Monday, November 26, 2007

Feeling Better Now?

Remember the Stella Awards?
That wonderful email that circulates and circulates ... chronicling the mind-numbing stupidy of the American legal system?

Cone on, you must remember this one:

"This year's runaway First Place Stella Award winner was Mrs. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City, who purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich.

"Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner's manual that she couldn't actually leave the driver's seat while the cruise control was set.

"The Oklahoma jury awarded her – are you sitting down? – $1,750,000 plus a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home."

Well, take heart. Apparently its not all that bad.

The Stella Awards have been debunked.
Numerous times apparently.

To its credit, the Austin American-Statesman debunked the story of Ms. Robertson and her toddler several years ago, when the "Stella Awards" started making the rounds. Los Angeles Times reporter Myron Levin went one better. He called Winnebago.

"Wide acceptance of the myths has been an eye-opener for Sheila Davis, public relations manager for Winnebago Industries in Forest City, Iowa," he wrote. "Davis says she has repeatedly had to explain that no, there was no Grazinski lawsuit, and, no, the company did not have to change the owner's manual to avoid a swarm of copycat claims."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Even ones such as the notorious McDonald's scalding coffee suit are not nearly so silly as they become in manufactured legends. The Albuquerque jury did award Stella Liebeck, 79, (after whom the "Stellas" are named) almost $3 million after she spilled coffee on her lap, causing third-degree burns, a week's hospitalization and skin grafts.

But the jury had learned that McDonald's served its coffee much hotter than other restaurants, that it had received more than 700 previous complaints and had paid more than $500,000 in earlier settlements.

Liebeck originally asked for just $20,000 to cover her medical bills and other expenses, and that McDonald's serve its coffee at a more moderate temperature. McDonald's offered her $800.

Shortly before trial, a mediator recommended McDonald's pay $225,000. The company said no.

Jurors awarded $160,000 in damages and $2.7 million in punitives, hoping to change the company's behavior. The judge lowered the punitives to $480,000, and the case settled for an undisclosed amount, presumably less.

So, I guess the real question is ... How gullible are people? Really.
After all, is always just a click away.

Or as my mother likes to say "Don't believe anything you hear and only half of what you see".

H/T to Bob Kraft's P.I.S.S.D.

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