Fun_People Archive
15 Oct
No Coffee Breaks for McDonald's

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Wed, 15 Oct 97 16:33:39 -0700
To: Fun_People
Subject: No Coffee Breaks for McDonald's

Forwarded-by: Tresy Kilbourne <>
From: the Multinational Monitor March-95,

[Ah, the MacDonald's coffee suit, possibly the most spectacular example of
corporate spin control in history. The actual facts of the suit are
considerably less amusing than people have been led to think. Below is a
synopsis of the case; an extended, and even more infuriating description
of the the case is found in "No Contest," by Ralph Nader and Wesley
Smith. Note: After hearing from the plaintiff in the suit, Jay Leno
apologized for his ignorant jokes about the case and has refrained from
any more at her expense. -TK]

	No Coffee Breaks For McDonald's
		by Joel Beifuss

The most widely circulated recent anecdote purportedly demonstrating that
the tort system is out of control was the jury award of $2.9 million to a
woman who was burned by the coffee she bought at McDonald's. The story has
been the butt of jokes by the Tonight Show's Jay Leno, but the facts suggest
that justice was served.

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader described the relevant facts in testimony
before the House Judiciary committee in February 1995. What follows are
excerpts from that testimony:

"In February 1992, while sitting in a non moving car, 80 year old Sheila
Liebeck suffered third degree burns over six percent of her body, including
her genital and groin areas, after a cup of hot coffee she was holding
spilled into her lap. As a result, she was hospitalized for 8 days and
underwent skin grafting. Ms. Liebeck sought to settle her claim for a mere
$20,000 but McDonald's refused."

"During extensive discovery Ms. Liebeck's attorney discovered that more than
700 claims had been filed against McDonald's by people burned by its coffee
between 1982 and 1992. In addition, McDonald's admitted that it kept its
coffee at temperatures almost 40 degrees hotter than most food
establishments. The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages,
which was reduced to 160,000 because the jury found Ms. Liebeck 20 percent
at fault for the spill. The jury also awarded Ms. Liebeck $2.7 million in
punitive damages, the equivalent of 2 day's of McDonald's coffee sales. The
trial court subsequently reduced the punitive award to $480,000--three times
the compensatory damages."

"Notwithstanding the hysteria surrounding the McDonald's coffee case, the
facts demonstrate that punitive damage awards are not awarded arbitrarily
or without just cause, and that awards are subject to review and reduction
by trial judges."

U.S. McLibel Support Campaign                              Press Office
PO Box 62                                        Phone/Fax 802-586-9628
Craftsbury VT 05826-0062                    Email

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