The Stella Awards
September 14, 2007 No Comments
Ever heard of Stella Liebeck?
She’s a famous lady. In fact, she has an award that’s named after her. The Stella award.
In 1992, Stella ordered a cup of coffee from McDonald’s. Attempting to put cream and sugar into it, she dumped the entire cup into her lap. The sweat pants soaked it up, and she was burned. By coffee. Which is supposed to be hot. Keep that iced coffee stuff away, would you?
Anyhoo, Stella dumped the coffee all over herself in the passenger seat of a parked car. And she ended up burned pretty bad. Bad enough to go to the hospital.
It turns out that McDonald’s coffee burned about 700 people between 1982 and 1992. Dangerous stuff, right?
Wrong. That’s one serious burn out of every 24 million folks who managed to drink their Java without incident. Not exactly proof of “unreasonably dangerous” coffee. You’re much more likely to win a big lottery bundle than you are seriously injuring yourself with hot coffee from McDonald’s.
Yet, those facts weren’t enough to keep a gullible (or whacked-out) jury from awarding Stella 2.7 million bucks in punitive damages for her mishap. The judge sensibly reduced damages to $480,000, but to avoid appeals, both parties went into secret negotiations. The actual dollar amount McDonald’s remains unknown.
Ergo, the birth of the Stella awards, given to the most outrageous damages awarded to shameless scoundrels who abuse the legal system (and ultimately raise prices for all of us as businesses must pay sky-high liability insurance).
Michelle Knepper of Vancouver, Wash. Knepper picked a doctor out of the phone book to do her liposuction, and went ahead with the procedure even though the doctor was only a dermatologist, not a plastic surgeon. After having complications, she complained she never would have chosen that doctor had she known he wasn’t Board Certified in the procedure. (She relied on the phonebook listing over asking the doctor, or looking for a certificate on his wall?!) So she sued …the phone company! She won $1.2 million plus $375,000 for her husband for “loss of spousal services and companionship.”
If you can stomach more, enjoy today’s FamilyFirst site.
Tags: cream and sugar, cup of coffee, dermatologist, hot coffee, knepper, liability insurance, liposuction, mcdonald, million bucks, mishap, passenger seat, phone book, phonebook, plastic surgeon, punitive damages, scoundrels, secret negotiations, stella, sweat pants, vancouverSocial Science