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Case Studies Research

In: Business and Management

Submitted By mabernat23
Words 1840
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Week 7: Case Studies Research
Michael Abernathy
11/24/15 AMBA 610

The Facts
The circumstances in the case of Stella Lieback v McDonald’s Restaurant consist of a hot coffee burn incident. Stella Lieback a 79- year old woman from Albuquerque, New Mexico visited a drive-through McDonalds. The incident took place on February 27, 1992 as a passenger in her grandsons ’89 ford probe, a vehicle with no cup holders.
The case of Roy L. Pearson V Chung better known as the “pants lawsuit” which was a civil case filed in ‘2005. Pearson sued a D.C. dry cleaning establishment by the name of Custom Cleaners, for over $67 million for the loss of a pair of pants. The facts in the case state that the plaintiff left a pair of gray pants that probably could be extricated by a trio of belt loops on both sides of the front waist band. It appears there was a delay in providing the clothing due to plaintiff stating that the pants returned to him weren’t those submitted for service. As a result of the dispute the recourse taken by Custom Cleaners was to provide records and tags with proper documentation belonging to Pearson to resolve the issue at hand. Monetary play of $1,000.00 was the move Pearson made to Mr. Chung in order to rectify the dispute with the cleaners. This led to a refusal by the cleaner owner and Pearson filing a suit in the District of Columbia’s Superior Court.
The Issues Presented
The issues identified in case are third -degree medical burns from the coffee resulting in injury of the plaintiff. The other was a matter of inconvenience to the cleaner’s owner resulting in lawyer fees and waste of time. It had been determined that Stella Lieback suffered third-degree burns on or about six percent of her skin. The contrasting difference between the two cases is Pearson claimed false advertisement with “Same Day Service” and “Satisfaction Guaranteed”. In his eyes Pearson felt mislead by the business owner.
The Laws Applied
The applicable law that applies in the case of Stella Lie back v McDonalds can be related to an area of the law known as Product Liability is the legal liability a manufacturer or trader incurs for producing or selling a faulty product (Becoming Masters of the Universe: The How To’s of Multi- Jurisdictional Product Liability By Hughes, Annette. Defense Counsel Journal. Oct 2014, Vol.81 Issue 4, pg. 346-357.12p).This results in the law focusing on the distributor being held responsible for the “coffee” product causing and injury to the plaintiff Stella Lie back. The argument raised by Lie back’s attorney is temperature of 180-190 F (82-88 C) of McDonalds Restaurant coffee being defective. Based on established franchise policy this is the required temperature which coffee is held to. In the case of Roy L. Pearson v Custom Cleaners an argument can be made in the case of “fraud” on the part of the Chugs for projected false advertisement of “Same Day Service” and “Satisfaction Guaranteed”.
The Verdict
The decisions made by the judge and jury in the case of Lie back v McDonald’s district court Judge Robert H. Scott reduced punitive damages to $480,000. The jury originally had decided to award Stella Lie back $2.7 million in punitive damages. The arrival in compensation award amount was calculated from a penalty of McDonald’s one or two days’ worth of coffee revenues, which estimate about $1.35 million per day. This generated an appeal by both parties in which an out of court settlement was reached and undisclosed. The case involving Roy Pearson v Custom Cleaners Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff ruled on June 25, 2007 in favor of the dry cleaners. Court costs were awarded to them (Chung’s Cleaners) pursuant to the motion which was withdrawn. The judicial awareness took place and recognized Pearson’s apparent divorce proceedings which created an unnecessary litigation.
Following post-trial motions and appeal Pearson made a motion on July 11, 2007 to reconsider in the trial court accusing the judge for committing a fundamental legal error. The point of view taken by Pearson focused on the court failing to address his legal claim. A year later Pearson filed suit against Washington, D.C. on May 2, 1998, related to claims that he had wrongfully had his case dismissed for grounds of trying to expose corruption within the Office of Administration hearings. In further movement to appeal his case Pearson later tried to go through Court of Appeals on October 22, 2008 and March 2009. Both appeals were rejected as well.
What the Decision Just?
Did the judge and/or jury make appropriate decision based on the applicable law controlling the case? Why or why not. In my opinion the judge made the right decision to reduce the punitive damages in the case of Lieback v. McDonald’s. The plaintiff played a role in getting more than 20% in my opinion. She was aware that the coffee was hot and most times we as individuals generally like to sip our coffee while it’s still hot. In the event the vehicle was still moving and spilled on her, she should shoulder part of the blame. Now in the case with Pearson v Chung I fully support the judge’s ruling. My reasoning for taking this position is simply a situation where the individual tried to make a mockery of the judicial system. This was an attempt to gain compensation to offset his financial trouble of a costly divorce. Not only was this a frivolous lawsuit, but a waste of time and money. Custom Cleaners had enough support in my opinion for example most cleaners support clothing pick up with records and tax documents. Simply put we have an individual trying to obtain wealth by trying to exploit the legal system.
Ethical Issues
The ethical issues in the case of Pearson v Chung steam from a lack of moral principles and center around financial gain and wealth attainment. In Liebert v McDonald’s as a result of an elderly woman getting burned with hot coffee and suffering and injury, McDonald’s did act in fairness with covering the medical expenses and providing the plaintiff more than enough in my opinion in compensatory damages to aid in her recovery.
In comparing and contrasting the difference between ethical and legal issues the difference can be explained as legal practices refer to the processes and policies to abide by the law, such as honesty. Ethics differ from legal where there is a perception of the rightness or wrongness of an act or conduct. A descriptive example can be labeled on the posture taken by Mr. Pearson when confronted by the owner of the cleaners with tags and tickets of the pants placed in service. It was unethical for him to not take ownership of clothing and to try to use denial as a means to gain financial means. In reading both lawsuits and based on my research I personally feel sometimes people try to take advantage of the legal system in order to gain fame and or recognition through media and monetary gain. Those professionals that really benefit are the attorneys who are hired on both ends of the spectrum here. For example the “Plaintiff” who seeks compensation usually has the very aggressive attorney who wants to ensure the firm representation is compensated to the fullest for services rendered. If you’re a “Defendant” in the lawsuit a quick settlement might be something an individual may need to consider to ensure a cut-off point when it comes to legal services obtained to protect the interest of one.
Are These Cases Frivolous?
Based on my research of these cases and in my opinion I believe one of the two cases is a frivolous lawsuit. My position is Pearson v Chung was a waste of everyone time, money and energy. The legal system should be used to help and aide fellow victims of wrongful misconduct or acts against them or their business. In the case of Lieback v McDonald’s my position and stance is here we have a legit compliant and the argument can be made on the case of the plaintiff. The elderly victim did suffer injuries and did seek immediate medical attention to address her burns by the hot coffee.
Future Prevention Advice
In protection of their “Brand” and image McDonald’s did do the right thing by addressing the medical bills of the victim and also standing by making a statement on the current temperature coffee is held to and maintained. In researching similar cases I read the McMahon v. BUNN Matic Corporation. In this case Angelina the wife should have known better and tried not to pour hot coffee while her husband was driving a moving vehicle. Bunn the defendant unlike McDonald’s failed to warn consumers about the severity of burns that hot coffee can produce, when consumed and served at a temperature of 140 degrees and unfit for human consumption. In my opinion as consumers I believe we need to be aware of certain items of consumption by using common sense and understanding professional business owner’s policies.
Conclusion
In conclusion the business owners could have prevented the lawsuits by making customer aware of their current policies through advertisement displayed within restaurants and eating areas. Compliance and employee customer service training I believe is vital for in house dining and drive through servicing. Simple customer communication and ensuring awareness of products and services to clients could help mitigate certain situations. Accidents happen from time to time, but it’s important to involve management or the powers that be immediately to remedy to situation and get out in front of it.
My personal advice to business owners is to make sure your staff is completely aware of proper protocol in situations related to customer service. For example with Chung’s dry cleaners I would establish a policy of ensuring additional documentation and or tickets for customer pickups are signed off by each customer and reviewed prior to departing the store. Additional ways are to utilize the technology of the security tapes to ensure clothing disputes can be validated with business owners or managers to avoid frivolous scams of improper clothing claims.
In serving as an advisement consultant for McDonalds, I would ensure all new hires are properly trained on all products and services related to drive through training and related dining of all customers. This type of training would be met with and measured with benchmark customer satisfaction for all franchises across the region. Real time in the moment feedback with customer service reps by managers would take place to ensure proper policies and orders are followed. In the event of problem areas compliance managers would research and work with customers to resolve and handle immediately.

Resources
Becoming Masters of the Universe: The How To’s of Multi-Jurisdictional Product Liability by Hughes, Annette. Defense Counsel Journal. Oct 2014, Vol. 81 Issue 4, pg. 346-357. 12p

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