Infamous U.S. Tort Claims

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More often than not, civil lawsuits, known as “tort claims” in the legal field, are sensationalized by the media. Whether it’s because the facts of the case have been skewed, as in the case of Stella Liebeck, or the sheer amount of damage done caused an uproar, the public loves a shocking news story. With that in mind, we have compiled three of the most infamous tort claims in the United States for your reading below. 

Liebeck V. McDonalds

In the case of 79-year-old Stella Liebeck, v. McDonald’s, Liebeck brought a lawsuit against McDonald’s after she suffered severe third-degree burns on her pelvic region and inner thighs, caused by scalding hot coffee she ordered in the drive-thru. Though her case has gone down in history as being one of opportunity, the facts spoke for themselves. 

It was discovered that McDonald’s had a history of complaints of burning hot coffee; coffee so hot that it was kept well-above that of other industry coffee temperatures and was hot enough to cause her burns within just three seconds of touching her body. After offering to settle her case for $20,000 (of which McDonald’s refused), she was subsequently awarded a $2.7 million settlement by the trial judge.

According to one Birmingham personal injury attorney, “Liebeck v. McDonald’s paved the way for other injury victims to hold the people responsible for harming them accountable—even if the liable party is an enormous corporation like McDonald’s.”.

Anderson V. Pacific Gas & Electric

The case of Anderson et. al v. Pacific Gas & Electric was made famous by the movie, Erin Brockovich. Based very closely on the true story of the residents of Hinkley, attorney Ed Masry and law clerk Erin Brockovich brought a civil claim against PG&E after they knowingly and intentionally misled the residents of Hinkley about contaminated groundwater. 

Residents were made to believe the groundwater contained chromium three, but it was actually contaminated with hexavalent chromium which is toxic to humans. In the largest class-action lawsuit in U.S. history, PG&E was ordered to pay a settlement of $333 million to more than 600 plaintiffs. 

Escola V. Coca-Cola

Similar to the Liebeck tort case, Escola v. Coca-Cola set the bar for products liability cases. Back in 1944 while working as a waitress, Gladys Escola was putting glass bottles of Coca-Cola into the freezer when the bottle suddenly exploded causing her severe injuries to her hand, including the severing of nerves and muscles. 

Due to the fact that the bottles had been known to explode in similar instances in the past, Coca-Cola was held accountable for their negligence, and was ordered to pay Escola an undisclosed settlement.

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