Well, I know that we have talked about this before, but legally it is just so important that I think the subject bears more discussion. Often when you see in the paper about a lawsuit being filed against some company or business, your first reaction might be, “is nothing sacred?”. After all, businesses are there to make a profit and generate earnings for the company. Right? But in terms of product liability cases, there is a bigger issue. That issue is the welfare and safety of the general public.
Probably the most effective way I know that businesses change their routine to insure the safety of consumers is by the threat of a lawsuit. Or maybe, more importantly, the actual lawsuit. Why? Because that is what hits companies in their wallets. When you have a company like McDonalds, making billions of dollars per year, they are, of course, focused on making their product as desirable to the pubic as possible. That is how they generate sales. However, what are they doing about it on the safety end? Suppose, for example, the store itself imports or uses a certain type of salad dressing that has traces of bacteria. Maybe from a business standpoint, if you are looking at millions and millions of salad being sold, one case of bacteria that is not fatal, is not going to be that big a deal. After all, maybe the person only gets sick and goes to the emergency room and then recovers. But I can tell you for the person who went through that agony, it was a big deal.
So how do we insure that the safety of the consumer is the #1 priority to a business? Again, it is by the threat or actual lawsuit.
Let’s talk about the hot item liability situation that you have undoubtedly heard of – the McDonalds coffee spill situation where a woman was burned based on hot coffee served by McDonalds. That case has generated so much negative publicity to injury victims that it is scary. Yes, there is personal responsibility that the consumer or victim must follow. However, the real reason why the verdict in that case was so high was because jurors heard that McDonalds had several hundred complaints of hot coffee being spilled on customers. What did they do about it? Absolutely nothing. Why? Because it was a business decision. They decided that the few cases of hot coffee burns could be paid out in terms of a settlement and they would not change their practice of serving hot coffee. Because that is what consumers wanted. So that was the decision they made to say basically that we are going to do this and pay out for the few small claims as they arise.
We will finish this discussion in tomorrow’s blog.
Thanks for reading.
Bernie the attorney