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White-Collar Crime and Negligence


White-collar crime is a category of non-violent criminal activities that are motivated by financial gain (Payne, 2016). Negligence refers to “the failure to use reasonable care” (“Negligence law,” n.d., para. 1). The aim of this paper is to analyze two case studies on white-collar crime and negligence.

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It can be argued that McDonald’s failed to apply reasonable care when serving scolding java in its outlets. Taking into consideration the fact that the defendant had been previously warned about the unreasonably dangerous temperature of its drinks, it is clear that the disregard of the duty was willful (Retro Report, 2015). In addition, McDonald’s failed to make a sufficient warning about the temperature of the drinks is served. As a result of the negligence exhibited by the restaurant chain, the plaintiff sustained severe damages; therefore, she was justified in seeking both compensatory and punitive damages.

In the case of the North Carolina man who sustained injuries from a cap of spilled coffee purchased in Starbucks, it can be argued that the defendant did not act negligently. It has to do with the fact that even though the coffee chain had a duty to Kohr the breach of which resulted in damages, the element of causation was not present in the case (“North Carolina,” 2015). The cap’s lid was not displaced due to Starbucks’ negligence; therefore, the jury’s verdict was justified.

The temperature of the coffee in McDonald’s at the time of Liebeck’s injury ranged from 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit, which was associated with the unreasonably high risk of burns (“McDonalds’ hot,” n.d.). Starbucks’ drinks, on the other hand, were served at 160 degrees Fahrenheit, which approximates 158 degrees Fahrenheit in McDonalds’ restaurants after adjustment (“McDonalds’ hot,” n.d.; “Starbucks drink,” 2016). The difference in temperatures shows that Starbucks was not liable for the man’s burns.

White-Collar Crime

The US’s corporate criminal enforcement has been using deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) for more than two decades (“Deferred prosecution,” 2014). DPA is a legal arrangement between the US government and a corporate defender according to which a criminal case is not prosecuted if the offender meets certain conditions (“Deferred prosecution,” 2014). DPAs can benefit an organization by sparing it from a lengthy court process and damage to the corporate image associated with it. The use of the scheme in legal arenas is associated with the public outcry because DPAs skew the incentive framework of the criminal justice system (Larkin, 2014). It should be mentioned that employees and stakeholders of a corporate entity can be negatively impacted by a DPA process because collateral damages associated with it often exceed potential monetary penalties that can be sustained by an organization. For example, a corporation might suffer from a lack of contracts with the federal government or suspension of licenses (Larkin, 2014). The company’s customers are negatively affected by DPAs due to generous settlements that drive up costs of a company’s products.

The application of DPAs to individuals cannot be defended on ethical grounds. By allowing white-collar criminals to escape sentences, it is possible to create additional incentives for crime. Taking into consideration a substantial impact of white-collar crime on the society, it is hard to argue for relieving guilty individuals from criminal convictions. Even though the imposition of financial penalties on individual defendants can reduce the prison population, it will disproportionately benefit wealthy criminals.


The paper has analyzed two case studies on negligence and white-collar crime. In the first case, it has been argued that Kohr is not justified in seeking compensatory damages. In the second case, it has been maintained that DPAs should not be applied to individuals.

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Deferred prosecution agreements: The US experience and the UK potential. (2014). Web.

Larkin, P. (2014). The problematic use of nonprosecution and deferred prosecution agreements to benefit third parties. Web.

McDonalds’ Hot Coffee Case – Read the facts not the fiction. (n.d.). Web.

Negligence law and legal definition. (n.d.). Web.

North Carolina cop spills free coffee, sues Starbucks for $50, 000. (2015). Web.

Payne, B. K. (2016). White-collar crime: The essentials. New York, NY: Sage.

Retro Report. (2015). Liebeck V. McDonalds: The big burn | Retro Report [Video file]. WEb.

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Starbucks drink guide: Terms. (2016). Web.

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