The Electric Commentary

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Man sues White Castle for selling him an "unreasonably dangerous" onion ring.

Seriously. Apparently he bit into the unreasonably dangerous onion ring and was splattered with hot grease that burned him. I'm amazed too. I was under the impression that when you got food at White Castle it was always cold.

He is claiming more than $50,000 in damages based on White Castle's breach of "duty . . . not to sell food to the general public which is too hot for consumption." This is clearly reminiscent of the case ten years ago in which a woman who was brilliant enough to put a styrofoam cup of hot coffee between her legs won a $2 million jury verdict from Mickey-D's.

We sure do love shrugging off personal accountability in America. This guy almost certainly touching the onion ring when he bit into it. Couldn't he tell that it was hot? Couldn't he have waited a few minutes? I hope this case doesn't go anywhere and White Castle can go back to selling food that is unfit for consumption in peace.


  • Public knowledge of daily events often end up skewed in favor of corporate viewpoints... Take for example the case of the woman who was burned by hot Mcdonalds' coffee, and subsequently sued them for millions of dollars. Public sentiment towards this woman is often of a pitiless nature e.g. "she was obviously trying to win a lot of money by playing the role of the victim".
    However, public sentiment often overlooks the real story, accepting the urban legend as fact.
    Parasite or victim, you be the judge.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:56 PM  

  • Yeah, I've read all of that before. I've read the case and I realize that this was not the first incident. But that article overlooks three other very important facts.
    Fact: I like my coffee hot.
    Fact: Once the coffee leave the coffee pot it will get cooler and it cannot get warmer. (unless microwaved or something like that which would ruin it) Since different people like their coffee at different temperatures the best way to please everyone is to make the coffee very hot and people can begin to drink it when it cools to the desired temperature.
    Fact: It is dangerous to have a hot beverage in a car that is moving. Or even a car that isn't moving if you're an old lady. There's no table to set the cup on. This is common knowledge.

    So now, because these three facts took the back seat to the people who were irresponsible and drank coffee in a moving car, McDonalds coffee sucks. It's too cold. I hope that now, because some idiot was in such a hurry to eat a shitty onion ring that they couldn't wait for it to cool, White Castle won't have to switch their microwaves to medium heat.

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 6:37 PM  

  • So, McDonald's coffee "sucks" for you, but is drinkable to others. If you had the coffee the way you wanted it--piping hot, it would "suck" for others and be drinkable for you and others who like their coffee very hot. Fair enough. However this coffee would also be dangerous to people inexperienced with drinking hot coffee in a moving vehicle, or those not bright enough to use of a cup holder. So, even though McDonald's might make more money off of serving their coffee hot, it would go against the public good since that beverage presents dangers to those who may not be able to cope with it's presentation. Whether corporations should be held accountable to the public good is another matter entirely. I'd imagine that you, being a libertarian, would say "no", the free market shall reign freely.

    I would agree that the McDonald's case did open the door to all sorts of people (like the guy in the above article) to abuse the legal system by suing corporations frivolously. However, it seems to me that had McDonald's agreed to pay for the woman's medical bills initially (out of good faith, since she did suffer remarkble burns, and clearly was not trying to profit from her accident) both the corporation and the consumer would have benefited. Firstly, McDonald's would have come across more as people-friendly enterprise, a rare image these days, and the woman would have be remunerated for an accident that was partially her fault, without having to go through a lengthy trial trying to get her $20,000 medical bills paid for.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:34 PM  

  • "However this coffee would also be dangerous to people inexperienced with drinking hot coffee in a moving vehicle, or those not bright enough to use of a cup holder. So, even though McDonald's might make more money off of serving their coffee hot, it would go against the public good since that beverage presents dangers to those who may not be able to cope with it's presentation."

    Apparently the "Public" consists of those "inexperienced at drinking coffee ina moving vehicle"(?) and those "not bright enough." My "public" includes more people (everyone in fact) including those who like their coffee to be hot, because, y'know, IT'S COFFEE!

    "However, it seems to me that had McDonald's agreed to pay for the woman's medical bills initially (out of good faith, since she did suffer remarkble burns, and clearly was not trying to profit from her accident) both the corporation and the consumer would have benefited."

    Or, alternatively, it would have set a precedent inviting others to sue McDonald's for causes rising out of their own stupidity. McDonald's policy is, I'm quite sure, to fight all frivolous litigation to the fullest extent possible because otherwise they are swamped with ridiculous cases like this (See the recent "Obesity Crisis").

    It is consumer firendly to fight lawsuits like this, because fighting and winning them keeps prices down. Giving in to every huckster increases costs and invites more "victims."

    The only difference between Stella Liebeck and some opportunistic gold-digger is that she is old and sympathetic. You can read all about this at, a terribly useful site for all things litigious. Use there search engine. Here's a bit to get you started:

    "To say that there were 700 previous complaints of burns (ranging from scalds to real injuries) from McDonald's coffee begs the question. After all, 700 is just the numerator. What's the denominator? The answer is in the tens of billions. A product that hurts one in twenty-four million people is not "unreasonably dangerous", especially when the vast majority of the 700 incidents were not the sort of grievous injuries Ms. Liebeck had. (McDonald's had settled previous cases, but the cases were incidents where the McDonald's employees had spilled the coffee.) However, the jury took the 1-in-24 million statistic not as evidence that McDonald's coffee was not dangerous, but as evidence that McDonald's cared more about statistics than people -- when in fact the statistic should have been used to throw the case out."

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 9:37 AM  

  • I got a cup of coffee at Mickey-D's this morning. It was luke-warm by the time I got to class.

    You say that if it was hot, like I like it, it would suck to those that like there coffee cooler. I thought I explained this in my above comment but I'll try again. After you buy a hot cup of coffee it gets cooler over time until it reaches the temperature you like it. If it is served cooler than you like it it will not ever reach the temperature that you like it. But if you serve it hotter than everyone likes, it will eventually reach the appropriate temperature for everyone. At which point you can safely poor it into your lap.

    Coffee IS supposed ot be hot. Say I go to my frindly neighborhood Appleby's and order a "Skillet Sensation." Say it comes out sizzling hot as "Skillet Sensations" tend to be and I don't quite like the spot the waitress sets it down and I move it burning my hand. Who's fault is that? Now, should every person who enjoy's the "Skillet Sensation" have to suffer because I'm careless or stupid? Of course not. That particular entre is supposed to be hot. Everybody knows it is hot when it comes out just as everybody knows that coffee is a hot drink. To serve it otherwise would be stupid.

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 10:06 AM  

  • Now that I've had my morning coffee, I feel much more serene.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 10:09 AM  

  • I would also like to point out that those who prevent the consumption of white castle food, be it by pointing out that it tastes like shoe leather and cigarette butts, or by spraying someone with grease, deserve a medal, not a lawsuit.

    But that's just my opinion, if sliders are your thing, more power to you.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 10:12 AM  

  • I have dealt with dangerous drug rings many times. I did not know that onion rings were a similar problem. We must put a stop to this. For the children.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:16 AM  

  • I'm having trouble following the continuity of the argument whilst being double-teamed by the Noonan blog commando. At any rate, while I'll concede that yes, coffee is supposed to be hot, and to serve it otherwise would be "stupid", I won't back down on the point that McDonald's should have settled and paid the woman's medical bills outright. In doing so, their product would have maintained it's integrity, and you two, as well as those who like their coffee hot, would be happy after buying their coffee. Maybe it would have opened the door to even more frivolous litigation--but look where the precedent ended up after being sued for half a million dollars! After the poor, old grandman took on McDonald's, the flood gates opened for any huckster to have their hand at the game. Settling out of court would have kept the case at a much lower profile, I'm sure of that.

    In conclusion, enjoy your coffee today gentlemen.

    Russ Smarjesse, MPLS, MN

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:16 AM  

  • Enjoy yours as well.

    I can respect te opinion that it would have been good PR to settle this, but I know that McDoanld's in the last five/ten years has seen their personal caseload increase a great deal. And I also know that other "suspect" companies (Alcohol/Tobacco/Firearms) typically have a policy of "fight if at all possible"). And while she is clearly a sympathetic figure, I'm not sure that the PR battle is so clear. Many people feel the same way that my brother and I do, that McDonald's was correct. In that sense, they scored a PR victory. Some probably felt as you did. Perhaps, if they had settled, no one would have noticed, but if I'm not mistaken (and I may be, because this is off the top of my head) the PR battle started on this before their was even a case. I'm fairly certain that her lawyers took this to the press early on. At that pont I think McDonald's was trapped, and fighting it became a more viable option than it was before.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 11:31 AM  

  • Sorry about the double team, but this is coffee we're talking about. Where's Ryan when you need him?

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 11:33 AM  

  • I'm drinking a coffee and not talking about it. Anyone who orders coffee from McD's doesn't know their taste buds from their colon anyway.

    By Blogger RyanSimatic, at 11:46 PM  

  • I like McDonalds coffee as long as it's hot. Plus, when you order a "large coffee" at McDonalds they can figure out what you want. Unlike most "coffee shops." Nothing's more annoying than ordering a "large coffee" and getting a barage of questions like "we have three sizes, tall, grande' and frickenenormous-o, which would you like?" Can this hippie not figure out that I want the biggest one? Why have three sizes and call them anything but small, medium and large? But the worst question is "what flavor?" COFFEE FLAVOR! I don't want some double carmel grande mocha with a twist of lime. I want a cup of coffee. So I like McDonalds in that respect. But maybe I'm just uncultured.

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 11:09 AM  

  • Dennis Leary called; he wants his rant from 1994 back. But seriously, McDonalds coffee is bad because of two obvious things: It sits directly on a heating element (that nasty "burned" taste); and is directly exposed to air (that excessively bitter taste). As far as: appropiate grind, water temp., water filtration, coffee proportion, aribica beans, I won't speculate because I don't know their system.

    I myself have never had a hard time going into a "coffee shop," and ordering a large coffee.

    By Blogger RyanSimatic, at 1:34 PM  

  • Leary was complaining about this in 94? And the coffee shops didn't listen? It's worse than I thought. I for one wasn't drinking much coffee in 94 so I wouldn't have paid much attention if I had heard it.

    It's not so much hard to order a large coffee as it is annoying. For example, I'll order, say, a "small coffee" and they "correct me" and say "tall house blend" or something to that effect. I don't like being corrected when I'm right. I don't want anything tall or blended. If that's what they call a small coffee that's fine but don't say it like I'm an idiot for calling to what it really is. McDonalds doesn't pull that crap.

    And I think their coffee tastes fine. I wish there was a Duncan Donuts around here. Their coffee is awesome. I don't know about your direct heating surface or exposure to air remarks but the coffee I make at home has all of those things too and it tastes fine too. I think that there are more obvious ways to screw up a cup of coffee. Cream or sugar or foamy milk or caramel come to mind. I'll take my coffee black with exposure to air any day.

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 1:55 PM  

  • The woman who spilt coffee actualy only got $160,000 so..... isnt realy "millions"

    By Anonymous frank, at 9:23 AM  

  • I actually love, yes love, room temperature coffee. Nothing launches my day from static to ecstatic better than a luke warm cup of joe. Once, I asked my local Big Mac assembly line to accommodate my knowingly absurd, yet sincere fancy. Much to my dismay, this reasonable request was denied. It was too much to ask from such a standardized franchise, and they were unable to process my request. Although I was not in the realm of "having it my way," I was intent upon not burning the shit out of my mouth after one small sip of what some Americans literally can't start their morning without, according to the, "not till I've had my coffee," commercial. How the hell am I supposed to start my mother fuckin morning without my scalding hot McDonalds coffee? Eat a big dick all you Mcdonalds supporters out there, and cool down the coffee enough to allow human, genetically engineered, mouths to ingest your prescribed start to the day.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:44 AM  

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