George Brown Week 13 Hot Coffee Tort Negligence Group Case Analysis

Question Description

YOU MUST DO BOTH PARTS (A & B) OF THE ASSIGNMENT!!!

(HOT COFFE AND STEWART V. PETTIE)

READ EACH CASE AND COMPLETE THE TASKS AS INSTRUCTED.

Unformatted Attachment Preview

LAW2014 – TORT-NEGLIGENCE GROUP ASSIGNMENT, WORTH 20% GIVEN WEEK 12, DUE IN CLASS WEEK 13. GROUPS OF ~3-5. YOU MUST DO BOTH PARTS (A & B) OF THE ASSIGNMENT!!! (HOT COFFE AND STEWART V. PETTIE) READ EACH CASE AND COMPLETE THE TASKS AS INSTRUCTED. PART A: HOT COFFEE!!! 10 marks. Stella Liebeck (79 yrs old) was in the passenger seat of her grandson’s car when she was severely burned by McDonalds’ coffee in February 1992. Liebeck ordered coffee that was served in a Styrofoam cup at the drive-through window of a local McDonalds. After receiving the order, the grandson pulled his car forward and stopped momentarily so that Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her coffee. Liebeck placed the cup between her knees and attempted to remove the plastic lid from the cup. As she removed the lid, the entire contents of the cup spilled into her lap. (Two things to note: In 1992 most cars did not have cupholders, and in 1992 it was uncommon for restaurants to add the cream/sugar to coffee for you.) A surgeon determined that Liebeck suffered third-degree burns to over 6% of her body, including her inner thighs, buttocks, and genital areas. She was hospitalized for 8 days, during which time she underwent skin grafting, and other medical treatments. Liebeck initially offered to settle her claim for $20,000 (based only on the medical costs from the accident), but McDonalds refused. During pre-trial discoveries, McDonalds produced documents showing that more than 700 people claimed they had been burned by McDonalds coffee. Some claims involved third-degree burns similar to Liebeck’s. These documents indicated McDonalds’ knowledge about the dangers of hot coffee. McDonalds also said that, based on a consultant’s advice, McDonalds kept its coffee temperature between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit (82-88 degrees Celsius). McDonalds says this temperature gives their coffee “optimum taste”. McDonalds admitted that they had not evaluated the danger of coffee at this temperature. Other restaurants sell coffee at substantially lower temperatures, and coffee served at home is generally 135 to 140 °F (57-60 °C). 1 Furthermore, McDonalds’ quality assurance manager testified that the company actively enforces a requirement that coffee be kept at 180 to 190 °F. He also testified that a burn hazard exists with any food substance served at 140 °F or above, and that McDonalds coffee is dangerous to drink because it would burn the mouth and throat. The quality assurance manager admitted that burns would occur, but testified that McDonalds had no intention of reducing the temperature of its coffee. An expert in thermodynamics applied to human skin burns testified that liquids at 180°F will cause 3rd degree burns within 7 seconds. Other testimony showed that with a temperature around 155°F, the extent of the burn significantly decreases. Thus, if Liebeck’s spill had involved coffee at 155°F, the liquid would have cooled quicker, and given her time to avoid a serious burn. McDonalds argued that consumers know coffee is hot and that customers want it that way. But, the company admitted that customers were unaware they could suffer 3 rd degree burns from the coffee. They also said that a statement on the side of the cup was not a “warning” but a “reminder” (since the location of the writing would not warn customers of the hazard). The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages. This amount was reduced to $160,000 because the jury found Liebeck 20% at fault in the spill. The jury also awarded Liebeck $2.7 million in punitive damages. McDonalds appealed (of course). They won the appeal and the punitive damages were reduced to $480,000 even though the judge called McDonalds’ conduct “reckless, callous and willful”. (By the way: An investigation done after the trial found that the temperature of coffee at the McDonalds where Stella spilled her drink had dropped to 158 °F.) The parties eventually agreed to an out of court settlement which has never been revealed to the public, despite the fact that this was a public case, litigated in public and subjected to extensive media reporting. Task: Your group – as a whole – must answer the following questions. Please be sure to put the FULL name (as it appears on registration) of all group members on your assignment. 1. Do you agree that Stella Lieback was 20% responsible for her injury? Should she be held more/less responsible? Why or why not? 3 marks. 2. The judge called McDonalds conduct “reckless, callous and willful.” Do you agree with this criticism? Why or why not? 2 marks. 3. How much money do you think Stella Lieback should have been awarded? Consider compensatory and punitive damages. Tell me why. 3 marks. 4. In your opinion, what is the significance (if any) of the fact that after the trial the temperature of the coffee was lowered to 158°F? 2 marks. 2 PART B: STEWART V. PETTIE 10 marks. On December 8, 1985, Gillian Stewart, her husband Keith Stewart, her brother Stuart Pettie, and his wife Shelley Pettie went to the Stage West, a dinner theatre in Edmonton for an evening of dinner and live theatre. Before the evening was finished tragedy had struck. After leaving Stage West at the conclusion of the evening a minor single vehicle accident left Gillian Stewart a quadriplegic. Gillian Stewart and her sister-in-law, Shelley Pettie, were both employed by Dispensaries Limited. For its 1985 Christmas party, Dispensaries Limited paid the price of admission for its employees and their spouses and friends to attend a performance at Stage West, a dinner theatre operated in Edmonton. The admission price included the dinner and performance (play), but did not include the cost of alcohol consumed. The two sisters-in-law, with their husbands, went to the dinner theatre together in Stuart Pettie’s car, with Stuart Pettie driving. They arrived at the dinner theatre around 6:00 p.m., and were seated by a hostess at a table which they selected from a group of tables which had been set aside for the approximately 60 people in the Dispensaries Limited group. The dinner theatre was organized with a full buffet dinner to be followed at 7:45 p.m. by a three-act play. In addition, cocktail waitresses provided table service of alcohol. The Stewart and Pettie table was served by the same waitress all evening, and she kept a running total of all alcohol ordered, which she then presented at the end of the evening for payment. Waitresses would take drink orders during dinner and before the play started, and would also take drink orders during the two intermissions. No orders were taken while the play was in progress. Stuart Pettie and Keith Stewart each ordered several drinks over the course of the evening, ordering the first drinks before dinner, and, in addition, ordering drinks after dinner but before Act I, and then during each of the two intermissions. Their wives, on the other hand, had no alcohol during the entire evening. They were present at the table during the entire course of the evening, while the drinks were ordered, served, and consumed. Gillian Stewart’s testimony was clear that she knew, at least in general terms, the amount that Stuart Pettie had to drink during the evening. Stuart Pettie was drinking “double” rum and cokes throughout the evening. The trial judge found that he drank five to seven of these drinks, or 10 to 14 ounces of liquor. The trial judge also found that despite the amount that he had to drink, Stuart Pettie exhibited no signs of intoxication. This appearance was deceiving, however, as he was intoxicated by the end of the evening. 3 The group left the dinner theatre around 11:00 p.m. Once out in the parking lot, they had a discussion amongst themselves about whether or not Stuart Pettie was fit to drive, given the fact that he had been drinking. Neither his wife, nor his sister (who acknowledged that she knew what her brother was like when he was drunk), had any concerns about letting Stuart Pettie drive. All four therefore got into the car and started home, with Stuart Pettie driving, Keith Stewart in the front passenger seat, and their spouses in the back seat. That particular December night in Edmonton there was a frost which made the roads unusually slippery. The trial judge found that Pettie was driving slower than the speed limit (50 km/h in a 60 km/h zone), and also accepted the evidence of Gillian Stewart that he was driving properly, safely and cautiously in the circumstances. Despite his caution, Stuart Pettie suddenly lost momentary control of the vehicle. The car swerved to the right, hopped the curb, and struck a light pole and noise abatement wall which ran alongside the road. Three of the four persons in the vehicle suffered no serious injuries. Gillian Stewart, however, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown across the car, struck her head, and was rendered a quadriplegic. The expert testimony at trial was that IF she had been wearing her seat belt (which was not required by law in Alberta in 1985) her injuries would have been prevented. About an hour after the accident, Stuart Pettie registered blood alcohol readings of .190 and .200. The trial judge found that, while it is not clear what his blood alcohol reading would have been at the time of the accident, he was, without a doubt, intoxicated, and that his blood alcohol content would have been certainly over .1. Task: Your group – as a whole – must answer the following questions. Please be sure to put the FULL name of all group members on your assignment, and attach this part of the assignment to Part A (Hot Coffee). You will be assessing LIABILITY for the Stewart v. Pettie case. The names get confusing! Gillian (Pettie) Stewart and Stuart Pettie are brother and sister. Gillian is married to Keith Stewart, and Stuart’s wife is Shelley (and she worked with Gillian). Only one person got injured: Gillian. Her brother Stuart was driving, and her husband Keith was in the front seat beside him. The two women were in the back seat. They were at the Christmas party for the company where the two women worked (Dispensaries Ltd.) The place where the dinner-party-theatre was held was at Stage West. 1. Do you think Dispensaries Ltd. Is liable at all? Why or why not? 2 marks 2. How much responsibility for the tragedy should go to Stage West? Why? 3 marks 3. How much responsibility for the tragedy should go to the driver, Stuart Pettie? Why? 3 marks 4. What about Gillian? Is she contributorily liable? Why or why not? 2 marks 4 HOT COFFEE!!! For Class Discussion Stella Liebeck (79 yrs old) was in the passenger seat of her grandson’s car when she was severely burned by McDonalds’ coffee in February 1992. Liebeck ordered coffee that was served in a Styrofoam cup at the drive-through window of a local McDonalds. After receiving the order, the grandson pulled his car forward and stopped momentarily so that Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her coffee. Liebeck placed the cup between her knees and attempted to remove the plastic lid from the cup. As she removed the lid, the entire contents of the cup spilled into her lap. (Two things to note: In 1992 most cars did not have cupholders, and in 1992 it was uncommon for restaurants to add the cream/sugar to coffee for you.) A surgeon determined that Liebeck suffered third-degree burns to over 6% of her body, including her inner thighs, buttocks, and genital areas. She was hospitalized for 8 days, during which time she underwent skin grafting, and other medical treatments. Liebeck offered to settle her claim for $20,000 (her medical costs from the accident), but McDonalds refused. During pre-trial discoveries, McDonalds produced documents showing that more than 700 people claimed they were burned by McDonalds coffee. Some claims involved third-degree burns similar to Liebeck’s. These documents indicated McDonalds’ knowledge about the dangers of hot coffee. McDonalds also said that, based on a consultant’s advice, McDonalds kept its coffee temperature between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit (82-88 degrees Celsius). McDonalds says this temperature gives their coffee optimum taste. McDonalds admitted that they had not evaluated the danger of coffee at this temperature. Other restaurants sell coffee at substantially lower temperatures, and coffee served at home is generally 135 to 140 °F (57-60 °C). 1 Further, McDonalds’ quality assurance manager testified that the company actively enforces a requirement that coffee be kept at 180 to 190 °F. He also testified that a burn hazard exists with any food substance served at 140 °F or above, and that McDonalds coffee is dangerous to drink because it would burn the mouth and throat. The quality assurance manager admitted that burns would occur, but testified that McDonalds had no intention of reducing the temperature of its coffee. An expert in thermodynamics applied to human skin burns, testified that liquids at 180°F will cause 3rd degree burns within 7 seconds. Other testimony showed that with a temperature around 155°F, the extent of the burn significantly decreases. Thus, if Liebeck’s spill had involved coffee at 155°F, the liquid would have cooled quicker, and given her time to avoid a serious burn. McDonalds argued that consumers know coffee is hot and that customers want it that way. But, the company admitted that customers were unaware they could suffer 3rd degree burns from the coffee. They also said that a statement on the side of the cup was not a “warning” but a “reminder” (since the location of the writing would not warn customers of the hazard). The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages. This amount was reduced to $160,000 because the jury found Liebeck 20% at fault in the spill. The jury also awarded Liebeck $2.7 million in punitive damages. McDonalds appealed (of course). They won the appeal and the punitive damages were reduced to $480,000 even though the judge called McDonalds’ conduct “reckless, callous and willful”. (By the way: An investigation done after the trial found that the temperature of coffee at the McDonalds where Stella spilled her drink had dropped to 158 °F.) The parties eventually agreed to an out of court settlement which has never been revealed to the public. 2 1. Do you agree that Stella Lieback was 20% responsible for her injury? Should she be held more/less responsible? Why or why not? This is all about EXPECTATIONS and DUTY OF CARE. But before I get to that… It’s also about the facts of WHAT HAPPENED not what you wish had happened or what someone COULD HAVE DONE. Many students say: • • • • Stella could have asked her son to put the cream/sugar in for her She could have asked McD to put cream/sugar in for her She could have waited for a more secure/safe place to add the cream/sugar Etc. Yes, well, should also could have ordered an orange juice instead of a coffee… she also could have stayed in bed all day and ordered a pizza! But the FACTS of whatwhere-when-how, etc. are what’s outlined in the reading. You must deal with the facts! STELLA MCDONALDS Expectation: she knew coffee was a hot Duty of care: McD KNOWS people at beverage, but did she know HOW HOT? drive thru are in their cars and either The answer is NO are moving or will be moving. With that in mind: Duty of care to ensure safety of their products in a moving vehicle. Did she expect that a coffee might lead McD knows what their coffee temp is. to 3rd degree burns? NO! They KNOW the risk (see 700 complaints) Is there any reason for her to think that The coffee temp is in THEIR control the McD coffee would be about 40 degrees hotter that elsewhere. Reasonable person: Would a Foreseeable: Given the 700 complaints, reasonable person have expected the yes – this was foreseeable coffee could 3 2. The judge called McDonalds conduct “reckless, callous and willful.” Do you agree with this criticism? Why or why not? Reckless: Their coffee is about 40 degrees hotter than elsewhere. Callous: They showed total disregard to potential harms Willful: They COULD HAVE lowered the temperature of their coffee, but they chose not to. 3. How much money do you think Stella Lieback should have been awarded? Consider compensatory and punitive damages. Tell me why. Consider: • Ongoing medical costs • Reduced quality of life: pain to her body • Think about daily actions and where she was burned: Imagine going to the bathroom! Or, what about her sex life? • For damages in this case, consider both compensatory and punitive. 4 The Law of Negligence 2 Summary of Objectives  To define tort law  To identify elements of negligence  To assess duty of care in the hospitality industry  To isolate factors that may reduce liability for breach of duty of care Copyright © 2007 by Nelson, a division of Thomson Canada Limited 3 Ooops! In the Hospitality Sector – unfortunately – you’re probably more likely to deal with unintentional torts – accidents… oops!!! – than with intentional torts. Additional examples include a guest slipping on the wet floor of your hotel lobby, a customer driving drunk after leaving your bar, a chef in your banquet hall burning herself, a wedding guest getting food poisoning… and so on. Copyright © 2007 by Nelson, a division of Thomson Canada Limited 4 Elements of Negligence  The elements of negligence are  a duty of care owed by the defendant  a breach of the duty of care  an injury to the plaintiff  proximate cause between the breach and the plaintiff’s injury Copyright © 2007 by Nelson, a division of Thomson Canada Limited 5 Definition of Tort  An intentional or unintentional injury (other than a breach of contract) to the victim’s  Body – eg: broken leg, burn marks  Mind – eg: mental stress, nightmares  Property – eg: your car, your house  Pocketbook – eg: your business, your reputation Copyright © 2007 by Nelson, a division of Thomson Canada Limited 6 Duty of Care  Everyone has a duty to take reasonable care to avoid causing injury to anyone to whom a duty is owed.  The Reasonable Person Test – what would a careful, thoughtful person in the same circumstances have done? Copyright © 2007 by Nelson, a division of Thomson Canada Limited 7 Duty of Care continued  Think for a minute about duty of care here in the classroom right now…  Who owes what kind of duty of care to whom?  Imagine if the fire alarm went off right now & the teacher WOULD NOT LET YOU LEAVE? Copyright © 2007 by Nelson, a division of Thomson Canada Limited 8 Duty of Care – case #1  Question: What do customers in a “strip joint” look at?  http://caselaw.canada.globe24h.com/0/0/al berta/court-of-queen-sbench/1984/06/07/edwards-v-tracy-starr-sshows-edmonton-ltd-1984-1189-ab-qb.shtml  Have a look at the case above: Edwards v Tracy Starr’s Shows.  Do you agree with the verdict? What are your thoughts on DUTY OF CARE in this situation? Copyright © 2007 by Nelson, a division of Thomson Canada Limited 9 Duty of Care – case #2  Now look at the case of Salm v Coyle 2004  Here’s the link: http://www.canlii.org/en/bc/bcsc/doc/2004/2004b csc112/2004bcsc112.html  What are your thoughts on DUTY OF CARE here?  How does this compare with what you have learned in SMART SERVE? Copyright © 2007 by Nelson, a division of Thomson Canada Limited 10 Purposes of Tort Law  Specifically, to restore the injured party to the position he or she was in before the injury  In general, the primary purposes of tort law are regulation, deterrence, compensation, dispute resolution, education and prevention. Copyright © 2007 by Nelson, a division of Thomson Canada Limited 11 Intentional Torts  Assault – the threat of serious unwanted touching  Battery – the act of se .

Place this order or similar order and get an amazing discount. USE Discount “GET12” for 12%