The “Stella Awards”: Awards given every year to mark particularly absurd lawsuits, named after her.
“McDonald’s Coffee Case”: A term that has become shorthand for “our civil justice system is broken because people sue over events that were their own fault and make millions.”
We’ve known for years that the true story of Stella Liebeck’s injury and lawsuit is decidedly more complicated. Well, now the New York Times has finally weighed in with an even-handed reporting of the “facts.”
I’m so excited about this because, despite some people saying the Times is “liberal,” everyone who is sane agrees that in their reporting, the Times does not make up facts. So it’s nice to know that there is a short, 12-minute video out there, by the most reputable news organization in the world, for anyone who wants to know the actual facts of the McDonald’s Coffee Case.
By the way, those “Stella Awards”? They have an interesting history. The chain email that makes its way around regularly is not only full of made-up lawsuits, it’s also not even the real “Stella Awards!”
The real Stella Awards stopped in 2007. In that year, there were three cases cited: One was an insurance company that sued a little old lady. One was a drunk trespassing veteran who died and who’s family sued the owner of the place into which he trespassed And one was the judge who sued a dry cleaner for about $65 million for ruining his pants. The Stella Award website does not tell us what happened to any of these cases. So, yes, in 2007 apparently there were at least three lawsuits brought that may have been frivolous. And all three of them were most likely thrown out of court. That is not news; it’s sensationalism.
For actual news, check out the NYT video. And then next time someone starts talking about “tort reform” and brings up the “McDonald’s Coffee Lady,” you can have an opinion about it that is informed by facts.