Debunking the ‘Stella Awards’ | Jim Porter |

Debunking the ‘Stella Awards’ | Jim Porter

Most of you have seen the so-called "Stella Awards" floating around the Internet – named for 81-year-old Stella Liebeck, who spilled coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonald's. What was not reported is that McDonald's had been sued dozens of times before for its dangerously hot coffee. The Stella Awards purport to be true stories of a legal system gone awry, where undeserving people reap million dollar awards for preposterous legal claims. The stories have always bothered me – too outrageous to be true – at least in my little, legally trained mind. Well, we now have documented proof that the Stella Awards' cases (below) are fabricated. To see for yourself, check out and Snopes debunks "urban legends" with actual research. It is widely considered a legitimate web site — with a topical list of investigated true stories, from automobiles to the Titanic, with humor, law and sex in between. So here are the untrue but humorous-as-hell "Stella Awards," (labeled as "2015" but in fact 10 years old) designed and guaranteed to make you hate lawyers: Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas, was awarded $780,000 by a jury after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running amok inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving tyke was Ms. Robertson's son. Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles won $74,000 and medical expenses when his neighbor ran his hand over with a Honda Accord. Mr. Truman apparently didn't notice someone was at the wheel of the car whose hubcap he was trying to steal. Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Penn., was exiting a house he finished robbing by way of the garage. He was not able to get the garage door to go up because the automatic door opener was malfunctioning. He couldn't re-enter the house because the door connecting the house and garage locked when he pulled it shut. The family was on vacation, so Mr. Dickson found himself locked in the garage for eight days. He subsisted on a case of Pepsi he found and a large bag of dry dog food. Dickson sued the homeowner's insurance claiming the situation caused him undue mental anguish. The jury agreed to the tune of half a million dollars and change. Jerry Williams of Little Rock, Ark., was awarded $14,500 and medical expenses after being bitten on the buttocks by his next-door neighbor's beagle. The beagle was on a chain in its owner's fenced-in yard, as was Mr. Williams. The award was less than sought after because the jury felt the dog may have been provoked by Mr. Williams who, at the time, was shooting it repeatedly with a pellet gun. A Philadelphia restaurant was ordered to pay Amber Carson of Lancaster, Penn., $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her coccyx. The beverage was on the floor because Ms. Carson threw it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument. Kara Walton of Claymont, Del., successfully sued the owner of a nightclub in a neighboring city when she fell from the bathroom window to the floor and knocked out her two front teeth. This occurred while Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the window in the ladies room to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge. She was awarded $12,000 and dental expenses. In November 2000, Mr. Grazinski purchased a brand new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On his first trip home, having joined the freeway, he set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the drivers seat to go into the back and make himself a cup of coffee. Not surprisingly, the Winnie left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Mr. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not advising him in the handbook that he could not actually do this. He was awarded $1,750,000 plus a new Winnebago. And just so you know that cooler heads do occasionally prevail: Kenmore Inc., the makers of Dorothy Johnson's microwave, were found not liable for the death of Mrs. Johnson's poodle after she gave it a bath and attempted to dry it by putting the poor creature in her microwave for, "just a few minutes, on low," The case was quickly dismissed. Remember, these true stories aren't. This is more or less a reprint of a 2003 Law Review, as folks continue to send me the "Stella Awards" as though gospel. Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee, Tahoe City and Reno. Jim's practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOAs, contracts, personal injury, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at or

On the Hill: Backcountry touring on Carson Pass (Video)

On the Hill is brought to you by the Tahoe Center for Orthopedics Breakdown: On the Hill host and Tahoe Daily Tribune reporter Sebastian Foltz gets in the backcountry on Carson Pass. BACKCOUNTRY AVALANCHE DANGER A CONCERN FOLLOWING STORM FULL STORY: Weekend Weather: Sunny skies and warmer temperatures are expected through the weekend. Area resorts have reported receiving up to two feet from storms this week. More information is available at

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: UC Davis study was scientifically flawed

Your recent story about a $230,000 UC Davis study that predicts a 40 percent decline in snowfall due to global warming was fascinating, but scientifically flawed. Fortunately, the dire predictions by these UC Davis scientists overlooked compelling new solar research that insists global cooling, not warming, lies ahead. Regardless of any increase in greenhouse gases, or any other arguments for global warming, it is the output of the sun that drives our weather and climate. Now we have hard evidence that our sun has entered a period of minimum solar output. According to peer-reviewed research, published in June of this year, solar scientists are now predicting global cooling due to several decades ahead of lower solar output: “Using new data for the geomagnetic aa index, we foresee that a Grand Minimum is immanent. Thus, a prolonged period of relative global cooling is forecasted.” See details at: Steve Kubby South Lake Tahoe

Incline film studio holding auditions for ‘Sign of the Sun’

In preparation for the movie "Sign of the Sun," which will film throughout the region this summer, Northern Nevada Studios in Incline Village is holding preliminary open call auditions for various cameo, extra, and supporting roles. The studio also "is looking for a diamond in the rough who might end up taking a lead role," said NNS CEO Jarrett Grimes. The call is open to all who are over 18 and would like to gain experience by working on a what the studio refers to as a major Hollywood film. No experience is necessary; however, singing/musical talent is a plus. Auditions will take place at the Mark Twain Cultural Center in Incline Village (across from the post office in the Village Shopping Center) on April 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. No appointments are required. "Sign of the Sun" stars Julian Forest and Charles Gilchrist. Written and directed by Grimes, the film is "an inspiring story about a man who comes into our world to bring a message of peace and love through music," according to a press release. Learn more about Northern Nevada Studios and the film at

Senator’s grass-roots environmental cause solidifies

In the 1960s, a U.S. Senator was concerned that the president, Congress and the press did not seem to care about the state of the environment. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin cared, and he tried to find a way to bring the issue to the forefront in the United States. It took him years, but the result of his efforts became Earth Day. The first event was in 1970, and the success was everything he had hoped for. “It was truly an astonishing grassroots explosion,” Nelson said. “The people cared, and Earth Day became the first opportunity they ever had to join in a nationwide demonstration to send a big message to the politicians – a message to tell them to wake up and do something.” It was a time of turmoil on college campuses, where students were performing protests – anti-war teach-ins – all over the country. On an airplane, reading an article about the teach-ins, the idea for Earth Day occurred to Gaylord. Why not have a nationwide teach-in on the environment? In 1969, at a speech in Seattle, Gaylord announced there would be a national environmental teach-in in spring 1970. Wire services carried the story nationwide. The response was dramatic. An estimated 20 million people participated in demonstrations all across the country for the first Earth Day. “Earth Day achieved what I had hoped for,” Gaylord said. “The objective was to get a nationwide demonstration of concern for the environment so large that it would shake the political establishment out of its lethargy and, finally, force this issue permanently onto the national political agenda.” -Information for this story was taken from the World Wide Web:

Lake Tahoe Marathon announces ‘friends’ discount

The start of the Lake Tahoe Marathon Week is a month away. Entrants before Sept. 5 will receive their name on their race bib. Entice your friends to enter with a 5 percent discount by typing the word “friend” in the promotion code box at registration. The Great Tahoe Bike Race will have electronic chips this year and all cyclists will need to pick up their number and timing chip between 5-8 p.m. Sept. 24 at the Horizon Casino Resort and plan on attending a brief orientation meeting that same evening. Cyclists may pick up numbers and timing chips for friends with a photocopy of the entrant’s driver’s license. Ideas for housing during the event are available at The Forest Inn Suites is offering rates from $109 to $219. Call 800-822-5950 and mention the marathon. The sunset pasta cruise is a two-and-a-half hour cruise to Emerald Bay that will pass the starting line for the 10K and the 20-mile mark of the marathon. To reserve a space, visit

Letter — Not on my Wilderness Watch

I was shocked to read that Wilderness Watch is trying to ban a running camp for teens from Oregon’s Steens Mountain wilderness area. Read the entire story at Due to lots of stakeholder and environmental concerns, the community worked hard to create an alternative designation to Wilderness that, at the time, everyone could live with including ranchers and environmentalists. The intent was to get rid of cows, not kids, according to the camp director. Now Wilderness Watch argues that Wilderness rules prohibit running camps, endurance races and similar events. I thought Wilderness was supposed to preserve our lands for future generations, i.e. kids? These kids come from urban areas (much like our visitors), running on one trail one day a year where they learn invaluable lessons about the environment, team work and perseverance. All good lessons for becoming responsible adults. Where are kids supposed to learn about Wilderness if they can’t run and play in it? Faced with our own emotional wilderness debate over Meiss and Caples, running, hiking, biking and horsing around in the woods done responsibly teaches all of us to have a deep respect for nature which is essential to guarantee continued stewardship of our public lands. As adults, let us teach our future generation tolerance and how to share and protect our lands for everyone’s enjoyment. Becky Bell South Lake Tahoe

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Registration forms for BMPs available

Registration forms for the Best Management Practices workshops discussed in Wednesday’s article “BMPs workshops scheduled for region,” are available at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Web site at