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May 5, 2012
Morning Journal News


It's clear from his recent letter trashing consumer protection laws that state Rep. Craig Newbold doesn't understand the difference between tort reform and consumer protection laws. Republican Attorney General Mike Dewine calls the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act the most important law protecting Ohio's families and children from "unfair, deceptive and unconscionable sales practices."

Mr. Newbold cites the famous McDonald's coffee case which was actually a product liability case to justify scrapping efforts to protect the average person from fraudulent salesmen.

Mr. Newbold said "remember the woman who sued McDonald's because her coffee waswellhot?" In fact, I do remember that woman. Her name was Stella Liebeck and she was 79 years old in 1992.

Here are the facts:

1. Stella asked her grandson to drive her through the McDonald's drive-through in Albuquerque for a cup of coffee. Her grandson passed the cup to her, pulled forward and parked. Stella then placed the cup between her legs to add cream and sugar. When she removed the lid, the entire cup spilled into her lap. The coffee scalded her groin, thighs and buttocks.

2. Stella was rushed to the hospital where she remained for eight days. She was treated for 3rd degree burns over 6 percent of her body and suffered lesser burns over 16 percent of her body. She underwent skin grafting to repair the damage from her burns. Stella lost 20 pounds over those eight days and weighed just 83 pounds when she left the hospital.

3. In several years leading up to Stella's injuries, McDonald's had received more than 700 complaints of injuries to customers from their coffee, including complaints of 3rd degree burns. McDonald's settled most of these complaints out of court including one $230,000 settlement.

4. Stella had never before filed a lawsuit against anyone and said she wouldn't have brought suit against McDonald's if they had just agreed to pay her medical bills.

5. Stella offered to settle her claim for just the costs of her medical expenses, an estimated $20,000. Instead, McDonald's offered her only $800 and rejected all attempts at settlement including the recommendations of a mediator.

6. A McDonald's quality assurance manager testified that the company was aware of the risks of serving dangerously hot coffee but had no plans to either turn down the heat or post warnings about the possibility of severe burns even though they knew most customers wouldn't think severe burns were possible.

7. Ultimately, a jury of average people - not judges, lawyers or bureaucrats - decided in Stella's favor after seven days of trial.

Mr. Newbold now mocks Stella Liebeck, and that jury, in an attempt to distort the truth. But most importantly, it's clear from both his letter and his voting record in the House of Representatives that Mr. Newbold serves to protect the interests of the McDonald's of this world over the interests of the Mrs. Liebeck's of this world.

The question is ... who is representing us?

David Tobin

Judge of the Court

of Common Pleas, retired



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