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You put the balm on? Who told you to put the balm on? I didn’t tell you to put the balm on. Why’d you put the balm on?

chiles.jpgProbably one of the most famous personal injury cases - and the one most cited by your average layman to demonstrate the need for tort reform and the ridiculousness of our litigious country - is the McDonald’s hot-coffee case. You remember - that lady who successfully sued McDonald’s in 1994 for $2.9 million after she spilled hot coffee on her lap, claiming that the coffee was “defective, because it was too hot.”

What your average person doesn’t know, however, is that the lady in question was an 81-year-old lady who suffered burns so severe that she was laid up in the hospital for over a week recuperating from skin grafts to her groin. Moreover, at the time, McDonald’s had already received over 700 reports of coffee-burns - ranging from mild to third-degree - and the company had refused to do anything about the coffee temperature, preferring to quietly settle many of those cases for up to $500,000 a piece. But, for some reason, in this case Mickie D’s refused to pay the elderly lady the mere $800 she was asking for to cover her medical bills, which is the only reason she was forced to bring the lawsuit in the first place.

Knowing these facts, you might better understand why the jury handed down the verdict it did. The award may have been disproportionate to the injury, but the jury was trying to send a message to McDonald’s, telling the company that it probably oughtn’t ignore over 700 reported injuries and a feeble old woman’s attempts to secure $800 from a multibillion dollar corporation.

But, never mind your opinion on the merits of the hot-coffee case - if you think $2.9 million is an outrageous award for a burnt lap, then get a load of this. Out in The Hamptons last week, a judge allowed a dog-bite case to go forward in which the victim is seeking $33 million in punitive damages. $33 million! For that much money, you would imagine the victim must have suffered some serious damn injuries at the mouth of a pretty vicious dog, right? Well, not exactly. According to the case, the victim suffered a “four-inch laceration” that pierced the underlying muscle. And what kind of dog was it? A cockapoo! Yeah. You’re heard right; a half cocker spaniel, half poodle. Four-inch laceration. $33 million!

If you ask me, $2.9 million for a scalded lap is a freakin’ bargain.