6 WTF Excuses Companies Actually Used While Getting Sued
For plenty of businesses, lawsuits are almost like a rite of passage. You're not successful until someone is trying to sue you for every last staple in the office. But in order to win, companies are often willing to exploit every legal loophole known to man -- or whatever species corporate lawyers are. Sometimes that means admitting to far worse than what someone's actually being accused of. For example ...
Coca-Cola Claims Only An Idiot Would Think Vitaminwater Was Healthy
Back in the old days, being a snake oil salesman was a tough gig. Promising an expensive tonic that could cure all ailments could get a person tarred and feathered in a heartbeat. These days, however, all you have to worry about is getting slightly plucked in court for false advertising. And even then, like a bad craftsman, you can simply blame your tools -- the "tools" in this case being the gullible consumers.
"But wait! I have more products that suckers like you seem to love! At less-than-reasonable prices!"
When Coca-Cola first introduced their "healthy" beverage Vitaminwater, its slogan was "vitamins + water = all you need." That equation was missing eight teaspoons of sugar and 120 calories per bottle, it turns out. But Vitaminwater's false advertising didn't stop there. The drink had also claimed it would improve the drinker's metabolism, boost their immune system, and reduce the risk of eye disease. Given a few more years, they could also have promised to grow your hair back, make your nails as sharp as talons, and let you see a whole new color.
It didn't take long for daughter company Glaceau (which is French for "garbage fountain") to be sued for misleading the public with their advertising. But that wasn't the case, according to Coca-Cola's lawyers, because "no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking Vitaminwater was a healthy beverage." Essentially, their legal strategy was to call anyone who thinks drinking a Coca-Cola product wouldn't give them diabetes a goddamn imbecile. And honestly, what kind of rube would think that this drink ...
... this drink ...
... THIS DRINK ...
... or this drink ...
... would be healthy for you? What, were we born yesterday? On a planet where words have meanings?
After six years of tying the courts up with their nonsense, Coca-Cola finally agreed to stop its misleading advertising, and added "with sweeteners" in the smallest font possible to the label of the bottle. Their team of lawyers concluded: "Although we remain confident in our legal position, it simply made no sense to continue this costly legal battle" -- the "You're not worth it, bro" of legal statements.
"But you know what is worth it? These extreme vitamin waters (with sweetener)."
But Coca-Cola isn't the only company that has had to go back on ridiculous health claims made by its sugar water. PepsiCo's 7 Up Antioxidant dropped any reference to antioxidants (including its name) after being sued for containing so little artificial vitamin E that it wouldn't even keep a single daisy alive. Meanwhile, Pom Wonderful was slapped by the FTC for claiming its drinks "could treat, prevent, or reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, and erectile dysfunction." Then again, how else are you ever going to break into the middle-aged male demographic with a name like Pom Wonderful?
Fox News And Alex Jones Admit They Aren't News
To the bleeding-heart liberals among us, right-wing news can sometimes feel unreal, like we're suddenly in a world where up is down, right is wrong, and human rights are for pussies. Lots of conservative pundits often appear like caricatures of what a right-wing mindset ought to be. But acting like they're the Muslim-hating offspring of Ayn Rand and before-the-ghosts Ebenezer Scrooge might be working in their favor.
Around the time of Obama's first presidential run, Fox News realized that straight-up picking fights with him netted them a lot more views, like a TMZ paparazzo secretly excited that Sean Penn is about to punch him in the face. As a response, the Obama administration refused to acknowledge Fox News as an actual news station, instead referring to them as an "ideological outlet," with communications director Anita Dunn even stating "we don't need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave."
So that's what Fox did: It stopped pretending. The network responded to these accusations by proudly boasting that "its news hours -- 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on weekdays -- are objective," thereby admitting that the 24-hour news network has about nine hours of news in it. C'mon, even hot dogs have more meat in them than that. And those other 100+ hours of television each week? Those are for entertainment, obviously. According to Fox, it's the viewer's job to tell the difference between the parts that are real news and all the baseless rumors that are nothing but the opinions of some guy. Who is dressed exactly like the newsreaders. And sits behind the same desk. And uses the words "Fox" and "News" every 30 seconds.
Other right-wing pundits have also picked on this possible get-out-of-libel-jail-free card. Alex Jones, a cartoon gorilla brought to life by his intense hatred of Jews, was recently in a fierce custody battle with his ex-wife. In order to demonstrate what an unfit parent and human being he is, her attorney showed the judge several tapes of Jones' show in which, when he's not shouting conspiracy theories like a syphilitic medieval town crier, he frequently strips off his clothes like he's reliving his failed audition for Magic Mike.
"If I have a heart attack on-air, I get workman's comp! ROAARR!"
To counter this hard evidence of him behaving like an insane mountain man, Jones's lawyer claimed that he's just a performance artist. You know, like what he said those children murdered in Sandy Hook were. His shows, by extent, are "political satire," a savage mockery of the kind of sad losers who would believe anything that would come out of Alex Jones...'s persona's mouth.
Not that it did Jones any favors. He wound up losing custody of his kids, partially because he claimed he couldn't remember basic details of their lives because he "had a big bowl of chili for lunch." Like with all great performance artists, it's almost impossible to tell where Alex Jones the artist ends and Alex Jones the caricature of a sad MRA troll begins.
The face of a man about to either turn into the Incredible Hulk or have a chili-related pants-shitting.
Melania Trump Sues For Libel And Admits She's Trying To Cash Off Being First Lady
Being the first lady is all about reputation. You're expected to be the perfect wife and mother, and to care a lot more about fat kids than you probably do. So when someone attacks your good name, it threatens everything you're hoping to achieve. Which, in Melania Trump's case, is to cash in on that good name by scamming people into buying her jewelry.
All the jewelry not sold is then eaten by the FLOTUS.
During the election, British grief merchant The Daily Mail published a story claiming Trump once worked as an escort. After becoming the first long-distance first lady, she immediately took the tabloid and its corporate overlords to court. But not just for libel; Melania's legal team also claimed that the false rumor could impact her financially, which is a very polite way of saying that while it may not be true, it's believable enough that it'll probably stick.
Then QVC will have to peddle someone else's crap.
But how could this rumor impact Melania financially? She's the first lady of the United States -- a position that makes you the world's most high-profile charity worker. Well, doing good may have been reward good enough for the Nancy Reagans and Jackie Onassii, but according to her lawyers, Melania sees the sacred office more as ...
the unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as an extremely famous and well-known person, as well as a former professional model, brand spokesperson and successful businesswoman, to launch a broad-based commercial brand in multiple product categories, each of which could have garnered multi-million dollar business relationships for a multi-year term during which plaintiff is one of the most photographed women in the world.
Those relationships could be hurt if people might think she sleeps with men for money, and not that she involves herself with men like Donald Trump because they're great listeners and ace cuddlers. Which is why Melania felt that The Daily Mail now owed her $150 million.
As well as a dead-eyed scowl for their trouble.
Ethics hawks quickly jumped on the wording in the lawsuit, noting that this statement made it sound like Melania's treating her role as the first lady like it's a modeling contract with Versace. Her defense team countered this accusation by claiming that was a gross misinterpretation of the wording. Of course, it didn't help their case that at the time, Melania was still running three different companies which make between $15,000 and $50,000 in royalties from her accessories line. And that same accessories line was advertised on her official White House bio page mere days before the lawsuit. That sure makes it look like Trump is using her position as FLOTUS to hawk her jewelry, like some bored housewife mentioning her Etsy store in every conversation.
When the matter was finally resolved, Melania had to settle for a public apology and less than $3 million in compensation. Not the bonanza that she was hoping for, but now she at least got something out of the presidency. She's certainly in no rush to take any trips to the White House in the next four years.
Gawker Defends Showing The Hulk Hogan Sex Tape By Saying They'd Also Publish Child Porn
Freedom of the press is one of the cornerstones of any fair democracy. But journalism is a business, and letting a business decide what is and isn't news can lead to fearmongering, misreporting, and lots of closing segments about cute pets. Still, journalists can and should fight for their First Amendment rights. However, that battle should never involve you defending the right to publish child pornography.
"Question! Are we the assholes here?"
In 2012, Gawker, the internet's curtain-twitching next-door neighbor, published a sex tape of Hulk Hogan, known not even to his children as Terry Bollea. In the 1-minute, 41-second video, the Hulkster is seen having sex with the wife of his former (obviously) best friend Bubba "The Love Sponge" Clem. As entertaining as that love triangle might sound, Hogan did not think it warranted a gossip site publishing footage of his thrusting buttocks. With the help of tech billionaire and children's cartoon villain Peter Thiel, Hogan sued the website and its then-editor A.J. Daulerio for severe breach of privacy and being a total jabroni.
"Only the Hulkster's fashion is allowed to make him look stupid, brother!"
Hogan's attorneys were sent out to prove to the jury that "Mr. Bollea's penis had no news value" -- a good legal strategy and a sick burn. However, when being deposed, Gawker's editor insisted that Hogan had had so many broadcast discussions about his dick that it ought to be part of the public domain. To counter this, his attorneys asked Daulerio what kind of celebrity sex tape would be unethical to show. He replied that he would never publish a sex tape of a child. "Under what age?" the lawyer asked. "Four."
Daulerio later stated that that answer was sarcastic. A legally binding deposition is a great place for you to try out some new comedy material. Of course, Hogan's lawyers pounded Daulerio as hard as Hogan pounded Bubba The Love Sponge's spouse. After only a few weeks of trial, Hogan was awarded $140 million in damages, collecting $31 million and bankrupting Gawker.
Dr. Oz Claims Giving Bad Medical Advice Is An American Privilege
Dr. Mehmet Oz is a cardiac surgeon and professor at Columbia University, but what he always wanted to be in life was a star. After appearing on The Oprah Winfrey Show as a medical expert, he was given his own "informative" talk show to teach people about the latest discoveries in medicine. Since then, he has become the Oprah of the medical community, in that they no longer think he's fit to hand out medical advice either.
Dr. Oz, the only person to have ever become a surgeon and still be a disappointment to his parents, has been widely criticized by both the medical and scientific communities for his incessant shilling of fad diet pills with little to no research backing up his claims. According to a recent study in the British Medical Journal, half of Dr. Oz's claims are baseless or just plain wrong -- i.e. he's making them up as he goes. He's especially disliked for continuously calling these diet fads he promotes "miraculous," like he's some overqualified faith healer.
"With the Fire Diet, you literally burn layers of fat away from your stomach using natural, everyday fire!"
This came to a head when Dr. Oz was called to testify in front of Congress, where senators gave the doctor a real way to lose weight fast: by sweating bullets. With him as a sacrificial pinata on the altar of rationality, the presiding senators wasted no time in tearing Oz a new one, going as far as saying, "I don't get why you need to say this stuff, because you know it's not true."
"In my defense, I thought you could say anything you wanted on TV."
To Oz's credit, he didn't back down and pretend that he was hosting a "satire" of a medical show making fun on the kind of people who listen to doctors. Instead, he invoked his God-given right to bullshit the American public. "My job is to be a cheerleader for the audience when they don't think they have hope," said the medical professional. "When I can't use language that is flowery, that is exulting, I feel like I've been disenfranchised." We don't know what kind of pills you have to take to make your balls big enough to cry censorship when a room of senators call you out on being a bad doctor, but we're looking forward to finding out on one of his future shows.
Pepsi Argues That Their Soda Would Dissolve A Mouse In Months
The hair in the soup routine is a classic con artist trick. You pretend the restaurant has dropped a disgusting human shaving in your meal and demand to be compensated for your distress. What you wouldn't expect at that juncture would be a waiter telling you that the hair you fished out was in fact the least disgusting part of your meal.
In 2009, an oil company worker in Illinois claimed he had found a dead mouse in his can of Mountain Dew. After spending the appropriate amount of time vomiting, he contacted Pepsi to inform them of their rodent problem. The company, instead of informing the customer he had taken part in a trial run of their new mouse-enhanced flavor (like New Coke, only less disgusting), immediately sent down a representative to secure the crime scene. However, by the time one of their poor interns had schlepped all the way to Madison County, the incriminating evidence had already been destroyed, hopefully with a tasteful burial and the notification of the next-of-kin.
"Mrs. Mouse, your husband died doing what he loved: the Dew."
The Illinois man still sued the company for over $75,000 for rodent-based emotional trauma. But Pepsi was sure that this was an open-and-shut case -- not because even a dead mouse could smell this scam from a mile away, though. During the very brief trial, Pepsi paraded a bunch of "experts" who could scientifically disprove that a mouse carcass could have been floating around in the Dew, pointing out that the soft drink's contents are waaay too toxic for that. Instead, what the oil man should have found, according to one expert, was a "jelly-like substance," with all the mousy parts having been dissolved by the refreshing battery acid that is Mountain Dew, like some rodent rendition of the barrel scenes in Breaking Bad.
And you were only worried about your sperm count.
However, despite the insurmountable evidence in their favor, Pepsi settled out of court, its lawyer hastily stating that the matter "was settled for an undisclosed sum. It's a done deal, and both parties are on their way" as he probably sprinted away from the courtroom. Sounds like the company had to pay a "we mentioned jellied mice" tax to get the story out of the morning shows circulation as quickly as possible.
For more of his attempts at witticisms or his famous recipes for toilet wine, do follow Cedric on Twitter.
Let's keep the lawsuits rolling in 5 Baffling Dick Moves That Won Actual Lawsuits and 6 Famous 'Frivolous Lawsuit' Stories That Are Total B.S..
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