The week’s assignment concerns briefing a case from the readings. You can pick any case from the readings. You must pick an actual court case and give the citation. The brief should concern a legal case that is relevant to the following Week 3, Torts and Criminal Law, objectives.
Brief the case. Use the IRAC methodology. Discuss the:
The brief is followed by discussion of whether your team agrees or disagrees with the court opinion.
The paper is a minimum 1000 words in length
Ethics Ouch! McDonald’s Coffee Is Too Hot!
McDonald’s Corporation found itself embroiled in one of the most famous negligence cases of modern times. Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, visited a drive-through window of a McDonald’s restaurant with her grandson Chris. Her grandson, the driver of the vehicle, placed the order for breakfast. When breakfast came at the drive-through window, Chris handed a hot cup of coffee to Stella. Chris pulled over so that Stella could put cream and sugar in her coffee. Stella took the lid off the coffee cup she held in her lap and the hot coffee spilled in her lap. The coffee spilled all over Stella, who suffered third-degree burns on her legs, thighs, groin, and buttocks. Stella was driven to the emergency room and was hospitalized for seven days. She required medical treatment and later returned to the hospital to have skin grafts. She suffered permanent scars from the incident.
Stella’s medical costs were $11,000. Stella asked McDonald’s to pay her $20,000 to settle the case, but McDonald’s offered only $800. Stella refused this settlement and sued McDonald’s in court for negligence for selling coffee that was too hot and for failing to warn her of the danger of the hot coffee it served. At trial, McDonald’s denied that it had been negligent and asserted that Stella’s own negligence—opening a hot coffee cup on her lap—had caused her injuries. The jury heard the following evidence:
· McDonald’s enforces a quality-control rule that requires its restaurants and franchises to serve coffee at 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit.
· Third-degree burns occur on skin in just two to five seconds when coffee is served at 185 degrees.
· McDonald’s coffee temperature was 20 degrees hotter than coffee served by competing restaurant chains.
· McDonald’s coffee temperature was approximately 40 to 50 degrees hotter than normal house-brewed coffee.
· McDonald’s had received more than 700 prior complaints of people who had been scalded by McDonald’s coffee.
· McDonald’s did not place a warning on its coffee cups to alert patrons that the coffee it served was exceptionally hot.
Based on this evidence, the jury concluded that McDonald’s acted recklessly and awarded Stella $200,000 in compensatory damages, which was then reduced by $40,000 because of her own negligence, and $2.7 million in punitive damages. The trial court judge reduced the amount of punitive damages to $480,000, which was three times the amount of compensatory damages. McDonald’s now places a warning on its coffee cups that its coffee is hot. Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, P.T.S., Inc. (New Mexico District Court, Bernalillo County, New Mexico, 1994)
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