June 28, 2010 by admin
To minimize injuries in a collision or rollover, automakers have a legal duty to design and construct car, truck, and SUV roofs that provide structural protection to drivers and passengers. Sadly, that’s not always the case.
A 16-year-old was a belted front-seat passenger in a 1998 Ford Explorer rollover accident. She suffered a spinal fracture and head injury that caused partial quadriplegia, memory loss, and impaired ability to organize and process thoughts. She has limited use of her arms, uses a wheelchair, and requires assistance with daily living activities. Injury to her lungs paralyzed torso muscles, so she trained herself to breathe using her diaphragm. Her past medical expenses totaled about $1 million, and future life-care costs are estimated at $20 million. Her attorney sued, alleging the Explorer’s roof was not crashworthy and could not withstand the impact of a foreseeable rollover collision. The parties agreed to a confidential structured settlement before her suit was filed.
June 7, 2010 by admin
Sometimes we must discredit frivolous lawsuit myths. Corporations have spent millions to spread falsehoods about how lawsuits are out of control and responsible for all of America’s ills.
Facts often tell a different story. Take, for instance, the popular legend that a woman sued because she spilled coffee on her lap. Those looking to weaken civil justice mocked Stella Liebeck and the McDonald’s coffee case. Unfortunately, the case’s facts are no laughing matter. Ms. Liebeck’s injuries included third-degree burns—the most severe—to her groin, inner thighs, and buttocks. She was hospitalized for eight days, undergoing skin grafting and surgical removal of damaged tissue.
What really happened? Ms. Liebeck sought to settle her claim with McDonald’s for $20,000, but management refused. At trial, McDonald’s grudgingly identified more than 700 victims burned by its coffee between 1982 and 1993, some involving third-degree burns like Ms. Liebeck’s. McDonald’s clearly knew of the hazard. The company’s quality-assurance manager testified that any food served above 140 degrees is a burn hazard.
McDonald’s coffee was kept at a scalding 185 degrees. A jury awarded Ms. Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages, but reduced the amount to $160,000 because they found her 20 percent at fault for the spill. The jury also awarded her $2.7 million in punitive damages, equal to two days’ worth of McDonald’s coffee sales. This was eventually reduced to $480,000, even though the judge called McDonald’s conduct reckless, callous, and willful. Jurors expressed similar sentiments in interviews after the trial. Ms. Liebeck and McDonald’s eventually entered a post verdict settlement.