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More Strange Creatures From The Lawsuit Lagoon

November 7, 2013

Time for another exciting edition of Strange Suits, sure to boost your regard for the
United States legal system.

Inside Counsel Magazine sent me descriptions of four unusual lawsuits for their monthly humor feature. I did a sketch for each, they picked the one they liked best.BlankVertSpace.8pixels

The winner involved a college student named Louis Helmburg III who took a tumble at a fraternity party. Seems a drunken friend of his decided to try, um… a science experiment: shooting a bottle rocket out of his rear end.

According to the lawsuit, the blast startled Louis, causing him to fall off the deck of the fraternity house. He claims he was injured in the fall. He sued the fraternity, the property owner, his friend the rocket scientist, and the university. The latter was dismissed as a defendant on a technicality. The case is pending.BlankVertSpace.8pixels

I tried to imagine a certain someone conducting this same rocket experiment in court.

strange lawsuit cartoon case involving college fraternity member who fired bottle rocket out of his buttocks, witness and jury ducking as rocket whizzes by, setting lawyer's coat on fire

One of the other suits involved a chef named Alfred Lolange. He sued his former employer, a New York City diner, for lost wages.

According to the lawsuit, the diner withheld $500 from Lolange’s first paycheck. The owner told him the money was being withheld for taxes. Lolange tried to verify this by asking to see his W-2 form, which employers are required to file with the federal government, showing tax withheld.

Instead of producing the W-2, the suit alleges the owner showed him a photo of a hand with the fingers chopped off. The owner told him: “This is what happens to people with a big mouth.”BlankVertSpace.8pixels

I feel a little guilty about this cartoon. There’s nothing funny about fear and intimidation in real life. I prefer jokes where you can laugh without reservation.

strange lawsuit cartoon, case involving diner chef whose boss withheld money from paycheck and threatened to cut off chef's fingers if he told anyone about it

Louann Giambattista is a flight attendant for American Airlines. Co-workers have accused her of smuggling pet rats onto flights.

Giambattista has sued the airline for discrimination, saying the accusations caused her to have a “perceived mental disability,” which resulted in a “hostile work environment.”

Her attorney says she did have a pet rat at one time, but denies she ever brought one to work. No rats have ever been found on any of Giambattista’s flights. She still works for the airline.

strange lawsuit cartoon, case involving airline flight attendant accused of bringing her pet rats onto airplane, courtroom being overrun by horde of rats

Tara Costa placed second on the television reality show The Biggest Loser back in 2009.

As a result, a company which owns a kickboxing chain hired her to be a spokesperson.
The company has sued her for allegedly gaining weight, thereby violating the fitness clause in their agreement. They claim they could not use her for personal appearances.

Costa’s lawyer says she has remained physically fit, and plans to countersue for breach
of contract. He claims that despite the alleged weight gain, the company continued to use Costa’s name and image on their website, and that they failed to compensate her for said use.BlankVertSpace.8pixels

I thought of those old “your weight and fortune for a penny” scales, and came up with a new model.

strange lawsuit cartoon, case involving Biggest Loser tv contestant who gained back weight after agreeing to do commercials for kickboxing site, lawyer challenging her to get on scales in court to determine her guilt or innocence

And here’s the rough sketch for the bottle rocket case.rough sketch for strange lawsuit cartoon case involving college fraternity member who fired bottle rocket out of his buttocks, witness and jury ducking as rocket whizzes by, setting lawyer's coat on fire

Questions for you:

Have you ever used any part of your body to launch a bottle rocket?

Have you ever smuggled a pet rat onto a plane or into a cheese shop?

Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

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Other Posts You Might Enjoy:BlankVertSpace.8pixels

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2013 7:47 AM

    #1: Frat boys… what can I say?

    #4: I decided to do a web search on this one. Here’s a partial quote from the company’s chief exec, justifying the lawsuit: “…after she gained, in my opinion, about 45 pounds…” (emphasis mine)
    The source is the Long Island Newsday. While I don’t know if the source can be considered objective, the quote (in full) is cited repeatedly in other articles, such as the Today one you linked. So… where’s his proof? Taking the quote at face value, I think he has none.

    Costa claims the time in question was when she completed the Ironman at Kona. The Ironman website confirms this, and adds that she completed the Lake Placid competition as well. Even if she did gain a little weight temporarily… so what? If Ironman says she’s a triathlete, then she’s committed, and the marketing company is in the wrong.


    • November 9, 2013 2:39 PM

      Agreed– the less said about frat boys, the better… : )

      Thanks, Jak. Yes, that weight/fitness dispute is interesting. I think most doctors would agree that a person can be a little overweight (statistically, based on gender and height), and still be very fit if they have a regular exercise regimen. In this case, I suppose a lot depends on the specific nature of the fitness clause in their agreement– whether she was supposed to keep her actual weight within a certain range.

      I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens when Ms. Costa steps on the, er, scales of justice… : )


      • November 9, 2013 4:23 PM

        I think the court of public opinion is weighing in her favor– that marketing company should have that in mind regardless of how the lawsuits pan out.


  2. November 8, 2013 7:04 PM

    Is there no limit to your ingenuity? It always takes me some time to get a grip and start writing to you! I have to get me a larger wardrobe of hats it seems!!! Of course I am sure that all courtrooms shall get the ‘weight2verdict’ scales… Masterful, my friend. πŸ™‚


    • November 11, 2013 1:16 PM

      My dear, dear Marina! Must you always send me into an absolute swoon with your lovely comments?? I’ll be light-headed for hours, and people say I have enough air in my skull as it is!!

      I’ll be happy to buy you some new “tipping hats.” How about a Crocodile Dundee model? Only instead of crocodile teeth, I’ll get one with artist’s paint brushes in the band, so you’ll be ready to create a new masterpiece at the, er, drop of a hat… : )

      It’s been a long time since I’ve seen one of those your-weight-and-fortune-for-a-penny scales. Cartoonists used to do a lot of gags about them. The older I get, the more things disappear. Like my sanity, for example… : P

      Thank you for getting a grip and dispensing your usual charm!! : )


      • November 11, 2013 5:22 PM

        Yes, I must! A great talent deserves a proper swooning and brain ventilation!
        A very happy Monday my friend! πŸ™‚


        • November 11, 2013 10:15 PM

          Swoooooon! CLUNK!! (sound of body hitting floor)

          Pop! Pop! Sssssssss… (sound of air escaping from ears)

          Ahhhhhhhh… I’ll just lie here for awhile, perfectly content… : )


  3. November 8, 2013 10:54 PM

    The bottle rocket case – and your mind-blowing illustration – made me laugh, Mark. What will those frat boys think up next? πŸ™‚


    • November 11, 2013 1:26 PM

      Ha! Yes, frat boys seem to be innately curious. Always asking “What if?” Always ready to step boldly into the unknown. Sometimes they even live to tell about it– in court. Of course, very few of them are prepared to follow in our footsteps, my dear Judy. When it comes to bravado, recklessness, and lunacy, they know you and I stand alone. Well, together, but alone… : )

      Thanks as always for your good humor and fearless support!!


  4. November 9, 2013 3:38 AM

    Hmmm, I don’t believe I have ever done either Mark, but I do remember watching a boy at Primary School, lighting one of his er, ‘ass gasses’, with a match, all in the name of science I presume….


    • November 11, 2013 1:34 PM

      Hmm… I’ve heard of that experiment being performed, Jen, but I’ve always been careful to excuse myself from any demonstration. I applaud scientific research, of course, but I worry that if I actually witnessed that particular gas experiment, it might be on the test… : P

      Always a pleasure, many thanks for donning a lab coat and checking in!!


  5. SingingTuna permalink
    November 10, 2013 3:22 PM


    Bwahahah!!!! LOVE these lawsuit posts!
    Going to law school is worth it, if only to read about the mischief people make. WOW!!!!

    I’m sooooooo tempted to yell, “RATS on a plane! RATS on a plane!!!!” But I won’t.

    You put an amazing amount of action and emotion into your work, Mark. “Inside Counsel Magazine ” is lucky to have you!!

    OK…no I’ve never smuggled anything onto a plane. But I did stand — not by choice — next to a snake in a bag for three hours at a mixed chorus rehearsal in college. Big snake. Little bag. ::shivers::


    • November 11, 2013 8:37 PM

      HAW! I laughed so hard when I read your comment, I fell outta the witness box and was fined two bags of Reeses for disturbing the Pieces… : P

      “Rats on a plane!!” Sounds like one of those congressional junkets, where our hard-working representatives go off somewhere to investigate martinis, massages, and other world problems…

      You, uh… stood next to a big snake inna bag at a chorus rehearsal?? Lemme guess– the snakes was practicing his scales… : P

      Thanks a million for that wunnaful, wunnaful comment, Robin– you de bestest tuna whatever warbled in the deep!!! : )


  6. November 11, 2013 5:38 AM

    The ‘ratty’ is my fave! Hi Mark a nice little suing collection. We in europ love these storys about the crazy americans. People like it to get their preconceptions confirmend πŸ˜‰


    • November 11, 2013 9:22 PM

      My dear Tutti! Is it really you?? I never know when you are going to show up and make my world a brighter place!! : )

      You dig the ratty, eh? In that case, I’m going to recommend a story called The Pied Piper of Hamelin. All about rats who developed an unhealthy taste for music. You’ve probably never heard of it. It’s a German folk tale, I believe… : )

      Europeans think all Americans are crazy?? Well, they’re right, of course. Here’s the odd thing, though: sometimes an American will go to trial and plead insanity. Weird, huh? I mean, so what?– join the club!! : )

      Thank you, dear Tutti, for making a sudden, shocking, and delightful appearance here at Armstrong’s Ratskeller!! : )


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