Argument: What kind of system do we have when a woman who spills her coffee can sue for millions from McDonald's? Frivolous lawsuits are out of control.Anyway, thanks to pandagon.net - half the age, twice the smart for directing me there.
Response: First, let's deal with the McDonald's story, since it's such a staple of the tort reformer's arsenal. Before that suit, McDonald's used to heat their coffee to over 180 degrees, just short of boiling. The 79-year-old woman in question got third-degree burns from the coffee, requiring skin grafts. She asked for the relatively modest sum of $20,000 from McDonald's. The corporation refused to settle. With no other options, she pursued the lawsuit and won. She was awarded $160,000 in compensatory damages. The jury also awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages, due to the fact that McDonald's policy was to heat their coffee to a level that was far too hot to drink and would cause severe burns if it came in contact with human skin, a fact of which they admitted they had been aware for more than ten years (hundreds of people had been burned by McDonald's coffee, and a number had filed suit before).
And what happens to truly frivolous lawsuits – like the one in which a woman sued McDonald's for making her fat? They get thrown out of court. When a jury comes up with an outrageously large judgment, it gets reduced on appeal. The system is easily able to handle it.
So the question is, does a frivolous lawsuit that will get thrown out of court anyway so offend you that you're willing to deny everyone the right to sue even when they have legitimate claims?