Thursday, October 24, 2013

Crying Over Spilt Coffee

Back in 1992, the case of Stella Liebeck v. McDonalds gained a fair degree of notoriety in the mainstream media for what many deemed its exorbitant outcome. After trial, a jury found the fast food giant liable to the tune of nearly $3 mil after a customer dropped some of their coffee on her lap and got burned. This is actually one of those cases I've used in my Argumentation & Debate classes for awhile now as an exemplar of how arguments play out in different spheres.

To wit: The legal argument was built on Ms. Liebman being so severely burned that she required skin grafts. Plus, the jury's recommended award was reduced quite a bit by the time the judge actually got around to determining the final amount. However, both of those extenuating factors kind of got lost in the mix by the time the pundits and the comedians had their say, and the story became "Idiot spills coffee, sues for millions." In this terrific vid by the New York Times looking back at the Great Coffee Spill of 1992, we get a good sense of what actually transpired, and how it was eventually spun:

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