Companies that manufacture or produce millions of products each year are bound to have some products that are defective. Many people are injured while using products and subsequently file a product liability suit against the company or manufacturer. Most of these cases go away quietly when the company extends an offer of settlement. But some other cases make it big in the news, quickly becoming national headlines and the face for multi-million dollar jury verdicts against large corporations. These cases attract a great deal of public attention and call into question the merit of punitive damages as well as the soundness and uniformity of jury verdicts.
Coffee Is Hot
When 79-year-old Stella Liebeck ordered coffee at McDonald’s, she never imagined her case would be the talking point of many households, and certainly every law school tort class. Ms. Liebeck spilled the hot coffee on herself and received 3rd degree burns. Ms. Liebeck sued McDonald’s on a products liability theory. Her clever attorney argued that the McDonald’s coffee was defective in that it was too hot and other comparable restaurants did not serve their coffee at such a high temperature. A jury heard the argument and awarded Ms. Liebeck $2.7 million dollars in punitive damages against McDonald’s.
Smoke At Your Own Risk
A widow, Ms. Williams, sued Philip Morris for fraud after her husband died of lung cancer that was smoking-related. The Ms. Williams theory was that Philip Morris, through advertisements and studies, did not fully disclose the dangers of smoking to the public. After the trial, the jury awarded the Ms. Williams nearly $1 million in compensatory damages and nearly $80 million in punitive damages! This was the largest verdict against a tobacco company in history. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court, where the court found that the punitive damages were “grossly excessive.”
That Fiery Ford Pinto
In the 1970s, Ford Pinto model had a structural defect with resulted in deadly blazes from fuel spillage in rear-end collisions. While Ford was aware of the structural defect, it conducted a cost-benefit analysis and concluded that it would be less expensive to pay off lawsuits rather than fix the design. Eventually, a lawsuit was filed against Ford and Ford agreed to fix the faulty design. This case sparked numerous debates in the field of business ethics.
If you or a loved one have been injured due to a product defect call us at 973-324-9711 or contact us online to set up a free initial consultation with an experienced product liability attorney about your case.