Posts Tagged ‘hot coffee’

January 9 roundup

Californians can’t get Dunkin’ Donuts coffee online

“When consumers in California visit the Dunkin’ Donuts website hoping to order a bag of their favorite java, they are met with the following message: ‘Important Notice: We are temporarily suspending the shipment of orders to California while we work to comply with Proposition 65 with the State of California. We apologize for any inconvenience.'” Acrylamide, a compound naturally present in many roasted or cooked foods, is among the hundreds of substances that must be warned against under Prop 65, which has led, as we noted in May, to a lawsuit against more than 40 coffee companies. [TechNewsWorld] Author Vivian Wagner quotes me:

“The law empowers private litigants to enforce its terms without having to show that any consumer has been exposed to any material or substantial risk, let alone harmed,” Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, told the E-Commerce Times. “As a result, entrepreneurial law firms roam the state identifying new, often far-fetched, unwarned-of risks and extracting cash settlements along with promises to warn from hapless defendants.”

July 18 roundup

  • Per New Jersey court, overly sedentary home office job can result in valid worker’s comp claim [Courier-Post, NJLRA]
  • Trial bar’s AAJ denies it played “direct” role in backing “Hot Coffee” [WaPo, some background]
  • “Cop repeatedly harasses waitresses, never disciplined. Feds defend their civil rights by . . . suing the restaurant.” [Palm Beach Post via Radley Balko]
  • On “unauthorized practice of law” as protective moat around profession’s interests, Britain does things differently [Gillian Hadfield via Andrew Sullivan; related, Larry Ribstein] Forthcoming book by Robert Crandall et al urges lawyer deregulation [Brookings]
  • “The Treaty Clause Doesn’t Give Congress Unlimited Power” [Ilya Shapiro, Cato on Golan v. Holder case headed to Supreme Court]
  • The small bank regulatory shakedown blues [Kevin Funnell] Why is the Department of Justice including gag orders as part of its enforcement decrees against banks on race and lending? [Investors Business Daily via PoL] “Emigrant fights back against mortgage-discrimination suits” [Fisher, Forbes] Dodd-Frank squeezing out community banks [Funnell]
  • “North Carolina to Seize Speeding Cars That Fail to Pull Over” [The Newspaper] “With what, a tractor beam?” [James Taranto]

“Hot Coffee” documentary (HBO) reviewed

Great review by Miami Herald TV critic Glenn Garvin casting a skeptical eye on the trial-lawyer film project (“done in by its essential dishonesty… like any good lawyer — and unlike any good documentarian — [director Susan Saladoff is] intent on concealing the weakness in her case).” Read it here. Meanwhile, from the “How does this sort of thing get past the editors of the Washington Post?” files, there’s this from Hank Stuever:

For to really embrace tort reform, you have to be willing to treat all potential plaintiffs as no-good grifters. … To support tort reform, you have to believe all lawsuits against businesses are a threat to the free market.

Stuever does not, for some reason, name any proponent of reform who has actually asserted either of the propositions. Do you think that might be because he’s trafficking in absurd caricatures? (earlier on “Hot Coffee” here, here, here, etc.)

P.S. More: Cory Andrews, WLF. And if lawyers are really eager to have the facts of the Liebeck v. McDonald’s case come out, it’s curious they don’t take steps to release the trial transcript, in the absence of which critics of the case are obliged to speculate on key points. And as I just wrote in a comment at Abnormal Use:

I believe organized tort reform groups were caught flat-footed by the McDonald’s case and didn’t get around to doing much with it until it had already become the talk of the nation through talk shows, late night TV and so forth. As often happens, plaintiff’s-side advocacy groups were more aggressive in seeking coverage for their side in the media. Thus Public Citizen and allies gave a press conference on Capitol Hill and were rewarded with a big Newsweek story summarizing their talking points (as well as, earlier, coverage in the news-side WSJ). I’m pretty sure no groups critical of the Liebeck award ever did a comparable press push; and the McDonald’s company itself, so far as I know, never chose to cooperate with commentators who might be sympathetic to its legal case.

Court throws out verdict because defense mentioned Liebeck case

“A defense lawyer’s fleeting reference to the ‘uniquely iconic’ McDonald’s coffee case was enough for the Utah Supreme Court to order a new trial in a pedestrian accident lawsuit and allow the plaintiff to seek a larger damages award.” [Matthew Heller/OnPoint News; Jodie Hill/Downtown Lawyer] And Abnormal Use is out with a new interview of Ted Frank, who has written frequently on the hot-coffee case for this site, and who says:

The Stella Liebeck case was exactly the sort of thing that turns into an urban legend, and there are certainly a lot of inaccuracies that crept into the story as it went viral. The Liebeck case got politicized, however: it was an outrageous result and picked up as a poster child for tort reform, and, fascinatingly, the trial lawyer lobby, instead of reasonably saying “Look: the justice system is never going to be 100 percent correct, there have been a dozen hot coffee cases before this one where the courts got it right and threw it out, and you can’t make public policy based on a single anecdote just because the judge made a mistake here” decided to engage in a misinformation campaign to argue that the Liebeck case was both correct and an aspirational result for our tort system – and a disturbing number of law professors joined that cause. If you Google for the case, the vast majority of results are trial-lawyer sites filled with misstatements of the facts and laws. It’s gotten to the point that, in the majority of tort reform debates I participate in, it’s the trial lawyer who is the first to introduce the subject. I’ve been following the case and rebutting the misinformation on both sides since it first made the news, and it just so happens that the majority of misinformation is coming from the plaintiffs’ lawyer side these days. One of these days, I’ll lock myself in a room for a couple of weeks and write a law review article on the subject so there can be a one stop place for truthful information and arguments about the case.

I, too, gave a lot of thought to writing up the long controversy over the Liebeck case in my latest book, precisely because academic sources, and not just trial-lawyer publicists, persistently spread distortions and misconceptions about the case. Eventually it seemed like too wide a digression from the book’s main themes — but someone still needs to write up that story.

Gerald Colbert v. Sonic Restaurants

As a connoisseur of hot-coffee cases, I’m always excited to see a court get one right. The Abnormal Use blog points us to Colbert v. Sonic Restaurants, No. 09-1423, 2010 WL 3769131 (W.D. La. Sept. 21, 2010). The plaintiff made the usual gamut of “design defect” and “failure to warn” claims, but the court wasn’t buying it. Note that the plaintiff claimed to be injured by the coffee at Sonic Restaurants, yet another refutation of the trial-lawyer claim that Stella Liebeck’s McDonald’s coffee was unusually hot.