Hot Coffee: How Much Did the Plaintiff Get?

May 7, 2010

Above the Law recently reported on a new incarnation of the infamous McDonald’s coffee case from the mid-90s. While we could debate endlessly about the merits of the case or tort reform in general, it might be a lot more fun to figure how much people are actually winning in these sorts of cases across the country. This data can be used to fuel your debates on the issue or just serve personal curiosity.

Incidentally, the databases we’ll use to get this data are extremely useful to practicing lawyers in deciding which cases to take, how much to settle for, and for business development. We often get calls from attorneys seeking to identify lucrative areas of the law so that they can work to broaden their practice area to include those areas. Jury Verdict and Settlement Summaries databases are the best spot to identify cases and link them to a specific dollar amount.

Try a quick search in JV-ALL – our nationwide multi-base of jury verdict and settlement summaries from all providers. Once you enter the database ID and click go, you are taken to a template screen. We’ll put this terms and connectors query in the Key Terms box to identify the burn cases:

Westlaw Database: JV-ALL

Query: burn! /p hot scalding /5 coffee tea latte cappuchino

Then, since we only want cases where the plaintiff actually won some money, we’ll select a damages range of $1 or greater from the pulldown menu.

Click to Enlarge

Next, click search and enjoy reading about how much the lucky (or unlucky) plaintiffs won in these cases. If you’d rather not just read about a bunch of cases, but would like a handy chart including statistical summaries of the relevant cases, head over to Case Evaluator Reports. You’ll need to enter in first or second or third degree burns as your injury type and input this query in the key terms box: hot scalding /5 coffee tea latte cappuchino. You’ll get many of the same results, but have many more tools to help you divine trends, calculate mean and median awards, and find expert materials related to the cases.