Defenders of the appalling McDonald's coffee case such as Susan Saladoff like to point to the fact that McDonald's previously had 700 complaints about the temperature of its coffee, and had paid settlements when it was at fault for injuries for hot coffee, such as when an employee spilled coffee on a customer. Thus, she says, a jury was entitled to inflict punitive damages on the company, because they had notice that their product could cause injury.
With that background, it's interesting to see this Atlantic Wire report: 17,616 men went to the emergency room between 2002 and 2010 for zipper-related penis injuries, nearly 2000 a year. By the Susan Saladoff standard, there should be a gigantic MDL involving every zipper manufacturer facing thousands of claims for punitive damages because pants don't come with warnings to be careful with a zipper. (Recall that even Stella Liebeck's cup of coffee had a warning.) After all, zipper manufacturers surely have notice that zippers "could cause injury," yet continue to subject consumers to a product that could cause injury. According to Saladoff, that alone entitles someone to a jury trial.
Of course, even leaving aside that 700 injuries over all of McDonald's restaurants works out to one in 23 million cups of coffee, "could cause injury" is not the legal standard for liability. The question is one of whether a product is "unreasonably dangerous." Coffee is supposed to be hot. Zippers, even though they cause more injuries than buttons, have some risk associated with them. In neither instance should a court let a product-liability claim ever get to a jury when a user's carelessness with a product imposes injury upon the user.
The vast majority of courts facing hot-coffee claims throw these things out early. I'm not aware of any lawyer with the chutzpah to bring a zipper product liability suit, though the legal theory is the same as that with McDonald's coffee. Yet we see all this propaganda from the trial bar and increasingly from the legal academy that the hot coffee suit was legitimate, and tort reformers are evil for suggesting otherwise. Don't be confused: it's an argument for substantial expansion of the tort system, and at great social cost.