Thursday, February 26, 2009

QR COMMENTARY: McDonald's Denies Workers' Compensation for McHero

We here at the Quatrini Rafferty blog recently heard about an astonishing workers' compensation denial and had to pass it along to our clients and friends.

We all remember the infamous "coffee spill" case from some years ago. It generated national news for the large jury verdict against McDonald's and became a poster child for out of control juries. At the time, and to this day, many individuals have been lead to believe that the Plaintiff in that case was just "out for the money."

But most people are unfamiliar with the real details behind the "coffee" matter. For starters, it is not well known that the Plaintiff was 83 years old and that the coffee was brewing at between 195-205 degrees....a temperature 20-30 degrees higher than any other restaurant. Or, that the Plaintiff in that case suffered third degree burns which necessitated $10,000 in medical bills. It is also not commonly known that the Plaintiff offered to settle for far less than the final jury verdict, a number that fairly represented her lost wages, out of pocket expenses, medical bills.

No, the public was lead to believe, by the negative public relations campaign paid for by McDonald's, that the Plaintiff was just looking to get paid.

Well, maybe McDonald's tough tactics finally caught up with them.

Last summer Nigel Haskett, an employee at a McDonald's in Arkansas, was shot when he attempted to restrain a McDonald's patron from abusing a woman in the restaurant. Due to his injuries, Mr. Haskett's medical bills totaled close to $300,000. Yet, when he filed a claim for workers' compensation, the company DENIED his claim:

"We have denied this claim in its entirety as it is our opinion that Mr. Haskett's injuries did not arise out of or within the course and scope of his employment."

At the time, McDonald's tough stance probably seemed like a good legal maneuver. But, their insensitivity came back to bite them when the national media picked up the story.

Because of the embarrassing press, the owner of the McDonald's in question has now voiced his support for Mr. Haskett against the insurance company. However, the insurance company has yet to budge.

Whether Mr. Haskett will be successful is tough to tell, as we have no knowledge of the workers' compensation law in Arkansas'. But, we sure hope that Mr. Haskett gets an appropriate award for his heroism.

For for the real facts on the "coffee" case check out the link below:

For more coverage of Mr. Haskett's situation, check out the video covering the story and read an article critical of the denial below: