Monday, August 27, 2007

Want Fries With That Lawsuit?

Are you a young lawyer looking for your big break?
Do you want to be in on the action, where the lawsuits fly like so many
migrating birds?
Do you want to make big bucks suing a deep-pockets corporation, or maybe
make a hefty salary defending big business against get-rich-quick schemes?

Then go to work at McDonalds. Or go to work suing them. Either way,
there will be more business than a drive-through window at lunchtime.

I came to this realization recently when I read that that a young woman in
the Minneapolis/St. Paul area is suing McDonald's after buying a cup of
coffee with cream and sugar at a drive-thru.

After taking a sip, according to her lawsuit, she realized that something
was wrong: The cream was lumpy and rancid.

A couple of minutes later, she asserts she became violently ill. He
reaction was so extreme, her suit contends, that she wound up spending five
days in the hospital with severe bowel problems requiring surgery.

Together with her husband, who claims he's been deprived of her "society,
companionship, and consortium," she is suing for at least $100,000 in

The owner of the McDonald's in question denies anything was wrong with the
cream. He sees another explanation for the lawsuit, saying, "I have no clue
what this lady is after besides money."

Want fries with that litigation?

Look, I'm not stepping to the plate to defend McDonald's. As a
corporation, they have profited at the expense of people's health. Their
shameless pandering to children through advertising seems to follow the old
adage that "if you hook 'em young, you hook them for life" made popular by
the tobacco industry.

On the other hand, some of the suits targeting McDonald's appear to be
filed by people with quarter-pounders for brains.

Some examples:

- A man who bought lunch at a drive-thru window continued to drive after
wedging his chocolate milk shake between his legs and placing his burger and
fries on the seat next to him. When he leaned over to reach for his fries he
inadvertently squeezed his legs together, causing the cold shake to leap out
of its cup and onto his lap. Stunned, he then plowed his car into the vehicle
in front of him. The motorist who was on the receiving end of this mishap
sued the driver as well as McDonald's. The plaintiff's attorney argued that
the fast-food franchise neglected to warn customers of the dangers of eating
and driving.

- A woman claimed she suffered a second degree burn on her chin after a
scalding hot pickle fell from one of several small hamburgers which she and
her husband bought from a McDonald's restaurant in Knoxville, Tenn. Her
husband also sued for $15,000, saying that he had been deprived of the
services and companionship of his wife. The lawsuit contended that the pickle
was defective and unreasonably dangerous to the customer.

- Another couple alleging that a McBurrito was so oversaturated with black
pepper that it caused the husband to have two months of daily nosebleeds, an
infection in his mouth and possible damage to his vocal chords.

- Then there is the guy who claimed he was allergic to cheese. So he
goes to McDonald's and orders two Quarter Pounders without cheese. He gets
his food, goes home and, get this, sits in a dark room, does not check for
the absence of cheese, takes a bite, and "almost dies" because there is, in
fact, cheese. He's seeking $10 million.

- A parent, after letting his daughter eat an Egg McMuffin for breakfast
and a Big Mac meal for dinner, claimed, "I always believed McDonald's was
healthy for my children." The girl, 19, is 5-feet-6 and weighs 270 pounds.

This last suit mirrored an avalanche of litigation suits claiming
McDonald's caused obesity including a suit filed by three New York City
teenagers who claim the fast food chain's food caused them to gain as much as
200 pounds and develop serious health problems including heart disease and

One could reasonably ask, how soon was it they began to notice the extra

Perhaps the most famous McDonald's suit was filed by the 79-year-old woman
who spilled hot coffee on her lap, suffering third degree burns. And while
many point to this case as the poster child for our litigious society, the
fact is McDonald's was on the wrong end of it. They were found to be serving
coffee 30 to 50 degrees hotter than other restaurants and that the Shriner
Burn Institute had previously warned them not to serve coffee that hot. It
was also revealed that there had been 700 previous cases involving scalding
coffee at McDonald's. The victim was awarded $500,000 but settled out of
court for less.

So what does this all mean?

It means that the United States has become the most litigious nation in
the world, a place where people increasingly take little or no responsibility
for their own actions and lawyers troll for "victims."

It means the the notion of caveat emptor has been replaced by one of
"what's in it for me."

And it means that if you flip burgers to the tune of $3 billion in
profits, you can expect to have a legal bullseye on your back. It gives new
meaning to Big Mac attack.

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