In 2012, a California woman had hot McDonald’s employee coffee spilled all over her lap and decided to sue them for over $2 million.
Sound frivolous? McDonald’s typically keeps their coffee between 170 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that can cause third degree burns. Moreover, they know the coffee is dangerously hot. But they’ve done little more than put a small warning label on the side of their coffee cups. Once you get the details of the incident, it certainly doesn’t seem so frivolous anymore.
Of course, this isn’t the first time this has happened at McDonald’s. In 1992, a woman made headlines when she sued McDonald’s after a spilled cup of their coffee caused third degree burns and required her to get skin grafts.
Both those specific details were largely kept out of news reports, and the case quickly became the poster child for frivolous lawsuits. Many argued you shouldn’t be able to sue for being burned by a beverage that you know is going to be hot. Others believed that it was the victim’s fault because she was driving when she spilled – but she wasn’t. She was a passenger. In a parked car.
People just heard the money awarded to her and saw a greedy American attempting to manipulate the legal system. But the truth is she only went to trial when McDonald’s wouldn’t even offer her the $20,000 she originally asked for to cover her expenses. She also ultimately only received $500,000 – not the millions reported.
But due to misinformation, she had to endure being criticized and lampooned by the media over what was a completely legitimate lawsuit. Fear of this kind of treatment has no doubt prevented countless people from filing personal injury lawsuits. In fact, McDonald’s had received over 700 complaints about coffee burns before that 1992 case.
Why Do We Dismiss Personal Injury Lawsuits as Frivolous?
A frivolous lawsuit is a case that has no real merit due to lack of evidence or a valid legal argument. Frivolous lawsuits take valuable time away from other more deserving cases, use up legal resources, and waste money.
But while many media outlets make it seem like frivolous injury lawsuits are clogging up our courts, personal injury claims make up only about 5% of all civil cases in our country. That includes all types of personal injury claims, not just the frivolous ones. Although there’s not an exact statistic, it’s safe to say that the percent of truly frivolous personal injury cases in our country is much smaller. Our courts even have rules in place designed to keep out frivolous lawsuits.
The problem is that truly frivolous cases get snapped up by the media because they make for an entertaining story. This makes it look like both plaintiffs and the entire United States legal system are corrupt. But what’s even worse is that people who do suffer serious personal injuries due to an individual’s or a business’ recklessness or negligence may not even bother filing a lawsuit because they worry it will be dismissed as frivolous. Very few people want to be the butt of media jokes.
Coming Forward with Personal Injury Cases
If you’re in any sort of accident and suspect that you may have suffered an injury, it’s important that you seek medical attention rather than just ignoring symptoms and hoping they go away. In the case of many injuries, such as a concussion, you might not immediately realize there was any damage, but ignoring the injury can lead to severe health problems later on.
Then seek out a knowledgeable Miami personal injury attorney by calling call 305.931.6666 or 954.523.8292. These types of cases aren’t about getting a lot of media attention or shaming an individual or company—they’re about getting the compensation you deserve and raising awareness so that changes can be made to keep this type of injury from happening to anyone else.