From the outside, many lawsuits appear frivolous. In the early 90s, there
was a highly publicized lawsuit against McDonald’s. A woman named
Stella Leibeck spilled some coffee in her lap and sued the company for
her injuries. Instantly, the story became a sensation. Late night talk
show hosts made fun of her in monologues, and political commentators angrily
derided her on the news. The general belief across the nation was something
like, “She poured coffee on herself, so why should the restaurant
pay her for her injuries?”
A closer look at this case reveals a different story.
Using this case as an example, we hope to help you think about your own injuries. If someone who spilled hot coffee on themselves deserves financial compensation,
you may as well.
The Company Has a History of Bad Behavior
In 1992, McDonald’s had been consistently serving their coffee far
hotter than the industry standard across their chains. They had already
received several complaints about their product, and they had even settled
with several customers out of court. This history was used against them
in court. The plaintiff’s team argued that McDonald’s was
aware that their coffee was causing harm.
Take this example, and apply it to your own injuries. Perhaps you were walking through a retail store and slipped on a puddle.
Maybe this puddle was caused by a leaky pipe, and the store knew about
it. It had been leaking for several months, and the management had done
nothing to fix it. Furthermore, they did not put down warning signs, fully
aware of the dangerous situation they were creating. In such a situation,
a lawsuit is justified.
McDonald’s customers in 1992 had no reason to suspect that coffee
could cause serious harm. Many reported having to leave their coffee unattended
for over an hour just to be able to drink it. Stella Leibeck should have
been more careful when adjusting her coffee lid, this much is true. However,
she probably wouldn’t have had the coffee on her lap if she knew
how dangerously hot it was. McDonald’s was guilty of giving their
consumers a product that was far hotter than it should be, and they failed
to provide sufficient warning.
Similarly, consider the puddle example from above. Walking through a video
game store, electronics retailer, or bookseller, you probably aren’t
on alert for puddles. You have a reasonable expectation that there will
be clear, dry aisles with no danger of slipping.
Severity of Injury
In less than one minute, Leibeck suffered third-degree burns after spilling
the coffee. She jumped out of the car and tried to disrobe, but the damage
had been done. From a simple spill on her lap, Leibeck suffered permanent
disfigurement, even after several surgeries.
When determining liability, courts are normally more interested in the
details of an accident than the severity of the injury. For example, a
pedestrian hit by a car could be held responsible for their own injuries,
even if they suffered far greater harm than the driver.
When determining compensation, however, severity of injury plays a major role.
When thinking about your own injuries, consider who is at fault. If someone’s
negligence caused an injury that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred,
you can be compensated. Now consider how badly you were harmed. If you
suffered a great deal because of someone else’s behavior, you deserve justice.
Businesses have an obligation to protect their customers. Your only reason
to enter their establishment is to support them financially. Even if you
are just browsing, that helps their business. Browsers make mental notes
of the products available and their prices, often returning later or recommending
the store to a friend. The entire experience is tilted in the business’s favor.It is simply unfair of them to neglectfully put their customers, the source
of their revenue, in danger.
It is also unfair of you to endure harm from someone else’s carelessness.
First, you suffer from the immediate pain of injury and recovery. Then
you suffer financially. Health insurance helps, but it is still costly.
Often, you must pay a high deductible to receive treatment at all, and
then you are spending money on co-pays and prescriptions. Sometimes, insurance
doesn’t cover the entire bill, or they don’t cover a specific
aspect of your treatment. You may also lose work or career opportunities
due to your injuries. Meanwhile, it’s worth remembering that all
this misery happened from an injury that is not your fault.
Premises liability and product defect lawsuits are not frivolous. They are simply a matter of fairness. You were harmed by someone else’s
neglect, and you deserve financial justice.
If you’ve been hurt at a place of business, call our office today
at (817) 591-4222. We offer free initial consultations, and we may be
able to help you seek financial justice. You can also use our convenient
online contact form.