The case from 1994 was high profile. It became the catalyst for a debate about tort reform in the United States.

A New Mexico jury awarded $2.86 million to a woman who suffered third-degree burns when she accidentally spilled hot coffee in her lap after purchasing the drink from a McDonald’s restaurant. The woman was hospitalized for eight days and underwent skin grafting.

Ultimately she received $640,000 when the trial judge reduced the award and the case ended when the parties settled for a confidential amount before an appeal could be decided.

Around the country, there was debate over frivolous lawsuits. Some argued the woman was entitled to every dollar while others said the award by the jury was excessive. The case was examined in a documentary by HBO in 2011.

As much as it may have shown a need for tort reform, the latest news about McDonald’s and coffee is in some ways more disturbing -- and an example of a need for reforming how people treat each other in this fast-paced, fast-food world.

The Associated Press reported this past week in a story from Camden that a McDonald's patron hurled hot coffee in the face of a teen drive-through worker because he was angry about the wait for his food.

A police report says the man felt he had waited too long for his order and asked the worker to throw in a large order of fries and to speak to a manager.

The report says the worker said "OK," closed the window and told colleagues she didn't want to go back because the man was acting "obnoxious."

The man waved her back and when she opened the window again, he splashed the coffee in her face. She declined medical treatment.

Camden police have released surveillance video of the man.

As much as the worker was not seriously hurt, there should at least be some consequence for such an action. While there are so many instances of people showing inhumanity to one another, to the point of killing, the man’s actions are a straight-up example of the problems we have in society.

Plain and simple, there is too little respect for others, the law and the very principles of civility. We need fewer characters and more character.

Thus at no time has efforts such as Orangeburg County Community of Character been more important. The nearly two-decade-old campaign is devoted to building positive character traits in the county’s population.

The organization works with all segments of the community: schools, business and industry, government and public safety, social services and health services, families, civic and other nonprofits, plus faith-based organizations and media.

Each month, the campaign focuses on a trait that is a component in good character in an individual.

As we ponder an incident such as throwing coffee in a restaurant clerk’s face, consider the need for the 2019 character traits in that individual and others:

• January – Wisdom

• February – Justice

• March – Dependability

• April – Determination

• May – Honor

• June – Patience

• July – Loyalty

• August – Respect

• September – Trustworthiness

• October – Sportsmanship

• November – Courtesy

• December – Caring

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