Margo Staples (her real name, so you could look it up) was one of my
all-time favorite insurance claimants. As an adjuster I got her not once but twice but, as youll see,
that wasn't so unlikely.
The first time I met Margo was in January of 1982. Our insured
Walgreens reported that shed gotten ill as a result of eating in their Wag's restaurant on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. Illegitimate claims of food poisoning are rare
-- and legitimate ones even more so -- so they always deserve a close look, because
its so easy to lie about it. According to the restaurant employees I
interviewed, Margo had ordered a cheeseburger and a fish sandwich, which her waitress
thought was excessive considering Margos slight frame.
According to the tape-recorded interviews I did, before she'd
eating the fish dish Margo ran off to the bathroom, followed by the concerned
manager. He listened at the door and heard the sounds of
vomiting. But he also told me that when he stepped into the bathroom
as she was walking out he didnt see or smell any evidence of vomit. Upon her return from the bathroom Margo said she was suffering from food
poisoning and asked that the remainder of her meal be wrapped up, but
thereafter she never
remembered to take it with her. For what it's worth, food poisoning symptoms never
express themselves so quickly after ingestion. The typical delay is measured in
hours, not minutes.
Margo insisted that an ambulance be called to take her to the
hospital, but before it arrived a cab pulled up and took her away. Apparently she
had also called for a cab in case the ambulance took too long. (Note that Margo
lived within a few blocks of this particular Wags restaurant and that she went
to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, also only a few blocks away.)
A few days later I met with Margo in her hotel, in the lobby, and
she was, first of all, beautiful. She was short but slim, a sort of miniature
glamour model. She knew it, too. (When I asked her on tape what her job was
she said, "Choreographer." Later, when I followed up on this, she agreed
that what she meant was that her last job was as a strip-tease dancer at a club on the South
But Margo Staples was one of those people who you just know are
mentally ill. Margos particular version of mental illness, whatever it was,
convinced her that any lie she told would be believed. (Update of June
23, 2017: Think of Donald Trump.) Then at some point she
somehow got it in her head that a really good way to generate money was to make bogus
insurance claims, and she turned out to be really bad at it. Prolific, but improficient.
After getting her story on tape, according to which she'd been seen
at Northwestern, we began negotiating, if that's what you call it. She wanted
$5,000. When I asked to see her medical bills she produced a report from Henrotin
Hospital, which is about three miles southwest of Northwestern. She couldn't explain
the discrepancy, nor could she explain why there was no mention of a complaint of food
poisoning, nor could she explain why it was dated two weeks before. I guess she
thought I wouldn't read it.
Margo Staples kept talking about filing a lawsuit against Walgreen's, but at
first I didn't let on that I knew about what we claims adjusters would euphemistically
refer to as her "extensive claims history." She kept inventing new lies to
cover previous ones I'd caught her in, and I kept catching her again. It was absurdly
easy, of course, because Margo, in her own mind's eye, kept forgetting that I didn't
always automatically believe her. I can imagine how some people, under the right
circumstances, would believe Margo, because she had a remarkable smoothness to her
monologues (and she was so pretty to look at).
Apparently, for short periods of time, Margo believed her own lies, at
least for as long as she could remember them. At the time I found it entertaining to
watch her inept but engaging impromptu performance, although as I look back on it now and
remember Margo, I realize that she suffered from some form of mental illness that made her
think her reality was everyone else's. (Update of June 23, 2017: Think
of Donald Trump again.) I imagine the world seems like a difficult
place to live in when you suffer from certain forms of mental illness.
By the time she'd reduced her demand to $500 I decided to offer her
a take it or leave it, on-the-spot check for $50, although not because I thought she could
prove Walgreen's was legally liable to her for even the price of the meals (which wouldn't
have been covered anyway, as far as that goes), but only because if she did go ahead with
one of her loopy lawsuits, we'd have to spend a lot more than $50 to crush it.
She kept pouring lie after lie onto the pile, burying herself ever
deeper, and I kept offering $50. She wouldn't budge off of $100 for the longest
time, so I employed the "close-the-briefcase method." This method involves
nothing more than slowly gathering up the supplies one has strewn about, in apparent
anticipation of walking away with no deal in place. In certain circumstances,
especially where you know the other person is desperate, it works well. I casually
handed her back the wrong hospital report as she was blathering, and I busied myself by picking
up the cassette recorder and dropping it into my open briefcase. I slowly put away
my pen, and then I picked up the all-important checkbook and tossed it into the
briefcase, then I started to close the lid. Margo's eyes widened, and she began
looking for reasons, in her own head, why she should accept $50 when $100 was clearly her
original limit. Just after I snapped the first lock on my ugly-as-hell but extremely
sturdy Samsonite, Margo came around and took my $50. Case closed.
A few months later my supervisor got another first report about a
claimant named Margo Staples. We had joked about her Walgreen's claim and all her
lawsuits, so her name stuck in his head. This new report was from our insured
Pacific Coast Producers, and when he saw the claimant was Margo Staples he stood up in his
cube, waving the form in the air, and called out across the office,
Hey, Johnny, you want another Margo Staples claim?
You bet. I am attracted to unusual people.
Here, according to a report I wrote, is what happened next.
March 16, 1982
CHICAGO CLAIMS MANAGER
CHICAGO CLAIMS SUPERVISOR
RE: MARGO STAPLES - PACIFIC COAST PRODUCERS
DATE OF ACCIDENT: UNKNOWN
On January 18, 1982 Walgreens notified us of a claim being pressed by Ms. Staples,
alleging food poisoning from eating in one of their restaurants. Suspecting that she
was a professional claimant, I contacted Walgreens' previous carrier and acquired a copy
of the Index Bureau returns they had generated. Seeing that her claims history was
extensive, I walked over to the Daley Center and ran her name through the computer.
Finding that she had filed six pro se personal injury suits, as well as one with
representation, I made copies of the complaints, now in file.
After investigating her food poisoning claim through the insured, I settled with her
for $50.00 (refer to P404-74871). Note that during the settlement negotiations I
brought up the fact that I had acquired access to her other lawsuits.
THE INSTANT CLAIM:
On approximately February 20, 1982 Ms. Staples sent a Mailgram to Fisher Foods, asking
for 1.7 billion dollars in damages. Fisher Foods made our insured, Pacific Coast
Producers, aware of the claim and I was assigned to investigate the situation on March 10,
1982. I attempted to contact Ms. Staples by phone at her residence and learned that
her telephone does not work. Accordingly, I visited her in her hotel yesterday at
approximately 1:00 p.m. I was instructed by the hotel clerk to go up to her room,
#1204 in the Tuscany Hotel at 1244 N. Dearborn. I knocked on her door, and after
waiting approximately one minute she opened it. I informed her that I was the
adjuster handling her claim against Pacific Coast Producers and told her that we would
make no voluntary payment. She showed me an opened can of Heritage House pears and
indicated that the product's expiration date had passed. When I said I was not
interested in the expiration date, because the liability for the passing of an expiration
date would lie with a party further in the chain of commerce than the manufacturer, she
replied that "the judge would be interested."
I then left her hotel and thought nothing further about this claim until this morning
when I learned that a Sergeant Neilsen of the Violent Crimes unit of the Chicago Police
Department, at 744-8262, had called asking for me. I called him back at 8:30 and
learned that Ms. Staples had filed a charge of simple battery against me, alleging that
during or just after my denial of her claim I had struck her in the face, struck her in
the stomach, and spat on her. Sergeant Neilsen did not inquire whether her
allegations were true but simply indicated that he was verifying that they were not.
The police report number is D-084-385.
JOHN - CHICAGO CLAIMS
[At the bottom theres a notation in my hand dated March 19th that says,
Ill get P/R thru RSB, per A. Lueders instructions. --jg. P/R means police report.
RSB refers to Republic Service Bureau, which, for a fee, could get documents,
especially uncensored versions of documents normally available only in a censored version, from various sources that were unavailable to regular people. Having subpoena
power is one of the great perks -- and powers of persuasion -- of handling insurance
In case you disagree with my lay diagnosis of Margo Staples as being
mentally ill, below are complete, verbatim transcriptions of certain lawsuits she filed in
the Law Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, in 1981 alone. If
you do a search youll find that shes named as a party in many more. As
you'll see, Margo has confused civil torts, which is what plaintiffs file in the Law
Division, with crimes, which is what a prosecutor charges in the Criminal Division, but
that's just Margo.
Before you read them its important to note that Margo managed
to file these lawsuits pro se, which means she represents herself and
doesnt have a bar-card lawyer. I can tell you that judges look widely askance
at pro se lawsuits of the nature of Margos. But even more important
from Margos position, she also managed to get these lawsuits filed as a "Pauper
Plaintiff," which means she was able to convince the clerk that she was so poor she
couldnt afford the filing fee. When youre a really bad professional
claimant, those fees make a difference.
Note to Margo Staples:
(If you are not Margo Staples, do not waste your time reading
the following paragraph.)
Margo, it is only by the wildest coincidence that you have
learned of this Web page. Know that truth is an absolute defense to a charge of
libel, so please dont bother to sue me. Also, good luck making service.
81L 23738: Margo Staples V. YMCA of America
Charges: Breaking & Entering, Negligence, Theft
In the early morning hours of Nov 7, 1979 the room of Ms. Margo Staples was broken into
by Management. Money was stolen when the door was left unrepaired. She spent
40 days in a mental ward because of it.
On Nov 7, 1979 someone knocked at my door. I had a do not disturb sign on the
door. I did not answer. They knocked again. I still didnt answer.
The next thing I knew they were breaking down the door.
I was in bed at the time with my head covered but I recognized Mr. Holmes (Night
Manager voice along with another male. They left with out repairing the door.
Later I found a neighbor going through my belongings 40 days were spent in North
Western Memorial Hospital as a result.
Claiming damages in the amount of $1,500,000 Mental and Emotional Cruelty Also claiming
damages (Punitive) in the amount of $1,500,000.
81L 25332: Margo Staples v. Christ Wareness Center
Charge: Income tax evasion, Haressment, Theft
In May of 1980 I Margo Staples requested tax information form the above non-Profit Corp
whom Id been senting Contributions. I was assured by the Rev. Gina Waites that
the information was forth coming. I waited, I didnt receive it.
In Feb of1981 I again requested the information by going to the church. I was
told by the Rev. Waites that I never [illegible] get the information. I was haressed
by her and her staff. Police were called. I was removed bodily by
police. Money and personal property were stolen. I spent several weeks in a
Mental ward as a result.
Claiming damages in the amount of 3.6 million Dollars. Mental & Emotional
81L25177: Margo Staples V. YMCA of America
On or about October 3, 1979 Margo Staples was raped at the above hotel by a security
guard who had a gun and who was hired by the above hotel to protect her.
40 days were spent in the mental ward. Claiming damages in the amount of 1.6
Billion Dollars. Rape, Physical Mental and Emotional Cruelty.
81L 25433: Margo Staples v. Continental Plaza Hotel
Charges: False arrest, Invasion of Privacy, 2 Counts of assault, Discrimination,
In Aug of 1980, I Margo Staples sat in the powder room of the continental Plaza hotel
with a very bad headache.
I was approached by two women. One accused me of stealing her tee shirt.
Security was called. I proved to them that I did not have the tee shirt. Then
for no reason at all they began to haress me.
I was taken down the back elevator to the basement where I was asked to sign a form
giving the hotel permission to take my picture. I refused. They took the
The police were called. I was beaten by police in the basement of the above hotel
in front of security guards of the hotel. I was also falsely arrested.
Claiming damages in the amount of $1.6 Billion Dollars Mental, Physical & Emotional
I also sustained another beating on 8-8-80 as a result of the above.
81L 25582: Margo Staples v. Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Charges: Malpractice, Negligence, Several Counts of False Arrest, assault, Discrimination,
Conspiracy (illegal probation)
I Margo Staples, was given an overdose of medication by the above hospital, which
blinded and crippled me for several months.
I was falseley arrested several times while trying to get into the Crisses program
which I qualified for. I spent several weeks in jail as a result.
I was told by the hospital that I was put on illegal probation as a result.
Claiming damages in the amount of 1.7 Billion dollars.
Damages: Mental, Physical & Emotional Cruelty.
I was also beaten by police as a result of the above discrimination.
Did you notice how Margo's ad damnums went from 1.6 billion dollars to 1.7?
I guess she figured that, after all she'd been through, she really deserved that
extra hundred million.
Margo was an interesting character, and I treasure my memories of
her and her ilk.
In contrast to Margo -- with her loopy,
ill-considered allegations -- consider Ricky Taylor v. CTA.