonable person would get the joke.
Katy Perry (stage name) tried to sue an Australian fashion designer named Katie Perry (birth name) to stop Katie from using her real name for her label. Katy Perry eventually dropped the suit because it was ridiculous.
This would have been a legit case, but only if the two were in the same field, such as if Katie wanted to be singer.
Al Franken was sued by the Fox News Channel for his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right for using Fox News's motto: "Fair and Balanced". The judge heard both sides' arguments and told them he needed a moment to consider. He stepped out of the courtroom for two seconds before returning and saying, "Your (Fox's) claim is completely without merit, both legally and factually."
A man named Leroy Greer bought flowers from 1-800 Flowers with a love note. That wasn't a big deal...until a "Thank you for doing business with us" letter came in the mail to his home and was found by his wife. She had not received any flowers, nor had she any knowledge of a recent floral purchase, so she called the company to see what was up. Turns out some flowers had been purchased...for another woman he was seeing on the side.note The Greers were separated, beginning divorce proceedings, but were still legally married as the divorce was not yet final So he decided to sue the florist's ass off for delivering the thank-you note, even though that's their standard business procedure and they had sent it to his (and his soon-to-be-ex-wife's) house... because now that there was proof of adultery, he was going to have to pay his soon-to-be-ex-wife a higher settlement.
Namco Bandai filed a suit against CD Projekt Red for publishing rights, and the removal of DRM, which was, according to them, a violation of agreement. They won, however.
While this is definitely the "will be laughed out of court ten seconds later" version, a guy who drove under the influence of booze, Xanax, and cocaine and killed three people (a couple and the wife's mom) on Christmas Day (a fourth, the wife's stepfather, died a few years later, and injuries from that accident did play some part) decided that wasn't bad enough and added epic douchebaggery to his rap sheet: Why not countersue the victims (which means the victims' families, since the victims are slightly dead) for "pain and suffering," "mental anguish," and the "loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life" (y'know, 'cause you can't enjoy life while in prison for driving while hammered and stoned and killing three, now four, innocent people.) There's a specialhell...
The drunk driver lost his countersuit in 2012 when a jury found that he and he alone was responsible for the crash. Relatives of the victims settled their civil suit against the driver for $1 million.
The Babylonian Code of Hammurabi actually had specific rules set in place to prevent these. If no evidence could be found to support a claim or the plantiff was found to be using false witness, the plantiff could be executed
Bear in mind this wasn't put in place as a preventative measure. The Code of Hammurabi wasn't a codified set of laws, so much as a list of legal decisions Hammurabi had made in the past, meaning he actually had put at least one person to death for a frivolous lawsuit.
Häagen-Dazs, an American ice cream company who designed their name to sound Scandinavian, once brought the American ice cream company Frusen Glädjé (whose name means "Frozen Joy" in Swedish if you remove the accent that was put there to help Americans pronounce it right) to court. Why? Because the Häagen-Dazs people considered it false advertising that Frusen Glädjé were using a Scandinavian-sounding name despite being American. Since Häagen-Dazs were doing the exact same thing with their name (which actually sounds German to most Scandinavians), the court found that by the doctrine of "unclean hands", Häagen-Dazs was barred from suing Frusen Glädjé or indeed anyone else over using faux-Scandinavian names to market ice cream. (If you're wondering who could bring such a suit: Only an actual Scandinavian company marketing ice cream with a "We're Scandinavian!" schtick would have grounds, but even then they wouldn't be particularly likely to prevail.)
One example in China centered around a man who sued his wife just because she gave birth to an ugly baby, under the reasoning that they were both so beautiful that there was no possible way that they could have produced an ugly baby and therefore she must have been cheating on him. Even more galling was the fact that he won, getting 120,000 dollars.
John Fogerty, of Creedence Clearwater Revival fame, was once sued for $140 million for plagiarizing himself. Saul Zaentz of Fantasy Records alleged that Fogerty's song "The Old Man Down the Road," from his solo 1985 album "Centerfield," was a remake of CCR's "Run Through the Jungle," to which Zaentz owned the copyright. Fogerty won; although the case ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, it was over a technical matter (namely, whether Fantasy Records would have to pay Fogerty's attorney's fees after Fantasy's appeal was smacked down by the Ninth Circuit; the Supreme Court, evidently CCR fans, granted Fogerty's motion).
Country music star Tim McGraw was sued for delivering a contractually obligated album too early. Curb Records alleged that McGraw's recordings had to be "topical and new," and delivered within a specific window of time after his last album. McGraw countersued and, as in the Fogerty case, the label lost. McGraw now records for Big Machine Records. Curb released the "too early" album, "Emotional Traffic," in 2012.
Yoko Ono filed a lawsuit against singer Lennon Murphy to keep her from performing under the name "Lennon". That's right, Yoko tried to keep someone from using their own name for musical purposes. Ono eventually lost the case.
Scenario: You're attending a prestigious university for free because your father is a professor there. You don't attend/participate in class. You get a C+, and as a result you don't get the career you wanted. Logical solution: Sue the university for 1.3 million dollars, accusing your (female) professor of sexual discrimination.
In December 2012, Sega filed a lawsuit against Level 5 for 900 million yen (US $11 million) alleging that Inazuma Eleven infringes on 2 of Sega's patents by using drag-and-drop and tap commands on a touchscreen to control multiple characters at once, i.e. using the Nintendo DS touchscreen as a freaking touchscreen. In quite possibly the most epic pwning ever to happen via corporate public statement, Level-5 responded by calmly pointing out that Sega's 2 patents in question are dated 2009 and 2011, whereas Inazuma Eleven was released in 2008, then proceeding to basically call out Sega for patent trolling. A visual approximation of the Internet's subsequent reaction to Sega can be found here.
Silicon Knights' example led to theirtermination. A year before the release of Too Human, Silicon Knights sued Epic Games over selling them a version of the Unreal Engine 3 that was allegedly glitchy and flawed. However, in a twist of fate, Epic counter-sued them, citing unauthorized modifications to the engine and the lack of credit or royalties Epic was given. After five years of arguing, the court ruled in favor of Epic, and Silicon Knights was fined $13 million for damages as a direct result. In addition, they were ordered by the court to recall and eradicate all unsold copies of Too Human, their later project, X Men Destiny, the game codes using the modified engine, and any other future projects planned.
They did use it to take Spots The Space Marine off Amazon, but a few months later the e-book was reinstated after massive Internet Backlash. And the revelation that their trademark is only for gaming material.
The 1976 swine flu vaccination campaign was followed by a wave of lawsuits claiming that the vaccine was responsible for a couple thousand cases of Guillain–Barré syndrome that occurred shortly after the patient received a shot, despite over 40 million people being vaccinated and numerous studies showing that the odds of developing the disorder were no higher after immunization than before.