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Really The Founder?

IMG_1175Do you know the name Ray Kroc? Old time hamburger-eaters certainly do. He “was the founder” of McDonald’s. Especially back in the days when the sign only said “over one million served”.

And, I believed that Ray Kroc was an amazing business man, that until I watched the movie The Founder,  this past weekend. The movie reminds me a little bit of this unique thought on success.

 

Michael Keaton plays the part of Ray Kroc. Kroc was also the former owner of the San Diego Padres, and now I have a better understanding of how he made his money… or stole it.

As Kroc was quoted as saying, McDonald’s has a ring to it. Kroc, not so much. But I recommend that you purchase the movie on Amazon or wherever you can buy movies on demand.

There’s contract law that includes the McDonald brothers selling their interest, and including a provision that was not written into the contract. It was, instead, a contract by handshake between Kroc and the brothers. And it has been a projected loss of income to the brothers and their heirs of over 100 million dollars a year, if you believe the movie.

Here’s an entry about Richard and Maurice McDonald. I have always wondered what happened to them.

Have I tempted you to watch The Founder? I suspect you will look at McDonald’s differently after the movie, and that corporation didn’t even try to stop the movie. It must be all true! As the grandson of the McDonald brothers has aptly said, it’s the first time that an employee has claimed to be the founder of the business.

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Hamburger Archives

I remember seeing the movie Super Size Me (wikipedia), which was Morgan Spurlock’s self-described documentary of living off McDonald’s food for 30 straight days.

An epilogue was added to the movie after it’s premiere that described how McDonald’s had added healthier choices to the menu, unrelated to the premier of the movie. However, it also showed that the salads could contain more calories than McDonald’s burgers,  if large amounts of cheese and dressing were added to the salad. Also a reminder of how salads can be worse in the fight to lose weight, if too much of the good stuff is added!

Does it bother you when I tell you/remind you of the story of the 14-month-old McDonald’s hamburger (BuzzFeed), that looked like it had just been sold and ready to eat? In fact, if you google old McDonald’s hamburger, you will see many entries on stories about Happy Meals and hamburgers that have stood the test of time.

Most articles attribute this “food quality” to the amount of preservatives in a McDonald’s hamburger. Enriched batter to help the buns be stored for long periods of time is just the start. The cheese is described as processed milk solid. The list goes on; but since it’s Monday morning’s blog, I don’t want to ruin breakfast or lunch.

I was interested in McDonald’s explanation as to why a 14-month-old hamburger could still look ready to eat:

In the example of a McDonald’s hamburger, the patty loses water in the form of steam during the cooking process. The bun, of course, is made out of bread. Toasting it reduces the amount of moisture. This means that after preparation, the hamburger is fairly dry. When left out open in the room, there is further water loss as the humidity within most buildings is around 40%. So in the absence of moisture or high humidity, the hamburger simply dries out, rather than rot.

That doesn’t really explain why there is a story about other McDonalds burgers and fries having no sign of “rot” after long periods of time. (Today.com)

This wasn’t supposed to be a blog to pick on McDonald’s. I started getting carried into the town governed by Mayor Mccheese.

Instead, I was just aimlessly reading about foods that can cause cancer. (Here’s a list described at The Better Health Store) And reminded how we are all faced with difficult food choices. Especially when we are in a hurry. And, “they” say that now is the time that most New Year resolutions go by the wayside.

I guess it’s a good time to ask, “Do veggie burgers really have veggies?”. Do Doritos cause cancer? (article) When I was reading all the articles, I even saw an article that says that Nutella causes cancer. (Here) Right below that article, there was another that advised not to worry about Nutella. Maybe one good test would be whether it is good after being buried in a time capsule. Or maybe that’s the definition of what’s good!

And for our pic o’ day, it seemed apropos:

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And… It’s Friday… Again

I admit it. I feel lazy. So much so that I almost didn’t blog today. Then I realized; I have to, it’s Friday. Plus, Friday is a good day to blog about nothingness. What’s odd is that it seems like I am writing a Friday blog every three days. Like going to bed and sleeping fast.

So here’s the quick Friday blog topic. It’s actually a bit of an ode and a tip of the cap to Michael Delligatti. “Who?” you say.

I write about him because I just saw that Michael Delligatti passed away. (obit) Well, I really write about him because he was the iconic creator of the world famous Big Mac at McDonald’s. You might have seen that the Big Mac is trending on social media, but it’s still fun to look back at him and his idea. (Wall Street Journal) Plus, he lived to the age 98! That must say something about Big Macs being really good for you… or not so much?

Part of his “invention” story that I particularly like, is that McDonald’s corporate headquarters was initially against the idea. Especially using a triple-deck bun with sesame seeds. They thought it would be too sloppy.  He went ahead with it anyway, without approval. Of course, the rest is burger history. A great success story for our Friday blog!

So… that leads us to pic o’ day. How about some political humor?

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I know, you are just shaking your head. Have a great weekend!

Who Moved the McDonald’s Cheese?

When Morgan Spurlock came out with his documentary movie Super Size Me, which was about his 30 days of eating his meals at McDonalds, it supposedly help to set McDonald’s in motion to create a healthier menu.

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Soon, we started seeing menu items that included yogurt and salads. The business world and the stock market applauded their ability to adapt to changing times.

Which leads us to one of their new menu items that has now led to a lawsuit. From the Kansas City Star comes a story titled McDonald’s customers ask ‘where’s my cheese’ in Mozzarella Sticks?

A California man has filed sit and is seeking class action status while suing for at least $5 million in damages on behalf of consumers in more than 40 states. The lawsuit claims that McDonalds has falsely advertised it’s new Mozzarella Sticks by claiming that the sticks are “100 percent mozzarella,” while not being 100%.

In fact, the pleadings set forth that, “the sticks are filled with a substance that is composed (in part) of starch, in violation of the federal standards of identity for ‘mozzarella’ cheese, and contrary to reasonable consumers’ expectations regarding the meaning of the term ‘mozzarella.’”

The suit asserts that tests showed that starch accounted for 3.76%  of the cheese portion of the sticks, measured by weight, inside a breaded coating. While McDonalds has not yet specifically commented on the suit, they have previously stated that reports of some “cheeseless “mozzarella sticks were simply a rollout glitch.

They claim that the cheese apparently simply melted out of the sticks as they were cooked, which should have prevented them from being served to customers.

And for pic o’ day, it’s all about good eating… depending on our definition of good eating!

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The Lawyer Costume

A man looking through job listings came upon an ad for a job that was available down at the local zoo. He was told that because of funding cuts, the job required that he dress up in a monkey suit and perform in one of the cages.

All went well for several days until he was swinging from tree branch to branch and fell to the ground. He began to call out, “Help, Help!”. In the next cage over the Lion whispered, “Shut up… or we’ll both lose our jobs.”

Costumes are a funny thing. It’s someone hiding behind a disguise to be someone else. When I saw this first Ronald McDonald from 1933, I wondered why anyone would want to be this… or why McDonalds thought that this would be a fun mascot.

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I guess I probably am not a good judge of clown costumes. Not a big clown fan.  This is Willard Scott who supposedly invented Ronald McDonald. He went on to greater heights as the weatherman on The Today Show.

     Ronald  McDonald remains and I remain confused about it…  but I digress.

This brings me to the subject matter… and conclusion of the blog. A few years ago I heard a jury consultant say something about the practice of law that had a profound effect on how I now conduct myself in jury trials.

This consultant said to, “stop acting like a lawyer”. In the initial seminar speech, he basically was telling a group of lawyers to get rid of all the legalese talk and start talking like normal people talk.

Somewhere along the line, lawyers started using terms like whereas and wherefore. We started arguing why for is the word thereforetherefore!

Being real. Not putting on the costume of lawyer. Since that seminar talk, I have followed up with that speaker on some of our cases. I have read some of his books and been directed to other lawyers who speak the same language of being normal.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt left us with some good advice along the same lines.  Be sincere. Be brief. Be seated.

And for pic o’ day, I was going to post something on sincerity and then I saw this… on focus!

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Halal McDonald’s Food Settlement

Halal Here is some Monday food for thought, with a blog that is about a food settlement. (Detroit Free Press)

 

Dearborn, Michigan attorney Majed Moughni, here holding a McDonald’s chicken sandwich that was sold as a halal prepared chicken sandwich. A Halal sandwich means that it was prepared to comply with Muslim religious customs and practices. Halal is the Muslim equivalent to Jewish Kosher preparation.

Any food prepared to receive the Halal preparation designation meets several criteria including how the animal was killed as well as whether prayers were recited to Allah while the animal was killed. Currently, McDonald’s sells halal chicken products at only two of its restaurants in the entire U.S.

A lawsuit was brought against this Michigan McDonald’s restaurant claiming that the food was not truly prepared as represented. McDonald’s did not admit to any wrongdoing but did agree to a $700,000 settlement to resolve the lawsuit.

According to Moughni, the lawsuit and settlement “was positive”. The purpose in filing it was that “it allowed us to educate the public on halal religous customs and practices. It’s a good thing for the community”.

According to the article, there was some objection to the settlement by those participating as part of the Muslim class. Separately, there was some suggestion that McDonald’s was threatening to discontinue serving any Halal prepared food, if they pushed McDonald’s for more. McDonald’s denied any threat on the free speech of its customers.

For pic o’ day, I went with some Monday Cat humor:

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Pink Slime Defamation

 

If I held a blog contest and gave a prize away for identification, would you know what is in this picture?  Strawberry ice cream? Play-Doh?

If you guessed the above then all I can say is that… I wish you were correct. No, this is “beef product” and the makers of this  are suing  (Chicago Tribune Story) ABC News with a 1.2 Billion dollar lawsuit, claiming defamation.

ABC News did a story about Beef Products Inc. and told viewers that their beef product was not safe, not healthy and not even meat. It was even described as Pink Slime. When I look at the picture, I can’t imagine how that would be… can you? Instead,  Beef Products counters that their product is “lean finely textured beef”.

Here are the undisputed facts. In 1993, the Department of Agriculture approved the use of this product in ground beef. Admittedly, it’s beef filler made from fatty trimmings that are sprayed with ammonia to kill bacteria. (Maybe I should have issued some kind of warning at the beginning of the blog like “not suitable for anyone” )

Beef Products is the largest producer of lean finely textured beef. (See, I can use their Wordsmyth description with a straight face) The Company has sold their product to large companies such as McDonald’s, Yum Brands, Taco Bell and Safeway Supermarket.

Since ABC aired it’s story in 2011, Beef Products says that their weekly sales have fallen by more than 2 million pounds and that they have shut 3 of 4 plants.

Beef Products claims in its 263-page complaint in South Dakota against ABC, that the story was not news. Instead, their company lawyer says that ABC conducted a  “sustained and vicious disinformation campaign”. They accuse ABC of acting with actual malice in its reports. ABC even reported that the product was not safe.

I remember camping as a kid and eating Spam. Later, I learned that it was something like pork shoulder. I still didn’t know what that meant. Now, I read this news story and Spam sounds like a banquet feast.

For pic 0′ day, I decided to go with that wonderful mode of transportation… the car burger:

 

Law Library Cleanup

Because of our law firm growth, we are making preparations to move the Richmond office. That means going through “stuff” including what to take or what to throw out in our the law library.

Technology has sure changed when it comes to legal research. Not only do you no longer need to travel to a local law library for research; you also rarely look at hardcover law books. Everything including codes and statutes are on the Internet, or are accessible through online research subscription.

I have been throwing out many of our old law magazines or scanning old articles to our system. The following quotes came from some past dusty “Trial” magazines. In the back of each magazine is a section called “Hearsay”. The following were some of the recited quotes with their background stories, from those old magazine articles:

Yes I stole the bottles but not this chocolate.” Words from a 19-year-old shoplifter who was apprehended by police, after shoplifting two bottles of liquor. In his mind, chocolate is a whole lot worse to steal than alcohol. There certainly are some jurors who would recommend a higher sentence for chocolate!

Please change the lunch menu! You and only you can sustain or overrule this request.”   Words from a letter that was read in open court by Judge  Donner of Miami, at the conclusion of a trial. It had been written by six members of the jury who had just served; who wished to thank the Judge for their opportunity to serve, but to also point out a plea for better midday meals.

Probably the most expensive McDonald’s salad ever sold.” Words uttered by Judge Robert Freedberg, after he affirmed the conviction of Pennsyvania resident, Dawn Higgins, who was found guilty of littering. She had thrown her lettuce leaves from her McDonald’s salad out of her car window. Then, after failing to initially appear in court, she was found guilty in absentia and fined $173.50.

It doesn’t come very often that a good man comes to your doorstep.” Neighbors complained about the noise that was coming from Lorna Dudash’s house in Oregon, causing the sheriff’s office to send a deputy out to talk to her. After the deputy left, Dudash called 911 and asked that the “cutie pie” officer be sent back to her house so that she could ask him for a date. He did return, but apparently didn’t have much sympathy; He then arrested her for abusing the emergency dispatch system.

For pic o’ day, since we are working on some technology upgrades, I thought that this would be in the same spirit!

 

 

Do You Handle Coffee Cases?

     I titled the blog after a question that I never get asked. I think that most associate coffee cases with frivolous lawsuits. Conversely, if I mention the McDonald’s coffee case, most people roll their eyes. That case became a symbol for everything that is wrong with our jury system. It even spawned the “Stella Awards”, as a way of recognizing outrageous verdicts. At least outrageous in the eyes of the Chamber of Commerce.

     For the purpose of this blog, and in case it has been a while since you have heard the facts about the McDonald’s coffee case; I am posting information from the American Association of Trial Lawyers website . I hope you will wade through the facts of the case and arrive at your own conclusion as to whether it was a “runaway jury” or whether McDonalds should have been punished. You can consider the source and think that this information is skewed, since it came from a trial lawyer organization. Of course, you can also do fact checking and, I believe that you would conclude that this is an accurate description of the course of events:

  • Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was in the passenger seat of her grandson’s car when she was severely burned by McDonald’s coffee in February 1992. Liebeck, now 84, ordered coffee that was served in a styrofoam cup at the drive-through window of a local McDonald’s.
  • After receiving the order, the grandson pulled his car forward and stopped momentarily so that Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her coffee. (Critics of civil justice, who have pounced on this case, often charge that Liebeck was driving the car or that the vehicle was in motion when she spilled the coffee; neither is true.) Liebeck placed the cup between her knees and attempted to remove the plastic lid from the cup. As she removed the lid, the entire contents of the cup spilled into her lap.
  • The sweatpants Liebeck was wearing absorbed the coffee and held it next to her skin. A vascular surgeon determined that Liebeck suffered full thickness burns (or third-degree burns) over 6 percent of her body, including her inner thighs, perineum, buttocks, genital and groin areas. She was hospitalized for eight days, during which time she underwent skin grafting. Liebeck, who also underwent debridement treatments, sought to settle her claim for $20,000, but McDonald’s refused.
  • During discovery, McDonald’s produced documents showing more than 700 claims by people burned by its coffee between 1982 and 1992. Some claims involved third-degree burns substantially similar to Liebeck’s. This history documented McDonald’s knowledge about the extent and nature of this hazard.
  • McDonald’s also said during discovery that, based on a consultant’s advice, it held its coffee at between 180 and 190 degrees fahrenheit to maintain optimum taste. He admitted that he had not evaluated the safety ramifications at this temperature. Other establishments sell coffee at substantially lower temperatures, and coffee served at home is generally 135 to 140 degrees.
  • Further, McDonald’s quality assurance manager testified that the company actively enforces a requirement that coffee be held in the pot at 185 degrees, plus or minus five degrees. He also testified that a burn hazard exists with any food substance served at 140 degrees or above, and that McDonald’s coffee, at the temperature at which it was poured into Styrofoam cups, was not fit for consumption because it would burn the mouth and throat. The quality assurance manager admitted that burns would occur, but testified that McDonald’s had no intention of reducing the “holding temperature” of its coffee.
  • Plaintiff’s expert, a scholar in thermodynamics as applied to human skin burns, testified that liquids, at 180 degrees, will cause a full thickness burn to human skin in two to seven seconds. Other testimony showed that as the temperature decreases toward 155 degrees, the extent of the burn relative to that temperature decreases exponentially. Thus, if Liebeck’s spill had involved coffee at 155 degrees, the liquid would have cooled and given her time to avoid a serious burn.
  • McDonald’s asserted that customers buy coffee on their way to work or home, intending to consume it there. However, the company’s own research showed that customers intend to consume the coffee immediately while driving.
  • McDonald’s also argued that consumers know coffee is hot and that its customers want it that way. The company admitted its customers were unaware that they could suffer third-degree burns from the coffee and that a statement on the side of the cup was not a “warning” but a “reminder” since the location of the writing would not warn customers of the hazard.
  • The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages. This amount was reduced to $160,000 because the jury found Liebeck 20 percent at fault in the spill. The jury also awarded Liebeck $2.7 million in punitive damages, which equals about two days of McDonald’s coffee sales.
  • Post-verdict investigation found that the temperature of coffee at the local Albuquerque McDonald’s had dropped to 158 degrees Fahrenheit.

The trial court subsequently reduced the punitive award to $480,000—or three times compensatory damages—even though the judge called McDonald’s conduct reckless, callous and willful. Subsequent to remittitur, the parties entered a post-verdict settlement 

More Than a Cell Phone Loss

I finished watching the 2 hour episode of “24” this week and knew that somehow it would end up in a blog again. Where else can you see a main character that looks like Elvis that is a President of a foreign country? Plus, every hour of the show, his hair kept getting higher and higher. It was so disconcerting that I was concerned about how the “bad guys” would be able to get him switched into a little Prius with those low ceilings. I realized that they figured it out by drugging him and putting him in the trunk. The hair problem was averted.

Meanwhile, you have to feel a whole lot safer because Jack Bauer has proven that he can out shoot a dozen bad guys. You have to assume that despite being outnumbered,  he was successful in outmaneuvering them because they were wearing hot dark ski masks over their face, and probably couldn’t see very well. OK, by now I’m sure that you are wondering why I have turned this legal blog into a blog about the show “24”. In reality, it’s  an introduction to a failure of “Protect and Serve”. The  disappointing story follows.

Phil Sherman and his wife Tina, stopped at a Fayettville McDonalds, in 2008, on their way to visit friends. After leaving and traveling several miles to Bella Vista, Tina received a call from her husband’s cell phone. It was the manager back at McDonalds. He told her that her husband had left his phone in the restaurant but that he (manager) would put it in a safe place until they came back the next day, to get it.

Later that day, Tina  initially received 2 text messages from her husband’s phone, despite her belief that the phone was locked up. One said, “Hey, do you know who I am?” the second message read, “I’ve seen your pictures Tina, I liked what I saw.”

Unfortunately for Tina, her husband’s cell phone contained compromising photos of her that she had forwarded to him. Once she realized what these 2 text messages were indicating, she texted back to the “McDonald’s/husband’s” phone to say, “This is my husband’s phone. Please turn it off. Thank you for your consideration”.

Several more texts were sent from the husband’s phone. Some were sexual and others were threatening. At that time, the Shermans drove back to the McDonalds and it was locked. Mr Sherman went to the drive -through window and someone passed the phone to him. At the same time, he noticed 3 employees running from the store.

Thereafter, the Shermans learned that the photos had been posted on the internet. They filed suit against McDonald’s (Sherman v. McDonalds)  for 3 million dollars under the legal concept of bailment. The claim was that the restaurant manager was responsible for the guest’s property after “voluntarily” assuming such duty.  As the Sherman attorney stated, “the case is not simply about leaving personal property in a public place, but about McDonald’s, through its employees, assuming the duty to turn the telephone off and safeguard it and then failing to do so.”

The Defendants, (McDonald’s, Franchisee, store manager) argued that even though the manager had said that he would lock it up; In fact, there was no duty because initially leaving the cell phone was a result of the negligence of Phillip Sherman. As such, the defendants answered the suit that “there was no duty to safeguard the contents of a negligently lost cell phone.

In April 2009, an Arkansas Judge denied defendants’ motion to dismiss. It is now being reported that after a year, the Defendants have now settled the claim for a confidential amount. If you read the lawsuit that I have posted, you will see a recitation of the horrible conduct of those involved in the posting of the photos. Unfortunately, it’s a reminder that despite the value of technology, it can also work against people when dealing with the conduct of bad actors. That’s one of those cases where it would be hard to even put a value on such bad actions.

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