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  1. #1
    Klingon Warrior Princess Patches's Avatar
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    Default The infamous McDonalds "Hot Coffee" lawsuit.

    I had heard bitching and complaining in the media about frivolous lawsuits, and genuinely believed that this was one of them. It seems that everyone does. However, I saw the new documentary "Hot Coffee" and read some actual details about what happened... And it just doesn't seem so frivolous anymore. Check out this short clip from the documentary:

    (Warning: They show images of the severe burns on this woman's inner thighs. They are really disturbing images to look at, so if you don't wish to see something like that, don't click!)
    Excerpt found here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xly...dtv-xvid-fqm-3

    Many people think that the woman spilled hot coffee, got burned a bit, then sued McDonalds in an attempt to get a huge payday. They cite it as an example of our legal system gone awry. All she wanted was for McDonalds to pay $20k cover her medical expenses (skin grafts), lost income, etc. McDonalds only offered her $800.

    Anyway, I was pretty blown away by how incorrectly this situation had been portrayed by the media, and thought it's be nice to start a discussion about it. Do you still think this was her fault? Still a frivolous lawsuit? Does the severity of the burns surprise you?
    “Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside
    them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe.” -Neil Gaiman

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  2. #2
    Post Human Post Qlip's Avatar
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    Nah, I had read the real details of this case about a year ago. It is clearly not a frivolous lawsuit. I suppose this doesn't change the fact that silly lawsuits do exist, but billing this as one only encourages those who hear on the streets that this lady spilled some hot coffee on herself and got beaucoup cash out of it.

  3. #3
    (blankpages) Xenon's Avatar
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    Oh yeah, I remember all the jokes about this at the time, and how it was turned into a 'what is wrong with America today' story. This isn't the first time I heard the truth about it...but lord, those burns are horrific. No, not a frivolous lawsuit at all. There's a big difference between that story of "that stupid woman who didn't realize coffee is supposed to be hot" and what actually happened. Yes, coffee is expected to be hot. It's not expected to give you freaking third degree burns that require skin grafts. There is no reason they need to be heating coffee to that temperature.

    There was an article earlier this year on Cracked about frivolous lawsuits that weren't really all that frivolous (the 'hot coffee' one was the first one mentioned):
    6 Famous Frivolous Lawsuit Stories that are Total B.S.

  4. #4
    Senior Member BAJ's Avatar
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    Yes, I am surprised. If that's truly the cause of her burns, they should pay.

    Of course, I believe we should have medical care for everyone, and the wealthy (including McDonald's) should pay for it. If anyone gets burned for any reason, they could go to the doctor without the added worry about any medical costs.

    In the case of this woman, I believe she should get about $500,000 on top of her medical expenses.

  5. #5
    Senior Member King sns's Avatar
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    I know- I heard about how bad this was a while ago. It makes sense that the company should just pay for it- that coffee clearly needed standards- people spill coffee all the time. It hurts me that this was so cartoonized, this lady is just a regular, reasonable person.
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    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    To be honest if McDonalds told me it was raining I'd walk outside to see if any water fell on me.

    I first heard about the hot coffee lawsuit on the Anti-McDonalds website created by the McLibel defendents in the ninties, it was cited by some capitalist/conservative types who felt that opposing liberalism or some other of their personal bogeys meant providing support for McDonalds and they mentioned it as an example of how trivial or frivolous anti-McDonalds actions where.

    So I immediately suspected that it was bullshit and the plaintif had to have been hurt worse or the company more dupliticious than first appeared, I checked the facts of the case and realised I was right. The extent to which corporations such as McDonalds refuse to honour any duty of care towards customers, to me, is indicative of just how much nonsense ideas of consumer sovereignty really are in fact.

  7. #7
    Ghost Monkey Soul Vizconde's Avatar
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    I agree with the OP.

    The suit at issue was brought up by the media in an effort to demagogue for "tort reform" [otherwise limiting the individuals ability to seek redress within a court of law] because on first glance it sounded like a frivolous lawsuit.

    On various issues the public at large does have a habit of making kneejerk judgment and sticking with it by ignoring or avoiding additional research into an issue; especially if this is a mindset the media wishes to propagate.

    In reality, the background of McDonalds coffee suit were similar suits/claims whereby McDonalds corp had repeatedly been placed on notice [ that it was injuring many many people with unreasonable hot coffee which caused severe burns]. For whatever reason McDs (at the time I think it was to mask the reality that the coffee they were serving was tasteless dirt and if the tastebuds were scalded then this would be less apparent] chose to keep its "to go" scalding coffee very dangerous.

    As a megacorporation McDonalds snubbed its nose as to these past warnings. The actual damages from these types of previous lawsuits were flyspecks in the eyes of the megacorp and thus they chose to not modify their conduct regardless of how many people they hurt. Thus punitive damages (damages to punish or discourage future conduct) were applied and equaled something nevertheless relatively small such as what one day of coffee sales for McDonalds corp.

    Needless to say, of less corporate media attention, the punitive damages award the jury deemed as fair were nevertheless outrageously reduced on appeal to the point of effectively denying the plaintiff their right to jury trial.
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  8. #8
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    Just because someone was severely injured does not automatically mean that they are entitled to compensation. There has to be proof that their injury was the result of another person's negligence. Did that apply in this case? I don't think the answer is so clear cut.

  9. #9
    Klingon Warrior Princess Patches's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Not_Me View Post
    Just because someone was severely injured does not automatically mean that they are entitled to compensation. There has to be proof that their injury was the result of another person's negligence. Did that apply in this case? I don't think the answer is so clear cut.
    Her case wasn't going great until the smoking gun memo showed up. There was an internal document that showed that McDonalds knew it was almost certain that more people WOULD be badly injured by keeping the coffee that hot. They did an analysis and found it would be more profitable to keep the coffee hot and pay off any claims. They had had upwards of 700 burn/injury cases to do with the coffee before this ever happened.

    I think if it hadn't been for that memo, things would have turned out much differently.
    “Everybody has a secret world inside of them. All of the people of the world, I mean everybody. No matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside
    them they've all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands maybe.” -Neil Gaiman

    ~

  10. #10
    Senior Member Beargryllz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Not_Me View Post
    Just because someone was severely injured does not automatically mean that they are entitled to compensation. There has to be proof that their injury was the result of another person's negligence. Did that apply in this case? I don't think the answer is so clear cut.
    Is handing someone boiling water through a drive-through window negligent?

    That question has already been answered. I know the answer. Do you?

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