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From: B. Harris)
Newsgroups: misc.consumers,misc.consumers.frugal-living,talk.politics.medicine,
Subject: Re: MacDonalds verdict was VERY justified  WAS Medicare and Bret's
Date: 22 May 1999 01:41:22 GMT

In <> (Carey
Gregory) writes:

>It is my understanding she was PARKED when she spilled the coffee.
>She went to the drive up window, got her coffee, and then parked in a
>nearby space before opening the coffee.

   Need we comment on the intelligence of an adult who exerts a goodly
amount of force to open a container of liquid while holding it over
their LAP?  That's a mistake for small children (which is how they
learn to live in the world and be grownups), but by the time you reach
a certain age you should have learned that gasoline, staining liquids,
solvents, acids, drain cleaners and whatnot need to be treated with
respect, and handled in better ways.  Good God, what is our society
coming to?  This is an utterly dumb thing to do even if the cup
contains cold coffee or wine.  If you're wearing an old bathing suit
and sitting by a pool you might elect to ignore the consequences, but
in other walks of life you really have to be a few french fries short
of a Happy Meal to do things this way.

>Best of all, she initially wrote to McDonalds and asked only that they
>cover her actual medical expenses (some $2000 or thereabouts).
>McDonalds told her to go to hell, so she hired a lawyer and the rest
>is history.  Considering that the $2000 the lady asked for was
>probably less than the cost of having an attorney even look at the
>case, much less litigate it, I'd say it was another shining example of
>McDonalds' fine management team in action.

  They might have been smart to find out more about the case to see if
they were vulnerable at all, agreed.  The problem with simply paying
off people a couple of thousand here and there when threatened, is that
soon such stuff nickel and dimes you to death when you policy gets
known.  Agreed, paying medical expenses (so long as you pay the
provider directly) is not so likely to more of the same.  It probably
is the first thing companies should consider.  That they don't probably
reflects that they are afraid that such payments may be taken as
admission of liability and responsibility.  That may be overblown, as
there are actually people of integrity out there would would happily
settle a great many injury cases for full medical coverage a sincere
apology, and evidence that the company has put though policy changes to
insure it won't happen again.

From: B. Harris)
Newsgroups: misc.consumers,misc.consumers.frugal-living,talk.politics.medicine,
Subject: Re: MacDonalds verdict was VERY justified  WAS Medicare and Bret's
Date: 23 May 1999 08:10:28 GMT

In <> Jim <>

>Do you ever admit to yourself Steve that you are just plain outside your
>area of expertise? A PROPERLY DESIGNED container will not give a sudden
>sharp jerk when the lid is removed, especially when it is intended to
>contain a hazardous substance (and at the much higher than standard
>temperatures, MacDonalds coffee was just that).

     Look, Jim, it does no good to B.S.  I've been drink containers
with snap on plastic lids that come off all at once, and only with a
fair amount of force, for at least 30 years.  I know what they look
like.  I know what to expect when I get one.  They may not be the best
design for hot coffee container (how can I argue not?), but on the
otherhand, it not as though it was a boobytrap.  You have to be from
mainland China or some Amazon jungle not to know what you've got, when
you get one.  Nobody likes them when they are filled with a liquid
which will stain, even if cold.  That is why you put them far away from
yourself when you open them, and only morons open them over their laps
or between their legs.  Temperature has nothing to do with it.

   If this woman really was from some remote country, I'd feel
differently.  As it was, what can I say?  She knew the stuff was hot
and ugly.  She knew such lids take a lot of dexterity to remove if
she's lived in the United States for the last generation or two.  She
knew all this, and chose her subsquent actions with far less wisdom
than any of the executives at McDonalds who are being accused of

   Tell me, Jim:  why is it that we figure stupidity in a corporate
executive (who chose a bad engineering design) should be punished,
whereas stupidity in a customer (who chose to open a difficult to open
drink container in her lap) should be rewarded with money?  Isn't one
just as much beyond the control of the individual as the other?  Sort
of a conundrum, is it not?

>What everyone discussing this seems to be missing is that the lids were
>FAR too tight (possibly this was only in some batches, that I don't know)
>and released with a VERY hard jerk. We are NOT talking about the average
>set of coffee cups and lids here, OK?

    Oh, we aren't?  Like there's such a thing?  We've all taken lots of
plastic lids off lots of cups in our lives.  They're like a box of
chocolates, and you're far, far dumber than Forrest Gump if you think
you know what you're going to get.

>If there is a problem it is the the public has become used to a much
>higher standard of safety in design (thanks precisely to reasonable and
>justified verdicts like the MacDonalds case) so that an INHERENTLY unsafe
>design (like the MacDonalds coffee cup lids) catches them by surprise.

    Nonsense.  In your frigging dreams.  Those of us who live in the US
know the reality of plastic cup lids.  Do you think you can just say
just stuff enough times and we'll all look outside and decide our own
experience means nothing?  Or are you truly posting from a different

>We USED to just take the attitude that the public was responsible for
>everything that happened. And there were a lot of grossly (and
>UNNECESSARILY) unsafe products around. And a LOT of people got seriously
>injured because they got momentarily distracted at a critical moment
>(happens in real life. I am amazed that a doctor, of all people, could
>take such an apparently callous attitude toward such things.

   Why shouldn't I?  Claiming a "distraction" at a critical moment
wouldn't save me from a malpractice suit, would it?  Another double
standard.  Basically what it boils down to is that people with money
are not allowed to ever be distracted, act stupidly, think of something
else and not pay attention, etc, etc.   If there's an accident, they
have to cough up their money, anyway, to make somebody whole from
damages.  Whereas people without money are allowed to be stupid, be
distracted, not pay attention, etc.  If there's an accident as a result
(someone steps into an open manhole), it is just assumed they are being
human, and the people with money should pay them some of it in
compensation for getting hurt, just because of a little human moment of
weakness or frailty.  Which shouldn't happen to anyone.

>The rate of accidental injuries of many types has been very greatly
>reduced by new standards in safety design precisely because of the modern
>enlightened attitude that the producer has a responsibility to ensure
>that his designs are not inherently and unnecessarily unsafe even when
>not always used under ideal circumstances.

    But strangely, nobody takes into acount the fact that he might have
designed them under less than ideal circumstances, and made a mistake.

> Lawsuits do NOT succeed when
>injuries occur because of use that was clearly outside the parameters
>of reasonably foreseeable usage.

   Yes, they sometimes do.   One of the pernicious things about
lawsuits is that there's an element of sheer randomness about them,
which makes even bad suits occassionally win.  Since the defendant
knows these odds, he may decide to settle for a fraction of the asked
money equal to less than the chance of a freak judgement.  Which even
if 1% can still be chuck of change when the asked damages are 10

>There were 700 prior cases.    They knew bloody well they were

   Cite your source for the 700 prior cases.  I've got $5 that says
this is urban myth.

From: B. Harris)
Newsgroups: misc.consumers,misc.consumers.frugal-living,talk.politics.medicine,
Subject: Re: MacDonalds verdict was VERY justified  WAS Medicare and Bret's
Date: 23 May 1999 08:46:16 GMT

In <> (Carey
Gregory) writes:

> B. Harris) wrote:
>>   Need we comment on the intelligence of an adult who exerts a goodly
>>amount of force to open a  container of liquid while holding it over
>>their LAP?
>Sure, but you know we all do it.  C'mon, Steve, never dumped something
>in your lap?  Sure you have.

    Yes, when I was 12.  I think I remember spilling a few drinks on
myself due to plastic cup tops in high school.   But I learned these
were dangerous early.  You see, I was precocious.

    Say, do you open containers of hot coffee over your lap?  Between
your legs?  Like, how about with your pants unzipped and the cup jammed
down through the zipper hole?  If not, why not?  If you were to burn
yourself on each of these activities, please assign appropriate numbers
for your part of the responsibility, vs. that of the company that made
hot coffee not just burning hot, like normal, but reallly really
awfully horribly nastily burning hot, like abnormal.  So that instead
of just broiled peepee, you got really halfway cooked peepee, which is
beyond the bounds of reasonable expectation.  Broiled peepee coming
under heading of cheerfully accepted risk.

    Okay, when you eat ice cream cones, do you ever, like, miss your
mouth and hit your eye?  Does it help if you hold the cone hand wrist
with the other hand?  Or does that just get it up your nose?

From: B. Harris)
Newsgroups: misc.consumers,misc.consumers.frugal-living,talk.politics.medicine,
Subject: Re: MacDonalds verdict was VERY justified  WAS Medicare and Bret's
Date: 23 May 1999 09:04:15 GMT

In <> Bret Wood
<> writes:

>> Fact:  This poster girl for frivolous lawsuits has made our court
>> system a world wide laughing stock.
>The incorrect media coverage is what has done this.  Not the person
>who brought the lawsuit.  She was just seeking help covering the
>costs of her medical bills for the burns.  McDonalds basically told
>her to fuck off.  So she sued them.  And the jury awarded _more_
>than she asked for to keep McDonalds from continuing the same
>dangerous practices.

     I'd feel better if the punitive damages had not gone to the
plaintiff.  If the idea is to punish McDonald's, wouldn't it serve even
better to award the money to Burger King?  Or pay a lot of out of work
Soviet painters to do a giant NY fresco of Ronald McDonald and Mayor
McCheese in front of swirling red flag, with Ronald holding up a hammer
and McCheese a sickle near it, and Ronald with his shirt ripped and
great 1930's socialist abs?

>I do NOT support people getting rich off of lawsuits.  It is
>unfortunate that the woman couldn't have merely gotten medical
>and legal expenses reimbursed, and McDonalds had some OTHER
>punishment levied against them in order to make them reform.
>But that wasn't an option to the jury.

   One wonders why punitive damages are options are open to civil
juries in the first place.  A defect in our law which needs correction.
A punitive fine is not money to make a plantiff whole, to to compensate
for suffering, but money sought from a company in retribution or
punishment.  But punishment by society for wrongdoing is almost by
definition a criminal matter.  If a company is harming people though
negligence they should be open to criminal as well as cival penalties.
And a criminal fine could be applied in any way the judge saw fit.

>Part of the reason that civil judgements are becoming so large is
>because of the total failure of the criminal justice system to
>reign in the outrageous behavior of many companies.
>Do you know how many people have ever went to prison for an
>intentional, blatant, repeated OSHA violation which resulted in
>the death of a worker?
>One.  The guy got 45 days in jail.  The same sort of negligence
>by an individual would result in manslaughter charges.
>Compare the penalties for burglary and embezzlement.  The penalty
>for stealing $X is usually MUCH greater than the penalty for
>"embezzling" $X,000 dollars.
>The excesses of the civil system just reflect the failures of the
>criminal system in many cases.
>-Bret Wood

    Oh, the government always seem to find the resources to prosecute
crimes in which large fines or confiscations go to the government.
There is never a cop when you need one, but there's always a meter

From: B. Harris)
Newsgroups: misc.consumers,misc.consumers.frugal-living,talk.politics.medicine,
Subject: Re: MacDonalds verdict was VERY justified  WAS Medicare and Bret's
Date: 24 May 1999 04:58:24 GMT

In <> Bret Wood
<> writes:

>Well, it's custom, so people know what to expect.  If they took
>something else that was normally served at 130 degrees, and served
>it boiling, then there would be good reason to be concerned for
>people's safety.

   It's also a custom that plastic snap tops on cups are variably and
notoriously difficult to remove.  One should not do it between one's
legs with any colored liquid, and one certainly should not do it with
coffee at the customary 130 F, either.  If this woman did that and was
burned extra badly by even hotter liquid, that's a shame, but I cannot
figure out why she should get a lot of money because of it.  If you're
sucking butane out of a spray can to show your friends the neat
firebreathing trick when you light your exhaled breath, and you flub up
and burn yourself badly, it's considered uncool to sue the manufacturer
because the concentration of butane in the product is unusually high.
Even if there's no doubt it contributed to the seriousness of your
accident.  The butane content may well be unusually high, but if you're
using the product the way cautious and prudent people do, it really
shouldn't matter.

   Every coffee drinker has had his or her mouth burned by too-hot
coffee at sometime in their lives.  The expectation that coffee served
to you by someone else should be at a standard and customary
temperature, and can be reasonably expected not to exceed this by much,
is about as bright as the idea that a firearm given to you by someone
else for inspection will be unloaded (as is customary, and which may
even be stated by the person who hands it to you), and so it's
perfectly okay to point it at somebody and pull the trigger.  Don't
forget to say bang.

   No, you say?  Right-- won't wash.  Some things you always check
yourself.  The state of a firearm you're given.  The controls of the
airplane you just rented.  The temperature of the coffee you just
bought or were given.  And before you know any of these things, if
you're not extra careful about what you do, I say you are a fool and
should be responsible for any damn thing that happens to you as a

   You handle EVERY firearm as though it were loaded, until you know
for sure (and actually in some but not all respects, in order to
maintain kinesthetic habit, you treat it as if it were loaded even
after).  You treat every airplane as if it were defective until you've
personally done the ground check.  In the absense of information to the
contrary you treat every dogbite as though the animal was rabid.   You
treat every intersection as though the guy on the cross-street who has
not yet started to slow for his red light, is drunk out of his mind and
isn't going to.  Even if the custom is that he will.  And you treat
every cup of coffee as though it was near boiling.  None of these are
unreasonable or paranoid behaviors.  On the contrary, if this is not
the way you run you life, Bret, you may not be with us as long as you

From: B. Harris)
Newsgroups: misc.consumers,misc.consumers.frugal-living,talk.politics.medicine,
Subject: Re: MacDonalds verdict was VERY justified  WAS Medicare and Bret's
Date: 24 May 1999 06:21:56 GMT

In <> Bret Wood
<> writes:

>Dave Hitt wrote:
>> Or do you think it's *smart* to open hot coffee over your lap?
>Do you consider "between your knees" to be "over your lap?"

   Just as good if it tips over, as the liquid will run down into your
crotch either way.

>If so, then where WOULD you propose a cup of coffee should be opened
>in a car?

   With the cup held over the floor in one hand, lid at the level of
the seat and braced with cup side pushed against the seat front.   Not
between the legs but to the outside of one leg.  Preferably not ON the
floor with your head down there right in front of the passenger side
airbag.  It takes some forethought to survive in in this world.  In a
traveling car, the best course of action might be to give the thing to
someone in the back, who CAN brace it against both floor and seat when

   Alternately, it WAS a parked car, so we are given to believe.  My
habit when fooling with capped drinks or other difficult packages of
liquid in parked cars is to open a door and open the cup or other messy
item over the asphalt, so that in event of an accident my upholstery
doesn't take the charge.  I've probably seen people stick soda and malt
and coffee and juice cups out of cars to open then in fast food places
a hundred times-- it's such a common thing that I can play it in my
mind.  Drink dripping down to the concrete, one wet hand flipping to
get the soda off, out come the napkins, opened cup is pulled back into
the car.  Same for pop top cans of soda and beer.  You've seen it, too.
Real people do manage, with some forethought, to keep from creating
messes.  In the case of a too hot cup of coffee, I imagine this kind of
thing would result in it being dropped outside the car with a curse and
a burned hand.  It would be amusing to investigate those alleged other
cases in McDonald files and see how many of them contain exactly this

From: (J.D. Baldwin)
Subject: Re: James cameron = lying bastard?
Date: 11 Jun 1998
Newsgroups: rec.arts.movies.current-films,talk.politics.misc

This really belongs in talk.politics.misc, or somewhere like that.

In article <6l9fsb$ih0$>, <>
> > [562,783d description of McDonald's coffee case this year.]
> >
> > These are just a few of the number of people sueing for the most ridiculous
> > reasons. Personally, I think the judge should be able to fine people for
> > lame sue excuses.
> You know, before you go around claiming that certain lawsuits are
> frivolous, you ought to know the facts of the case.  Here are some
> concerning the McDonald's case:
> The woman in question was 79 years old.

Completely irrelevant, unless you think the "sympathy factor" should
have the force of law in cases like this.

> The coffee spilled while she was removing the lid, while the car was
> stopped, and while she was sitting in the passenger seat.

She did not take ordinary care in handling a hot beverage.  She
ordered "coffee," she got "coffee."  You'd think that with 79 years'
experience you would know that you have to be careful handling
"coffee" or you can get burned.

> She suffered third degree burns over 6% of her body.

As a result of her own negligence.

> The coffee in question had a temperature of 185 degrees.

Cooled about 10-20 degrees from the temperature at which coffee is
*properly* brewed.

> 185 degree liquid will produce third degree burns in 2-7 seconds.

Yep.  Pouring gasoline on your legs in the presence of a candle isn't
real healthy, either.

> Coffee is normally served at between 130-140 degrees.

Not in my house, it isn't.  People who like coffee (go check out for a while for some real expert opinions) know that's WAY
too cool to be brewing coffee.  And adding ice or cold water afterward
to cool it is not an option.  The only solution is to wait for it to
radiate some heat away.  It would be unreasonable to expect McDonald's
to set up and manage a three-stage system where coffee is brewed,
then moved to a cooling rack until it gets tepid enough to serve to
the bottom 0.00001% of the bell curve, then back to a warmer to keep
it at that temperature.

> Liquids over 140 degrees constitute a burn hazard.

Liquids over 120 degrees constitute a burn hazard.  Matches constitute
a burn hazard.  Gas grills constitute a burn hazard.  The sun
constitutes a burn hazard.  Act like an idiot in the presence of any
of them, and you will get burned.

> Between 1982 and 1992, there were over 700 claims of burns from
> McDonald's coffee spills, some of them also third degree burns.

Wow, 70 claims a year on a planet of 5,000,000,000 people.  Maybe
there are fewer idiots out there than I thought.  Why do they all
become judges and lawyers?

> McDonald's has a policy of serving coffee within 5 degrees of 185
> degrees.

Since McD's sells a lot of coffee, turnover is high.  That means it
gets brewed and then served fairly quickly.  That means it's going to
be hot.  HOT.  That, after all, is why it's called "coffee."  If the
lady wanted an iced drink, she should have asked for one.

> A _jury_ rewarded the woman $160,000 in compensatory damages, and
> $2.7 million in punitive damages (later reduced).
> The woman was willing to settle the case for $20,000.

She (rather, her lawyer) should have *paid* $20,000 (at least) for
contributing to the overall litigiousness of American society.
Meanwhile, large corporations are using cases like this as leverage to
get liability laws gutted so that people who are *really* harmed get
no relief.
 From the catapult of J.D. Baldwin  |+| "If anyone disagrees with anything I
   _,_    Finger |+| say, I am quite prepared not only to
 _|70|___:::)=}-  for PGP public    |+| retract it, but also to deny under
 \      /         key information.  |+| oath that I ever said it." --T. Lehrer

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