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    Three of the Most Shocking Product Liability Cases

    From malfunctioning car airbags to harmful medical devices, defective products injure thousands of consumers each year. Through an area of tort law known as product liability, victims may be entitled to substantial damages, often totaling hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. The goal of product liability law is to hold manufacturers and sellers responsible for allowing defective products that can cause injury or death to get into the hands of consumers.

    Product liability cases against major corporations often show up in the headlines due to the egregious injuries sustained by victims and the hefty damages paid out to them. Here are three of the most shocking product liability cases in recent history:

    • Liebeck v. McDonald’s. As one of the most well-known product liability cases of all time, the “McDonald’s coffee case” has been stirring controversy since it was brought in 1994. It has often been cited as a “frivolous” case and a symbol of an overly litigious society—but the facts are more surprising than they may first appear. When 79-year-old Stella Liebeck spilled a cup of McDonald’s coffee on her lap, she suffered third-degree burns on her thighs and groin area. Her injuries were so severe because McDonald’s was serving its coffee at 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit—at least 30 degrees hotter than coffee served by most other restaurants. In the decade leading up to the case, more than 700 people had filed claims against McDonald’s for burns from the scalding coffee, but the company never lowered the temperature. Additionally, McDonald’s was serving its coffee so much hotter for its own profit: by serving it hotter they got more cups out of the product. They also knew that at higher temperatures the paper coffee cups had a tendency to fall apart from the heat…exactly why Mrs. Liebeck’s coffee was spilled on her. As a result, Ms. Liebeck was awarded $160,000 for medical expenses and $2.7 million in punitive damages—far more than her attorneys had initially requested.
    • Toyota recall lawsuits. In 2010, Toyota Motors was forced to issue a recall for millions of its cars after admitting that they were afflicted by defects to the brakes and accelerator pedals. The defects were causing cars to unexpectedly accelerate to speeds that could exceed 100 miles per hour, resulting in multiple deaths and serious injuries. The ensuing class action product liability lawsuit yielded one of the most substantial settlements in history, as Toyota agreed to pay a staggering $1.1 billion in damages.
    • Owens Corning asbestos lawsuits. Between 1958 and 1972, building products company Owens Corning sold $135 million of products that contained asbestos. As the dangers of asbestos began coming to light, the company continued to sell the products without issuing warnings about how those who came into contact with them could reduce their risk of mesothelioma, an always-fatal cancer, and other devastating diseases. In 1998, Owens Corning agreed to settle 176,000 cases for a whopping $1.2 billion paid out to victims and their families.

    These famous examples represent just a few of the types of product liability cases that are filed each year against manufacturers and companies that sell defective products. At Leighton Law, we have extensive expertise in litigating product liability cases involving consumer products, motor vehicles, medical devices, child safety equipment, and more. If you or your clients have been harmed by a faulty product, contact our team today at 888.988.1774!

    Article by:

    John Leighton

    A nationally-recognized trial lawyer who handles catastrophic injury and death cases. He manages Leighton Law, P.A. trial lawyers, with offices in Miami and Orlando, Florida. He is President of The National Crime Victim Bar Association, author of the 2-volume textbook,Litigating Premises Security Cases, and past Chairman of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America’s Motor Vehicle, Highway & Premises Liability Section. Having won some of the largest verdicts in Florida history, Mr. Leighton is listed inThe Best Lawyers in America (14 years), “Top Lawyers” in the South Florida Legal Guide (15 years), Top 100 Florida SuperLawyer™ and Florida SuperLawyers (14 years), “Orlando Legal Elite” by Orlando Style magazine, and FloridaTrend magazine “Florida Legal Elite


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