Most personal injury lawsuits barely make the papers. But these three made the silver screen.
In choosing the biggest injury cases, you could go by the dollar amount of the settlement or the jury verdict. But we decided to go with three that were so big that Hollywood came calling. Here are the three most famous personal injury lawsuits:
- Stella Liebeck v. McDonald’s: This could be the most famous (or infamous) lawsuits of all time. What became the poster child for frivolous lawsuits was anything but. Ms. Liebeck suffered third-degree burns to her inner thighs, genitals, and groin and required skin graft surgeries after spilling coffee in her lap. Plus, McDonald’s knew its coffee was too hot — company policy said it should be kept at 185 degrees, and 700 others claimed they’d been burned by McDonald’s coffee in the previous ten years. After McDonald’s scoffed at Liebeck’s offer to settle the case for $20,000, a jury awarded her $2.7 million. The case was the subject of a 2011 documentary, Hot Coffee.
- Anderson v. Cryovac, Inc.: One town’s lawsuit against multiple corporations for contaminated groundwater became the basis for the 1996 book A Civil Action and the 1998 film of the same name. John Travolta played attorney Jan Schlichtmann who fought for residents of Woburn, Massachusetts against Beatrice Foods, UniFirst, and Cryovac, a subsidiary of W.R. Grace. The companies dumped so many toxic chemicals in the ground it caused a cancer cluster in the town, giving several children leukemia.
- Anderson, et al. v. Pacific Gas and Electric: A different Anderson, but another toxic tort case. This time it was residents of Hinkley, California going up against one of the biggest energy companies in the world, again for pollutants in their groundwater. Lucky for Hinkley, they had an enterprising legal clerk on their side — Erin Brokovich.
Your personal injury claim may not be made into a movie, but it’s big to you. And you should talk about it with an experienced personal injury attorney.
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