Fountain Lady strikes back, and five other unbelievably stupid lawsuits

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Cathy Cruz Marrero, the Pennsylvania woman now famous for starring in a viral video -- wherein she falls into a fountain at the Berkshire Mall while texting -- appeared on Good Morning America with her attorney, James Polyak, yesterday. Marrero and pal Polyak are currently pursuing a possible lawsuit against, well, they're not entirely sure.

So we'll help them out: Marrero will be suing a mall for being caught doing something stupid. And oddly enough, when she does, she'll be staking her place in a rich history of people doing exactly that.

What damages Marrero will eventually seek are yet to be announced. First, Polyak and Marrero need to establish liability -- the head of security, Polyak hinted to George Stephanopoulos during another TV appearance, must have allowed someone to record the original security footage of Marrero's textacular dive with a cellphone. Assuming the investigation uncovers that tidbit, Polyak will, most likely, have to prove that the head of security was aware that the footage would be republished on YouTube. Of course, this is all based on a best-case scenario for Marrero and Polyak. Without the complicit high-profile employee (if a head of mall security can be thought of in such terms), there's no case. It's Berkshire's money they want, not Phil the security guard who must have had the best day ever once he stumbled upon Marrero's swan dive.

Sounds complicated, but it's not the longest-shot lawsuit ever. Not, in fact, by a long shot.

After searching through piles of false frivolity -- the Internet is full of bullshit urban legends about ridiculous litigation -- here's a look at the top five most unbelievable civil lawsuits that actually happened.

Exhibit A: Since when are weathermen expected to be infallible? In what ultimately ended in a shocking victory, an Israeli woman sued a weatherman over a miscalculation. The weatherman predicted sunshine. The woman left the house wearing something light and airy. Unfortunately, it rained. She was drenched, caught the flu and missed 4 days of work. She asked for $1,000 and won.

So did the plaintiff's advocate also definitively prove the connection between being wet and being susceptible to unwanted pathogens? Isn't this a simple case of that old Latin gem post hoc ergo propter hoc? Guess not.

How did this affect future case law for Israel? Well, if you happen to meet someone while dancing, sleep with them sans kosher condom and contract AIDS. Then you'll have grounds to sue the party who invited you to the club. L'chaim!

Exhibit B: Lookalike looks like an idiot In my more formative years, I have had the occasional passerby tell me I looked like either Zack Galifianakis or Robert Downey Jr. Don't see a similarity between them? Me neither. This comparison either irritated or electrified me, depending on whom I was identified as, but I never thought to punish those famous men for having the slightest resemblance to your humble author.

That's what separates me from Allen Heckard -- well, that and he's black.

Heckard of Portland, Ore., filed a suit against Michael Jordan for "defamation and permanent injury as well as emotional pain and suffering." For what, you might ask? Heckard claimed that people were always telling him he looked like Jordan. That's it.

This downtrodden doppelganger was asking for $416 million in damages from Jordan and an additional $416 million in damages from Phil Knight, the founder of Nike. According to Heckard, Knight directly contributed to Jordan's fame by issuing the Air Jordan, a shoe that Heckard admitted to wearing.

Eventually, the case was dismissed, but not after both Jordan's and Nike's legal teams had to assemble, answer the suit, and in a collective sigh, face Heckard, who is six inches shorter, eight years older and at least $832 million poorer than Jordan. Exhibit C: Hey, look, Great Britain has stupid drunk students, too. Have you ever drank too much and slipped? Whose fault was that? Surely not yours. But did you ever think to blame the world around you, one that allows a drinking culture to thrive, or at the very least continue to exist?

That's exactly what Amy St. Johnston did when she got wasted in her dorm room, leaned out the window, and fell 15 feet. Johnston, 16 years old at the time of the accident, decided to sue her school the Oundle School, four years later.

Sadly -- and I am being sincere -- she sustained major injuries in the fall. She now needs the aid of crutches to walk and suffers of partial paraplegia. And that's a tragedy. But Johnston is suing the school on the grounds that her accident was a direct result of the drinking culture at the school. How does one sue an abstract idea like, for instance, the drinking culture? That's difficult. But where was the culture? School. Bingo.

How does this affect future cases if Johnston wins (does anyone know the ruling? It is impossible to find the details of this two-year-old case)? From now on, you'll be able to sue the prime minister if you drunkenly stumble out in front of a mini locomotive pulling a stagecoach because he or she allowed the steam-punk culture to continue making ridiculous contraptions and wearing powdered wigs and knickers.

Exhibit D: Nip, tuck, sue As a man, there comes a day when you look down, or in a mirror, and think, "What would my penis feel like if I had/hadn't been circumcised?" The truth is, neither the haves nor have-nots will ever know, but there's a persistent feeling when you ponder this question: Shouldn't someone have asked me?

Well, in one of the most shocking examples of "take-backs" ever recorded, a North Dakota maverick by the name of Anita Flatt decided to sue the doctor and hospital five years after she consented to her son's circumcision. Flatt claimed that doctors did not adequately notify her of the possible complications during and after the procedure, even though she clearly signed a document allowing the snipping to take place.

Oh, and one other fact: The procedure was completely successful, no problems whatsoever. Were you expecting that? Neither were the doctor, hospital and judge. It just never made sense.

During the trial, Flatt repeatedly tried to show gruesome videos of circumcisions, which was forbidden by the judge. And her expert witnesses attesting to the harmful aftereffects of the foreskin forfeit -- nonexistent. She didn't provide a single one. For obvious reasons, Flatt's case failed. The lack of expert witnesses, the presence of a signed consent form and that fact that her son, Josiah, was unharmed were the deciding factors.

But if this case had been successful, it would have sent shockwaves throughout the country. For instance, airline passengers could turn around and file suits against, say, Jetblue, for safely returning them to their destination, based on the fact that each passenger may have died if the plane crashed, which it didn't.

Exhibit E: He raping aybody in oncology This shit is crazy, people. Edward Brewer filed a suit against Ohio's Providence Hospital in 2002 from his prison cell. Turns out, last time he was in the hospital was to rape a woman with cerebral palsy, who was there receiving treatment for chemotherapy. By the time the suit was filed, she had already died.

But Brewer's suit had nothing to do with his victim, per se. He wasn't even denying that he had, indeed, raped her. No, Brewer was suing on grounds that the hospital does not adequately protect its patients or visitors, citing the fact that he was able to rape a patient. Let's just let that sink in -- Marrero doesn't seem so bad right now, does she?

So Brewer argued that the hospital, for not catching him before he raped a patient, had hurt his criminal case. Well, yeah. Let's extrapolate that logic: If you don't stop me from committing a crime, then you're directly responsible for a guilty verdict, in the event that I'm caught for the crime that you didn't know about and... Nope, I lost it.

Needless to say, Brewer's suit failed miserably, but if it hadn't, well, I can't even think up a slippery slope scenario befitting of the sad future that would result from how the ruling would change case law in Ohio. The whole thing is, just -- what's the word for it?

Closing statements: Ms. Jonhston was right to blame a phantom culture for her problem -- she just cited the wrong one. The truth is, we have a "litigious culture," where people apply a sense of entitlement to a system that promises direct benefit. And that's what Marrero is exploiting. Why walk around with the knowledge that the whole world has seen you on your worst day and not take steps to change it?

Marrero did something royally stupid, but in all fairness, we all have at one time or another. However, her quest to find the guilty party, to somehow monetarily make right what she so plainly got wrong, has the opposite effect she's searching for.

It's painful to be known for a blunder, but if viral-video stardom has taught us anything it's that those stars are easily forgotten. Remember the Afro Ninja who failed at a flip during an audition? If you ran into him, you wouldn't point and laugh. You probably wouldn't even recognize him.

But Marrero, we'll remember much longer than we would have for simply forgetting herself for a few moments.

She screwed up and then went out and demanded to be taken seriously. Notice how many times the picture goes from her talking about the video to footage of the actual video during an interview. She's given us all license to actually point and giggle if we see her on the street.

She's going to wish she were Afro Ninja. And it's not entirely her fault. It's this litigious culture, isn't it?

Next suit on Marrero's list: Suing the American legal system for creating a culture whereby she was forced to sue over something so god damned stupid that she lost all future credibility. It's just, what's the word? Fucking "litigulous."

Follow us on Twitter!

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.