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Asset Protection Annual Stella Awards
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Annual Stella Awards

It's time once again to review the winners of the annual Stella Awards. The Stella's are named after 81-year-old Stella Liebeck who who earned noteriaty by spilling hot coffee on herself and then successfully suing McDonalds. From that case came the inspiration to initiate the Stella Awards for the most frivolous, yet successful lawsuits in the United States.

Seventh Place winner

Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas was awarded $780,000 by a jury of her peers after breaking her ankle when she tripped over a toddler running amok inside a furniture store. The store owners were surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving toddler was Ms. Robertson's son.

Sixth Place winner

Carl Truman, Los Angeles, California, won $74,000 and medical expenses when his neighbor ran his Honda Accord over his hand. It seemed that Mr. Truman was so intent on stealing the Accord’s hubcaps that he failed to notice that there was someone at the wheel of the car.

Fifth Place winner

Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pennsylvania, was going to leave a house he had just burglarized through the garage. However, Dickson found that he was unable to get the garage door open because the automatic door opener was malfunctioning. To make matters worse, he was unable to reenter the house because the door connecting the house and garage had locked behind him. The home owners were away on vacation, so Mr. Dickson found himself locked in the garage for 8 days. He managed to survive by subsisting on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food. He later sued the home owners, claiming that the situation caused him undue mental anguish. The jury agreed, to the tune of $500,000.

Fourth Place winner

Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Arkansas, was awarded $14,500 and medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by his next door neighbor’s dog. At the time of the event, the dog was on a chain in its owner's fenced yard. However, the award was less than the actual amount sought because the jury felt the dog may have been provoked when Mr. Williams, who had climbed over the fence into the yard, shot at the dog repeatedly with a pellet gun.

Third Place winner

A Philadelphia restaurant was ordered to pay Amber Carson of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink, breaking her tailbone. The beverage was on the floor because Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend seconds earlier during an argument.

Second Place winner

Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware, sued the owners of a nightclub when she fell from the bathroom window onto the floor, knocking out two of her front teeth in the process. This occurred when Ms. Walton was attempting to crawl through the window in the ladies bathroom avoid having to paya $3.50 cover charge. She was awarded $12,000 & dental expenses.

First Place winner

Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma purchased a brand new Winnebago Motor Home. On his trip home from an football game, having driven onto the freeway, he set the cruise control at 70 mph and then left the drivers seat to go into the back and make himself a cup of coffee. Not surprisingly, the Winnebego left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Mr. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not advising him in the owner's manual that he could not do this. The jury awarded him $1,750,000 plus a new Winnebago Motor Home.

Although these lawsuits are frivolous and downright silly, they have been presented to prove a point: In each case a homeonwer or business owner were sued by people they may have thought had little chance of succeeding. Furthermore, statistics [show that 1 in 12 people in the U.S. are sued each year.

So, if you haven't done so already, it's best to have solid asset protection in place BEFORE you're sued.