Opinions on the jury’s verdict of punitive damages in this case
In my opinion, owing to the mentioned ‘’facts’’ on the severity of the consequences that the plaintiff, Stella Liebeck underwent from the second and third burns from the MacDonald’s coffee spill, the jury was right in granting the punitive damages. One of the evidence is the accumulated seven hundred reported cases and related lawsuits within ten years lifespan involving coffee burns from MacDonald’s drive-thru that went unsolved (The New York Times, 2013). The latter indicated proof of failure on MacDonald’s side of neglect to outline the risks associated with their hot coffee prepared under 180-190 degrees. MacDonald’s further overlooked the truth that their product was unfit for anyone to consume in that preparation. Though the punitive damage was slashed, I feel that MacDonald’s deserved to meet the full amount as a real pinch to change in their continued reckless behavior. They realize substantial returns from the coffee sales approximately $1.3million on a daily basis, this is enough amount to cater for the right resources in packaging and communicating to customers on the precautions to apply before consuming their products (The New York Times, 2013).
Punitive damages are a deterrent punishment for companies that are consciously showing insidious conduct in defective products that are harmful. The verdict was a warning to other corporations in the franchise industry to advice their consumers appropriately on the potential dangers surrounding their hot-prepared products. The punitive damages assist in reforming tort law to ensure predictability in the judicial legal system. Apparently, the verdict in the Stella Liebeck’s case followed for the jurisdiction of the comparative fault in New Mexico now that the jury discovered a 20% responsibility of blame on herself attracting a 20% reduction in the total damages award. According to Sunstein, Kahneman, & Schkade, (2014), there should be a cap on punitive damages on reasonable grounds that involve a ratio to calculate the amount that a plaintiff should receive from a lawsuit. Though the limit for the punitive damages relies on some factors like the ability of the defendant to pay the actual reimbursement thrice, the range should not be more than ten times the actual amount. The cap should not limit companies from manufacturing dangerous products to the consumers; instead, it will observe fairness only to exceed the limits in extreme scenarios.
[The New York Times] (2013, Oct 21) ‘‘Woman Burned by McDonald’s Hot Coffee, Then the News Media | Retro Report | The New York Times’’. Liebeck vs. MacDonald’s case [Video file] Retrieved from:
Sunstein, C. R., Kahneman, D., & Schkade, D. (2014). Assessing Punitive Damages…
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