Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Stella Awards 2007:The Genuine Ones
2007 Runners-Up and Winner:
#3: Sentry Insurance Company. The company provided worker's compensation
insurance for a Wisconsin "Meals on Wheels" program. Delivering a
meal, a MoW volunteer (who was allegedly not even wearing boots)
slipped and fell on a participant's driveway that had been cleared of
snow, and Sentry had to pay to care for her resulting injuries. Sentry
wanted its money back, so it sued the 81-year-old homeowner getting
the Meals on Wheels service. It could have simply filed for
"subrogation" from her homeowner's insurance company, but by naming
her in the action, it dragged an old lady into court, reinforcing the
image of insurance companies as concerned only about the bottom line,
not "protecting" policyholders from loss.
#2: The family of Robert Hornbeck. Hornbeck volunteered for the Army and
served a stint in Iraq. After getting home, he got drunk, wandered
into a hotel's service area (passing "DANGER" warning signs), crawled
into an air conditioning unit, and was severely cut when the machinery
activated. Unable to care for himself due to his drunkenness, he bled
to death. A tragedy, to be sure, but one solely caused by a supposedly
responsible adult with military training. Despite his irresponsible
behavior -- and his perhaps criminal trespassing -- Hornbeck's family
sued the hotel for $10 million, as if it's reasonably foreseeable that
some drunk fool would ignore warning signs and climb into its heavy
duty machinery to sleep off his bender.
But those pale in comparison to...
THE WINNER of the 2007 Stella Award: Roy L. Pearson Jr. The 57-year-old
Administrative Law Judge from Washington DC claims that a dry cleaner
lost a pair of his pants, so he sued the mom-and-pop business for
$65,462,500. That's right: more than $65 million for one pair of
pants. Representing himself, Judge Pearson cried in court over the
loss of his pants, whining that there certainly isn't a more
compelling case in the District archives. But the Superior Court judge
wasn't moved: he called the case "vexatious litigation", scolded Judge
Pearson for his "bad faith", and awarded damages to the dry cleaners.
But Pearson didn't take no for an answer: he's appealing the decision.
And he has plenty of time on his hands, since he was dismissed from
his job. Last we heard, Pearson's appeal is still pending.