Many people remember the infamous 1992 McDonald’s “hot coffee” case that was made into a 2011 HBO documentary. Even though the case is more than 20 years old, the legal issues presented in that case are seeing renewed media attention due to an $800,000 lawsuit that has been filed by Angelica Keller against Southwest Airlines for injuries suffered when she spilled hot water in her lap.
According to the Detroit Free Press, Ms. Keller was flying on Southwest Airlines at the end of December 2011, when she ordered a cup of tea. Before she placed the tea bag into the lidless paper cup, she spilled the hot water onto her lap and suffered skin blisters and second-degree burns as a result. The lawsuit does not specify the exact temperature of the water used for making tea, but states that it was “extremely hot” and “too hot for use in an aircraft.”
Since the 1992 McDonald’s “hot coffee” case, several states have passed tort reform laws that are intended to prevent trivial lawsuits from reaching the court system and thwarting unreasonable jury awards.
Approximately $300,000 of the $800,000 in damages that the plaintiff is seeking is attributed to pain and suffering, which can be difficult to prove. Tort reform advocates are using the case as ammunition in their efforts to promote the need for legislation designed to curb frivolous lawsuits, arguing that frivolous lawsuits and excessive damage awards drive up medical costs, increase liability insurance premiums, and deter business in certain jurisdictions.
As we recently reported, however, a new study conducted by a group of professors at prestigious law schools reveals that tort reform is ineffective at reducing health care spending. Specifically, the study found that there is no evidence of reductions in health care spending following the enactment of various tort reform measures in Texas. The study examined the ways that Medicare spending changed after Texas adopted comprehensive tort reform in 2003 that included a strict damages cap. The study also compared Medicare spending in Texas counties with high Medicare claim rates with counties with low Medicare claim rates and found little difference between the two. When compared to national trends, the study found no evidence of reduced health care spending in Texas following the tort reform damage caps. In fact, the study revealed some evidence that physical spending actually increased in Texas relative to various control states.
At Ankin Law Offices, LLC, our Chicago personal injury attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of victims of personal injury accidents and medical malpractice. Tort reform and damage caps hurt patients and the general public by failing to hold doctors, hospitals, and other negligent individuals financially responsible for the injuries or deaths that they have caused. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a personal injury accident, do not hesitate to contact our office at (312) 600-0000 to schedule a free consultation.