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Experts (value add or subtract) and the ingenuity of lawyers

October 27, 2006

An interesting blog from Alex, links an article by Mauboussin to the Cynefin framework. He also brings out a useful distinction between technical and process expertise. One of the interesting things I find in complex systems work is that the process can often handle seemingly intractable problems. Of course one form of expertise which is unique is that of the lawyer and they supass themselves in personal damages. For details of the annual Stella awards for the most frivolous, ridiculous, successful lawsuits in the United States read on.

(my thanks to Annabelle Mark for connecting me to these).

Time once again to review the winners of the Annual “Stella Awards.” The
Stella Awards are named after 81 year-old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot
coffee on herself and successfully sued McDonald’s (in NM). That case
inspired the Stella Awards for the most frivolous, ridiculous, successful
lawsuits in the United States

Here are this year’s winners:

*5th Place** (tie):*

Kathleen Robertson of Austin, Texas, was awarded $80,000. by a jury of her
peers after breaking her ankle tripping over a toddler who was running
inside a furniture store. The owners of the store were understandably
surprised at the verdict, considering the misbehaving little toddler was Ms.
Robertson’s son.

*5th Place** (tie):*

19-year-old Carl Truman of Los Angeles won $74,000 and medical expenses when
his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Mr. Truman apparently
didn’t notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying
to steal his neighbor’s hubcaps .

*5th Place** (tie):*

Terrence Dickson of Bristol, Pennsylvania, was leaving a house he had just
finished robbing by way of the garage. He was not able to get the garage
door to go up since 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, and 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. He sued the homeowner’s
insurance claiming the situation caused him undue mental anguish. The jury
agreed, to the tune of $500,000. In my opinion this is so outrageous that it
should have been 2nd Place!

*4th Place**:*

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
beagle. The beagle was on a chain in its owner’s fenced yard.
The award was less than sought because the jury felt the dog might have been
just a little provoked at the time by Mr. Williams who had climbed over the
fence into the yard and was shooting it repeatedly with a pellet gun.

*3rd Place**:*

A Philadelphia restaurant was ordered to pay Amber Carson of Lancaster,
Pennsylvania, $113,500. after she slipped on a soft drink and broke her
coccyx (tailbone). The beverage was on the floor because Ms. Carson had
thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument.

*2ndPlace:*

Kara Walton of Claymont, Delaware, successfully sued the owner of a night
club 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

*1st Place**:*

This year’s runaway winner was Mrs. Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City,
Oklahoma. Mrs. Grazinski purchased a brand new 32-foot Winnebago motor home.
On her first trip home, (from an OU football game), having driven onto the
freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver’s
seat to go into the back & make herself a sandwich.
Not surprisingly, the RV left the freeway, crashed and overturned.
Mrs.Grazinski sued Winnebago for not advising her in the owner’s manual that
she couldn’t actually do this. The jury awarded her $1,750,000. plus a new
motor home. The company actually changed their manuals on the basis of this
suit, just in case there were any other complete morons around.

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