Lawsuits Of The Week

Sutton vs McDonald’s Corporation (PDF) Frank Sutton orders a Mickey D’s Chicken Sandwich on August 8th, 2005. Bites into the sandwich and hot lava grease exploded on his lips. When approached about the matter, the McDonald’s worker says something to the effect of, “This is what happens to the sandwiches when they aren’t drained completely.” Sutton wants $2 mil for his damaged puckers. While that might seem steep, McDonald’s should make be making sure their employees are properly draining the chicken sandwiches.

Lawrence Mann and Robert Stewart Et. Al vs Toshiba (PDF) Class action complaint filed against Toshiba for selling a 1080p output TVs that was incapable of receiving 1080p signal from any source.
Cooper v Samsung (PDF) for the same reason as above. The lawyers at SZAFERMAN, LAKIND, BLUMSTEIN, BLADER & LEHMANN represent both plaintiffs. Pretty clearcut. You can’t advertise a product as having an ability that it doesn’t.

Patterson v. Denny’s Corporation (PDF) A class action against Denny’s for non-compliance with the FACTA legislation requiring no credit card information be fully printed on a receipt– in this case, the expiration date. Companies have had since 2003 to come into compliance with this provision. With identity theft on the rise, it’s important for companies to be held accountable for not following legally mandated credit card security procedures.

(Photo: Getty)

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  1. theWolf says:

    I don’t know if I want to eat a sandwich that needs to be “drained.”

  2. King of the Wild Frontier says:

    (Inaccurate)comparison to the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit in three… two…

  3. iBananaPhone says:

    Having a sandwich that needs to be drained is like ordering a drink that needs to be strained. Nothing good can come of it…

    Wonder what they drain the sandwiches with…

  4. Here we go with the posts about the “frivolous” McDonald’s coffee lawsuit.

    If you’ve ever used that case as an example of a frivolous lawsuit, you may actually want to read the facts of the case first. As it appears to be in this case, the hot coffee lawsuit was an example of McDonald’s being institutionally aware that they had a dangerous situation – and doing nothing about it.

  5. spinachdip says:

    @CaliforniaCajun: In fact, the McDonald’s coffee case is exactly why tort “reform” is a bad, bad idea. But people are more than happy to spread misinformation about the case and tort in general.

  6. nctrnlboy says:

    MMMMMMM! Drained chicken patty! YUM YUM!

  7. thepounder says:

    Sweet… If I ever hit a Wac Arnold’s.. oops… McDonalds drive-thru again, I think I’ll ask for the Chicken Sandwich with extra scalding cooking oil… and heavy mayo.

    Seriously though, I’d think that McD’s Corporate would already have some written policy in place for any food item that comes out of the frying oil, i.e., drain it sufficiently before serving it. You and I make fried chicken at home, what do we do when it comes out of the oil? Bingo, we drain it on paper towels.
    To me anyhow, there’s no way this guy could have known he’d be scorched by hot oil from biting a chicken sandwich, and the employees simply didn’t take enough care to ensure any excess oil had been drained away.
    However… two million bucks worth of lip-burning pain? Me thinks not. Only if this guy was Pavarotti.

  8. nctrnlboy says:

    I wonder if they have to drain the chicken nuggets too!?

    Wonder how they go about draining the sandwhich? If its fried, then I’d assume they’d have to puncture the patty/chicken nugget. SO is there a mcflunky in the back with a sandwich-draining puncture gun? “Ka-chung! Ka-chung! Ka-chung!”

  9. thepounder says:

    @spinachdip: Please don’t take me wrong, because I’m not bashing, but I’d love to hear some good arguments against tort reform.

  10. BStu says:

    He’ll never actually get $2 million, obviously, but he obviously has a case given that the employee acknowledged that the burn was the result of improper preparation of his sandwich. Its actually not as bad as the coffee case since in that case they were aware of the danger and chose to ignore not. At first glance, this seems like a simple case of isolated negligence.

  11. Re: the Denny’s Case. I always make a point to scratch out all but the last four digits of my credit card on receipts. I had no idea merchants were legally required to obscure the numbers. I recommend folks read about it. A condensed summary of the requirements are here.

  12. ptkdude says:

    This sort of thing is exactly why I eat at McDowell’s instead of McDonald’s. The Big Mick is so much better than the Big Mac.

  13. Mary says:

    @CaliforniaCajun: A more accurate representation of the case of the “hot coffee” that represents both sides can be found at [www.stellaawards.com] It contains most of the information from your link but also some others.

    If you get hurt because of neglect at a restaurant, they should pay your medical bills. Plain, simple, easy.

  14. thepounder says:

    @ptkdude: Nice. Now I wonder how many readers will remember what movie that comes from. I hadn’t thought about that movie in years… now I really want to watch it again. :)
    “They got the Golden Arches, mine is the Golden Arcs.”

  15. @thepounder: Still, “permanent skin and nerve injury”? Yikes.

    @thepounder: The movie is awesome. I need to see it again uncensored.

  16. Hexum2600 says:

    Everyone knows that not only was Coming to America Eddie Murphey’s best movie, but on the top 25 for best movies of all time… and why? I have no idea…

  17. dink23 says:

    @Hexum2600: I have an idea why…McDowell’s, Soul Glow, and Sexual Chocolate.

  18. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @dink23: Plus, no fat suits.

  19. coan_net says:

    To sue McDonalds because you ordered hot coffee and got hot coffee – STUPID

    To sue McDonalds because a sandwich you ordered was not prepared properly, as they should be trained to to prepare the food, and then that food causes you damage – Well I’ve got to agree with that lawsuit. (Now if he ordered a chicken sandwich and ate it and sued because he was allergic to Chicken, then that would be a stupid lawsuit – but to get something not prepared correctly which causes damages, then I agree with that lawsuit.)

  20. spinachdip says:

    @thepounder: Before I argue against tort reform, I’d like to hear why we even need it. I haven’t seen any substantiation that punitive rewards were somehow “out of control” as tort reform advocates claim, and I imagine many of them are simply reacting to stories about large rewards, forgetting that stuff that makes the news are the “man bites dog stories” types that happen so rarely in comparison to the “dog bites man”. Or even worse, they believe urban legends like the McDonald’s case.

    But here’s why it’s a bad idea – putting a cap on rewards removes accountability from corporations. If a jury deems that a plaintiff suffered x million dollars of damage, why can’t it reward that amount? Plus, I’m not comfortable with the idea of the legislative branch putting unnecessary limits on the power of the judicial branch.

    Look, there are enough hurdles that prevent frivolous reward from ever getting to that sweet, sweet million dollar reward. Someone better with words than I made a good comparison with the “innocent until proven guilty” concept – everyone has the right to challenge someone in the court of law, and the sieve of the judicial process weeds out the riff raffs. And combine that with the amount of money corporations can spend on lawyers, an average Joe trying to make a quick buck off corporate America has little chance.

  21. spinachdip says:

    @coan_net: “To sue McDonalds because you ordered hot coffee and got hot coffee – STUPID”

    Hooray, ignorance!

  22. thepounder says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: Oh, please don’t get me wrong on the seriousness of having your lips/mouth horribly burned. I’ve been torched by hot cooking oil at home before (didn’t get the turkey quite as dry as I thought I did and it spattered when dunked in the big fryer) and having 325 degree oil on my arm was the complete opposite of awesome.
    I suppose all I’m saying is $2 mil seems a tad steep to me. If it seems appropriate to other folks that’s cool by me. I suppose if it were me with the scalded lips and nerve damage I’d want to be sure my medical expenses were covered by McD’s as well as costs for whatever time I’d miss from work to seek medical assistance for it.

  23. jrdnjstn78 says:

    So if the chicken sandwich was not drained properly then wouldn’t that mean that when this guy got his sandwich that the bun would have been a soggy mess? Who would take a bite of that in the first place???
    Disgusting that he even bit into that soggy, nasty sandwich

  24. @thepounder: “I’d love to hear some good arguments against tort reform.”

    Primarily, it prevents consumers from bringing meritorious cases against corporations by making it too expensive to do so, or capping damages so low that the lawsuits can’t pay for themselves. Corporations that have legal departments plus a law firm or three on retainer can quite easily spin a case out some years just in the discovery phase. Most consumers cannot afford the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs just to get into the courtroom when you’re facing that kind of shennanigans.

    I reported on a case in NC where an ob/gyn had sexually molested and/or raped more than 60 patients. Three hospitals and two insurance companies knew it and had multiple complaints on file, as did the medical boards in both states (NC and CA). Nobody did anything. Internal complaint procedures were not followed. When it got too hot in CA, he moved to NC WITH A RECOMMENDATION FROM HIS HOSPITAL who wanted to get rid of him because he was becoming an insurance liability.

    The only way the case could be brought (economically) was when six women banded together as plaintiffs. They won, he lost his medical license, criminal charges were pending, lawsuits and state investigations against the insurers and hospitals were underway.

    Under NC’s then-proposed tort caps (where the case was brought), recovery for the plaintiffs would have been capped at about 1/5th of what it cost to bring the case. No lawyer would take that case, and rare is the plaintiff who could afford to pay those costs out of pocket.

    THAT is the problem with tort reform. It puts all the power in the hands of corporations and removes the only remedy consumers have when they are wronged by these behemoths.

  25. spinachdip says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: I like this explanation better than mine.

    Also, when insurance companies decide they don’t want to pay for an expensive procedure, they like to deny coverage and fight it in court instead, knowing they have the upper hand in legal muscle. Tort “reform” would further tilt the playing field in their favor.

  26. Bourque77 says:

    @spinachdip: Actually their coffee is brewed at 195 degrees +/- 5 which is what the industry calls for. Its the proper temp to get the most out of it. But this isnt about that particular lawsuit.

  27. thepounder says:

    @spinachdip: You make very good points. “Plus, I’m not comfortable with the idea of the legislative branch putting unnecessary limits on the power of the judicial branch.” <– That’s a good call as well. And certainly all we hear from the Media is the stuff that makes “good news”, which would be bigger lawsuits or really crazy lawsuits like the guy suing over his dry cleaning.
    The stuff folks see on the evening news is just a fraction of what’s really going on, so I’d figure something like 98% of court decisions for something like this would turn out “fairly”. I hope.

  28. thepounder says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: “I reported on a case in NC where an ob/gyn had sexually molested and/or raped more than 60 patients…” It’s terribly sad to me that it took 6 people banding together just to get it “thru the system”. I am very happy to hear that he lost his license though; it’s too bad it took so long and so many people were hurt by that idiot.
    That example all by itself is enough reason to leave tort law exactly as-is. Of course, I’m no lawyer or anything, just curious about it is all.

  29. subodhgupta says:

    Is the law about not printing more than five digits of Credit Card Number applicable across the US or it is state specific?
    I just came back from Lunch at Quiznos and I have on my credit card receipt 12 digits of my credit card and it’s expiration date printed on it?

  30. JayXJ says:

    @iBananaPhone:

    I had the misfortune of working at McDonalds years ago as my first over the table job. The patties are deep fried just like the fries. After they are done they are placed in a metal heated drawer with a screen on the bottom for excess grease to drip out. Sounds like this guy got one that was thrown directly on to a bun.

  31. spinachdip says:

    @Bourque77: That is indeed the brewing temperature, but no one in their right mind serves coffee at the brewing temperature. The holding/serving temperature is about 20 degrees lower.

  32. SaraAB87 says:

    People can sue all they want, but if their lawsuit is deemed frivolus then they won’t get a penny and they will have wasted their time and they will have to pay a lawyer. Sure people can create all the frivolus lawsuits they want but most won’t even get a penny unless they have a legtimate case, you have to remember these lawsuits don’t always have a happy ending, not everyone who sues gets anything from it.

  33. acasto says:

    I think they should cover his expenses, but heck with $2mil. S*!t happens in life, why should some get rich simply because their s*!t happens at a big company?

  34. zaky says:

    I *never* want to hear the words “drain” and “chicken” again in the same sentence.

  35. Candyman says:

    @ Thepounder

    It’s not always about what is appropriate to compensate for the damages; in the case of punative damages, if the company has done something meriting punishment, it’s about how much it takes to hurt them. A few thousand might cover his bills, but if the judge and/or jury feel the company had deliberatly made a practice of it, or had grossly negligently failed in training their employees, or had a pattern of such incidents, and of quietly paying them off instead of changing their ways to prevent it, or something like that, then a few thousand won’t change their ways. But a few million just might.

  36. perfectly_cromulent says:

    although his asking price seems high, i have to say good for this guy for standing up for something that needed the attention. same goes for stella and her coffee… a person should need skin grafts to recover from a coffee spill! it just shouldn’t happen.

  37. Bourque77 says:

    @spinachdip: Most people prefer a fresh cup which means right after it was brewed I dont see it cooling 20 degrees that fast. You must also understand how picky customers get some want it hotter some want it colder gotta settle for something.

  38. afran303 says:

    Last time I at a sandwich at McDonalds at 2:00 a.m. I was extremely intoxicated.

  39. spinachdip says:

    @Bourque77: Most people want scalding hot coffee? Can you back that up? And how many McD’s serve coffee right after it’s brewed? Most places I go, they’ll have two pots going, one that’s brewing or just brewed, and one for serving.

    But that’s neither here nor there. When the 79-year-old lady burned herself, McDonald’s had already settled hundreds of cases involving their coffee, so they knew that they were serving at an unsafe temperature.

    At that point, it matters not what “most” (substantiated or otherwise) consumers want. McDonald’s received the complaints, they knew they were serving it hotter than the industry standard (i.e., they could gone cooler without sacrificing quality), yet chose not to address the problem.

    Imagine if people were getting sick from eating undercooked Big Macs. Even if “most” people preferred Big Mac tartar, the responsibility falls on McD’s to serve safe food. People who want scalding hot coffee (and FWIW, 180 is within optimal serving temperature range for coffee) or undeercooked burgers can get it to their heart’s content at home, but not from McDonald’s.

    You say you gotta settle somewhere. Why not settle at a temperature that doesn’t cause third degree burns within 2 seconds?

  40. phobs says:

    @Candyman: I agree. What do corporations understand better than money? It should be economically unwise for McD to ignore our safety. If McD only has to pay for medical bills and limited expenses it could easily become economical for the company to ignore the problem. IMO the court would be irresponsible to have a judgment limited to the event at hand but should also include the dangers to future customers.

  41. BrockBrockman says:

    Holy crap, enough about McD’s chicken drain sandwich deal.

    But, a 1080p TV that can’t receive a 1080p input? Now, that’s a travesty! If I found out my TV couldn’t do that, I would be livid! That’s equivalent to buying a “color” TV that can only input black & white signal.

  42. Bourque77 says:

    @spinachdip: If it happens to come out of a fresh pot (which is always possible) it will be 195 degrees or so. Some people like hotter coffee than others so serve it hot and if its to hot for you let it cool. I say dont put the damn flexible cup in your lap. Theres a point where customers need to use a little common sense. I didnt have my thermometer right there with the lady so i dont know the temp of her coffee. I do know I have a cup holder (like most cars do) and I know how to use it.

  43. Spooty says:

    @subodhgupta:
    The FACTA law is federal, and applies nationwide.
    The particular no-nos are that electronically-printed receipts (whether you use a debit card or a credit card doesn’t matter) can’t show more than 5 digits of your credit card, and can’t show the card’s expiration date at all.

  44. cuda says:

    “To sue McDonalds because you ordered hot coffee and got hot coffee – STUPID”

    Read about the case before posting and you avoid sounding stupid to the rest of the people here.

    The coffee was not just hot it was almost still boiling. The person in question got third degree burns and had to have skin replacement. McDs knew this was a risk and chose to take it anyway, and lost.

    If you were burned that badly you would be upset as well.

    “I do know I have a cup holder (like most cars do) and I know how to use it.”

    Sure, but I have bet you have spilled a drink at some point in your lifetime. Screaming and yelling because a hot coffee landed in your lap is one thing, but boiling hot coffee causing third degree burns in seconds is another. McDs knew the risk was their and ignored it.

    After losing a few million they fixed the problem.