1 Legal Processes; Organization and Analyses In the world of legal studies, there needs to be an effort to understand and break down the process of litigation. One of the most efficient and productive ways to do this has been outlined by Felstiner et al. They classify two types of cases as unpie and PIE : unperceived versus perceived injurious experiences (Felstiner, 633). Through a serious of transformations of thought and action, the authors indicate levels of legal involvement. The first lies in naming the injury recognizing it as such, as opposed to a harmless incident (Felstiner, 635). The second, identified as blaming, transforms the injury into a grievance, placing a concrete name to fault for the injury where there is a purpose of recognition of the injury and award (Felstiner, 635). The last transformation involves actually voicing this grievance to the accused and asking for a remedy claiming. Here, the situation becomes an official dispute (Felstiner, 635-6). In these three realms the possibility exists for methodically organizing legal ideas and analyzing them. This can be done through the case of Stella Liebeck v. McDonalds in the scope of tort law and the trials of Tennessee v. John Scopes and Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. These two issues exemplify the use of Felstiner et al. s theory of naming, blaming, and claiming. The Stella Liebeck case initially strikes as complicated in terms of information presentation, yet when broken down in the Felstiner et al. model becomes manageable and understandable. In 1992 Stella Liebeck had the unfortunate accident of spilling a cup of hot McDonald s coffee in her lap. After an initial hospital visit and subsequent returns, Liebeck first wrote a letter to McDonald s corporation then hired a lawyer to aid in her case. In recognizing and naming her injuries, Liebeck listed third degree burns on about six percent of her body and lesser burns on over sixteen percent. These, a procedure of skin grafts, loss of twenty pounds, permanent disfiguration, and partial disability for up to two years cover physical injuries (McCann, 186). The concept of injury lies farther than physical, however. Emotional distress was evident to Liebeck in this case, as were high
2 medical costs reaching around 20,000 dollars, difficult to cover personally (McCann, 187). The concept of injury therefore, holds a wide range, not merely discussing physical aspects, but most usually mental/emotional and monetary as well. When looked at closely, these injury assertions are certainly valid in realms that people tend to identify as most important time, money, and pain (physical or psychological). When a situation throws these from their normative position, an injury is named. When looked at through the Felstiner et al. model, blaming and claiming in the Liebeck case become simple. When Liebeck first wrote a letter to McDonald s, she blamed first the individual branch where she purchased the cup of coffee for perhaps faulty temperature monitors, then the corporation for setting dangerous temperature standards for their branches (McCann, 186). Later, in hiring a lawyer to present her case, she blamed directly the corporation (McCann, 187). The point this serves is that there are several places where a person can turn blame, in this case locally and internationally on a scale by size and proximity. On the other hand, the defending corporation tried to place personal blame on Liebeck for spilling coffee she should have assumed to be unsafe. This simply shows the flexible nature of where blame may be placed, perhaps culturally based or artificially (media) influenced. Liebeck s claims can be similarly analyzed. First, as purpose of the letter, she clearly stated that she did not wish to sue; instead, she wanted first safeguards instated for prevention of future injuries for others and second, monetary compensation for her physical injuries. Later, her lawyer more clearly outlined the safeguard claim, stating that the temperature at which the restaurant served the coffee was well above the industry standards and known safety level, especially since McDonald s had received various previous complaints of similar burnings (McCann, 189). This presented as products liability for McDonalds and it was demanded that they correct this by lowering the temperature standards in their restaurants and placing additional, more visible warnings about the high temperature of the coffee (McCann, 190). Aside from these claims,
3 the lawyer added to Liebeck s initial demand for compensatory damages with punitive damages for reckless indifference to the safety and welfare of [McDonald s] costumers (McCann, 187). It is interesting here that the monetary claim changed between Liebeck s personal initial statement and the official one of her and her lawyer. The base of this change is in purpose. Initially, Liebeck simply wanted personal compensation for her injury, willing to quietly put the issue away once her claims were met. With her lawyer in the suit, she publicly claimed for past and future costumers hurt by the reckless indifference of McDonald s. She became a symbol for the danger of hot coffee to all people, and not just a personal claimant, with both the request for money and for more widespread and visible safeguards. This effectively shows the power of the claiming aspect of legal process, which can change in the party of people it essentially represents and those it benefits as well as changing in severity of awards or punishment. The two cases dealing with the teaching of evolution in public schools similarly relate to the model of naming, blaming, and claiming. How each trial, separated by about seventy years, came to the courts began in a similar manner: a local rule was passed regarding what could and could not be taught in biology classes. The two sides here can be identified as pro-evolutioners and the anti-evolutioners. It is useful, in these two cases, to look at the three-pronged model from the proevolution side. The pro-evolutioners, which consisted mainly of biology teachers in these two cases, named their injury based mostly on a tightening of freedom of speech as it pertained to the classroom, not being allowed to teach only what they personally believe, technically, establishment of school curriculum (Wills, 98). They felt false information would be taught in schools leading to a bad education for their students, but they also saw injury towards themselves directly in potentially losing academic freedom or changing the entire system of whether teachers can fearlessly teach their subject without violating their own beliefs (Talbot). Again, it is evident that the process of naming injury can change a much larger scope of who the trial affects and how permanently. Across
4 the trials, the pro-evolutioners, in placing blame, tended first to address the school boards or local lawmakers, then turned more sharply to religious groups who seemed to directly influence rule makers decisions. Specifically, in the Scopes trial, William Jennings Bryan was blamed for direct involvement in the anti-evolution law and in the Dover Area trial the Dover School Board and political and religious figures like Bill Buckingham were blamed for setting the law. Here, changing the direct blame from a single person to a large general group has the affect of moving from a local trial which may be easier to solve, to a nationally debated issue, much more difficult to conclude. The claims slid the same way across a scale from local to national. Taking the case to a national level meant the issue became more generalized to validating all teachers academic freedom. In a general sense, the pro-evolutioners claimed that including intelligent design or creationism would harm the entire scientific process, since intelligent design is not a technically defined valid scientific theory though it was being treated as one (Talbot). The power of claims varied and could reach so far as to guarantee a permanent sole spot for evolution in biology classrooms and a notion of academic freedom. Again, by claiming on a larger scale, the defendants took on the fight for a larger group of teachers, scientists, and civil liberties advocates while simply keeping blame pointed at one group and claiming locally would only affect a small area of the country. The powerful nature of organizing legal processes into the three-prong model of naming, blaming, and claiming is evident. The largest factors that can change are who or what areas a name, blame, or claim may affect. If a person is willing to represent himself as a part of a bigger theoretical group and nationally fight for the basic right in question, he can pull victory (or defeat) for am infinitely larger group of people than himself, and create a much longer-lasting decision. Severity of impact, immortality of the decision, and range of affect are most strongly influenced by how one names, blames, and claims in legal trials.
5 Works Cited Felstiner William, Richard Abel, and Austin Sarat. "The Emergrence and Transformation of Disputes: Naming, Blaming, Claiming..." Law and Society Review 15 (1980): JStor. UMASS Amherst, Amherst. 8 Mar McCann Michael, Haltom William. "Distorting the Law." Java Jive: Genealogy of a Juridical Icon. Chicago: University of Chicago P Talbot, Maragret. "Darwin in the Dock." The New Yorker 05 Dec Wills, Garry. "Under God." New York: Simon and Shuster