Lee Cavanaugh v. Winkies Food Corporation
Throughout the history of the American judicial system, there have been a handful of cases that have captured the attention of the public, stirred debate (both scholarly and pedestrian), and influenced changes in law and public policy. Often, the individuals involved in these cases are ripped from their lives of ordinariness and obscurity to become fodder for a media frenzy and insatiable public consumption. One such person was Stella Liebeck, a 79 year-old grandmother from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Little did she know on that innocuous day in 1990, when she bought a 49-cent cup of coffee at the drive-thru window of her local McDonald's, that even today - seventeen years later - she would be vilified by some as the epitome of a money-grubbing Plaintiff bent on blaming someone for her self-inflicted misfortune and canonized by others as a stalwart underdog who stood up to greedy corporate America for ignoring grave danger its products pose to innocent and unsuspecting consumers. Unfortunately, the truth gets lost in the mire of persistent rhetoric made only more intense with the birth of the blogosphere.
The truth is that we have a system of civil justice in this country that rivals any other in fairness and due process. An injured person is given the opportunity to demonstrate to a jury of peers the facts that support a claim for compensation against the party that person believes to have wrongly caused those injuries. At the same time, the party accused of wrongly causing those injuries has the same opportunity to challenge the injured person’s claim, requiring that the injured person prove the claim by a preponderance of evidence. Also part of this process is a judge, someone with knowledge of the law, who is charged with ensuring that both parties receive a fair hearing and that everyone ??" including the jury - follows the rules set out by our society through our representatives in government. Regardless of whether you are on the side of the money-grubbing Plaintiff or greedy corporate America in the endless debate about the lawsuit that has come to be known as the McDonald’s Coffee Case, we can all agree that there is no system of civil justice in the world like ours and that we are lucky to
The attached 2008 South Carolina High School Mock Trial Case was inspired by the events related to Liebeck vs. McDonald’s. Although there are some similarities to the famous case, the facts are significantly altered. As with any mock trial case based on true events, it is important to remember that you are limited to the facts presented on these pages. This exercise is designed to teach you to not get distracted by the hype on the Internet or swayed by the rhetoric of the media when you consider the true facts of a civil dispute brought to our courts. Civil cases are about real people ??" whether they are just trying to sell a cup of coffee or just trying to buy a cup of coffee. And while history and the court of public opinion will always pass their own judgments, in this court, with this case, the parties will have their day and the jury will render its judgment.