10 Famous Personal Injury Cases That Have Made Headlines

Personal injury cases captivate the nation due to the high-dollar payouts often involved. But that’s not the only reason. These cases also spark interest because they can happen to just about anyone. People identify with the average person facing catastrophic injuries due to medical malpractice or construction negligence. 

Seeing that the vast majority of personal injury cases are handled with out-of-court settlements, many details remain unknown to the public. However, a lot of the cases that do go to trial attract considerable attention. The following are 10 of the most widely covered personal injury cases in recent memory. 

  1. Hot McDonald’s Coffee
  2. Ford Pinto Explosions
  3. Walmart’s Celebrity Truck Accident
  4. Poison Singer Sues CBS
  5. Gloria Estefan Accident Bus Crash
  6. Pacific Gas and Electric Toxic Tort
  7. NFL (National Football League) Concussion Injury Cases
  8. Damages for a Burglar
  9. Coca-Cola and Exploding Bottles
  10. Dr. Phil Faces Liability

Hot McDonald’s Coffee

One day in 1972, Stella Lieback ordered a coffee from the McDonald’s drive-through. After paying, Liebeck put the lidless beverage in her lap in the passenger seat. The coffee then spilled onto her, absorbing into her sweatpants and causing severe burns to her groin, buttocks, and thighs. 

The burns were so severe that she remained in the hospital for eight days for skin grafts. She continued to receive treatments for her injuries for the next two years. 

Liebeck later sued McDonald’s, which many around the country found odd and frivolous. What they may not have realized was that the temperature of the coffee was approximately 190 degrees. Her attorney argued that this temperature was considerably more likely to cause severe burns than other restaurant coffees. 

Ford Pinto Explosions

The Ford Pinto went from popular to infamous when reports of exploding gas tanks began appearing in the news. Due to a design defect, the car’s fuel tanks would almost invariably rupture after a rear-end collision, and Ford Motors knew it. 

The auto company had previously discovered this tendency to rupture during vehicle testing. Sadly, they chose to ignore the issue, which would have required less than $10 to fix, and went ahead with production. 

The consequences of the company’s negligence were dozens of fatalities and many more injuries. Lily Gray and her brother Richard Grimshaw were two of the victims who were rear-ended in 1972. 

The accident caused a blaze that killed Gray and severely injured Grimshaw, who subsequently sued Ford in Grimshaw v. Ford Motor Company for wrongful death. Hundreds of other injury and wrongful death lawsuits were also filed, resulting in $127.8 million dollars in damages payments to victims and their families. 

Walmart’s Celebrity Truck Accident

In 2014, comedian and actor Tracy Morgan was at the height of his career when a Walmart truck plowed into his vehicle. In the car with Morgan were two fellow comedians, his assistant, and his assistant’s wife. 

Morgan was severely injured, suffering a traumatic brain injury, broken ribs, and broken bones. One of the comedians was killed, and the other three suffered non-life-threatening injuries. 

In Morgan v. Walmart, the celebrity and other surviving members of the crash were awarded substantial damages in a pre-trial settlement. After an extensive investigation, it was found that the truck driver had fallen asleep at the wheel after having driven for more than 24 hours in a row. 

Poison Singer Sues CBS

While exiting the stage of the 2009 Tony Awards, Poison singer Brett Michaels was struck in the head by a prop in motion. The incident was witnessed by a live audience and televised to millions. To add levity, the host joked about the accident.

However, Michales suffered a brain bleed and a broken nose and went on to sue CBS for an undisclosed amount. He alleged that CBS failed to provide adequate exit instructions, leading to his injury.

Gloria Estefan Accident Bus Crash

In 1990, singer Gloria Estefan, along with tour staff and family members, found themselves stalled on the highway on her tour bus. While there, a tractor-trailer slammed into the rear of the bus, breaking Estefan’s back and injuring her child and husband. 

Estefan and her family needed immediate medical treatment, and her tour was canceled. She subsequently filed suit against the trucker and their employer and various other businesses affiliated with the truck. 

Pacific Gas and Electric Toxic Tort

Power provider Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) dumped toxic wastewater into a small California community for roughly 14 years, between 1952 and 1966. Sadly, the local water board did not become aware of the contamination until 1987. 

Disease clusters began manifesting. They were linked to a toxic chemical, hexavalent chromium, which PG&E used to combat rust within gas lines. To get justice, the community chose Erin Brockovich to fight for them and eventually received $333 million in damages for their losses. 

National Football League Concussion Injury Cases

The National Football League was sued by over 20,000 former NFL players in 2013. They alleged that the NFL failed to disclose and protect players from known concussion and brain injury risks inherent in professional football. 

The NFL eventually settled the suit by offering a $765 million fund for plaintiffs. However, a judge rejected the settlement but later approved an agreement calling for $1 billion in funds. 

Damages for a Burglar

Burglar Terrence Dickinson learned that crime paid well after breaking into someone else’s property. When trying to leave, he found that the garage door and another door were faulty and could not be opened. 

Dickinson ended up trapped for eight days, eating only dog food and Pepsi. Unfortunately for the property owners, the faulty doors were seen as negligent, leading to $500,000 in damages awarded to Dickinson. 

Coca-Cola and Exploding Bottles

One of Coca-Cola’s earliest lawsuits, Escola v. The Coca-Cola Company, involved an exploding glass bottle of pop. Waitress Gladys Escola was severely injured by glass shards when a bottle of Coke exploded in her hand. 

She sued for medical bills and pain and suffering. Her case went on to set precedents in cases involving product makers and liability.

Dr. Phil Faces Liability

Daytime staple Dr. Phil and his wife were sued for $7 million after their dog bit a friend. Initially, there was no lawsuit. Instead, the friend took a Hawaiian vacation, compliments of Dr. Phil. 

However, the friend later suffered from a severe infection, leading to loss of work and neurological defects. The case, which was followed closely by many of the doctor’s fans, was settled for an undisclosed amount. 

Public Interest in Personal Injury Cases Endures

These examples are just a few of the many personal injury cases that have impacted personal injury law and captured the country’s attention. Many more have occurred and will continue to captivate the public as long as people and companies continue to behave negligently or unlawfully. 

Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, LLP. have been fighting for the people of San Diego. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents – including cartruck, and motorcycle accidents – need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side. If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, LLP. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!