I don’t mean that I missed previously learning the facts laid out in this classic Tom Tomorrow strip, just that I missed the strip itself at the time. It would be nice to think that there weren’t still ignorant twerps repeating the idea that the lawsuit was unfounded/frivolous/a grave miscarriage against a poor defenceless megacorporation/harrumph/wharrgarbl, but sadly there still are. Since Tom Tomorrow’s archives have been “undergoing renovation” for a while, it’s a bit hard to find his older strips, so thanks to Nurse Ingrid on Greta Christina’s post on how certain facts are often elided in arguments for the link.
BIFF: Sparky, even you can’t argue with Mr Newt about the need for tort reform! I mean – have you heard about the whiner who sued McDonalds because she spilled hot coffee in her lap – and she was awarded three million dollars!
SPARKY: Why, yes, I have, Biff…
SPARKY: That “whiner” was 79 years old, and the coffee was so scalding hot that she received third-degree burns across her groin, thighs and buttocks … she underwent skin grafts and spent eight days in the hospital, resulting in a medical bill of more than $10, 000 … McDonalds offered her $800.
So she went to court, where she was offered the famous 3 million dollar settlement …
SPARKY: … which incidentally she never received, since it - like nearly all punitive damages awarded by juries – was later reduced substantially.
BIFF: (says nothing)
BIFF: (looking away from Sparky) Oh.
SPARKY: Facts really take the fun out of anecdotal evidence, don’t they Biff?
Of course, when one comes up against a fact-elider, it’s important to remember that ignorance rather than malice is often the reason, and that constructive discourse is rarely enhanced by a pile-on (although pile-ons are sometimes a necessary demonstration of solidarity for polemic and ally-work reasons).