Here in Los Angeles, Tort reform is the term that has been adopted by groups that reject the notion of personal responsibility. They feel that people should not be held accountable for their actions. If they hurt someone else, they do not think they should have to pay for their negligence. I find this notion offensive. We make it our job to fight these people. In Los Angeles courtrooms, we have to deal with the impact these groups have on our jurors.
The McDonald’s Coffee Case was the landmark action that fired up these groups. However, that case is mostly an urban legend. It was not a runaway jury, it was a case of a greedy company putting its customers at unreasonable risk. In that case, the injured person was not driving a car, but was a passanger, the coffee did not spill because the car was moving but spilled because the victim was taking the lid off the cup, and a vascular surgeon determined that she suffered full thickness third degree burns over 6 percent of her body requiring 8 days of hospitalization with skin grafting surgery.
She sought to settle her case for $20,000 and McDonald’s refused. During the case, her attorneys obtained McDonald’s documents showing that more than 700 people had previously suffered similar significant injuries but McDonald’s continued to serve its coffee unreasonably hot because they were able to make more money but getting more coffee out of each bean. The jury awarded her $200,000 in compensatory damages which was reduced to $160,000 because they found the victim 20% at fault. She was also awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages which is the profit of 2 days of McDonald’s coffee sales. That was reduced to $480,000. Clink on this link for more details about the truth of this case.
The American Tort Reform Foundation is a leading tort reform group. In a recent report, widely criticized for its lack of appropriate methodology listed Nevada and New Jersey and plaintiff friendly jurisdictions. That is to say, in those places, an injured person has a fighting chance of obtaining justice for their injuries.
At Rice & Bloomfield, our research in the area of tort reform sets us apart from many others who practice in our field. We are constantly studying the impact of tort reform on the jury panel to find ways to present cases in Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley Courtrooms in a way to minimize the impact of this effect and ensure that our clients are protected.