Critical Thinking in the Legal Environment: Torts and Products Liability.
Whenever the issue of tort reform is being discussed, the infamous case involving McDonald and a burnt customer always comes to mind as a principal example of what is wrong with the American Tort system. The case got a lot of publicity and the term "Stella Award" has been used to refer to any lawsuit that sounds outrageous. This case angered a lot of people and it intensified the debate over tort reform. In order to understand the jury’s decision in this case, it is very important to understand the facts that were presented to them by witnesses and what they considered..
The theatrical and unusualness of the Pearson ...view middle of the document...
When our rivals don't face a constant barrage of absurd lawsuits, they gain a competitive advantage. (p. 1).
1. What are the facts?
Liebeck v. McDonald
On February 27, 1992, Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was in the passenger seat of her grandson's car when she was severely burned by McDonalds' coffee. Stella Liebeck, 79 years old at the time, ordered a 49 cent cup of coffee that was served in a styro foam cup at the drive-thru window of a local McDonalds. After receiving the order, her grandson pulled the Ford Probe he was driving forward and stopped briefly so that Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her coffee. Liebeck placed the cup between her knees and attempted to remove the plastic lid from the cup. As she removed the lid, the entire contents of the cup spilled into her lap. The sweatpants Liebeck was wearing absorbed the coffee and held it next to her skin, scalding her thighs, buttocks and groin (Tennissen, 2007, p. 1).
A vascular surgeon determined that Liebeck suffered full thickness burns (or third-degree burns) over 6 percent of her body, including her inner thighs, perineum, buttocks, and genital and groin areas. She was hospitalized for eight days, during which time she underwent skin grafting procedures and debridement treatments. It took Liebeck about two years to complete her treatment. Liebeck tried to settle her claim for $20,000 to cover medical expenses of about $11,000 and lost wages for her daughter that was her caretaker, but McDonalds refused. Instead, the company offered her $800 (Obama, n.d., p. 1).
After McDonald’s refusal, Liebeck’s daughter went in search of an attorney to represent her mom. She was referred to Reed Morgan, a Houston area attorney that had previously represented another burnt victim of McDonald’s hot coffee successfully. Morgan filed a claim against McDonald, charging the company with “gross negligence” for selling coffee that was “unreasonably dangerous” and “defectively manufactured” (Carroll & Press, 1995, p. 3). The trial took place from August 8 to 17, 1994, presided over by Judge Robert H. Scott.
Pearson v. Chung
According to Wikipedia, “Pearson v. Chung is a civil case filed in 2005 by Roy L. Pearson, Jr., an administrative law judge in the District of Columbia in the United States, following a dispute with a dry cleaning company over a lost pair of trousers. Pearson filed suit against Soo Chung, Jin Nam Chung and Ki Y. Chung, the owners of Custom Cleaners in Washington, D.C., initially demanding $67 million for inconvenience, mental anguish and attorney's fees for representing himself, as a result of their failure, in Pearson's opinion, to live up to a "satisfaction guaranteed" sign that was displayed in the store. The case drew international attention when it went to trial in 2007 and has been held up as an example of frivolous litigation and the need for tort reform in the United States” (www.wikipedia.org).
On May 3, 2005, Pearson took his pants to a Washington...