Tuesday, October 29, 2013

20 Years Later: Get the Facts Straight about the McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case!
            This case may be one of the most sensational and high profile tort cases in recent memory, and the media incorrectly reported nearly all of the facts.  This case was one that proponents of tort reform used as a rallying cry to attempt to limit jury verdicts in what they thought were frivolous cases.  Tort reformers will typically attach themselves to a case that garners national attention, and spin the facts to make the jury verdicts seem ridiculous and nonsensical.  It was reported that she was awarded 2.9 million dollars, but the actual amount was reduced to a much smaller amount.
The facts of this case prove that nothing was frivolous about her claim.  Stella Liebeck, was 79-years-old when she spilled a cup of coffee in her lap while sitting in a parked car at a McDonald’s parking lot in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  The coffee that was spilled in her lap that day was served to her at a temperature of 180 to 190 degrees, which is about 30 degrees hotter than most home brewing machines.  The coffee caused her to suffer burns over 16% of her body, and 6% of those burns were third degree burns.  She was in the hospital for one week and amassed medical bills in excess of $10,000.00.  She attempted to settle with McDonald’s, but was only offered $800.00 to settle her claim. 

A seven day trial ensued, which included testimony from burn experts that liquids served at between 180 to 190 degrees could cause third degree burns within 15 seconds of contact.  To drive home the severity of the burns, the plaintiff’s attorney produced pictures of the burn area, which are quite graphic.  McDonald’s was well aware that their hot beverages were being served at dangerous temperatures.  Between 1983 and 1992 nearly 700 people had been burned by hot coffee at McDonald’s.  McDonald’s believed that because these burns occurred in only 1 out of 24 million cups sold, it was statistically insignificant.  The jurors felt differently when they awarded compensatory damages in the amount of $200,000.00.  The jury was asked whether McDonald’s should be punished: evidence showed that McDonald’s ignored hundreds of other burn claims, and chose to keep brewing the hot coffee.  Internal memos indicated that McDonald’s chose profits over safety.  Jurors awarded punitive damages against McDonald’s in the amount of 2.7 million dollars, which was based on the revenue of two days of coffee sales.  Unfortunately she was only awarded 1/6 of what the jury felt she was entitled to.  The judge in the case drastically reduced the total award from 2.9 million dollars to $650,000.00.   

McDonald’s now serves coffee at between 170 and 180 degrees, which is 10-20 degrees cooler than they previously served it.  Stella Liebeck, passed away in 2004 at the age of 91, but she is still a part of our popular culture and this case is still one of the most misunderstood cases ever reported.  To hear Stella’s story in her own words click the link below[1].  If there is one thing to take away from this case, it is that we shouldn’t be so quick to jump to the conclusion that an injury claim is frivolous.  An individual suffered very serious injuries in this case, and was made the subject of jokes and is still being ridiculed today nearly 10 years after she passed away.  She did nothing to deserve the media attention that she received as a result of this lawsuit.  She simply opened a cup of coffee that was served to her at a dangerous temperature, and she suffered damages as a result. 

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/21/booming/not-just-a-hot-cup-anymore.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

Friday, October 25, 2013


                In Cambria County last Wednesday a driver waived his preliminary hearing on charges that he was responsible for the deaths of two people.  The driver was charged with among other things, texting while driving.  While the Commonwealth has a heavy burden to carry, what is interesting is that this is the first time texting while driving charges have been filed in Cambria County since the law prohibiting texting while driving had been enacted nearly 2 years ago.   This tragedy occurred close to home in Cambria County, but may have easily occurred in Blair, Centre or Huntingdon County. 

                Cases like this have serious consequence not only criminally, but also civilly.  A Victim’s family may have a claim for serious personal injuries.  At the Law Firm of Douglas V. Stoehr we have experience in handling injury claims caused by the negligence of drivers that are texting while driving.  If you have been the victim of an auto accident related to a distracted driver please give either Attorney Doug Stoehr or Attorney Aaron Ling a call to evaluate your case today. 

                Remember that responding to that text message can wait.  No message it worth your life, or the life another individual.  

Thursday, October 24, 2013


                If you are expecting to welcome trick or treaters onto your property this Halloween there are a couple things that you should be aware of.   First, if you are a homeowner, you have a responsibility to keep your property safe for anyone entering your property.  These people are owed a duty to be protected from certain dangerous conditions that you either caused or created, know about, or should have known about.  These types of cases are known as premises liability cases, or more commonly, “slip and fall” cases.  Second, you could be responsible for injuries if it happens on your property, and you breached the duty owed to the people entering your property.  At the law firm of Douglas V. Stoehr, we have experience in handling premises liability or “slip and fall” cases, but we would prefer that no one gets injured this Halloween.  We can provide a few tips for you to keep in mind while decorating, and getting ready to hand out candy:  
·         Make sure that your walkway, sidewalk and/or steps are well-lit and visible from the street to your front door.
·         Make sure that any dangerous conditions on walkways, sidewalks and steps are repaired or marked clearly to let people know of the dangerous conditions
·         Remove anything that may cause an individual to trip or fall while on your property, i.e., decorations and extension cords. 

If you or a family member is a victim of a premises liability or “slip and fall” case, please call either Attorney Doug Stoehr or Attorney Aaron Ling to discuss your potential claim.   As always, remember to have fun and be safe out there this Halloween.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Halloween Danger

Safety experts have long warned that Halloween is the most dangerous night of the year for child pedestrians.  Excited trick or treaters can easily be struck by a vehicle.  At the law office of Attorney Douglas V. Stoehr, we have experience handling cases in which pedestrians are struck by vehicles. 

Attorney Douglas V. Stoehr, would recommend that parents talk to their children about safety no matter how old they are before going out on Halloween night.  Some safety tips to help prevent injuries include, always cross at crosswalks, carry flashlights, wear reflective clothing and avoid masks that limit vision.  So be safe out there, and have a good time, but if the unfortunate does happen, Attorney Douglas Stoehr and Attorney Aaron Ling are here to discuss your potential claim. 
For those trick or treaters taking to the streets in Altoona, remember that “Trick or Treat Night,” is scheduled for Thursday, October 31st, from 6 to 8 p.m.  However, dates and times may be different for outlying communities.  For dates and times in Hollidaysburg, Bellwood, Tyrone, and Roaring Spring check with your local municipality.  Again, please be safe and have fun. 

Halloween trick or treaters

(Photo from) Bucks County’s Halloween Trick or Treat Guide 2011, photograph, accessed on 11 Oct. 2013.  <http://bucks.happeningmag.com/bucks-county-trick-treat-guide-2011/trickor/>




Thursday, October 10, 2013

Winter Sports Injuries

Being from Western Pennsylvania it’s hard not to enjoy the fall, but with the changing of the seasons we know that winter is right around the corner.  For many of us this winter will include a trip to one of the three ski resorts that serve our area.  Ski resorts can be a great place to cut loose with family and friends, but unfortunately sometimes those fun times end prematurely when you or a family member is injured.  At the law firm of Attorney Douglas V.Stoehr, we have experience in handling injuries related to skiing, snowboarding and snow tubing accidents.  Sometimes these injuries can be very serious and life altering.  If you have been injured in a winter sport activity please contact us to discuss the possibility of a personal injury claim. 

The most common causes of skiing and snowboarding injuries include:
·         Collisions with other skiers or snowboarders
·         Falls or collision with objects such as trees, fences, barriers or signs
·         Chair lift or tow line accidents
·         Accidents due to inadequate instruction from a skiing or snowboarding instructor, and
·         Accidents due to skiing or snowboarding equipment failure. 

Your personal injury lawsuit will be based on the legal theory of negligence, and can be quite complex.  Furthermore, there is a Pennsylvania Statute that generally affords a defense to these types of claims.  Therefore, if you get hurt a ski resort, contact us.  We will investigate the facts and analyze the law, and will give you an opinion as to whether you have a claim.

See our website, or contact Attorney Stoehr or Attorney Ling at (814) 946-4100.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Distracted Driving

As we pointed out in our post on Tuesday, Fall begins the season where we need to be more cautious while driving due to dangerous road conditions.  Did you know distracted driving is not just limited to cell phone use? Eating or drinking, searching for or moving an item in the car, having a very involved conversation with another passenger and even looking at a map or GPS are all factors that can take away your focus and stop you from giving your full attention to the road. 
If you are involved in a car accident, most states, including Pennsylvania, have at least one section on the incident report dedicated to distracted driving violations.  Fines and charges may increase if you are cited with one of these violations. 
In addition to fines and charges for distracted driving, you also are putting yourself and others in danger.  Please watch this video on a young Pennsylvania girl named Casey Feldman who fell victim  to a distracted driver while crossing the street. http://www.distraction.gov/content/faces/index.html#/faces/casey-feldman/ We encourage all of our readers to remember to stay focused while driving, especially as dangerous weather approaches us. 
Attorney Stoehr represents those injured through no fault of their own, including automobile and pedestrian accidents. Call today for your free case evaluation 814-946-4100.