Have there been any examples of frivolous lawsuits that somehow won?

I know frivolous seems to entail they were impossible to actually win but I’m curious if it has happened. I’m looking more for cases that were actually frivolous than cases on their face seemed frivolous to the layman (The McDonald’s Hot Coffee incident for instance) but actually had a legit complaint to them.

“Frivolous” is inherently a subjective judgement, and any lawsuit that was won was clearly one that the judge and/or jury did not consider frivolous. Which means that this thread amounts to “On what lawsuits did you disagree with the judge/jury?”. Which is an IMHO topic, not GQ.


Not necessarily. A suit could have been won, then reversed by an appeals court on grounds of being frivolous.

I always thought this was an…interesting?..idea: the lawyer managed to obtain a judgment, by arranging it so no one on the other side would argue the merits; and you’ll notice that terms like “petty stunt” and “disbarment” promptly ensue.

Looks like he got disbarred.

Yeah looking this up previously I found this article which if true seems exactly what I’m talking about.

In 1992, 23-year old Karen Norman accidentally backed her car into GalvestonBay after a night of drinking.
Norman couldn’t operate her seat belt and drowned. Her passenger managed to disengage herself and make it to shore.
Norman’s parents sued Honda for making a seat belt their drunken daughter (her blood alcohol level was .17 - nearly twice the legal limit) couldn’t open underwater.
A jury found Honda seventy-five percent responsible for Karen’s death and awarded the Norman family $65 million. An appeals court threw out the case.

I think there are lots of examples in the popular press, but only because they are misrepresented. One I remember was a psychic who tripped, fell, and hit her head. She sued on the basis that she lost her psychic ability, and won. Or so went the story. On closer examination, she sued on the basis of several things, including some very reasonably possible symptoms (chronic headache I think) as well as the loss of psychic power. The court found her claim of losing psychic power worthless, but other claims valid. So, it was made in headlines to sound frivolous, but the frivolous part was actually lost.

There’s the famous case of the 20 million dollar pants.

Not a win, but the guy who filed the case he took it all the way to the highest level short of the Supreme Court, and forced the cleaners to close their shop.
So he probably thinks he won–kinda like Trump.

I believe the case you’re thinking of involved a psychic who had an allergic-type reaction after receiving contrast dye prior to getting a CT scan. She filed a medical malpractice suit claiming that she developed severe chronic headaches as a result of the dye injection and that the headaches prevented her from exercising her psychic powers. The judge instructed the jury that the plaintiff had not proved the headache allegations and to not consider the psychic powers loss claim either. The jury wound up awarding her nearly $1 million in initial and “delay” damages, an award later thrown out as “grossly excessive”.

The case seems to have been frequently misreported as a suit over the CT scan causing her to lose her psychic powers, when the claim involved the contrast dye (she never got the CT scan).


So one might better characterize the case as involving a frivolous award given for a claim that was at least in part highly dubious.

Note: it seems that the new trial never went anywhere. The plaintiff subsequently found work as a grief counselor.

Yes, but as others have said, you need to dig into the details to see what is true. The newspapers love to make sensational headlines. I’ve never heard of the case, but the first thing that comes to my mind is that even at .17 BAC a person would be capable of reaching down and pressing a button to release a seatbelt.

Perhaps those Hondas had a design flaw, one which the company even knew about, that caused the release button to malfunction when wet. If that is true (and again, I’m just spit balling) then it is not “frivolous” to say “Yeah, the girl was drunk, but the design flaw caused her death.”