Tort Laws

1. ) The first issue concerns the liability of McDonald’s under Tort Laws and State Laws for the injury that was suffered by Stelle Liebeck from the coffee burns 2. ) The second issue is with regard to the character of the suit as a harassment suit meant merely to draw more money from McDonald’s RULING: In ruling in favor of the plaintiff, Stella Liebeck, the Court noted that McDonald’s was given several opportunities to settle the claims .

The ruling was based on the evidence presented by counsel for the complainant which revealed that the operating procedures of McDonald’s Corporation required the coffee to be served at dangerously hot temperatures that would cause third degree burns in a matter of seconds (Bagley and Savage, 2006). It was also shown that other similar establishments in the fast food industry served the coffee at much lower temperatures.

McDonald’s, on the other hand, contended that the intent of keeping the coffee at a high temperature was because several customers preferred to buy the coffee and travel long distances while having relatively warm coffee (Bagley and Savage, 2006). It was shown, however, during the course of the trial that the research of McDonald’s revealed otherwise. The Court decided that McDonald’s was sufficiently negligent in this case because other documents that were recovered from McDonald’s Corporation revealed that from the period of 1982 to 1992 the company had received more than 700 reports of people burned by McDonald’s coffee.

It was also shown that the Corporation had settled other claims arising from scalding injuries for more than $500,000. The Jury decided that using the principle of comparative negligence, McDonald’s can be considered as faulted for eighty percent (80%) of the injury that was caused while Liebeck was twenty percent (20%) negligent for the accident (Weiss, 2005). This led the Jury to award Liebeck US $200,000. 00 in compensatory damages, initially, since the award was reduced to US $160,000. 00. Punitive Damages were also awarded in the amount of US $480,000.

00. The case of Pearson v Chung is considered as one of the “frivolous” cases that have followed in the wake of the ruling of the court in Liebeck v McDonald’s Restaurants (Bagley and Savage, 2006). The difference in this case is that it involves a larger settlement amount for an act which, as stated by the court, did not amount to any personal injury to the person of the complainant. Pearson v Chung FACTS: The case of Pearson v Chung involves a frivolous lawsuit that was filed in the year 2005 by a certain Mr. Roy L. Pearson, Jr.

This case is the latest in a long line of decisions that have sprung up since the landmark decision of the Supreme Court when it awarded several hundred thousand dollars to a McDonald’s customer who suffered third degree burns due to an extremely hot cup of coffee. The facts of the case are the following: In 2005, Roy Pearson entered into a dispute with a dry cleaning company in the D. C area. The problem arose when Roy Pearson, a former administrative law judge, complained to the owners of the dry cleaning service about his lost pair of trousers (Pearson v Chung Docket No.

05CA 4302 B). As such, suit was soon filed against Soo Chung, Jin Nam Chung, and Ki Y. Chung to recover damages since they were the owners of Custom Cleaners, which is located in Washington, D. C (Pearson v Chung Docket No. 05CA 4302 B). The original claim of Mr. Pearson was in the amount of US $67 million. This, according to the complainant, would be the monetary equivalent of all the inconvenience, mental anguish and attorney’s fees that had been caused to the person of the complainant (Pearson v Chung Docket No.

05CA 4302 B). The main issue, according to plaintiff, arose from the “satisfaction guaranteed” sign that was prominently displayed on the store window (Bagley and Savage, 2006). The lost pants of Pearson allegedly showed that there was indeed no satisfaction and as such prompted the filing of the lawsuit. It is claimed by the defendants that they did find the missing pair of pantsuits a week later. This, however, was rebuffed by the complainant, stating that he has not owned a pair of cuffless pants since 1970s .

In supporting this statement, defendant then showed evidence of all his other pants (Pearson v Chung Docket No. 05CA 4302 B). While respondents offered to settle the case, the defendant adamantly refused, claiming that the inconvenience that was caused could not be compensated by the settlement amount that the cleaners were inclined to provide. ISSUE: 1. ) The first issue concerns the right of Pearson to damages and compensation amounting to US $67 million due to the negligence of the Dry Cleaners in losing his pair of pants 2.

) The second issue concerns the issue on the applicability on the grounds of frivolous lawsuits to the case at hand RULING: In deciding on the issue of the facts of the case, it must first be pointed out that Pearson changed the legal theory of his case by arguing that it was not so much the missing trousers that was at issue but the fact that the owners of the dry cleaners were guilty of fraud through the misrepresentations that they made by placing the signs for satisfaction guaranteed and same day service (Bagley and Savage, 2006).

Pearson also refused all offers by the Dry Cleaners to amicably settle the issue. The ruling in this case is based more on the fact that there was a judicial notice that was taken with regard to the divorce proceedings that Pearson was going through and the financial woes that he was in. The court noted that not only were the Chung’s not guilty of the charges but that the charges were of a frivolous nature.

Given his training and experience as an Administrative Judge, Pearson, according to the decision should have exercised judicial restraint and not have been so quick to file suit. It also noted that Pearson should not have created unnecessary litigation and employed conduct that was unbecoming for threatening VanLowe and her lawyer with disbarment. FRIVOLOUS LAWSUITS: A comparison of the cases of Liebeck v McDonald’s Restaurants and Pearson v Chung reveals many stark differences.

While the earlier case of Liebeck v McDonald’s Restaurants has been considered as the floodgate which opened up Corporate America to frivolous lawsuits, Pearson v Chung can possibly be considered as the case which clamped down on these types of lawsuits. In order to arrive at a better understanding of the main differences of these cases, it is important to first discuss the impact that the earlier ruling of Liebeck v McDonald’s Restaurants had on the legal system. Due to the ruling in Liebeck v McDonald’s Restaurants, a slew of similar cases soon followed suit.

In the United Kingdom a similar case was filed but was rejected by the court when it argued that there was no basis to rule that the coffee was “unreasonably dangerous” as the complainants asserted (Bagley and Savage, 2006). The necessity of heating the coffee to a certain temperature is justified by the fact that the beverage tastes better at a certain temperature. Complainant should have been more careful drinking the beverage instead (Neocleous, 2005). Other similar cases are recognized during the Stella Awards which gives awards to people who file frivolous or ridiculous lawsuits.

In the book entitled, The True Stella Awards: Honoring real cases of greedy opportunists, frivolous lawsuits, and the law run amok, it was shown that the number of frivolous cases has increased exponentially such as the case of the man who sued a restaurant for giving him a tapeworm (Bagley and Savage, 2006). LEGAL ISSUES: Given the nature of the suits that have followed since the decision in Liebeck v McDonald’s Restaurants, it is important to first understand the basis for such legal actions. The basic rule in Tort Law is that a person who by act or omission causes damage to another is liable to the offended for damages (Weiss, 2005).

The principle involved in negligence actions alleging injury from unsafe substances or other tortuous acts is similar to this (Weiss, 2005). Under the principle of Res Ipsa Loqitur, which literally means the thing speaks for itself, the presumption of the negligence of the plaintiff arises when it has been shown that injury has been caused by the toxic substances or negligent acts. There is no burden on the part of the injured party to show that it was the negligence of the plaintiff that caused the injury since such is already presumed by the occurrence of the injury (Weiss, 2005).

This makes it more difficult for plaintiffs because the only defense in these cases is by showing that there was no negligence and that the incident causing the injury was one that was caused by force majeure or unforeseen and inevitable circumstances. In this case, it can be reasonably argued that a person, who can establish a direct and logical link between the food in the restaurant and the succeeding illness, should be able to recover from the owner by tort (Kelling, 2002).

In the cases that have been mentioned, there is no showing by any of the plaintiffs that there is an “unreasonable danger” or “gross negligence” that constitutes a violation of a person’s rights thus causing injury (Bagley and Savage, 2006). Another legal theory that must be properly applied in the analysis of these cases is the concept of contributory negligence which covers the responsibility of the complainant for the consequences of his or her actions. In several cases of the Supreme Court, it has been shown that when the complainant is shown to be equally liable for the resulting injury the award of damages is equitably reduced.

The case of Liebeck v McDonald’s Restaurants shows the application of this principle when the jury ruled that she was twenty percent (20%) liable for the damage that resulted (Bagley and Savage, 2006). In the case of Pearson v Chung, however, while there was no showing of contributory negligence on the part of Pearson, there was also no showing that Chung was grossly negligent (Bagley and Savage, 2006). The principle of law that must be remembered in all of these cases is that when resort can be made to settle the controversy amicably, such must be done.

All the frivolous lawsuits that are filed not only clog up the dockets of courts but also waste valuable resources and time that can be used to settle more important issues (Bagley and Savage, 2006). Cases such as Pearson v Chung not only prevent other individuals from protecting their rights but also encourage the filing of more baseless suits. ETHICS V LEGAL: One issue that must be resolved is that of ethics and legal rights. Under the law, there are certain individual rights that the state seeks to protect.

In an effort to protect these rights, however, the question of ethics comes into play since there are situations when what is legally defensible is not necessarily morally or ethically defensible (Stevenson, 1982). The challenge for courts these days is in striking a fine balance between these elements (Bagley and Savage, 2006). One such method is by stepping up the case for Tort Reform in order to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits. The ethical aspect of these cases lies in the fact that one cannot deny that there was indeed injury caused to the plaintiffs in all cases.

In fact, the court, in all of these cases, acknowledged that there was indeed an injury caused. (Weiss, 2005) The only legal issue that it ruled upon was on who would be ultimately responsible for the injury that was caused. As such, if the only concern is the ultimate liability, then the establishment of such would logically mean that the controversy should end and the litigation would be concluded. This, sadly, is not the case because the problem becomes clear when neither of the parties is able to decide as to the amount of the compensation. It is at this juncture that the issue of ethics becomes important.

The main contention here lies in allowing a party to recover significantly much more than the actual damage. While it is admitted that the reason for exemplary and moral damages is to prevent the future occurrence of such injuries, it must also be recognized that Courts of Justice are there to create equality under the law and not economic equality. This is something that a number of complainants have seem to have overlooked. Another ethical consideration, albeit highly debated, is the issue on whether or not the suit was actually just a groundless or frivolous one.

Many people mistakenly believe that if they are wronged they always have a cause of action or that somebody always has to pay (Stevenson, 2005). This, however, is an unethical practice in law as it leads to the clogging up of the legal dockets and increasing legal fees for the parties involved (Weiss, 2005). The law has always been there to defend the rights of the injured and the oppressed, yet it is the same law that has yielded to more ethical matters such as the consideration that not everyone can truly afford to file suit.

An ethical solution to the dilemma would be to allow the filing of such lawsuits under the condition that once liability has been established, the settlement as to compensation must be made mandatory for the parties without recourse to the Courts of Justice (Weiss, 2005). This would force the parties to settle between themselves these controversies without creating unnecessary legal proceedings (Stevenson, 2005). This is the ethical aspect that must be strengthened for it recognizes the principle that a person must be compensated for injury or damage yet does not encourage the unjust enrichment of individuals due to the negligence of another.