Tort Reform & the Misunderstanding of the McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case

Tort Reform and the Misunderstanding of the McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case

Not long ago, College Humor created a comedic, but entirely accurate, video short about the infamous McDonald’s Hot Coffee lawsuit. To this day, many people’s understanding of the McDonald’s case goes something like “old lady spills coffee on herself, then she and her lawyer sue McDonald’s for millions.” This narrative was adopted and pushed by many large corporations – particularly insurance companies and tort reform advocates – and spread like wildfire propaganda. Lost in the chronicle was that the case was truly a horrific injury that exposed McDonald’s as violating serious health codes for corporate profit.

Below is a link to the video.

Unfortunately, in North Carolina, which is a contributory negligence state, the McDonald’s case likely would not have prevailed even assuming the facts. What this means is that in North Carolina, unlike almost every other state in the country, if you are 1% at fault in contributing to your own injury, you cannot recover any damages from the 99% at fault party. It’s an archaic rule that has been abandoned by every state but North Carolina and 3 others (Alabama, Maryland, and Virginia).

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