Courts of Justice have always been regarded as institutions where people can address their grievances in a peaceful manner. They have also been considered as “efficient mechanisms for the dispensation of justice” thus carrying out the maxim of social justice that those who are poor have much under the law. This maxim, however, has been interpreted in a rather obtuse manner by those who have sought to exploit the Justice system to further their own ends. Over the years, there have been many individuals who have sought to enrich themselves through the filing of frivolous lawsuits.
This is not to say of course that there are also a number of these cases which are meritorious (Weiss, 2005). The lamentable fact, however, is that the number of these cases outnumber the meritorious ones and the media explosion that surrounds them have not only led to more of these cases but have also shaken the integrity of the Courts of Justice. This has led to the Tort Reform movement which seeks to cut down on the number of these so-called “frivolous lawsuits.
(Bagley & Savage, 2006)” This brief discourse will seek to elaborate more on this issue by presenting and contrasting two cases, Liebeck v McDonald’s Restaurants and Pearson v Chung. This will involve a brief discussion of the cases and an overview on Tort Law and its applicability to the said cases. Finally, this discussion will attempt to set certain judicial guidelines that can be followed in the dealing with these and similarly situated cases in an effort to improve the dispensation of justice.
CASE DISCUSSION: The case of Liebeck v McDonald’s Restaurants, which is more popularly known as the McDonald’s Coffee Case, involves a product liability tort. This is the most important jurisprudence in the tort reform movement because of the fact that it is one of the earliest cases to deal with multimillion dollar awards for tortuous acts. Liebeck v McDonald’s Restaurants FACTS: In February 27, 1992, Stella Liebeck, who was from Albuquerque, New Mexico, purchased a US $0. 49 cup of hot coffee from McDOnald’s.
After getting her cup of coffee from the drive through, the 79 year old Stella Liebeck parked the car in order to add some cream and sugar to her hot coffee (Bagley and Savage, 2006). While in the process of adding the cream and sugar, however, she inadvertently spilled the entire contents of the cup onto her lap inflicting third degree burns on herself in the process (Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, P. T. S. , Inc. ). The medical report showed that the coffee was absorbed by the cotton sweatpants for over 90 seconds.
This caused third degree burns on approximately six percent (6%) and lower degree burns on approximately sixteen percent (16%) of her skin (Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, P. T. S. , Inc. ). This subjected her to eight days confinement for skin grafting and two years of treatment and therapy. ADDITIONAL FACTS: During the initial proceedings, Liebeck sought a settlement from McDonald’s Corporation in the sum of US $20,000. 00. This amount was meant to cover the medical expenses from the treatment and the grafting procedure. The real amount, however, only totaled US $11,000. 00 and McDonald’s only offered to pay US $800. 00 (Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, P. T. S. , Inc. ).
This led to the lawsuit in a New Mexico District Court wherein it was alleged that McDonald’s was guilty of “gross negligence” in its act of selling coffee that was “unreasonably dangerous” and “defectively manufactured. ” (Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, P. T. S. , Inc. ) During the pretrial, counsel for the complainant tried to reach a settlement with McDonald’s Corporation but was unable to reach an agreement with the company.