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Famous personal injury cases that changed everything

By September 6, 2022April 3rd, 2023L & I, Personal Injury
A photo of a court room. Article is about famous personal injury cases that changed everything.

The history of personal injury cases

Believe it or not, personal injury cases weren’t really a thing until the 1900s. During the US Industrial Revolution, employees began suing their employers for unsafe work conditions, which prompted the 1913 National Safety Council. As time passed, more laws were made, and cases for such situations became more prevalent. 

Now that our brief history lesson is over let’s get into the fun stuff. We’ve compiled a list of five famous personal injury cases that are as informative as they are entertaining. Watch your step, and here we go! 

Five famous personal injury cases that changed everything

Liebeck vs. McDonald’s Corporation

You know that “caution HOT” label on your coffee cups? Well, you can thank Stella Liebeck for that. Back in 1992, she ordered her 49-cent cup of coffee from a McDonald’s drive-thru, which spilled on her lap. Believe it or not, the coffee was so hot that it gave her third-degree burns, the need for skin grafts, and two years’ worth of medical attention. 

For the coffee to do such damage, her attorney claimed it would have to be around 190 °F, which is way hotter than it should be served to customers. This case was famously known as the “McDonald’s Case,” and Liebeck received $2.7M for punitive damages. 

Harris vs. McGraw 

Phil McGraw, or as you probably know him, daytime TV’s Dr. Phil, was sued by Janet Harris after she was bit by their family dog during a visit to their home. Harris didn’t file an insurance claim, even though she was given the information to do so. In fact, the McGraw’s even paid for a vacation to Hawaii for Harris as a kind gesture. 

Then months later, her leg became severely infected, which caused hearing loss and hand tremors, making her unable to work. (This is where things get crazy.) In 2011, Harris filed a $7M personal injury lawsuit against the McGraw family, claiming they paid for her vacation to keep her quiet. It’s no surprise here that she won the case. 

Grimshaw vs. Ford Motor Company

We’ve reached the halfway mark on famous personal injury cases! This particular case took a certain type of car off the road. That’s right; we are talking about the Ford Pinto. In 1972, Lily Gray and Richard Grimshaw were driving when they were rear-ended by another vehicle. This accident caused their Ford Pinto to burst into flames, severely injuring Grimshaw and killing the driver, Lily Gray. 

The worst part about this case was this wasn’t the first time that the Ford Pinto was responsible for wrongful death. 

Gloria Estefan vs. Tractor-Trailer 

Yes, we are talking about “that” Gloria Estefan. A tractor-trailer hit the iconic Cuban singer on her tour bus in 1990. After the accident, she suffered a broken back, her husband sustained head injuries, and her child, who was also on board, had a broken collarbone. 

Due to Gloria’s broken back, she had to have two steel rods in her back, which added an additional year of recovery. Not only was the driver sued, but the trucking company was sued, along with several other companies that were affiliated with them for a grand total of $8.5 million in damages. 

Escola vs. The Coca-Cola Company

This case goes back to 1944 when waitress Gladys Escola was stocking glass bottles of Coca-Cola at work. Spontaneously, one of the glass bottles exploded in her hand. The explosion was so extreme that it caused Escola to have cuts five inches deep, severing her blood vessels and nerve endings, which also affected her thumb and palm muscles. 

There was a lawsuit filed so Escola could pay for her medical expenses. The case made it to the California Supreme Court, which sided in Escola’s favor. 

Focus on your recovery with a personal injury lawyer

We hope you enjoyed learning about some of the famous personal injury cases that have happened over the years. However, dealing with your own personal injury lawsuit is far from enjoyable. At Carlisle + Byers, we’re lawyers that specialize in workers’ compensation and personal injury that truly care about your rights and quality of life. If you’re interested in talking to us, click to schedule a free consultation here.


Image by Hansjörg Keller from Unsplash.