Born in the Sue-S-A

Is there anyone in the United States that doesn’t know about the McDonald’s hot coffee suit?  Most people were truly shocked that Common Sense had been proven dead at that point.  Suddenly people realized that you could do something stupid (lets admit it, sitting a cup of hot coffee between your legs is not exactly the act of a Mensa member) and sue someone else for your own silliness.

the next thing you know there are warnings on everything and some of them reflect the depths of stupidity manufacturers are worrying about when it comes to frivolous lawsuits.  Would you put this in your mouth?

Most of us wouldn’t but if you read the box, it clearly states “Not for oral use” tells me that someone is potentially that silly and the makers of PreparationH have also realized this and taken steps to try to protect themselves.

However the frivolous lawsuits don’t stop there, they sometimes become downright bizzare!  Take the case of Christopher Roller vs David Copperfield.  We all know who David Copperfield is right, one of the most famous illusionists out there.  Well David got hit with a lawsuit alleging he used ‘Godly powers’ in performing his illusions.  Godly powers that Mr. Roller claimed to have patented.  The case was dismissed with prejudice so David Copperfield won the lawsuit, but not because it magically disappeared.  Mr Copperfield had to hire an attorney to represent his interests in court, just like we all should when hit with a lawsuit.

The other thing that sticks out about this case is that most people would have brushed off Mr Roller’s claims as less than sane.  After all Godly powers are the work of God.  Considering God has even been hit with lawsuits, any one of us could be named at any time.  Even if the lawsuit itself makes no sense.


12 comments on “Born in the Sue-S-A

  1. I think the interesting thing about the Liebeck case (e.g., McDonald’s hot coffee) was that it wasn’t a frivolous case. McDonald’s coffee was significantly hotter than other places’ coffee, at a temperature that could scald within seconds.

    • The interesting thing about the McDonalds case for me, is that all coffee unless you are buying iced coffee. We learn from youngest childhood to handle hot liquids with care. Is sitting a cup of hot coffee between your legs ‘handling with care’? Because you opted to carelessly place that coffee between your legs and got burned who is ultimately responsible for your injury?

  2. All hot coffee will NOT cause 3rd degree burns; that’s the issue with the McDonald’s case. It’s not as simple as “iced coffee” and “will cause permanent damage” coffee.

    As for ultimate responsibility, that’s why we have the legal standard of comparative negligence. Coffee at that temperature plus the comparative negligence of putting it between your legs nets you negligence of 80% to McDonalds, 20% to Liebeck. Which makes sense: there would have been NO chance of scalding/third-degree burns had McDonald’s not had it at such a high temperature, but Liebeck was negligent to put it between here legs.

    • Let me put it this way. If you cannot swim and you choose to jump off a bridge into a river, does it make a difference if the water is 7 feet deep or 70 feet deep when the end result is the same? You are going to drown unless someone pulls you out.

      Does it make a difference if this coffee is hotter than that coffee when the end result is the same, it will burn you.

      Personal responsibility for your own actions. That is what makes the McDonald’s lawsuit the king of friviolous lawsuits. The woman did something very stupid, she placed a cup of hot coffee between her legs. She handled the coffee carelessly and she caused herself to get burned by doing doing so.

      Then instead of taking personal responsibility for what her actions had caused, she sued McDonalds for the injury that she had caused.

      Now had the drive-thru guy spilled the coffee on her, that would be a whole different kettle of fish. A McDonald’s worker, in doing the job he was hired to do would have been the cause of her injury and she would have been a victim of the employee’s carelessness. She would not have been personally responsible for the injury that she received.

      • Since there are meaningful medical differences between burns and there don’t appear to be meaningful medical differences between “drowning” and “drowning,” the analogy is flawed. The case is about third degree burns, company policy that leads to coffee that produces said burns, and the significantly different amount of harm they cause, not about a burn in general. No matter what she did, she did not cause a third degree burn to herself. THAT is the point of the case. She did nothing personally to cause that, because she did not decide to heat the coffee at the unsafe 185 degrees. You can argue she burned herself, but she did not give herself a third degree burn.

        In any case, I’m glad that the system does have a doctrine of comparative negligence so we can look at both the parties involved and assess who gets how much of the blame. I for one am glad that we have a system where people don’t kow-tow to corporations and accept whatever happens to them as “their fault.” Clearly, in the case, the jury and judge thought differently about the comparative negligence of the parties. And that’s good for the legal process. Because we have legal doctrines to cover comparative negligence, there’s really no real way — except in the lay court-of-public-opinion sense — that this is a “frivolous” lawsuit.

      • And none of that has anything to do with the fact that she should have had a reasonable expectation to be burned as a result of her own silly and risky behavior, irregardless of the severity.

        That person who can’t swim should have a reasonable expectation to drown whether the water is 7 ft or 70 ft the result of what they are doing is the same, irregardless.

        Oddly enough until she filed her lawsuit, people had been safely handling, drinking and even adding cream and sugar to their coffee safely without incident. But because she chose not to use reasonable care in handling her coffee, McDonald’s is 80% to blame for her carelessness.

        And that is the basis for the majority of frivolous lawsuits. It doesn’t matter if we sustain injury through our own carelessness or stupidity, we are not really responsible. It is someone else’ fault even when that injury is caused through our own actions. As long as they have money or a name go ahead and sue because it is their fault after all. It doesn’t matter if any halfway intelligent person reasonably expects that the behavior to result in injury.

      • Oddly enough until she filed her lawsuit, people had been safely handling, drinking and even adding cream and sugar to their coffee safely without incident.

        Actually, people had been settling with McDonald’s for claims up to and over $500,000 over the same matter. This was a routine situation for McDonald’s in particular to handle…and Liebeck was originally only wanting to setting for $15-20k. Things only escalated when a) McDonalds only offered $800, and b) she learned of an attorney who had litigated similar cases against McDonalds and had knowledge of McDonald’s history of cases.

        In this way, the case is similar to the Ford Pinto case…where Ford (as McDonalds) KNEW of the defect to the product, but determined that the cost of settling cases would probably be less than the cost of changing business practices.

        So, yes, McDonald’s is 80% to blame for reckless business practices.

        And that’s why the case isn’t so frivolous after all. The 80/20 split DID decrease Liebeck’s damages by 20% — because that’s how much she was held comparatively negligent. The court and the jury before the case was much like you — they thought the case was ridiculous, that it should be an open and shut case against Liebeck and that she shouldn’t get anything. But the problem is that the facts of the case reveal quite a few other things that we know from cases like this and others: corporations *do* have a history of developing unsafe products and creating campaigns to demonize the victims of those products in order to avoid having to spend a little more to maintain their duty of care to their customers.

        There are frivolous lawsuits. But this isn’t one of them. You can consider it controversial. You can contest the results. You can maybe contest the legal doctrine of “comparative negligence” as opposed to “contributory negligence.” Maybe you can contest the extremity of the damages (because if McDonalds had settled, they would surely have paid less.)

        But frivolous lawsuits are what happen when people try to argue that they don’t have to pay taxes because they think the 16th Amendment was never officially ratified, or because they think they are “sovereign nations.” This is a totally different matter.

      • I still say that it is frivolous. There’s a world of difference in handling hot coffee. It was obvious that it was hot that was not hidden from any consumer that purchased the coffee. McDonalds did not attempt to conceal the fact that it was hot. Leibeck did something that any normally intelligent person would not do and was injured as a result of her own actions.

        The fact that McDonalds had settled with others means absolutely nothing either. Businesses routinely settle with costumers when they have no liability or responsibility because it is cheaper to do so than to fight it out in court. And in the majority of these low dollar settlements it is noted that the business admits no liability and we are back to square one. Someone committing a bonehead act and suing for the results of their bonehead act.

        You keep going back to McDonalds is liable and yet you have not addressed the main point. Had Liebeck used common sense in handling her coffee like thousands of other McDonalds customers had done everyday, would she have gotten burned?

    • It’s ok for you to have that opinion. The problem is, the jury and court disagreed, and it’s ok for that to happen. Negligence already includes a “reasonable person” standard. So, in other words, the court’s pronouncements already take into account whether Liebeck “did something that any normally intelligent person would not do.” They found that for the most part, she did not.

      Had Liebeck used common sense in handling her coffee like thousands of other McDonalds customers had done everyday, would she have gotten burned?

      Let me first ask you something back: What do you think Liebeck should have done? Imagine this. Your grandson is driving your car…you get coffee, and want to add cream, sugar, etc., to it. So, responsibly, you have you son pull over so you can stop…already, you’re taking reasonable efforts here.

      You know that your car doesn’t have cup holders (Ford Probes from 94 don’t). You look for the dashboard, but see that it is slanted. But you know that to take the lid off responsibly, you should devote two hands to it.

      So, where do you put the coffee? What do you do? What more do you do to “use common sense in handling [your] coffee”?

      Oh, I know! She should’ve had her grandson hold the coffee so that if it spilled, it would spill on him!

      To answer your question, a spill can happen to anyone. It can happen if you’re careful, it can happen if you’re not (and the pronouncement from the court shows that they clearly did not believe that she was completely or even *mostly* unreasonable). But hopefully, a spill shouldn’t cause you to have to get skin grafted because a company knows that it makes coffee too hot but will not do anything about it (and has representatives who are on record to have said that).

      • You hold the cup in one hand and remove the lid with the other. you use any solid surface to steady the cup while you remove the lid. You don’t put it in your lap which is neither solid nor steady. Especially if it is hot. Any child old enough to distinguish the feeling of hot will not place something hot in its’ lap.

        Juries are fallible always have been and always will be because their prejudices influence their decisions. We live in an age (And have for decades) in which personal responsibility no longer exists. We no longer understand the concept of paying for our own mistakes. It’s always someone else fault.

        The norm is to justify stupidity and even criminal actions as the fault of anyone or anything else except the person who committed the act.

        Mr Brown didn’t murder his wife because he wanted to, he murdered her because he had a twisted relationship with his mother.

        This construction worker did not get injured using the saw because of his own stupidity in not using the safety guide that the saw came with, the company that produced the saw is negligent because the safety mechanism was made in such a way that it could be removed.

        The Burglar is not responsible for the injuries that he received from Mr Smiths dog when he broke into Mr smith’s house, Mr Smith is liable because he owns a dog that would bite an intruder.

        It’s not my fault that I ran over your garbage can causing damage to the rear fender of my car, it’s your fault for placing it too close to my driveway in the street and you are liable for the needed repairs.

        This is actually going on in out court systems today stemming from a jury not holding someone liable for thier actions. No matter how you slice and dice it Lieback did not use due care. And if her hands were unsteady and she had a perfectly capable grandson with steady hands then he yes should have done it for her. The car was pulled over so he was not busy driving.

        I am waiting for the day when the world wakes up to the fact that we are responsible for our own actions. If we do something stupid that gets us injured then it’s our bad. unfortunately for now Personal Responsibility has been overshadowed by the Phrase ‘Personal Injury Lawsuit.”

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