When society hears the term “frivolous lawsuits” we have been trained to act like Dorothy when the Wicked Witch says “I’ll get you my pretty!”  How we have developed that fear and attitude towards the Court System is beyond me.  The framers of our Constitution gave us the Seventh Amendment guaranteeing open and free access to the Courts.  It was a right that they held very dear.  However, today in many circles it is nothing but a dirty word and when people have been wronged they feel bad about calling an attorney to try to right that wrong.  No one will ever claim that the American legal system is perfect.  If you will listen many will proclaim that it is the best system there is.

So what is a frivolous lawsuit?  That’s not a question that is usually asked.  When you do ask most people will think of the McDonald’s coffee case.  So in honor of Stella Liebeck and the infamous McDonald’s coffee case I present you with the following quiz.

McDonald’s Coffee Quiz

1. When Stella Liebeck was burned, she was:

a) driving and attempting to add sugar to her coffee.

b) in the passenger seat at a dead stop.

c) in the back seat where all old people belong.

2. When the coffee spilled, Stella was:

a) squeezing her legs together while reaching for her Egg McMuffin.

b) removing the lid to add cream and sugar.

c) eating her breakfast.

3. Stella received burns to her:

a) inner thighs.

b) buttocks.

c) genitalia.

d) all of the above.

4. Stella’s hospital stay lasted:

a) two days.

b) five days.

c) eight days and included skin grafting surgery.

5. McDonald’s quality assurance manager testified that the company actively enforced a requirement that its coffee be served between (hint: your coffee at home comes out at about 135 to 140 degrees):

a) 140 to 150 degrees

b) 150 to 170 degrees

c) 180 to 190 degrees

6. True or False: McDonald’s quality assurance manager testified that the company knew that coffee served at the required temperature was not fit for consumption because it would burn the mouth and throat, and that the company had received over 700 complaints of burns caused by the coffee.

7. According to the experts, coffee served at the temperature as required by McDonald’s will cause full thickness burns to human skin in:

a) 2 – 7 seconds

b) 10 – 20 seconds

c) 30 – 60 seconds

8. Prior to filing her lawsuit, McDonald’s rejected Stella’s offer to settle all her claims, medical bills, injury and scarring, for the total amount of:

a) $20,000

b) $100,000

c) $500,000

9. After reductions by the court, the amount McDonald’s was ordered to pay was:

a) $975,000

b) $640,000

c) $1.5 million

d) none of the above

10. True or False: After the trial, McDonald’s offered to pay Stella an undisclosed amount, instead of the amount determined by the court, which she accepted.

Now that you have had a further examination of the McDonald’s coffee case I would ask you as I do a jury, when you hear about “frivolous lawsuits” that you step back and ask what facts that you are not being told and try to get the whole picture instead of only selected facts.  To learn more of Stella’s story or to bust a few myths of some other “frivolous lawsuits” I would encourage you to consider watching the documentary “Hot Coffee” by Susan Saladoff.


Answers: 1 – b, 2 – b, 3 – d, 4 – c, 5 – c, 6 – True, 7 – a, 8 – a, 9 – b, 10 – True