While most personal injury claims never even make the local newspaper, there are some that are so famous they become legend and are even turned into movies. These personal injury Hall of Famers become such not only because of large awards but due to their impact on society. In many cases, the outcomes led to process or product changes that resulted in better or safer lives for many far beyond the original litigants or their families.
Here are five of the most famous personal injury cases:
- Anderson v. Pacific Gas and Electric – this case gained worldwide notoriety as the basis for the movie Erin Brockovich. In this lawsuit, the residents of Hinkley, California, claimed Pacific Gas and Electric was knowingly dumping toxic wastewater near the town, thus polluting the town’s groundwater. The accumulation of toxins in the water led to clusters of cancer in both children and adults living in the town. Several died. The company settled the suit in 1996 for $333 million. The case serves as an example to large companies of what can happen if they improperly dispose of chemicals or waste and violate environmental practices.
- Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants – in 1992, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck ordered a coffee from the drive-through window of her local McDonald’s. She parked and placed the coffee between her legs so she could add cream and sugar. As she removed the lid, the scalding liquid spilled into her lap, leaving her with third-degree burns on her groin, thighs, and buttocks. The burns were so severe she was hospitalized for 8 days. At the time, McDonald’s coffee was served at between 180 degrees and 190 degrees. Liebeck’s attorney argued that temperature was far higher than that of coffee served at other restaurants and more likely to cause severe injury. The case ended up in trial and Liebeck was initially awarded $2.7 million in damages, although the award was later reduced and settled out of court. As a result of this case, McDonald’s now serves it coffee at a cooler temperature.
- Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Company – Ford introduced the Pinto as its first subcompact, hatchback car in the early 1970s. Despite the fact that crash tests revealed the gas tank almost always ruptured in rear-end collisions, Ford did nothing to fix the problem. As a result, hundreds of people burned to death in real accidents when the car was moving at relatively low speeds. That was until passenger Richard Grimshaw was severely injured, and his family filed suit against Ford, eventually winning $127.8 million in damages. The jury found that Ford knowingly endangered the lives of Pinto drivers, and the car was ultimately recalled.
- Escola v. Coca-Cola Bottling Company – in the early 1940s, waitress Gladys Escola had a Coke bottle spontaneously burst in her hand. She suffered a deep cut that severed blood vessels, nerves, and muscles. To pay for her medical bills, Escola filed suit claiming Coca-Cola was negligent in selling its drink in bottles that exploded due to either excessive gas pressure or defective bottle design. Escola’s lawyer called a Coca-Cola driver as a witness. The driver testified to seeing bottles of Coke explode and finding broken bottles in the warehouse. The jury found the bottle to be defective and awarded Escola her medical expenses. The case has been an example for product liability lawsuits ever since.
- Harris v. McGraw – in 2011, Janet Harris sued Dr. Phil (McGraw) for $7 million in damages as a result of a dog bite sustained at his home. The bite became so badly infected that Harris, who was bitten by the McGraws’ dog when visiting their residence in 2009, suffered hearing loss and hand tremors. Harris alleged Dr. Phil advised her not to seek medical attention and instead obtained antibiotics for her from a friend. Harris also claimed to have been bribed by the McGraws with a paid vacation to Hawaii. The case settled out of court in 2013. The lesson would be to do the right thing, instead of worrying about bad press or a ding to your reputation.
Contact the Experienced Personal Injury Team at The King Firm
If you, or someone you love, was injured in an accident, by a product malfunction, or as the result of someone else’s negligence, you might be eligible for compensation. At The King Firm, our team has the experience and knowledge necessary to pursue the best possible results in your case. Contact us today at 229-515-8585 for a free case consultation.