Serious or Frivolous?
The never-ending fabled war of wit between Canada and the US is legendary. From comical skits in the infamous South Park Movie and widely popular sitcom Seinfeld to the political arguments about healthcare, the ongoing sparring of verbal and mental attacks may never end.
How does this tie into personal injury? Well it may have come from something tragic but the debate that sparked from it is something still being discussed today.
A Case from the USA
Stella Liebeck, a seventy nine year old grandmother from Albuquerque, New Mexico in the United States had an unfortunate accident with coffee spillage. She was in the passenger seat of a stationary vehicle when she held the cup of coffee she purchased from Mc Donald's between her knees to add cream and sugar to the brewed beverage.
Mid process, the entire cup spilled into her lap, giving her third degree burns and scalding over sixteen percent of her body. She spent eight days in the hospital undergoing various procedures including skin grafting and two years on disability and recovery.
Initially Liebeck attempted to settle for what some may call a pittance and a more than reasonable sum of twenty thousand dollars with the major fast food chain who declined and decided to instead offer eight hundred dollars. She then decided to hire an attorney and successfully sued then settled for an undisclosed amount which is rumored to be more than three times the amount for which she first claimed.
A Case from Canada
Allegedly, a coffee shop in Canada poked a little sarcastic fun at the incident when they printed a particular phrase at the side of their cups explaining that although they probably shouldn't, they will point out the obvious that the coffee may be hot. The majority took it in jest, but some were highly offended.
A similar incident was reported by Lisa Marchant, a woman in Winnipeg who suffered similar intensity burns from a cup of tea from Tim Hortons. She however had the cup placed securely in a cup holder when unfortunately her vehicle collided with another at an intersection and the lid came off, spilling the contents into her lap. Marchant did not file a suit against the company, but did file an expense claim in order to get help with her medical bills since she was self employed.
Hortons did not find or assume any negligence on their part and declined the claim for compensation. Marchant has been very vocal in suggesting that the temperature of the teas should be lowered to avoid such incidents that may happen not through negligence but just everyday occurrences.
She is hoping that the government will step in to create regulations on safer temperatures for hot beverages. While some may classify both claims as frivolous and blame the poor judgement on the patrons, much can be learnt from the incidents.
While care should be taken to avoid catastrophe, it is sometime unavoidable.
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