Sometimes, to determine what makes a good lawsuit, it’s instructive to look at frivolous lawsuits. Frivolous lawsuits sometimes illustrate instances that represent common misconceptions about what negligence is and what a defendant might be responsible for.
Some media outlets like to cynically refer to lawsuits as frivolous. A famous one involves a woman who went to McDonald’s in 1992 and ended up suffering third-degree burns because the coffee she bought was so hot. This is a lawsuit frequently characterized as being frivolous. Was it? The court found that McDonald’s was liable for $2.7 million in punitive damages and $160,000 in compensatory damages. Third-degree burns on your legs are nothing to scoff at. Not being warned that coffee is hot enough to burn you that badly is also nothing to scoff at. Frivolous? Hardly.
Another lawsuit mentioned in LegalZoom.com regards a man who tried to get a cookie manufacturer to stop manufacturing their cookies because they contained trans fats. It became a media sensation and was quickly dropped. Was this lawsuit frivolous? It got dropped and there are good reasons to believe that, in fact, it was frivolous. After all, nobody was failing to inform anyone what was in the cookies, the opposite of the McDonald’s case, in which the woman had no reason to believe that the coffee would be so blazing hot.
Good lawsuits are ones where it can be established that a party was negligent and that that negligence led to real harm that could have otherwise been avoided. Frivolous lawsuits tend to lack this. A lawyer will let you know whether yours is valid or not.