Woman, coffee, millions? Think again.

August 7, 2014

In 1992, Stella Liebeck was badly burned when a cup of coffee from McDonalds spilled on her lap.

If you’re curious to know more about how and why a jury of her peers awarded her $2.9 million then have a look at this thoughtful review of the story on RetroReports, a documentary news initiative that revisits and reexplains big stories from decades past.

This is an excellent case study in valuation. Liebeck’s story shows that value doesn’t make sense without also understanding the process, the mechanism, by which value is assessed.

If you thought the case was frivolous have a good look at the photos of the physical damage Liebeck suffered. It’s hard to grasp how so much damage could have been caused by a little cup of coffee. The images featured in the report are truly gruesome.

 

2 Responses to “Woman, coffee, millions? Think again.”


  1. This case in particular, and the more general problem of “tort tales”, are covered in the excellent Distorting the Law by Haltom and McCann, if anyone wants to read a sociolegal take on the issue!

  2. miami-sid Says:

    “If you thought the case was frivolous have a good look at the photos of the physical damage Liebeck suffered.” Few, I believe, would suggest the physical damage was not severe. But the question really in dispute is whether McDonald’s was liable. Too many suggest, wrongly and arrogantly, the issue was a slam dunk. It was not.


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