Süddeutsche article on U.S. legal culture / Süddeutsche zur amerikanischen Rechtskultur

Die Süddeutsche berichtet etwas einseitig über amerikanische Schadensersatzurteile. Die Geschworenen sprechen oft Summen zu, die später vom Richter korrigiert werden. Hinzu kommt, dass in den USA Strafschadensersatz ein Teil des Systems ist. Der Artikel beschreibt auch Professor Lester Brickman von Cardozo Law School als Professor Lester Brickman-Cardozo.

An article in the Süddeutsche about damages awards and class actions in the USA warms up all the old chestnuts. It also refers to Professor Lester Brickman of Cardozo Law School as Professor Lester Brickman-Cardozo.

Asbestos claims are obviously Professor Brickman’s speciality and I have not investigated the subject further. Here is a transcript of him on the topic. It looks, though, as if a particular argument against class actions has been padded with the usual suspects:

bq. Schadenersatzprozesse basieren auf angelsächsischen Rechtsprinzipien. Der Ausgang der Prozesse ist für die Beklagten häufig ein Glücksspiel. Laienrichter, die von den komplizierten Sachverhalten häufig nur wenig verstehen, sind an der Urteilsfindung beteiligt.
Kein Zufall, dass sogar abstrus erscheinenden Klagen stattgegeben wurde, die aus europäischem Rechtsverständnis kaum eine Chance oder viel bescheidenere Schadensersatzsummen zur Folge gehabt hätten.

This is followed by a reference to a Florida case where a waitress spilled hot coffee on a man, injuring him, the jury awarded a huge sum of damages, and it appears from a web search that the award was later reduced. Is this an ‘abstrus erscheinende Klage’?

bq. Punitive Damages — Like most Floridians, I have heard the outrageous story where millions of dollars were awarded as punitive damages against a restaurant whose hot coffee spilled and injured someone. For the most part, we hear about these extreme cases when juries award excessive punitive damages, but not when trial judges or appellate courts later reduce the awards to reasonable levels, as happened in the coffee-spill case.

(Via Juristisches und Sonstiges)

2 thoughts on “Süddeutsche article on U.S. legal culture / Süddeutsche zur amerikanischen Rechtskultur

  1. The canonical coffee-scalding case is surely the McDonald’s one discussed here:

    During discovery, McDonald’s produced documents showing more than 700 claims by people burned by its coffee between 1982 and 1992. Some claims involved third-degree burns substantially similar to Liebeck’s. This history documented McDonald’s knowledge about the extent and nature of this hazard.

    McDonald’s also said during discovery that, based on a consultant’s advice, it held its coffee at between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit to maintain optimum taste. Other establishments sell coffee at substantially lower temperatures, and coffee served at home is generally 135 to 140 degrees.

    It’s very much worth reading for anyone who’s only familiar with the Urban Legend version.

  2. Thanks for that link – excellent summary. Yes, that’s the first case to mention. I didn’t want to overload the entry. Oh – Greece have scored! 1 – 0 ha ha ha – Also, the article said it was an *abstruse* case to sue a restaurant after a member of staff had spilled coffee on you – well, the Stella Liebeck case is more abstruse.

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