Published on June 23, 2015
No first week of a law course for business students would be complete without soliciting your evaluation of the judicial merits of the now famous or more aptly put, infamous, McDonalds hot coffee case. In February, 1992, Stella Liebeck, then 79, was sitting in the passenger seat of her grandson's car. He ordered coffee for his grandmother from a McDonalds drive through window. The coffee was served in a lidded Styrofoam cup which the grandson immediately handed to Stella. The grandson drove forward slightly and momentarily halted the car so that Stella could add cream and sugar to her coffee. She placed the coffee cup between her knees and while attempting to remove the lid, the entire cup of coffee spilled into her lap. Although she was wearing sweatpants at the time, she was severely burned suffering 3rd degrees burns on 6% of her body including her thighs, buttocks and genital and groin areas, and spent eight days in the hospital during which she had a number of skin grafts. Stella offered to settle with McDonalds for $20,000 but the offer was rejected by McDonalds. Ultimately, Stella sued McDonalds for negligence, and after an extensive trial, the jury awarded Stella $200,000 in compensatory damages (less $40,000 as the jury found Stella to be 20% at fault) and $2,700,000 in punitive damages (which the judge reduced to $480,000). McDonalds appealed the verdict, but Stella and McDonalds entered into a secret settlement prior to any further judicial action on the matter. Is this case another example of the lunacy and unreality of the American legal system or an illustration of the American legal system's innovative and responsive nature? Why? Please post a well edited response of about 350 words to the thread entitled " Week One Discussion Question Three Thread" in the Main forum. For your information, negligence is classically defined as the omission to do something which a reasonable man would do, or doing something which a prudent and reasonable man would not do. For a more legalistic definition of the elements of a cause of action based on negligence, I quote from Cheeseman's Contemporary Business Law (a text I use in another UOP law course), "To be successful in a negligence lawsuit, the plaintiff must prove that (1) the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, (2) the defendant breached this duty of care, (3) the plaintiff suffered injury, and (4) the defendant's negligent act caused the plaintiff's injury." You also can find a very good discussion of negligence in Chapter 5 of your text in the second week of the course.