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What Tort Reform Advocates Won’t Tell You

Posted on January 17, 2012 to

Julie Heiden

Our blog post yesterday discussed the 1994 personal injury lawsuit against McDonalds, which put the focus on tort reform in America’s courts. Tort reform advocates, in their effort to label it a frivolous lawsuit, often clouded the facts of the incident.

In February 1992, a 79-year-old woman named Stella Liebeck was in the passenger seat of her grandson’s vehicle. She was not driving the car when the coffee spilled as critics often cite. She purchased the 49-cent cup of coffee from the McDonald’s drive-through window in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She had her grandson park the car so she could put cream and sugar in the coffee.

The coffee then spilled from the coffee onto her lap. Liebeck was wearing cotton sweatpants, which absorbed the coffee and held it close to her skin. The liquid scalded her thighs, buttocks and groin area. Liebeck’s past medical expenses stemming from the coffee burn were over $10,000, and she had over $2,000 in future medical expenses. In addition, she lost about $5,000 of income from missed work. McDonalds offered her $800.00 to settle the case.

Fortunately, for Ms. Liebeck, she did not accept McDonald’s initial settlement offer. Her personal injury attorney took the case to trial and the jury awarded her $2.7 million in punitive damages. The judge reduced the award and McDonalds finally settled the case for a lesser amount.

The facts of the case illustrate how severe and expensive injuries from a company’s negligence can be. Have you suffered injuries from another person or company’s negligence?

Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, L.L.P.

Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia Injury Attorneys

Approved by attorney Julie Heiden