Lawyers are often asked to talk about some of the most outrageous cases that they've ever encounter/had to take on, and the responses have the potential to be amazing! From simple misunderstands to ridiculous requests, there are no shortages of what people will do to get what they believe is 'justice.'
Comments have been edited for clarity.
“A woman called saying that she had a product liability suit involving animal crackers which she had fed to her daughter. I was thinking that it was going to be something along the lines of food poisoning, so I kept on listening. She explained to me that when she looked at the crackers, it looked like the monkey was holding a pecker (It was a banana). The woman was mortified and ashamed. She then told me how she told all her of coworkers, and they were all ‘shocked and uncomfortable.’ I wanted to tell her that she was nuts and that they were probably freaked out because she was talking about animal cracker peckers.”
“My family member sued me for taking down their website. I created the website. I hosted the website. I had no problem doing it since they were family, and it ran on my server. Unfortunately, they got too much traffic. They started being hostile to my parents. I took down their site. I sent them a letter about how families should treat one another with a passworded zip of all of their files. The password was at the bottom of the letter, so they had to read it to receive it.
I got sued for six figures. They were pulling in (at most) $300 a month. They said that I did irrefutable damage to their site and that they couldn’t get the site online because it was impossible. In court, they brought the whole database printed out. When they showed it to me on the stand, I laughed because I told the judge that that was all of the information they said they couldn’t receive or open.
All the counts were in my favor. Prior to our court session, my lawyer suggested we settle out of court. I offered $10,000. They didn’t’ take it. After they lost, their lawyer asked if we could just settle on the amount from the settlement. My lawyer told them forget about it. It was glorious.”
Already Knew The Judge
“I used to work at a firm that did workers compensation bad faith cases, and then also did maritime personal injury plaintiff’s work. The best stories came from the maritime guys. I’m not a lawyer, and this was before my time, but it was one of those stories that just got told to me about ‘outrageous’ clients.
One guy was hurt offshore (with a legit injury), but the drilling company wouldn’t settle. So it went to trial. The guy was from some small, rural town in east Texas and that was where the trial was set. During one of his depositions, our client showed up in a t-shirt that had a silhouette of a woman dangling from a pole. At the bottom, there was text that read, ‘I support single mothers.’ Perfect, this was just what we needed for a video deposition.
Later, we went to trial. Right as it was about to start, our client says, ‘I was hoping we didn’t get this judge’ and our lawyer thought that was strange, so he asked him, ‘Why?’ Apparently, our client killed the judge’s nephew or something during a breaking and entering via the stand your ground/castle doctrine a few years prior. It was a huge case in this little small town, and it was something the client neglected to mention at any point prior to us.
That’s perfect. What a great thing to know as the trial was beginning. We won the case. I still have no idea how.”
“I was once asked to evict a ghost. It’s always nice to get a client from a business card you left at a diner. It means that people actually pick those things up. However, when leaving business cards at diners in certain areas of town, I should’ve expected some issues.
This call came through on a dreary December day as I was sipping coffee and watching the snowfall. The caller ID said it was the local hospital, and as I picked up, I spoke to a rather frantic young man, who informed me that he was being held against his will and needed an attorney to help him. When I asked where he was, he simply said, ‘The fifth floor.’
While this may have sounded innocuous, every hospital has ‘a fifth Floor’ where Napoleon roams the halls freely, and the residents speak to their imaginary friends who may or may not be there.
Long story short, within an hour of the call, a friend had dropped off my fee, and I was en route to the fifth floor to meet with my new client. I assumed it would be an involuntary committal defense, and after speaking with my client, I gauged that while the man was most definitely in need of mental care, he was not in any danger to himself or anyone around him. He had been forced to be committed by his probation officer, and frankly, I wasn’t going to let that stand. I got the name of some of the contacts from his treatment plan, who were willing to vouch that he had been compliant with his medications. I then contacted his social worker, who was able to confirm that he had stopped taking his medication because he was unable to afford it and that the county would now have to assist him with it. I thought this was a slam dunk. I would simply swing my big lawyer card around the mental ward, get him released, and then appear in court to defend him against the involuntary committal.
Within 24 hours of being committed, my client was back at home. A hearing was set up for a couple of weeks in the future, and I did daily checkups to make sure that he was being compliant with his medication leading up to the hearing. This was, until one day, I didn’t.
A call from the local police was my tipoff. An older officer, who I was familiar with, called to advise me that they had responded to a disturbance at my client’s home. Apparently, he had been screaming in an empty room loud enough that his neighbors were concerned and called the police. The police officer, a friendly sort, gauged the situation and decided that my client wasn’t a threat, and he asked him what the situation was about.
‘The ghost,’ my client had responded. ‘The ghost won’t get out, and it won’t leave me alone.’
‘Well,’ said the officer, ‘I can tell it to leave.’
So, he did. He told the ghost to leave. Then, apparently, for the sake of giggles, he went and told him that it was ‘a civil matter’ if the ghost refused to leave, and therefore, an attorney would need to be contacted. At which point, my client dropped my name, which resulted in the cop giving me a call. I called my client who was inconsolable at the concept of sharing his home with the ghost. Keep in mind, I had already been to this guy’s house., but this was the first that I had heard of this ghost. There was also a competency hearing on the horizon, and this wouldn’t play well in front of the judge.
‘The cop said it’s a civil matter,’ repeated my client for about the 18th time. Even after I told him that I wasn’t a priest, but a lawyer who didn’t know how to perform exorcisms.
‘What do you want me to do,’ I snapped a bit, ‘Evict it?’
There are moments in time when you should keep your mouth shut. This is one of them because his immediate response was, “CAN YOU? THAT WOULD BE GREAT!”
Well, oh no.
Long story short, I ended up driving out there with a ‘mock-up’ notice to quit addressed to ‘Any spirits in possession of the property location without any authority under color of law’ advising them that their possession was ‘unlawful in nature’ and ordering them to ‘quit and surrender the premises or any portion thereof within 15 days of the date of this notice.’
As I was obviously unable to obtain personal service via hand delivery, I had my client direct me to the portion of the premises where the ghost had been occupying, which was an empty spare bedroom, and made service by posting the notice to the door of the room. I then announced that the ghost ‘HAD BEEN SERVED A VALID NOTICE TO QUIT AND SURRENDER POSSESSION’ and went home. A week later, as we were preparing to enter the courtroom for my client’s competency hearing, I asked him about the status.
‘Oh, Mr. Creepy, it worked great!’ my client announced. ‘He moved out that same night and took all his stuff with him.’
The ghost apparently had ‘stuff.’
Anyhow, I smiled and patted my client on the shoulder as I offered some sage advice.
‘Well, that’s good,’ I said. ‘Now, let’s not mention this in front of the judge. He may have a problem with my service and may order us to let the ghost back in if he were to find out about it.’
My client nodded, enthusiastically. I kept him out of the mental hospital that day and took some comfort in knowing that somewhere today this guy was still telling people about ‘His great lawyer who got rid of his ethereal roommate for free.’
“I worked as a legal aid for a while. Every day was ‘outrageous,’ and I even had a restraining order against my first ever ‘client.’
The first person I ever spoke to in a legal capacity was a woman who wanted to sue her contractor for $250,000 for an unfinished job and emotional distress. First of all, being upset at an incomplete job isn’t emotional distress. Secondly, the contract was only for about $100,000, and upon further questioning, I learned that this contractor had actually completed all of the terms of the contract. This woman eventually admitted that she was suing him because he was ‘rude and always late.’
I informed her that we would not take this case. Additionally, I warned her that a failure to pay the contract would most likely result in the contractor suing her. She found this idea ludicrous and began to yell at me in my office. She said that she had ‘the right’ as an American that I acted as her lawyer. So, I handled that, and we weren’t helping her with this case.
Two days later, I got a call from the contractor’s attorney stating that this woman had cited me as her attorney and threatened a hailstorm of suits upon the contractor from me. It took five minutes for the other attorney to realize what was going on. They even made sure to remind me of the steps that I should take to protect myself from any related suits this lady might bring upon me. I still talk to that attorney to this day, so I guess that was the silver lining in all of this.
About a month or two passed, and the woman came in again furious because the contractor sued her and was able to get a lien on the property. She said that this was my fault because I didn’t help her. I managed to talk her down. She then immediately got fired up again because ‘They were trying to scam her into giving them all of her documents.’
Turns out, the trial on the matter was coming up in about a week, and they requested photographs of allegedly unfinished work, damages, etc., as well as the original contract and payment receipts. Basically, all of the stuff that was typical and reasonable to request and that she was obligated to provide. She (and nearly every client that I had ever worked with in this capacity) thought that the evidence was supposed to be a ‘surprise’ at trial and that sharing this information would hurt her case. It would hurt her case because she was a liar.
Anyway, again, I was not her lawyer. I made her sign a paper that signified that she understood this and left. Months pass, I was no longer at legal aid, and this lady found me at my school. I got a call from the dean asking me to swing by. He said that he had just met with a disgruntled client of mine who said that I had cost her her home, marriage, and children. She then claimed that she would do everything in her power to make sure that I never did anything again. Anyway, the dean was a nice guy, and he helped me with my restraining order paperwork.”
Mobile Home Case In The ‘Gutters’
“I worked in legal aid for a number of years. One of my most absurd cases involved a client who was being evicted from her mobile home. In my state, you can usually own a mobile home but you rent the lot on which it sits. Now, mobile homes are expensive to move. The cost of moving them can actually exceed the value of the home itself.
My client fell behind on her lot rent and owed the landlord a decent chunk of money. However, her landlord delivered the eviction notice improperly, so I would’ve been able to get the case thrown out (Only to have landlord correct their mistake and come right back into court again, but much more angry). She had also recently put new gutters in their mobile home.
I negotiated a deal where my client would turn over her title to the mobile home to the landlord, would move out, and not have to owe them any money. This was a good deal as the mobile home was worth roughly what she owed, and she didn’t get stuck paying for her landlord’s attorney fees. Having negotiated with this lawyer, and this landlord numerous times before, I knew that them waiving fees was a rare deal.
Then my client said that she wanted her landlord to pay for the gutters which she had recently installed. The landlord (as expected) refused. Then she said that she wanted to remove the gutters. I spent an hour of my life hammering out a deal for her to be able to remove the gutters. The entire time all I could think was, ‘This is not why I went to law school. This is not why I went into public interest law. I have 70 other clients with serious issues whose cases I should be working on.’
I called my client to tell her that she could have the gutters, but she had to remove them and be out within seven days. She then said, ‘I don’t want the gutters. I just wanted them to pay for them for me.’
I still want that hour of my life back. I left public interest law a couple of years later. I now refuse to handle any cases involving mobile homes.”
“As a public defender, I defended a grown man accused of stealing Magic cards from Walmart. There was an hour-long security video meticulously with dozens of angles that he was picking up sets of cards, unwrapping them, and discarding the wrappers around the store. He insisted that he was innocent, and we actually went to a jury trial instead of securing a plea deal. It took the jury eight minutes to convict him, and the judge laid into my client telling him that he was the worst thief he had ever seen. At one point in the trial, I had to spend 45 minutes explaining Magic cards to the judge. He couldn’t understand why anyone would need more than one deck.”
The True Criminal
“I had a fellow who called my office and told me that he wanted our firm to handle negotiations with some of the big companies in the vinyl siding industry. I figured he had some new product that he wanted to sell or license, but that wasn’t the case. When he came in, he disclosed that he had discovered a defect in the vinyl siding and actually wanted us to demand a large sum of money from these companies, or else he was going to disclose this defect to the news.
Turns out, he was a day laborer who had recently been assigned to a construction project and ‘discovered’ that you could cut vinyl house siding with a sharp knife (which was the way that it was actually supposed to be cut on site in order to be installed). The siding was supposed to be installed over a plywood backing, but his boss told him to skip putting up the backing panels to save money. He felt that the homeowners were in danger because, without the wood backing, criminals could use this knowledge to enter people’s homes. He felt like it was his duty to report this to the public. This was, unless the vinyl siding companies, were to cough up a bunch of cash.
Basically, his employer was scamming customers. He felt like that justified his extortion of the manufacturers, and he wanted us to legitimize his efforts to extort money from this industry. It was a little uncomfortable to point out that, in fact, his boss and he were the criminals and that he didn’t have a case.”
The Strangest Consultation Ever
“Many years ago, when I was still a trainee solicitor, my then mentor wanted me to see a client on his behalf. He didn’t give me any details other than he was a new client, and I was to take initial instructions.
I was keen but wet behind the ears when this large man came into my small office and started to inquire about the legal age of consent (which was 16 in my country). He then told me that the reason why was because he wanted to start producing adult movies and wanted to be sure about the law. Well then, that changed the answer, as what he was asking was a totally different question. It would have been 18 in my country. He then got upset and animatedly said how he wanted to produce adult movies that included much younger girls. I explained to him the legal implications of that, and how he would quickly find himself in jail.
He then went to his next idea which was producing films for animals. It wasn’t like bestiality or anything, but videos where two animals would be making love, and he wanted to retail it to domestic pets.
At this point, my mentor had overheard some, if not all, of our consultation. Without saying a word, he walked into my office, up to my desk (I kept a picture of my family dog on my table), took the picture of my dog off of my desk, and left the room. To this day, It was one of the strangest consultations that I’ve ever had.
The Existence Of Santa Clause
“I was a member of a legal clinic in law school. We represented low-income individuals under the supervision of a licensed attorney/professor. We handled family law issues, but we would try to point clients in the right direction if we couldn’t personally help them. One man came in and stated that he wanted to sue Best Buy, which is not uncommon, but why he wanted to sue them was different.
This man said that he had purchased a refurbished computer from Best Buy for his daughter as a Christmas present, but Best Buy had neglected to remove the previous owner’s password screen, and thus, this man and his daughter were unable to access the computer until they took it back to the store (which was understandably closed on Christmas day).
According to him, this caused his 12-year-old daughter to begin to the question the existence of Santa Claus. He and his daughter then argued for the rest of the day until he finally had to admit to her that there was no such thing as Santa Claus. His words were, ‘Seeing my daughter lose faith in Santa Clause ruined all future Christmases to come.’
He also claimed that his daughter was a real brat ever since she stopped believing in Santa Claus. What was even more interesting was the number of damages he requested. He stated he believed that Best Buy owed him ‘at least $25 million’ because Christmas was ruined, his daughter would never believe in Santa again, and he now had to deal with her attitude.
I didn’t believe he had any type of recourse against the store for inadvertently demolishing his daughter’s belief in Santa, but even if I did, our clinic couldn’t help him. I informed him that we only handled family law issues and that he should call the local Bar Association’s lawyer referral service. He stated the Bar Association already told him that they wouldn’t take on his case. Then he proceeded to ask me if I had any children. I told him I didn’t. Then he proceeded to wish that all of my future kids have their belief in Santa Claus ruined. He stated that he wouldn’t help me if that ever happened. He then told me to screw off and left.
The whole time, I was just wondering how this guy’s daughter believed in Santa Claus until the age of 12.”
“A company wanted me to ‘patent’ their competitor’s slogan and argued that it had no trademark registration.
When I explained to them that a slogan was not protectable by a patent, that slogans couldn’t be deposited for trademark registration, and that patents and trademarks were two distinct forms of monopoly, they asked me to apply for ‘generic intellectual property’ over the slogan.
I proceeded to explain to them that there was no such thing as ‘generic intellectual property,’ and even though there were ways to protect that subject matter, not every IP right was acquired through registration. This meant the competitor held protection over the slogan. Moreover, I explained that their request was unlawful. They didn’t budge, and I ended up having to explain ethics to them and had to be firm about refusing to honor their request.
Our contract is now rescinded.”