Riiight. The old lady in the McDonald's drive-thru, who burned herself with the coffee. Now, I never thought this was a frivolous lawsuit—but many persist in believing that it was. And that this woman walked away with millions of dollars for being a clutz. That's because nobody knows what actually happened beyond Jay Leno's jokes or the FOX NEWS asshole misrepresenting it to use as Exhibit A for tort-reform.
Go here for a quick summary of the case. Here are some high(low)lights:
At the trial, it was revealed:
• McDonalds required their coffee kept at 185 degrees Fahrenheit, plus or minus 5 degrees, significantly higher than other establishments. [Coffee is usually served at 135 to 140 degrees]
• An expert testified that 180 degree liquids will cause full thickness burns in 2 to 7 seconds.
• McDonalds knew before this accident that burn hazards exist with any foods served above 140 degrees... that its coffee would burn drinkers at the temperature they served it.
• McDonalds knew of over 700 people burned by its coffee, including many third-degree burns similar to Ms. Liebeck's.
• McDonalds had received previous requests from consumers and safety organizations to lower their coffee temperature.
Evidence showed that McDonalds served their coffee so hot to save money. This let them get away with a cheaper grade of coffee and cut down on the number of free refills they had to give away. McDonalds executives testified that they thought it would be cheaper to pay claims and worker's compensation benefits to people burned by their coffee versus making any of these changes.
Even the trial court judge called McDonalds' conduct willful, wanton, reckless and callous.
Ms. Liebeck tried to settle with McDonald's for $20,000 to cover her medical expenses. McDonalds offered her $800. She sought mediation, but McDonald's refused.
And the "vast millions" this frivolous scammer walked away with? That number was based on two days worth of coffee sales for McDonalds as punitive damages. And she never saw that money, the judge reduced the verdict to less than $600,000.
And what's the second most-cited example of the "frivolous lawsuits" that need to be combatted? According to this story in the LA Times, it's probably fake.
So the famous example is completely exaggerated, and the rest are fabrications. (Just like the estate tax/family farm scam). Just a little something to keep in mind when the President gets back from his month-long siesta and starts his bullshit about tort reform.
[via John Cole and Ezra. The facts cited above are from a link provided by a commenter at Cole's blog. UPDATE: In the comments here, Ted challenges the veracity of those facts. An article in the lawyer-lovin' liberal Wall Street Journal actually bolsters my case. Link.]