When a Not So Frivolous Lawsuit Results in Jackpot Justice

Posted on July 21, 2021

Most injury lawsuits are brought against negligent parties in civil court to hold wrongdoers accountable and to protect others. Unfortunately, many people have stigmatized injury lawsuits, calling them frivolous to dissuade people from pursuing injury claims and receiving jackpot justice. Jackpot justice refers to the problem with courts that reward over-sized judgments for frivolous lawsuits that are unrelated to any actual damages.

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Frivolous Lawsuits with High Payouts

“Jackpot justice,” is a well-known term within the legal system. The term jackpot justice is often linked to tort law when wrongful conduct by one person results in injury to another person.

A tort is committed when a person suffers injuries caused by the failure of another person to exercise a required duty of care. Tort law is enforced through civil litigation with injury lawyers who handle personal injury lawsuits for medical malpractice, products liability, and class actions. Although frivolous lawsuits do sometimes occur, most tort cases end in justified compensation for injury victims.

One case that instigated attacks on frivolous lawsuits is the well-known McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case in 1992. Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman, bought a cup of coffee at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Albuquerque, then spilled it on her lap. Ms. Liebeck’s injuries were anything but frivolous because she suffered third-degree burns and required skin grafts on her inner thighs and legs. During the trial, it was noted that McDonald’s had received over 700 previous injury reports caused by their hot coffee, including reports of third-degree burns.

In the Liebeck case, Ms. Liebeck attempted to settle the case with injury lawyers for $20,000 to cover her medical bills and lost wages, but McDonald’s never offered her more than $800, so the case went to trial. She sued McDonald’s for her injuries and a jury awarded her nearly $3 million in punitive damages for severe burn injuries. The judge reduced the award by 80% and Ms. Liebeck later accepted a $600,000 settlement from McDonald’s.

The goal of tort law is to deter wrongdoers and compensate unjustly injured victims. Losses are calculated by the court, and compensation is awarded through economic and non-economic damages.

The majority of tort cases and personal injury lawsuits are settled out of court to avoid lengthy court trials and expensive litigation costs. Many injury victims opt for settlements that cover their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.