This happened to a friend’s grandmother. The media spun it to make it sound sensational. Something ridiculous. Something any idiot could have easily avoid. And the problem with our legal system.
What happened? She spilled a cup of coffee in her lap.
The burns were unbelievable. You couldn’t imagine coffee could be that hot.
But it was. And it caused damage. What it did to her legs and… ahem… private parts was shocking.
You may remember the case. The media blew it up.
Spill a cup of McDonald’s coffee on your self and get a check for $2.7 million.
At least that’s what the headlines implied.
You can debate the legal issues around it all you want. All you read was the news. She was hurt. Badly.
From a selling point, what you want to remember is how the jury came up with the $2.7 million in punitive damages.
What’s the damage worth?
If you were on the jury and found McDonald’s liable, what would you award?
The cost of the medical injuries?
What about the time to heal and spent dealing with it?
What about the emotional damage of kids and grandkids seeing images of grandma’s scorched crotch?
How did they come up with the number?
After everything was said and done, the attorney recommended they award 1 to 2 days worth of coffee sales.
$2.7 million was the equivalent of 2 days worth of McDonald’s coffee sales.
That was their reference point.
Made up out of thin air. But it worked.
They were able to control the comparison.
Think about what you sell.
Do you control the reference point? Or do you let your customer?
If you let them come up with a value to reference against, you won’t be happy.
Either you, or your customer, can pull it out of thin air. Wouldn’t you rather be the one pulling?
Side note, the judge reduced the damages to $480,000. Both sides appealed and ultimately settled. You can read about it here.