According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, a woman is suing McDonald's after her daughter was burned by a cup of hot chocolate they purchased at a drive-through in Schiller Park. The lawsuit was filed in Cook County last week, alleging that the lid was not secured and the drink spilled on the girl's leg, causing severe burns. The lawsuit also alleges that McDonald's should have known that the hot chocolate was too hot to drink.
It sounds familiar, doesn't it? About 15 years ago, a woman sued McDonald's over a cup of hot coffee that spilled in her lap. She was initially awarded $2.86 million by the jury. The case was all over the news, and it sparked debate about tort reform.
I won't say that these cases are unfounded. The woman who sued previously was hospitalized for a week for her burns. And I'm not saying McDonald's doesn't deserve to be sued - there was evidence in the previous case that the company was fully aware that their coffee was too hot. There were hundreds of previous reports about the scalding coffee, including serious burns.
My complaint is that what everyone seems to remember from this type of case is that so-and-so sued and won millions. It's a very unrealistic snapshot of our legal system. This was an outlier of a case because during the claim it was discovered that McDonalds executives knew that their coffee was too hot and was dangerous, but did nothing about it because this saved them millions a year. Had that information not been discovered the original case would probably have been worth almost nothing.
Even then, while a jury awarded the plaintiff a couple of million in punitive damages (to deter McDonalds from this bad behavior), the Judge greatly reduced that award. That of course wasn't publicized and now every idiot thinks that if you spill coffee on yourself you are set for life.
The first McDonald's case set the legal system back and led people to believe that many were profiting from "frivolous" lawsuits. It's just not true and it drives me nuts. Sure a handful of bogus cases make their way through the system, but most attorneys would turn those down and the ones that do take them usually end up nowhere.
It's been a long time since that first McDonald's case. I'm guessing that this is the last we will hear of this new McDonald's case. Hopefully it doesn't turn in to a Whopper (zing!) like the first one did.
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