Everyone thinks they know that there are too many frivolous lawsuits because too many unscrupulous lawyers are looking for an easy way to get rich.  Yet, if you were to stop and think about this logically, you would realize there is no way that this even makes sense.  This is because lawyers that handle personal injury cases work on a contingent fee basis, meaning they get paid a percentage of their client’s recovery.  However, if the client receives nothing, then the lawyer gets nothing.  Consequently, because the lawyer is not getting paid by the hour no matter whether the case is a meritorious one or not, there is no reason for an attorney to take a frivolous case since he will have ended up putting in a lot of time for no money when he cannot achieve a settlement for his client.

      But you say the insurance companies will just pay to get rid of the case, even if it is frivolous.  The truth is, insurance companies and corporations fight these cases like crazy, which is why people hire lawyers in the first place!  Think about it, when is the last time you can remember an insurance company or corporation ever doing anything for anyone voluntarily where there was not an underlying profit motive, especially when it involves money.


      Of course, everyone’s poster child for the frivolous case is the McDonald’s hot coffee case.  But it pays to know the facts, and the facts are that


  • McDonald’s coffee was heated to 180 to 190 degrees, which was at least 40 degrees hotter than the coffee most people drink at home.
  • Full thickness 3rd degree burns to skin will occur in 2 to 7 seconds when liquid contacts skin.
  • The injured lady suffered suffered full thickness burns to her inner thighs, perineum, buttocks, and genital and groin areas, which required skin grafting.
  • More than 700 coffee burns had been made against McDonald’s prior to this incident.
  • McDonald’s never warned about its coffee’s extremely high temperature or that its coffee when coming into contact with skin can cause 3rd degree burns.
  • The lady was willing to settle for $20,000, an offer which McDonald’s rejected.
  • The jury’s award of $200,000 for injuries and pain suffering was reduced by the judge to $160,000.
  • The jury’s punitive damage award of $2.7 million was reduced by the judge to $480,000.


      As a result of this lady bringing her so called “frivolous lawsuit,” McDonalds reduced the temperature of its coffee, which has lessened the risk of 3rd degree burns for all of us when we drink McDonalds’ coffee.  So the lesson is, when someone starts going on about all the frivolous lawsuits, ask yourself what their agenda is, because it just doesn’t make sense.

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Filed under: Articles by Steve KaufmanLegal Insights

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