Thursday, November 15, 2012

"Liebeck v. McDonald's" v. "Truly Frivolous Lawsuits"

            I, for one, am more in the mindset of people toughing out hard times, and not turning to civil lawsuits to solve one’s problems.  Going along with this mindset, and knowing what the average American knows about the Liebeck v. McDonald’s case (the hot coffee suit), I assumed that Stella Liebeck was in it for a quick buck or two.  I was wrong.  My assumptions were wrong because I did not know all of the facts.  She wasn’t driving.  The car wasn’t moving at all.  The coffee was about 20-30o F below boiling (212o F is boiling).  As Ms. Liebeck attempted to open the cup, she spilled it on her sweat pants, in which cotton absorbed the scolding liquid and trapped it close to her body.  At 190o F, it can cause full thickness (think third degree burns plus more internal tissue damage), and at 180o F, it can cause those burns with exposure between 12-15 seconds.  The damages left her in the hospital for 8 days but disabled for 2 years.  She requested that McDonald’s pay her $11,000 medical bill.  To me, that seems reasonable.  A product/service has severely injured a consumer, who, given the situation, did not purposely injury herself for the money or did it out of complete negligence.  Sure, in hindsight, there could be plenty of ways to do it over to prevent it, but at the time, in a parked car with no cup holders, putting the coffee between your knees sounds reasonable and harmless.  The average consumer is probably unaware of the hot temperatures used when serving this coffee.

            For her request of $11,000 from McDonalds to pay for her medical bill and nothing else, they offered $800.  That’s just under 14% of this retired women’s medical bill.  It doesn’t seem right or logical.  Then she got a lawyer involved, but it really shouldn’t have come to that.  McDonald’s should have agreed to pay the $11,000 for her medical expenses at her request instead of the trying to snuff her out in court.  That being said, I still don’t agree with suing, especially frivolous lawsuits, but I also won’t stand by the corporations who run groups with names along the lines of “citizens against tort reform.”  The civil court system needs to be used responsibly, and with extreme caution.  If you have ever sat on a jury for civil court, you can see how idiotic things can get.  Been there, done that, and got my $17.50 on the way out the door.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Manufacturers Responsibility

     There are times where a product is found to be potentially harmful to customers before reaching production to the public; this is something that all businesses will run into at some point in time. When this time comes, a choice has to be made about what to do.  Redesigning, replacing, and reworking all become factored into how much it would cost to fix the issue.

     This process makes sense to me. What doesn't make sense, is how the potential-harm-done is weighted.  I understand the the technical process of determining liability costs based on what the doctor or hospital treatment would cost given different injuries, but what I don't understand, on an ethical level, is how that becomes acceptable standards to use. My thought is that you CAN'T put a dollar value on a hand, limb, or human life.

     To say that your product will likely hurt "x" number of people and to STILL BE ok with it seems beyond me.  I know that the numbers can show one thing, but people aren't numbers. The life and experiences of human beings cannot be measured or quantified and to attempt to do this, especially in order to save yourself a buck, seems ridiculous.  There have been many cases where products have severely harmed and even killed great numbers of people, such as the Ford Pinto and the Chevrolet Corvair.  Somehow though we still see and hear of cases where people are harmed from manufacturers making a wrong decision of releasing a dangerous product.  All injuries can't be predicted or prevented, but it seems to me that any case where danger is recognized before production that the product should be modified.

     I feel like most people would tend to agree with me that it is the manufacturers responsibility to only distribute products that would cause harm during regular use, but I'll leave it open; do you think most people agree, or would you say I am the minority?