I think that you're right that there may be arguments for diverting punitive damages to general funds funds. My question though is of all the people to receive what you somewhat imply is a "windfall" who is more deserving than the person who has been seriously injured or affected?
It's a close question, but why not give it to the person whose genitals are horribly burned over the general public?
Thanks for your comments. Personal responsibility is important for everybody, however it is usually contorted by conservatives
in a problematic way. If you think about it, most conservative arguments rely on this concept. I will say more about this if you respond to my comments.
Yes. Stellaa was at fault for spilling coffee on herself. If Stella had not opened her coffee for twenty minutes she would have completely avoided being burned. The point is not whether Stella is stupid for spilling coffee, the point is that it is necessarily forseeable that some people will spill coffee from a flimsy cup, and that if they do so they should not receive third degree burns. Note also that Stella's reward was reduced by 20% for her fault in spilling the coffee.
I think that you miss the crux of the post when you say that nobody is keeping you from suing McDonald's. The "tort reform" movement, (arguably the anti-civil justice movement) contorted the facts of the case to advance limitations on litigants' access to the courts by way of recovery caps and other measures.
No it won't? ----- I think that this is exactly the appeal/approach of conservative arguments generally. To say no I won't eventually spill coffee, therefore the rules should be unforgiving (or changed to be so), therefore grandma Stella should just sit in the hospital with third degree burns for a week when McDonald's could easily serve its coffee at a safe temperature, is I think, the crux of how conservatives structure their arguments. That argument is a I could never make a mistake. Next time you spill coffee, at home or at work, or the next time you trip on the street, I urge you to think about your argument.
The point is why heat coffee to 180-190 degrees when you can heat it to 140 degrees and safely serve it?
What is the point of serving coffee at a temperature at which it will cause you third degree burns within 5-7 seconds if you drink it?
If served at 180-190 degrees, you can't drink it until it cools, so why not serve it at the temperature you have to wait for it to cool to?
McDonald's brewed its coffee at an even higher temperature. If coffee needs to be brought to a high temperature to taste good, this can be done while brewing, and then it can be allowed to drop to 140 degrees.
McDonald's had already received many complaints about its coffee, had settled $500,000 in lawsuits, but then took no protective action in response to these incidents.
That book comes highly recommended. It is seen by many as the foremost commentary on the "tort reform" movement. Everybody should give it a read. My work at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy is focused on developing just the kinds of coherent defenses of the civil justice system that are currently so lacking.
The Pacific Research Institute defines a "poor" or bad civil justice system as a robust civil justice system.
This is why they state:
"a poor civil-justice system lowers the standard of living for ordinary citizens"
The translation is "[an effetcive] civil-justice system lowers the standard of living for ordinary citizens." I just wanted to clarify that quote so that nobody confused my stance or the quotes meaning.
In addition, I hope that nobody takes my statement that:
"[N]ot so many middle and working class families are talking about how they are really scared of being sued in the civil justice system if an SUV they manufactured in their kitchen rolls over and kills a family of five"
to mean that this group doesn't or shouldn't care about the civil justice system. They do and should care about it. What they don't mind, is that corporations are justifiably hit with lawsuits when they manufacture defective products, even if it means that it will lower their profits.
I agree that the civil justice system is not perfect, but then what system is? What Americans could benefit from are some minor tweaks to the system, but not the full scale "reform" envisioned by the "tort reform movement" aka tort de-form. In the world envisioned by the tort reform movement, compensating people for the harm that is visited upon them by no fault of their own is bad because it costs business money. Ever heard the saying, "whenever you point your finger at somebody else there's always three pointing back at you?" For me that is the fundamental weakness of the tort reform movement's argument. We wouldn't need a tort reform movement if people weren't getting hurt. The day will be great when we DON'T even need a civil justice system, just as it will be great when we DON'T need a criminal justice system. However, until corporations and individuals no longer harm each other, and until crime no longer exists - these systems are simply necessary - the alternative is simply unacceptable.