Court Watch - Written by Beasley Allen on Tuesday, January 22, 2008 13:49 - 23 Comments

The Lawsuit Myth put out by the Tort Reformers must be Exposed

The annual Stella Awards list, a list of the years seven “most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S.,” is nothing more than a fraud on the public. The so-called awards deal primarily with fiction, and many of the lawsuits listed never happened. The examples of what they describe as frivolous lawsuits are at best gross misstatements. The Stella Awards are just part and parcel of the carefully planned efforts designed to destroy the civil justice system. Once these awards are announced, they take on a life of their own. That’s because of the Internet. Unfortunately, the media never bothers to investigate the validity of the cases mentioned in the awards, and then write stories that keep the myths alive.

An example of how these myths orginate is this year’s runaway First Place Stella Award winner. Mrs. Merv Grazinski, of , Oklahoma, who supposedly purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home, was the winner. On her first trip home, from a football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver’s seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski was supposed to have sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner’s manual that she couldn’t actually leave the driver’s seat while the cruise control was set. It was reported that an Oklahoma jury had awarded the woman $1,750,000 plus a new motor home. It was also said that Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home. The e-mail that announced the award concludes: “Are we, as a society, getting more stupid?”

The truth is that this sort of nonsense relating to a Winnebago never even happened. But, the media bought the story hook, line, and sinker, and never even bothered to check it out. Scores of articles – the vast majority buying the Winnebago story as gospel truth – resulted across the country. Apparently, few journalists bothered to do any research to determine whether they were true. Among outlets falling for the hoax were the New York Daily News, CNN and U.S. News & World Report. In fact, the story actually spread around the world. Readers in Canada, England, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand and even Vietnam heard about this fictitious that never happened. To his credit, Los Angeles Times reporter Myron Levin, who wanted to learn more about the , called Winnebago and found out there was no Grazinski . He also learned that the company had not changed the owner’s manual to avoid a swarm of copycat claims as claimed by the Stella awards.

The next time an “Internet tale” makes you believe things are even worse than you thought, check it out. Especially when the story suggests that the American court system is stacked against wealthy Corporate America. If you want to check out the “Stella Awards” and decide for yourself whether they are on the level, a good place to go is www.snopes.com, an excellent site that investigates urban myths. Simply search for “Stella Awards” and find out if the stories are true or false.



23 Comments

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K. D. Hunt
Mar 31, 2009 9:58

Do you actually believe that Winnebago is going to admit to such a thing as losing a law suit such as this? There have been numerous reports of people being hurt, or even killed, turning on their cruise control and doing idiotic things. (Walking to the rear of their R.V. for a drink, or even deciding to take a nap while sitting behind the wheel) Some people see it as an “Auto-pilot”, thinking it will take them to their destination automatically. Do the research. You will be amazed at just how stupid people can be.

Ann
May 3, 2009 5:55

I don’t Know about the other cases, but I know that the women who sued Mcdonalds won because they gave her a cup with a crack in it, told her of the crack handed it to her and that is when is fell and her lap. She required seven surgical proceedures.

Deborah K Morgan
Sep 21, 2009 9:58

Well, who really cares, for God’s sake. “It’s on the internet so it must be true”, as late a night comedian often says. I think we should worry about the “real” news, the lies and propaganda being put out there by respected reporters, investigate that America. dex

Marie Eve Du.
Nov 19, 2009 3:55

I will certainly adopt the opposite vision saying “if it’s on the internet its probably wrong”. The most shameful in this kind of situation is not really the fact that people are ready to take everything for Truth (and that’s is really alarming, … nobody cares) but how person called journalists, reporters (…) are doing their job.
Media normally serve to inform and in a part educate people I find horrendous that a professional can post judgements without even check informations that are easy to find .
I don’t think this kind of soft persuasion is harmless, tort and case law are a big part of civil society and reflect nation’s characteristics. It’s to easy to misuse ignorance, and nowadays it’s used more than ever.

fm
Nov 23, 2009 10:59

I honestly think that it’s just as depressing to admit that the legal system (at least with respect to personal injury suits) is in such a state that we readily accept and believe stories like these. And, with respect to the mcdonals coffee lap lady, the issue seems to have been more a matter of the coffee’s temperature (McDonald’s required their franchises to brew coffee hotter than most other companies to extract its full flavor) than anything else, and if you can’t handle drinking hot drinks you probably shouldn’t order them.

Dan
Dec 24, 2009 17:41

Ann,

You’re wrong about the facts of the McDonald’s case. Check this out:

http://www.caoc.com/CA/index.cfm?event=showPage&pg=facts

Marlene
Feb 9, 2010 17:15

Although these lawsuits may be fabricated, i think the point of it is that we, as a society, are becoming stupid or we are willing to do stupid things becuase we know that we can sue, and more than likely win.
For example….we have to be told not to use a hairdryer while in the tub; we have to be told not to use the Dremel as a toothpick/dental pick; we have signs at the zoo telling us not to climb the fence because the polar bear (fill in the blank with animal of your choice) will/could bite….we have these signs and warnings, becuase some idiot has done it before, and probably sued….the liabilities are tremedous.
So, whether the Stella awards are true or not, keep watching the news because these lawsuits will come to pass eventually.

staytuned—the dumbing of America will continue after this break

Evil
Jan 11, 2011 15:24

only believe half of what you see and half again of what you read, somewhere herr goebbels is smiling.

Joe K.
Jan 21, 2011 15:29

Who in their right mind would ever trust a tort lawyer? I’m not even sure I would trust any lawyer, but certainly not one who spends all his/her time chasing ambulances.

Mark Shepherd
Feb 15, 2011 8:55

“its probably wrong”
“The most shameful in this kind of situation”
“and that’s is really alarming”
“how person called journalists”
“Media normally serve to inform and in a part educate people I find horrendous”
“without even check informations”
“reflect nation’s characteristics”
“It’s to easy to misuse ignorance”
With respect Marie Eve, before hauling the ‘professionals’ over the coals for not checking things, perhaps you could try a little of your own advice, and check what you write before you publish it. You probably didn’t have a deadline for your comment, nor an editor breathing down your neck. I agree with the general substance of your comments – certainly news should be checked where possible to make sure that it is both real and that it is news, but there is nothing about this story which even approaches the meaning of the word ‘horrendous’. For the good of all, and for your blood pressure – calm down!

Jenny
Feb 17, 2011 13:44

I believe that the Winnebago lawsuit is false. I heard the same story a few years back, only it was a gram-pa that got up to make the sandwich. For anyone to think that a person is so stupid to put the motor home on cruise and get up to walk around, please stop and think about this. We have been driving with cruise control for many years, why all of a sudden using it in a vehicle does a person think it is like using pilot control. If this is true, please provide court documents. Regarding the McDonald’s case. The restaurant was in neglect because it was proved that they intentionally brewed the coffee at a temperature above and beyond regulated temperature. They did this because it would create a more aromatic sent of coffee in the air to entice customers to purchase the coffee.

I do not believe the amount of the lawsuit is fair, but I do understand where their neglect came in.

Jimmy C. Corne
Feb 18, 2011 22:41

LOL. Snopes is the last place I would look for the truth. Check the facts through reliable news sources and authoritative industry or professional Web sites.

R. Denning Crowe
Feb 24, 2011 20:57

A search of the Oklahoma Supreme Court data base shows NO lawsuit by anyone named Grazinski as a party. Time period at least 2000 to Feb 2011.

Jon
Feb 26, 2011 6:02

Well, it’s 2011, and Mrs. Merv Grazinski has won first prize in the Stellas for the umpteenth year in a row. I researched back to 2003 and got bored. Every year, the same old article gets passed around with the exact same stories and errors. So either this woman crashes one Winnebago every year, or this is bullshit.

Marlene: “Although these lawsuits may be fabricated, i think the point of it is that we, as a society, are becoming stupid or we are willing to do stupid things becuase we know that we can sue, and more than likely win.” No, the point of it is that we, as a society, will believe anything as no matter how unlikely it is, so long as it fits in with our beliefs.

Mark Shepherd: “certainly news should be checked where possible.” Where possible? So if it’s impossible to verify, just run with it? Hey, I hear the Weekly World News is hiring. You are a moron.

maxx webster
Feb 28, 2011 22:23

myths and legends, ancient and modern all have something within them that no matter how much we want to believe in them we know deep down that it never really happened but IT IS A SAD DAY when the people who’s job it is to give us the facts, about serious issues, either don’t care, trying for another byline or filed the story in the wrong catagory (ie: fiction > fiction, sports > sports, comedy > comedy) wel you get the idea

Lynn
Jul 30, 2011 21:35

Believe or not, this story is not a myth, it is true!!!! last week I was in New York and met a lady working in my NY office, she IS Mrs. Merv Grazinski !! Except her real name is something else and she went back RV to make a cup of tea, and I was driving in NJ. She did get badly injured and won the law suit.

William Greene
Nov 5, 2011 11:42

As Edmund Burke says, “”For evil to flourish, all that is needed is for good people to do nothing.” Well put, yes? For plentiful evidence, just look at a sample of postings on almost any Yahoo article, especially the political articles. You will see how easily people respond to previously posted completely false statements, most of them affirmatively! It’s nothing short of astounding! Snopes.com is good, but wouldn’t you agree that the other required tool is a discriminating intellect?

Matt Millard
Feb 8, 2012 7:02

Most American people believe whatever is told in the news and media. They need to start thinking for themselves and look for evidence of the truth. A vast majority still believe Osama Bin Laden took down the Twin Towers even though there is a huge amount of evidence to the contrary.

Dick Stetson
Apr 16, 2012 17:34

Like Jeff Foxworthy said

“On the tube of Preporation X it says, “Do not take orally” . Now why do you suppose they had to put that there. They must got a letter, ” I drank this whole damned tube and I still got hemorrhoids. But I can whistle real good”

And as Ron White says, “You can’t fix STUPID” Time for the judge to ask, ” Are you REALLY that much of a “F”__king idiot??? You go to jail for protective custody against yourself.

Joyce Kennison
Jan 24, 2013 2:36

While living in the San Diego area a few years ago there was a Japanese couple who was on vacation in the US for the first time, They rented an RV and did just this. The woman was sleeping in the back while the man was driving. He set the cruise control and went in the back. Needless to say there was an accident. It was on the news and in the papers. They did try to sue but thankfully the lawsuit was thrown out,.

beedee
Jul 22, 2013 18:21

And why should anyone believe what you say? Maybe you are just countering the truth to push your own agenda? Maybe you are the real problem?

Jon crow
Feb 5, 2014 23:39

I find it hard to beleive that someone with that much money to buy a winnebago could be that stupid. Plus who takes one to a football game??

Claude
Feb 25, 2014 11:32

As a long-time general practice lawyer who constantly tries to educate the public on the falsity of these rumors and the immense influence of tort reformers on individual rights, many of the above comments regretfully reflect exactly what we are facing, which is a continuing mythology and misunderstanding of things like the McDonald’s “hot coffee” case, and unwillingness to face the truth.
The effect of tort reform on the justice system is breathtaking. Monetary awards are limited despite the fact that the wrongdoing may result in the death of a loved one. All we really want as a society is an even playing field, and confidence in the rule of law: the notion that Justice shall prevail. These myths have the intended effect of destroying the public’s confidence in that American ideal, and biasing jurors who arrive for jury service to believe that all lawyers are crooks. It is a hypocrisy which infects the courthouse. Yet when it is YOUR family that desires justice, the limits imposed by tort reform laws result in disbelief, shock and anger. I see it all the time.
By the way, has anyone noticed any of the promised reductions in insurance or medical costs now that doctors are virtually immune from lawsuits? nope. Yet, one party’s platform continues to hammer “we need more tort reform.” Really?

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