Remind me never to piss off John Uustal. Or, if I do, remind me that I should get him angry at someone I don’t like. The Florida litigator is so furious just now, he’s putting his money where his mouth is. If you have the information he is looking for, he will pay you up to $100,000.
Uustal is a Florida plainitffs' lawyer. When he smells injustice, he goes into attack mode. His clients are glad he does. He’s a David in search of deep-pocketed Goliaths.
Now plaintiffs’ lawyers get a bad rap. The business community regards them as gold-diggers – lawyers bent on making a buck from other people’s sorrow. That has a fine moralistic tinge to it. But let’s be real: when a corporation makes a mistake, it typically has a budget for legal fees that no little guy can match. Skilled plaintiffs' lawyers take cases on contingency fee because they assume the risk of failure.
Folks like to talk about the McDonald’s coffee verdict years ago as an example of civil litigation run wild. You recall that suit, don’t you? That’s the case involving Stella Liebeck, who, at age 79, was badly burned when a cup of scalding coffee offered at a McDonald’s drive-through spilled into her lap. A jury awarded her almost $3 million in punitive damages.
The case has been the staple of late-night comics and corporate mockers for almost a quarter of a century. I mean, millions of dollars for spilling a cup of coffee? Plenty of folks think that if you drink hot beverages and drive, you’re assuming the risk of a mishap.
But here’s the story that rarely gets told: McDonalds is a massive corporation. It was aware of risk of customer’s being burned by coffee. Indeed, it estimated the number of such cases that would occur in a given year with the help of an actuary or two. It then had to decide just how hot to serve its coffee. The economists, marketers and actuaries got together and made a decision: If McDonald’s wanted to keep market share for piping hot coffee, it had to serve coffee at a temperature far hotter than its competitors. But that carried a risk of additional injuries for the inevitable spills.
In the end, the jury in the McDonald’s case heard that company executives made a cost-benefit analysis. It was willing to risk serious burns to customers so long as it made more money in profit selling coffee than it paid out in injury claims. The $3 million paid to Ms. Liebeck represent an estimate of one day’s profit from selling coffee.
That’s a trifling sum; hardly the boon to Ms. Liebeck propagandists make it out to be.
But in an era of fake news, the headline is the thing. Why not another McDonald’s suit to fan the flames of animosity to plaintiffs and plaintiffs’ lawyers?
A new McDonald’s suit was recently filed in Southern Florida. The basis of the suit? McDonald’s charges the same price for a quarter pounder with cheese as it does for a quarter pounder without cheese. The lawyers have filed a class action suit so that those who eat their meat without cheese get a rebate of some sort. The lawyers, of course, can rack up big fees. That is if the case survives a motion to dismiss.
The suit is asinine, and lawyers who filed it should be ashamed. They give ambulance chasers a good name.
But what if the lawyers aren’t doing this because they actually believe that they can win this silly suit? What if they are doing this as corporate dupes? Tongues are wagging in Florida, and the hunt is on for information about who is funding this stupid stunt.
So if you have information about who is financing this execrable nonsense, contact Uustal.
“We know that big corporate interests have successfully attacked the credibility of our civil justice system by highlighting frivolous lawsuits. They do it so they can eliminate truly righteous lawsuits,” Uustal says. “Frivolous lawsuits are poison. They not only create unfair costs for innocent defendants, they also allow powerful corporate interests to create a smoke screen to hide their truly despicable conduct.”
Do you have any idea who is behind this latest McDonald’s suit? If so, contact Uustal at JohnUustal.com/conspiracy-evidence. He’s offering as much as $100,000 to the first person who offers proof that leads to a judgment finding that the lawsuit is just a corporate scam.
Tell him Norm sent you his way.