“The devil made me do it” has been an excuse used by countless people through the ages. Evidently Gerald Mayo felt he needed to do more than just blame the devil; he wanted to make the devil pay.
Mayo filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, United States ex rel. Gerald Mayo v. Satan and His Staff, (54 F.R.D. 282 (1971)), asking the court to find that his civil and constitutional rights were denied by the devil and his associates.
Among Mayo’s complaints was that Satan, on multiple occasions, caused him misery, made unwarranted threats, and placed deliberate obstacles in Mayo’s path that led to his downfall.
Alas, Mayo was thwarted yet again when the court ruled against him. There were several issues in Judge Weber’s ruling, but chief among them was that Mayo did not list an address for Satan, and without being able to serve a summons upon the defendant, the court lacked personal jurisdiction over him.
The judge noted that although the plaintiff failed to provide evidence of the devil’s work in New Hampshire, and while there were no official records supporting his involvement with New Hampshire residents, he was able to find an “unofficial account” of a trial in New Hampshire where this defendant filed an action of mortgage foreclosure as plaintiff.
“The defendant in that action was represented by the preeminent advocate of that day, and raised the defense that the plaintiff was a foreign prince with no standing to sue in an American Court. This defense was overcome by overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Whether or not this would raise an estoppel in the present case we are unable to determine at this time.”
The “unofficial account” the judge cited was “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” a short story published in 1937 by Steven Vincent Benét.
The judge also grappled with whether the case would be more properly filed as a class action lawsuit, since the number of people who would have similar grievances against the devil “is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable.”
While Mayo did not prevail that day, the door is not closed against future attempts at suing Satan. Essentially, the judge denied Mayo’s motion to proceed in forma pauperis, which means that if he wants to go forward, he’s going to have to pay all of the associated expenses. The judge declined to rule on the merits of the case, itself.