Remember the lawsuit against McDonald’s involving a woman burned by hot coffee? Many people look back on this lawsuit and use it as an example for discussing the history of the great tort reform fight. Proponents of tort reform considered this woman’s lawsuit to be “frivolous” when in reality, she was seriously injured by a negligent company that knowingly put its customers in danger, just to save a little money. A tort is a “wrongful act,” such as an auto manufacturer knowingly releasing dangerous parts without telling regulators.
Proponents of tort reform in Louisiana argue businesses could suffer from frivolous lawsuits if tort reform is rolled back or halted. This is a common myth of tort reform, as in reality, frivolous lawsuits are thrown out by judges before proceeding to trial.
According to the proponents, halting tort reform will stifle business growth in our state, although they present no evidence. “Tort reform” is a misleading label, which in actuality, limits the amount of money victims can receive after a serious injury or death. Should businesses who put people in harm’s way not be held accountable for their actions?
How Does Tort Reform Affect Accident Victims?
Tort reform makes it difficult for people injured by these companies to share their stories in court and to receive the full amount of damages as decided by a Louisiana jury of their peers.
Tort reform is disastrous for victims of negligent corporations. Remember the case of Stella Liebeck, the woman who was burned by hot coffee from McDonald’s? The case, Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, is a common example used in the tort reform fight. For those who do not remember this lawsuit, it involved a 79-year-old woman who accidently spilled hot coffee on herself.
Many people do not realize the extent of Liebeck’s injuries and why McDonald’s was negligent. This coffee was not just “hot,” it was hot enough to cause third degree burns. McDonald’s had received hundreds of other complaints about injuries from its hot coffee, and ignored these complaints to increase profits by having people unable to drink it at first to prevent free refills.
The company purposely put people at risk to save a few pennies from free coffee refills. The 190-degree coffee was a serious threat to consumers, particularly when served in moving cars with faulty lids. Liebeck’s injuries are shocking to view and required extensive surgeries and skin grafts. Should McDonald’s, and other companies, be allowed to shed accountability for harming customers in such ways?
Tort reform allows multinational companies to get away with putting people in harm’s way purely for the sake of profit. When people are seriously injured, they deserve the chance to have their stories heard in court, the opportunity to hold negligent companies accountable, and for a jury of their own peers to decide what damages are warranted after listening to all the facts.