Monday, March 24, 2008

Safety is for Chumps

Personally, I couldn't care less if safety is accurately portrayed in a comic (Safety first, kids). It's like the warning on coffee cups that your coffee is HOT!

I firmly believe some people shouldn't be let out of the house until they realize that the coffee they buy is going burn them if it spills, and that flying, paint-filled projectiles can take an eye out.

And that comics aren't real.


Brandon said...

Ok, I'm sorry if this derails the thread, but you've hit my pet peeve. Whenever someone wants to talk about dumb people or needless litigation, they always go back to this coffee story without actually knowing the details.

Detail 1: This coffee wasn't just hot. It burned the skin off the woman in question. That's right...burned it _off_. She had third degree burns and was required to get extensive skin grafting to repair the damage. So, we're not talking about a simple "ouch" moment here, or not realizing coffee would be hot. It was a case of a company selling something that was dangerous.

Detail 2: That was not the first time someone had been that badly burned by the coffee of the company in question. They had already been sued many, many times and had not fixed their problem.

Detail 3: The amount given to the woman was the amount of money that company made on average in _one day_ in coffee sales at the time.

While everyone focuses on the caution now printed on coffee, and therefore infers that the woman was dumb, or being a baby, or the litigation system in our country is broken, none of those are remotely true. The caution sign is at best a tangential outcome (and a brilliant move on the company's part, since in stating the obvious like that it leads everyone to attack the poor woman who was severely injured for supposedly being an idiot rather than the company who was refusing to fix their problem). The actual purpose of this lawsuit was to hit the company with enough of a financial burden so that they would finally stop heating their coffee to unnecessarily (and clearly dangerous) temperatures. In other words, the point was to make it no longer profitable to harm their customers.

It's not that I disagree with the overall idea behind your post, because I don't. It's just the fact that this example you provided is not actually about warning signs (necessary or otherwise) and/or dumb people.

Fake Scott McCloud said...

Actually, I do know that story, and a caution label would not have helped the woman you mentioned. The fault obviously lay with McDonalds; the coffee was way too hot.

Just as we live in a world where we assume our coffee isn't hot enough to burn our skin off, we should also live in a world where a consumer, having just purchased a cup of hot coffee, does not need to be informed of such.

Brandon said...

And that's exactly my point.

I'm definitely not advocating for the existence of that warning label. The warning was not something demanded by patrons or the courts. It was not meant to actually warn anyone. Instead, it was meant to distract from the danger by insinuating the victim was stupid (as well as try to provide a litigation shield).

Rather, I was just critiquing what appeared to be your focus on the consumer as at the heart of this problem. The attack should not be on someone who does not "realize that the coffee they buy is going burn them if it spills," because that person does not exist. Instead, it should be on the company for providing a needless warning, not to promote safety, but in the hopes of avoiding punishment for serving an unsafe beverage.

Sage said...

I think the better example is of medical creams or sprays that say "no for ingestion" or eletrical appliances like hair driers or striaghtners saying "do no take into bathtube" I mean sometimes people just need to die from things, thats how Darwin would have had it :).

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you TFSM, but... Scott made such a big deal out of safety equipment to begin with, just to toss it out later. A little consistency would be nice...

evan said...

This is the first PvP comic in probably more than two years that has caused any audible reaction from me. I don't really know why I found it funny... probably because in my head I heard the punchline as said by Scott and Kris. I've always found listening to them funnier than the comics they produce.

I have some more thoughts on the strip... but they aren't fully formed and I'm not positive they're really correct. Basically, I started reading this comic and it annoyed me and brought up lots of flashing danger lights, and then all of a sudden I got to the end and laughed.

In regards to the McDonald's lawsuit, the woman put her cup of hot coffee in her lap and it spilled on her and burned her. DON'T DO THAT. Yes, maybe the coffee was too hot, but so what? Wait for it to cool off, and don't spill it on yourself. Be careful with hot things. And then if you do spill something on yourself that you bought knowing it was a product that is SUPPOSED to be hot, don't blame someone else for your injury. I'm not saying the woman was stupid. Just careless. And the fact that the coffee is hot does not make her carelessness McDonald's's responsibility.

Jim Cowling said...

Same, Evan. I laughed out loud when it got to the final panel; the timing was perfect.

Melomel said...

Meh. If you're selling something to people in a DRIVE THROUGH, then you really shouldn't make it so hot that it spilling will be a serious hazard. Life happens, and it's inevitable that n% will spill when people buy it at a drive through.

McDonalds make a corporate decision that their cost benefit was in risking their customers, so they continued to serve it way too hot (in order to minimize their cost per cup of coffee). Their losing this law suit caused the economics to shift, so they stop doing that. That's a good thing.

Jai said...

Ah, and how many people drinking coffee while driving have caused accidents? At the very least, I would urge people without cupholders in their cars to not buy drinks in a drivethrough, but I'm sure there is blame enough to go around in the "hot coffee" incident. Also, my initial argument could be countered with "how many people have caused accidents due to drowsiness?" Although that's just misdirection, people still have only themselves to blame.

Anonymous said...

Here's what it comes down to.
It's not that the coffee was hot.
It's not an issue of whether or not you're stupid.
It's not an issue of whether the previous two were combined.

It's that the coffee was being made TOO hot. Hotter than your conventional donut shops or restaurants. I could probably spill a starbucks on my leg and be left with an angry, red, tender spot. Maybe a blister or welt in the center. This lady had coffee so hot that it COOKED HER FUCKING SKIN OFF DOWN TO THE MUSCLE.


You're exposing someone to an unknown danger because who the fuck needs coffee so hot you have to wait fifteen minutes for it to cool off?

Jai said...

Then coffee is inherently dangerous anyway, because it can be inhaled accidently. Which can kill you.

Are there laws against consumable products being served too hot? I don't know the answer, but I've always assumed that if you got something that was too hot to consume at your preferred pace, then you could simply return it for a refund and then take your business elsewhere. Do you have any idea what the "too hot" to "too cold" ratio of complaints regarding coffee is (Iced coffee need not apply, we're not talking about iced coffee)? Of COURSE they're going to err on the side of "too hot" as a business, almost nobody makes "too hot" complaints. Do you have any idea as to how to adjust the heat on a basic commercial coffee machine? There are more questions involved at the root of this debate than "should a restaurant serve coffee that is hot enough to harm a customer?" They serve FOOD that is hot enough to burn customers. Have you ever had a sizzling skillet placed in front of you at Chili's? Do you think you should be able so sue Chili's if an accident should cause your flesh to come into contact with burning-hot metal that was purposefully placed in front of you with your food on it?

Jai said...

If your complaint is that it was "unknown" that the coffee was hot enough to harm her, then McDonald's has done nothing but the right thing in marking their coffee cups with "Contents May Be Hot". And that makes it sound like the woman would have chosen to not spill the coffee if she had known it would cause serious burns.

I'm going to go ahead and say that all proper freshly-brewed coffee is hot enough to cause at least first-degree burns.

Jai said...

But instead, it seems as if the main point is the severity of the injury that the coffee inflicted. That's an entirely unpredictable scenario. The hotness of the coffee could have done anything from no injury at all right on up to killing her and causing her to lose control of a motor vehicle and running over pedestrians. It could have harmed someone who did not buy it. It could have infuriated her, ruined her day, and caused her to inflict emotional or physical harm upon another. At what point is McDonald's not to blame for some or all of the damage(s) done? No point? Then I'm glad you're not a lawyer.

Brandon said...

Unfortunately for you, the lawyers, judges, and jury agreed with me on this one.

(BTW, who says I'm not a lawyer?)

Sage said...

Your local bar association?

Jai said...

Zing, but not all of the lawyers agreed with Brandon (I can only assume that McDonald's had one or two lawyers) and the jury did not fully agree with him, either. The jury found the plaintiff to be 20% "at fault", and reduced the compensatory damages award (To $160,000) as a result. Of course, they also awarded a much LARGER settlement in punitive damages ($2,700,000). But then some people disagreed with Brandon again, and reduced that amount (To $480,000) in trial court after a post-verdict investigation.

If you care to read something I agree with, then check this article out. I'm pretty sure it's easier to read and understand than what I've written.

I think this is the end of the rabbit-chasing road for me, though. I don't think I have anything further to say about the matter (At least, I sure hope I don't, because I can't imagine what else I could contribute to it).

Brandon said...

There's one problem with this argument: nothing in it actually detracts from anything I've written. My only purpose in responding was to give the argument that this case was not an example of litigation gone wild or of stupid people who ruin it for the rest of us as it is so often trotted out as. Thus, any arguments over how much she should be awarded are irrelevant to my thesis. The fact remains that nobody in the case (ok, aside from the defendants and their lawyers, but that really should go without saying) felt the case should be dismissed for being frivolous or nonsensical. The very fact that she won any percent of any amount is irrefutable proof of the simple fact that these people agreed with my initial assertion.

Now, the website you posted does address the question at hand. However, rather than go point for point on why and how I disagree with the argument it develops, I think it would be best to follow your lead and let this diversion come to an end.

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