Land of the free, home of the litigious. And congress is opposed to tort reform. Could it be because there are so many lawyers in the House and Senate? Stella Awards Its time again for the annual Stella Awards! For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are named after 81 year old Stella Liebeck who spilled hot coffee on herself and successfully sued the McDonalds in New Mexico where she purchased the coffee. You remember, she took the lid off the coffee and put it between her knees while she was driving. Who would ever think one could get burned doing that right? Thats right, these are awards for the most outlandish lawsuits and verdicts in the U.S. You know, the kinds of cases that make you scratch your head. So keep your head scratcher handy. Here are the Stellas for the past year: 7th Place: 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 store owners were understandably surprised by the verdict, considering the running toddler was her own son. 6th Place: Carl Truman, 19, of Los Angeles , California won $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman apparently didnt notice there was someone at the wheel of the car when he was trying to steal his neighbors hubcaps. Go ahead, grab your head scratcher. 5th Place: Terrence thingyson, of Bristol , Pennsylvania , who was leaving a house he just burglarized by way of the garage. Unfortunately for thingyson, the automatic garage door opener malfunctioned and he could not get the garage door to open. Worse, he couldnt re-enter the house because the door connecting the garage to the house locked when thingyson pulled it shut. Forced to sit for eight, count em, EIGHT days on a case of Pepsi and a large bag of dry dog food, he sued the homeowners insurance company claiming undue mental anguish. Amazingly, the jury said the insurance company must pay thingyson $500,000 for his anguish. We should all have this kind of anguish. Keep scratching. There are more .. 4th Place: Jerry Williams, of Little Rock, Arkansas, garnered 4th place in the Stellas when he was awarded $14,500 plus medical expenses after being bitten on the butt by his next door neighbors beagle- even though the beagle was on a chain in its owners fenced yard. Williams did not get as much as he asked for because the jury believed the beagle might have been provoked at the time of the butt bite because Williams had climbed over the fence into the yard and repeatedly shot the dog with a pellet gun. Grrrrr .Scratch, scratch. 3rd Place: Amber Carson of Lancaster , Pennsylvania because a jury ordered a Philadelphia restaurant to pay her $113,500 after she slipped on a spilled soft drink and broke her tailbone. The reason the soft drink was on the floor, Ms. Carson had thrown it at her boyfriend 30 seconds earlier during an argument. What ever happened to people being responsible for their own actions? Scratch, scratch, scratch. Hang in there, there are only two more Stellas to go 2nd Place: Kara Walton of Claymont , Delaware sued the owner of a nightclub in a nearby city because she fell from the bathroom window to the floor, knocking out her two front teeth. Even though Ms. Walton was trying to sneak through the ladies room window to avoid paying the $3.50 cover charge, the jury said the nightclub had to pay her $12,000 ..oh yeah, plus dental expenses. Go figure. 1st Place: (May I have fanfare played please) This years runaway First Place Stella Award winner was Mrs. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, who purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home from an OU football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70mph and calmly left the drivers seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich. Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owners manual that she couldnt actually leave the drivers seat while the cruise control was set. The Oklahoma jury awarded her, are you sitting down, $1,750,000 plus a new motor home. Win nebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home. Okay, now what do you guys think we oughta do about this stuff? Here's my idea: We get a small group of good ol' boys with common sense.... say about 10 of them & form a committee. Then let this committee oversee these suits. If they find a stupid lawsuit & award, like these, then they make the winning lawyer pay half the settlement & the judge pay the other half of the settlement for allowing the suit in his courtroom. Reckon that would eliminate the problem?