July 28, 2008 by Thomas McGarity

The Golden Arches Coffee Myth

You are right, Sid, that we hear lots of horror stories about so-called “frivolous litigation” and “runaway juries” from those who want to take away the right of ordinary citizens to hold big companies accountable for the damage caused by negligence and defective products. The stories are very effective in giving the public the impression that the system is badly broken and in dire need of fixing. The problem is that most of them are myths.


Take the notorious McDonald’s case that you mention. The anti-lawsuit pundits have characterized this case as a situation in which a careless woman drove up to a McDonald’s, ordered coffee, drove off, stuck the coffee between her legs and spilled the coffee in her lap when she tried to remove the lid while she was hurrying off to her next destination. Rather than take personal responsibility for her carelessness, she was persuaded by a greedy trial lawyer to sue McDonald’s for her damages.


The story, as told and retold by dozens of critics and comedians, bears only the faintest resemblance to the truth. Here are the real facts.


Stella Liebeck, a conservative Republican, was a passenger in a car driven by …

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