In 1994, there was a widely publicized lawsuit against the McDonald’s Corporation in which an elderly woman, Stella Liebeck, sued McDonald’s for damages from the third-degree burns she sustained from hot McDonald’s coffee that she spilled on her lap while she was seated in her car. The case received so much publicity that it is frequently referred to today as an example of a “frivolous lawsuit” that hurts American business. Indeed, the “Stella Award” for frivolous lawsuits referred to in the article “The Mighty Quinn” was named after Stella Liebeck.
In 2007, Roy L. Pearson sued Custom Cleaners for several million dollars of damages resulting from a lost pair of trousers.
1. What are the facts?
2. What are the issues?
3. What law applies?
4. What did the judge and/or jury decide?
5. Did the judge and/or jury make an appropriate decision based on the applicable law controlling the case? Why or why not?
6. What are the ethical issues in the cases? Do the ethical issues differ from the legal issues? If so, how?
7. Both of these cases have been described as “frivolous” lawsuits. Based on your research what do you think? Is either one or both of these cases frivolous?
8. Regardless of what you think of the lawsuits, how could the business owners have prevented them? What advice can you give them for the future?
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