Mama Mia, here we go again. Another day, another myth to bust. But this time, we are taking a look at the All Stars of Legal Mythbusters. That is, the famous cases that people may have some misconceptions about. Shall we dive right in?
Myth: Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants was a frivolous lawsuit.
Maybe you don’t know the name of the suit, but you’ve definitely heard about it. Woman buys coffee, coffee spills on lap, woman sues for millions. She should’ve held the cup upright, where’s her sense of personal responsibility, right? Wrong!
Stella Liebeck, 79, was severely burned and required extensive surgery to save her life from her third-degree burns. She acknowledged the spill was her fault, but McDonald’s only offered her $800 dollars instead of the $20K she needed for her medical bills. In reality, McDonald’s was making their coffee at unreasonably hot temperatures. They truly were at fault for the entire fiasco.
The disinformation campaign helmed by McDonald’s lawyers smeared Stella Liebeck for years. But, she had the last laugh when they settled for around half a million dollars.
Myth: Affluenza teen got away scot-free.
Remember the outrage when 16-year-old Ethan Couch killed four people and injured nine while driving under the influence? Remember the outcry when he avoided prison due to “affluenza”? The term, combining the words ‘influenza’ and ‘affluence’ meant to describe the lack of boundaries one understands when raised with financial privilege.
Welp, you may feel vindicated to know affluenza boy is currently behind bars. After allegedly violating his 10-year probation by drinking alcohol and not communicating with his probation officer, Couch and his mother became the subject of a manhunt. The two were arrested in Mexico and he served two years behind bars. In fact, just last year he returned to jail for failing a mandated drug test.
Myth: Richard Scrushy and HealthSouth got off on the “idiot defense.”
In 2002, Richard Scrushy (founder of health insurance company HealthSouth) was brought to court for scamming people, including his shareholders. The defense argued he was so busy with running the company, he did not have time to run a scheme that would defraud people. Despite multiple people testifying against him, people say Scrushy was acquitted because he was portrayed as simple, former milkman and not the man that built a massive health corporation from the ground up.
In reality, he worked very hard to sway public opinion both inside and outside the court while the prosecution simply lacked enough of courtroom-admissible evidence to get the job done. Don’t worry, Mr. Scrushy gets his just desserts a few years later…
Myth: Dan White got away with double homicide because he ate Twinkies.
In 1978, Dan White, former San Francisco Supervisor, walks into city hall and guns down the mayor, George Moscone, and then-current Supervisor Harvey Milk. His lawyers argue that he was of a “diminished capacity” because he… ate Twinkies?
In reality, the defense brought up Dan White’s descent into depression and psychosis since not being able to regain his position in city hall. A normally healthy eater, his binging on highly processed, sugary foods prove he was in a mental decline, they argued. The “diminished capacity” law was later eliminated in California due to the media circus of the so-called Twinkie Defense.
Honestly, this blog could go on for about fifty installments, each one drier than the last. But until then, I hope you enjoyed our bustin’ today. What sort of legal myths bother you the most? My personal favorite myth to disprove is that lead generation is complicated.
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