Off-topic! Whyioughtta! The Scorched Earth Party was Jeff Vogel's usenet running gag back in the early and mid 90s.
Now get off my lawn!
She needed *skin grafts*. That's the whole point -- the coffee wasn't just scalding, it was completely unreasonably hot. Why don't you believe she suffered 3rd degree burns...? I think the jury and judge were in a much better situation to decide the facts than you are. It was a very serious burn. At first she only wanted McDonald's to pay her medical costs -- she only sued when they kept on screwing her around. And do you know how the jury calculated the damages? They estimated it was about a days worth of McDonald's coffee revenues. Doesn't seem that outrageous in that context, does it? But the judge lowered it to around $600k anyways.
This case has been misreported so many times. It has been twisted to serve as corporate propaganda for their self-interested "tort reform" bs. It's funny that you refer to drinking Kool-Aid, since you seem to be agreeing with the side who's selling it.
Just to give you more to chew on, it's worth keeping in mind that (in English/Canadian/I'm guessing other Commonwealth common law) judges have a large amount of discretion in awarding costs. Although it is very, very rare, they can even award costs against the *winning* party, if they feel that the whole case was basically an abuse of process.
More routinely, though, costs isn't an all or nothing affair -- you can get costs for individual motions or unreasonable delays caused by the other party. For example, let's say a party wins a trial that takes 5 days. The judge thinks they were really dragging it out -- calling repetitive evidence, or whatever -- and that the matter should have been resolved in 2 days. The judge can award the winning party only 2 days of costs.
In some jurisdictions, costs can also be used to encourage realistic settlement offers. Let's say Party A offers Party B $100,000 to settle. Party B wins, but only gets $70k. The judge can say, "Ok, you get all your costs up to the date of the offer, but it was a good offer that you should have taken, so you'll only get some of your costs from after that date."
There's definitely a risk that costs-awards can make it risky for an individual to seek to vindicate their rights against a corporation -- but the flexibility in the system (MegaCorp can't just say "Here's our bill for the dozen senior partners we had working on this!") mitgates that down side. And as others have pointed out, there are significant advantages to the system.
I am NOMAD!