Saturday, February 25, 2012


The way the civil lawsuit thing is supposed to work is that people hurt by negligent actions get compensated for what it cost them, and then also receive punitive damages--money intended to discourage the defendant from doing the same thing to other people.

Once in a while there is a case with a large plaintiff award that seems to be absolutely outrageous. The archetypal case is the old lady who spilled McDonald's coffee on herself, and got awarded a zillion dollars.

Except the tort system in this case worked.

There's a movie.

It turns out she really was badly hurt, and she didn't get a zillion dollars. Most importantly, the punitive damages led McDonald's to stop serving scaldingly hot coffee.

That's how it's supposed to work.