Member Rara Avis
When I opened this thread, I had never heard of these so-called Stella Awards, but I was passingly familiar with the Stella Liebeck case.
From 1982 to 1992, more than 700 people were burned by McDonald's coffee with varying degrees of severity, and many of the incidents resulted in law suits. Why? The coffee you and I make at home typically runs from 135 to 140 degrees F. The McDonald's company actively enforced a requirement in all stores that coffee be held in the pot at 185 degrees, plus or minus five. In spite of a decade of often serious accidents, the corporation testified they had no intention of changing their policies. Yet, their own quality assurance manger testified that a burn hazard exists with any food substance served at 140 or above and McDonald's coffee "was not fit for consumption because it would burn the mouth and throat." Further testimony from experts demonstrated that liquids at 180 degrees will cause third degree burns in only two to seven seconds, and further, the burn relative to temperature decreases exponentially. In other words, if Liebeck's coffee had been only 155 degrees, still hotter than you and I drink it, the liquid would have taken over 20 seconds to produce the same burns and most likely would have cooled and given her time to avoid the serious third-degree burns she received.
And it WAS serious. The 79-year-old woman was hospitalized for eight days, during which time she underwent skin grafting and debridement treatments (surgical removal of tissue). She then faced two more years of treatment.
Of course, that's where Stella's greed kicked into high gear, right?
Wrong. She initially offered to settle the claim for $20,000, enough to cover her medical expenses. McDonald's reportedly offered her $800. The jury eventually awarded Stella $200,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $2.7 million in punitive damages. Those numbers were later reduced by the judge to $160,000 and $480,000 respectively, for a total of $640,000. We'll never know, however, what the old woman actually received because McDonald's, rather than appealing, entered into secret negotiations and came to a settlement.
Knowing that the Stella Liebeck case was NOT the frivolous thing so many would like to believe it was, I half-way expected a little research would expose these Stella Award cases to be more of the same. I figured, once again, we were only being told a small part of the real story.
I was wrong.
What I discovered, instead, is that every single one of these cases, which have apparently been floating around the Internet verbatim since 2001, are completely and wholly fictitious. It's just one more of many such Urban Legends.
Seems to me the inmates really are running the asylum. The real question is, WHO are the inmates?