Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What’s So Frivolous About Severe Burns?

Yes, whenever I buy coffee from McDonald’s, true enough my tongue feels burnt for at least one whole day but I thought it was just a passable complaint. The McDonald’s coffee case however was widely heard in the media and most shared the same sentiment: we live in such a silly world! Some who just heard it by word of mouth thought it was just a fabricated gossip but this is a real case. Critics of civil justice continue to mock this case but there is more than what the media covered. The civil justice system and facts of the case are definitely no laughing matter
According to Wall Street Journal, Liebeck suffered third degree burns over 6 percent of her body, burns on her inner thighs, perineum, buttocks, and groin areas. She was hospitalized and underwent skin grafting and debridement treatments. She initially sought $20,000 but McDonald’s refused.
McDonald’s produced documents showing more than 700 claims by people burned by its coffee from 1982 to 1992! The fast food chain’s own quality assurance manager testified that a burn hazard exists and McDonald’s coffee was not fit for consumption. McDonald’s also promised to do a market testing but failed to keep it.
Liebeck was awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages which was reduced to $160,000 because somehow the plaintiff was a little responsible for the spill. The jury awarded her $2.7 million to punish McDonald’s but consequently reduced it to $480,000 for a total verdict of around $600,000. Liebeck’s litigation attorney is quite a catch!
What is so frivolous about the case? Liebeck suffered severe burns and rightly so she deserves $200,000. The rest of the total amount is just bonus on her part I suppose for putting the case forth because the purpose of the punitive damages is to punish McDonald’s for its negligence .
This is no laughing matter. If a cup of coffee harshly burns your body, I don’t think you’d still be able to laugh. And with the case’s long trial process, I believe we still have a justice system that functions pretty well. The system still checks and limits the amount of damages one receives based on injury suffered, its nature and degree to compensation just and fair.