Strange Personal Injury Cases That Made History 

 December 14, 2015

By  LMW Attorneys

When someone suffers an injury due to the negligence of another person or business, they may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit against the person who is responsible. While many personal injury cases filed recently may seem frivolous, there are instances of strange personal injuries that have not only led to large settlements for the person injured, but have also brought about changes to packaging, company culture and even legislation that protect people against similar injuries.

Exploding Coca-Cola Bottles

Strange personal injury cases are not new in the legal field. In 1944, Gladys Escala, a waitress, was storing glass bottles of Coca-Cola™ as part of her job duties. One of the bottles exploded, causing Escala to suffer five-inch deep cuts. Blood vessels, nerves and muscles in her hand were severed, causing significant blood loss and permanent damage. Escala subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against Coca-Cola™ and won, setting a standard requiring that manufacturers be held accountable for faulty products. The case is still considered one of the most notorious personal injury suits and has standard curriculum for first-year law students. Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins has represented clients who have had defective bottles shatter or explode in their hands.

9/11 Illnesses

In 2009, more than 9,000 personal injury lawsuits had been filed against private contractors and government agencies by people who claimed they were injured while working in Ground Zero during the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Findings now show that the air many of the first responders and construction workers were breathing the days and months after the attack was extremely toxic. In 2011, a settlement of $712 million was approved for over 95 percent of the claims filed. Those who filed claims and suffered severe medical issues received $1.8 million each. The remainder of the settlement was placed in a fund to be used to provide financial assistance to those who may develop lung illnesses. The lawsuits also led President Barack Obama to sign the Zadroga Act, providing additional funding for those who lived or worked in the area at the time of the attack and develop severe illnesses.

The McDonalds Coffee Incident

Probably one of the most infamous personal injury cases in the world occurred in 1994, after Stella Lieback, an elderly woman, purchased coffee at a McDonald’s drive-thru. When Lieback went to pick the cup up, the lid was not secure and coffee spilt on her lap, causing third-degree burns that required her to have skin grafts. She asked McDonald’s for $20,000 in settlement costs to cover her medical expenses, but the company only offered $800. Lieback found that there had been more than 700 injuries due to burns from McDonald’s coffee, including some as severe as hers. Lieback was awarded $200,000, which was reduced to $160,000 as the judge felt she was 20 percent responsible for the injury. McDonald’s appealed the decision, however Lieback was awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages at a jury trial. The award was eventually reduced with Lieback and McDonald’s reaching a confidential out-of-court settlement. The case gained national attention and caused McDonald’s, whose coffee was significantly hotter than the average coffee, to change their policy regarding the temperature of hot beverages and to add warnings to all hot beverage cups.

Contact Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins for Personal Injury Attorneys

Personal injury can occur at any time and the injuries can be severe. Although it may seem as if filing a personal injury lawsuit is not necessary, a company or individual should be held accountable when they are at fault. If you or a loved one have suffered a personal injury due to someone else’s error or negligence, contact Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins, P.A. to learn how they can help you get the compensation you deserve.