David Gottschalk
David Gottschalk

11 Times the Holidays Resulted in a Fa-La-La-La-Lawsuit

David Gottschalk
David Gottschalk

Not everyone thinks ‘tis the season to be jolly. These 11 litigious people almost certainly ended up on Santa’s naughty list, if not the judge’s.

1. Osborne Christmas Lights

Clark Griswold’s puny display of 25,000 lights is nothing compared to the Osborne family’s 3,000,000. Six neighbors sued Mitzi and Jennings Osborne over their excessively celebratory Christmas display in 1993, which prompted the Little Rock couple to add more. A local judge forced the family to limit the illumination to certain hours of the day, and to only 15 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Osbornes appealed, sending the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Justice Clarence Thomas was not sympathetic to their plight, and the original limitations were upheld. But cheer up, Griswoldians—you can still see the famous display at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida. They purchased the entire setup in 1995 and install it in an area of the park every year.

2. Toy Drive Disaster

East Point Academy, an elementary school in South Carolina, canceled their “Operation Christmas Child” annual toy drive last month after receiving a letter from the American Humanist Association, a group dedicated to removing religion from government. The group stated that they intervened on behalf of a “perturbed” parent who was concerned about Operation Christmas Child’s association with an international Christian relief organization called “Samaritan’s Purse.”

3. Fireworks Fizzle

The houses on Crown Point Parkway near Cleveland have been known for their Christmas lights and holiday celebrations for decades, even appearing on the Today Show, but one citizen decided enough was enough in 2012. Claiming that the noise and debris falling from a Thanksgiving fireworks display ruined his holiday meal and caused damage to his roof and car, Kevin Roberts had Santa deliver a neighborly lawsuit to the tune of $3000 last year.

4. Missing Menorah

Faced with the threat of a lawsuit over the lack of a menorah in their holiday decor, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport may have slightly overreacted in 2006. After a local Jewish Orthodox educational group asked for more balanced decor, the airport removed 14 “holiday trees”—but just for a long weekend. Public outcry caused the airport to rethink its decision, and four days after they were removed, the trees reappeared, still minus a menorah.

5. Songs of Holiday Torture

As of 2010, Sheriff Joe Arpaio had been sued six times over his cruel and unusual Christmas carol torture method. Aghast at having to listen to 12 hours of culturally diverse holiday music, inmates sued for up to $250,000 in damages. Sheriff Arpaio has been triumphant every time, though, and even issued a red and green press release after the sixth suit that said, “We keep winning these lawsuits. Inmates should stop acting like the Grinch who stole Christmas and give up wasting the court’s time with such frivolous assertions.”

6. Like Taking Candy From a Baby

At first glance, candy canes may not appear to have religious connotations. According to one old tale, however, they were first made to represent shepherds' crooks. When one student showed up to school with candy canes bearing notes explaining the connection, a principal in Texas banned the peppermint treats. Similarly, another Texas elementary school banned pencils that said “Jesus is the reason for the season.” After eight years (eight years) in court, neither principal was held liable.

7. Ho-Ho-No

Hey, here are two things that should pretty much never go together: company holiday parties and pole dancing. After a New York Parks Department supervisor was suspended for his part in throwing holiday parties that featured employees hitting the pole, he sued for back pay that he felt he should have gotten during the suspension.

8. Have Yourself a Merry Little Non-Denominational Season

A Florida woman sued her employer for firing her in 2008, saying that the dismissal was due to her refusal to tell customers “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas."

“I hold my core Christian values to a high standard and I absolutely refuse to give in on the basis of values," she said. "All I wanted was to be able to say ‘Merry Christmas’ or to acknowledge no holidays. As a Christian, I don’t recognize any other holidays." She did not win the lawsuit.

9. Size Matters

In Leesburg, Florida, a $1000 menorah was erected in Lake County Retirement Community after a retired lawyer sued. The resident was frustrated with constantly passing by other residents’ holiday wreaths and “cavorting reindeer” decorations.

10. Sales Tax Not Included

Let this be a lesson to all retailers out there: Never create a promo you’d really rather not follow up on. Perry’s Emporium, a purveyor of fine jewelry in North Carolina, promised customers their jewelry purchases would be free if three inches of snow fell in Asheville on Christmas Day in 2010. Guess what? Asheville saw a whopping six inches of snow that day, and Perry’s made good on their offer. One Grinch still sued the jewelry store for refunding him $7052 instead of the $7616 he had actually paid, saying that the sales tax shouldn’t have been his responsibility, either. A judge disagreed.

11. Say It Ain't So, Cee Lo

Whither the holiday spirit, Cee Lo? Earlier this year, a concert promoter sued Cee Lo for allegedly backing out of not one, but two holiday concerts he agreed to perform for the meager sum of $248,000 in 2012. But don't say Cee Lo is a Scrooge—when word of the lawsuit got out, his reps stated that it was the first time The Voice judge had heard of the deal, and that the concert promoter was perhaps being a bit unscrupulous.

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Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
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Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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