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

David Gottschalk
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.