The latest C-Poll is closed. You can read all about it here!

November 21, 2005

Sigh... Another day, another hot coffee lawsuit

A Staten Island, NY woman wants $10 million from Dunkin Donuts because of burns she received from spilled coffee in her car:
[Plaintiff Sharon] Shea insists the coffee was too hot and the workers didn't fasten the lids tightly enough.

"The [drive-thru] girl had positioned them where they were in the same line [on the tray], they weren't cattycorner," said Shea, 60.
Some observations come to mind here:
  • The coffee was too hot—Coffee is made with boiling water. Okay? Everyone understand that now?
  • The workers didn't fasten the lids tightly enough—What? You're driving away with cups of boiling-hot liquid on the seat next to you, and you didn't think to make sure the lids were secure?
  • They weren't cattycorner—You noticed this, and you knew that wasn't a stable configuration, and yet you did nothing to correct this before driving away?
Here's an idea:

Some brave restaurant chain ought to post a sign saying something to the effect of the following:
Frivolous lawsuits -- both actual and threatened -- account for x% of the cost you pay for food at this establishment.
Gotta do SOMETHING to eliminate popular sympathy for these plaintiffs. It's not a David-and-Goliath thing; nine times out of ten, it's greed (not to mention an utter failure to admit personal responsibility for one's actions).

(Credit: Right Mind)

UPDATE: From Sacred Cow Burgers:


Ray said...

I'm waiting for the first "I got frostbite from a Starbucks Frappuccino" lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, some European countries, such as France, solve the problem of frivolous lawsuits by giving the plantiff only compensatory damages. Any punitive damages go to the state instead of the plaintiff.

Thus, a large company *still* has significant disincentive to hurt people, because they risk punitive damages, just as before. If someone causes someone else harm, the latter can still obtain redress in the amount of the actual damage or losses that they suffered. However, there is no "lottery" system in which someone out to abuse the system can make tens of millions of dollars in suing someone just because a jury feels that the defendent needs to be punished harshly.

Tim said...

Not being familiar with that system, I'm wondering: Has the fact that punitive damages go to the state instead of to the plaintiff affected the amount typically awarded by the juries? Is there any way for the state to influence the amount awarded as punitive damages (thus creating another revenue source for the state)?

Another idea I'd like to see tried out here is the concept of "loser pays" in civil litigation.