Re: Liability and Morality

Subject: Re: Liability and Morality
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 1996 07:23:00 EST

At 07:33 AM 6/27/96 -0400, you wrote:

>There's still some areas though, which are difficult to forsee, such as hot
>coffee. Normally, one would think everyone knows coffee is served hot,
>except at MacDonalds, where a drive-through patron expects cold or lukewarm
>coffee and, when she spills the hot liquid on her, and finds it to be hot,
>has reason to sue.

>Prior to the MacDonalds Hot-Coffee Incident, one would never think of
>documenting the dangers of hot liquids, now every MacDonalds has a sign near
>the take-out window warning patrons of this danger.

This is, strangely enough, a case in point. What the press overlooked in the
MacDonald's case is that the danger WAS documented, though not
published...MacDonald's was warned several times about the temperature of
its coffee and how patrons were singeing their fingers on the cups, and did
nothing about it. Had MacDonald's posted a simple message like "Our coffee
is served very hot. Please be careful. If you want a lower temperature, wait
until the coffee has cooled before you handle the cup or drink the coffee,"
then the case might have become moot. Not for sure, but possibly. The basic
claim in that case was that MacDonald's was grossly negligent in, first,
having the coffee steam-hot, and second, providing non-thermal cups and lids
that didn't seal in the coffee, then third, not warning anyone of the
danger. Granted, it may be absurd, but the judge didn't agree.

If MacDonald's had a technical writer who knew of the dangers and didn't at
least make an effort to inform the consumer, is that technical writer
morally responsible, even if legally shielded?

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
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