Writing Prompts: Burgers and Lawsuits

close up photo of burget
Photo by Natan Machado Fotografia Gastronômica on Pexels.com

Lest the descriptions and pictures in this post be called ‘food porn’, let it be said there’s a faintly serious edge to this prompt, and it is inspired by something I wrote virtually two decades ago.

Frivolous lawsuits can a source of amusement, but they can also be irritating. It turns out their very existence is something that benefits the attorneys and plaintiffs in such cases, yet can leave a defendant vulnerable for up to three weeks, open to legal and reputational damage. They are also very costly (in 2009, $250 billion was spent on so-called tort legal cases in the US legal system).

So, despite some of the absurd cases, it can be argued that frivolous lawsuits are no laughing matter. That said, there are some that leave you scratching your head, and this notion is not native to the USA by any means…

To quote from Selph Law

A lion mauled during a big game hunting safari in Africa decided to sue the ammunition manufacturer, Federal Cartridge Co. The plaintiff was seriously injured when the bullet he fired at the charging lion failed to stop the animal after hitting it in its shoulder. The angry lion attacked and mauled the hunter. A federal court dismissed the case.

I’m glad the courts dismissed this case. It’s ridiculous. It serves the hunter right. Lions are beautiful animals, and do not deserve to be hunted in this manner. The idea that something as powerful as a lion could be stopped by a single bullet to the shoulder is also somewhat delusional.

Jesse Dimmick, a fugitive facing a murder charge, kidnapped a Kansas couple in September 2009. At some point he fell asleep and they escaped. Theysued Dimmick for over $75,000 in damages; his response was to countersue for breach of contract. He claimed the couple had a legally binding oral agreement for them to hide him from the police. His case was dismissed. 

I mean, what? How can you possibly expect to have a case against the very people you kidnapped?! The mind absolutely boggles at this one.

After a visit to the Haunted House of Horrors at Universal Studios in Florida, a woman sued them for psychological trauma. She claims she was chased with a chainsaw, albeit de-fanged, by one of the actors dressed like a werewolf and fell. She sued not only the actor but everyone that was involved at the venue. She had no injuries from her fall, and subsequently, the court dismissed her injury claim. Psychological trauma, the court ruled, can be expected when visiting the Haunted House of Horrors. 

If you visit a house of horrors, surely the clue is in the name? I’ll grant that these places can be absolutely terrifying, but isn’t that the point? If you don’t want to be scared, don’t go?

These next ones are via USA Today.

Beer commercials often feature beaches and good-looking men and women having fun. Most people understand this is not real, but not Richard Overton. In 1993, he sued Anheuser-Busch for $10,000 for false advertising. He claimed the beer ad caused him emotional distress, mental injury, and financial loss. Overton said the company’s ads showed beer’s ability to enable “scenic tropical settings [and] beautiful women and men engaged in unrestricted merriment” when this was actually not the case. He lost the suit.

I’m not surprised he lost the suit. I like beer, but drinking one has never transformed my surroundings into a tropical paradise, and I wasn’t aware of any reasonable person who expected such magic from a beer, no matter how good it is!

Prison inmate Robert Lee Brock is nothing if not creative. Brock, serving time for breaking and entering at the Indian Creek Correctional Center in Virginia, sued himself for $5 million, claiming that he violated his religious beliefs and got himself arrested. And since he has no income because he is in jail, Brock asked the state to pay as he was a ward of the state. The judge dismissed the case.

If you sue yourself and lose, do you also win?

A 15-year-old boy in Spain sued his mother, claiming he was mistreated after she took his cellphone to try and get him to study. He also sought jail time for his mom and reimbursement for his legal expenses. A judge ruled in favor of the mother, saying she was within her rights and acted responsibly to get her son to crack the books.

Whilst I can get the frustration at what is effectively a punishment, until such a time that the kid is legally an adult, the parents are responsible (indeed, they have a duty of care) for their well-being, and ensuring they are focused on school, so that they can have a good education, is hardly grounds to sue!

As to the case that inspired my original post, all those years ago, and the motivation for the burger pic, this is all about restraint, though the passage of time has somewhat mollified my position. Fast-food companies are under greater obligation to inform patrons as to the nutritional value (or lack thereof) of their products, and this is no bad thing. That said, I do not go to McDonald’s, or Burger King, or KFC, or any of these places, with the intention of eating healthy food. I know what I am getting. I know it will be fatty, and salty, and greasy. That’s part of the reason I want it! Yes, it’s bad that food standards are, in many parts of the world, quite poor. Yes, it’s bad when healthy options cost more than fast food. However, it is still obvious that eating several pieces of deep-fried chicken, with a side of salty fries, is less healthy than grilled chicken with salad. I’ll grant that I know which one I’d find more satisfying, but that’s a different story.

There has to be a measure of individual responsibility over the things we eat, and as per the other frivolous lawsuits, a measure of common sense over our own actions. We don’t see enough of that these days.

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