It is estimated that at least 40 million lawsuits are filed in the United States alone every year, and the United States is only one of the 195 countries that exist today. There are times when people have dragged famous corporations into the court for really interesting reasons that are something we don’t often hear of. This list of ten such lawsuits will make an interesting read.
1. The Captain Crunch cereal company was sued by a woman because she believed that “crunch berries” were real fruit for four years and then found out that they were just cereal.
For four years, Janine Sugawara bought the Cap’N Crunch cereal as she thought that “crunch berries” were real fruit. Cap‘N Crunch is a cereal product that was introduced in 1963 and manufactured by the Quaker Oats Company since 2001.
When Sugawara learned that these crunch berries were not berries at all and were just brightly colored cereal, she sued Captain Crunch citing that they had falsely advertised their product. She also brought claims of breach of warranty and fraud against the company under the Consumer Legal Remedies Act and California Unfair Competition Law.
The judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California dismissed Sugawara’s complaint on May 21, 2009, stating this:
“In this case . . . while the challenged packaging contains the word ‘berries,’ it does so only in conjunction with the descriptive term ‘crunch.’ This Court is not aware of, nor has Plaintiff alleged the existence of, any actual fruit referred to as a ‘crunch berry.’ Furthermore, the ‘crunchberries’ depicted on the box are round, crunchy, brightly-colored cereal balls, and the box clearly states both that the Product contains ’sweetened corn & oat cereal’ and that the cereal is ‘enlarged to show texture.’ Thus, a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into believing that the Product in the instant case contained a fruit that does not exist. . . . So far as this Court has been made aware, there is no such fruit growing in the wild or occurring naturally in any part of the world.”
2. A man who drank Red Bull for ten years sued the company for “false advertising” stating that he neither grew wings nor had any enhanced intellectual or athletic performance.
A very famous drink sold by an Austrian company Red Bull GmbH, Red Bull has the highest market share of any energy drink globally with 6.302 billion cans sold across the world as of 2017. Its famous slogan, “Red Bull gives you wings,” is figurative to most who see the ads, but one man, Benjamin Careathers, took it literally.
After ten years of drinking Red Bull, he filed a suit against the company for false advertising and said, that he “neither had wings nor any enhanced athletic or intellectual performance.” He alleged that the firm misled the consumers to earn millions of dollars and to rise above its competitors.
Red Bull, who did not want a trial that would cost it its reputation, settled the mattered out of court and offered a refund of $10 to any consumer in the United States who had purchased the drink since 2002 (an estimated 1.4 million customers that had to file a claim through a website—www.energydrinksettlement.com).
3. The inventor of intermittent windshield wipers, Robert Kearns, faced rejection from the auto industry when he tried to sell his idea. But when these wipers began showing up on new cars, he sued the manufacturers and won millions of dollars in settlements.
Thanks to Robert Kearns, we have intermittent windshield wipers on our cars today. Before Kearns took inspiration from an “eyelid that blinked” to create the wipers, there were only two settings the cars had, one for heavy rain and for light rain.
When Kearns approached several companies from the automobile industry with his invention, they did not buy his idea. Then, his idea was translated into reality and began appearing on several cars. He first saw it on a Mercedes in 1976, and that is when it all began.
In 1993, Kearns filed a suit against General Motors after defeating Ford and Chrysler for infringing his patent. He won millions of dollars in settlements. Against Chrysler and General Motors, Kearns represented himself.
He filed so many lawsuits after that against almost all auto companies that it became all that his children knew, and four of them began working for him full time, being able to draft legal papers without any formal training. Kearns spent his life defending an innovator’s idea, sparking a debate on the issue. A film Flash of Genius was made on his life in 2008. (1, 2)
4. A man named Jonathon Lee Riches got his name included in the Guinness World Records after having filed the highest number of lawsuits in the world. When he got to know about this, he sued the Guinness Book of World Records.
Since January 8, 2006, Jonathon Lee Riches has filed more than 2,600 lawsuits in various district courts of the United States. Many of these cases were in the media spotlight. Some of the famous defendants of his lawsuits include the former President of United States, George Bush, Martha Stewart, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, Steve Jobs, Britney Spear, and even the Somali pirates!
In May 2009, he filed a suit against the Guinness Book of World Records asking for an injunction. He wanted to stop them from listing him as “the most litigious individual in history.” When the spokesperson for Guinness said that they had no such plan and they did not have such a category, the case was dismissed.
Riches is a former prisoner who was incarcerated at Federal Medical Centre, Kentucky for wire fraud. (source)
5. A woman based in the United States sued WalMart for overcharging her for two cents. This was her fifth lawsuit against the Delmont store and she had won them all.
Mary Bach, a consumer activist, won about 100 dollars in damages and about 80 dollars in legal costs in her fifth suit against the WalMart store in Delmont. While shopping at the store, she picked up a package of Banquet Brown ‘N Serve sausages whose price was listed as 98 cents. But when the cashier charged her, it showed as one dollar on the receipt. This was the first time, so Bach pointed out the error and got a refund of two cents.
When she returned to the store and was charged extra once again, she filed a civil suit against WalMart. This was her fifth suit which she had won relating to the same issue of charging at the checkout counter more than what was written as the shelf price of the product. (source)