The famous/infamous "McDonald's Coffee Spill Lawsuit" revisited

McDonalds CoffeeEverybody “knows” the story: A lady bought coffee at a McDonald’s drive-through, spilled it on herself, and suffered minor burns. She sued McDonald’s, and with the help of a clever injury attorney, managed to convince a jury that it was all McDonalds’ fault for not providing adequate warning that hot coffee is indeed hot, and can scald you. The lady walked away with a multi-million dollar award.

The case has entered the popular culture as a symbol of everything that’s wrong with the justice system: frivolous lawsuits, unscrupulous attorneys, unreliable juries, greedy plaintiffs who blame others for their own mistakes, and judges who aid and abet the whole sordid process.

The McDonald’s Coffee Spill Case is a classic example of “miscarriage of justice,” right? Wrong.

Slip-and-sue.com has researched what really happened. When one looks at the real facts of the case, an entirely different picture emerges than the one painted by typical retellings of the story…

The plaintiff and the spill incident. The plaintiff, a 79-year-old grandmother named Stella Liebeck, was not driving, nor was the vehicle moving when the injury occurred. While the car was stopped, Mrs. Liebeck, who was sitting in the passenger seat, tried to hold the coffee cup between her knees as she removed the lid. The cup tipped over, spilling the contents into her lap.

The injury. Mrs. Liebeck’s injury was anything but trivial. The scalding-hot coffee caused third-degree burns over 16% of her body, including her genital area. She had to be hospitalized for eight days. She required extensive skin grafts and was permanently scarred. She was disabled for a period of two years. During the ensuing trial, Mrs. Liebeck’s physician testified that her injury was one of the worst cases of scalding he’d ever seen.

The coffee. At the time, McDonalds’ corporate specifications explicitly called for coffee to be served at a temperature between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit. An expert witness testified that liquids at this temperature will cause third degree burns of human skin in two to seven seconds. (Coffee served at home is typically 135 to 140 degrees.)

McDonalds’ culpability. During discovery, McDonald’s was required to produce corporate documents of similar cases. More than 700(!) claims had been made against McDonald’s, and many of the victims had suffered third-degree burns similar to Mrs. Liebeck’s. Yet the company had refused to change its policy, supposedly because a consultant had recommended the high temperature as a way to maintain optimum taste. Some have speculated that the real reason for the high temperature was to slow down consumption of the coffee, reducing the demand for free refills.

Greed? Despite the pain caused by her injury, and the lengthy and expensive treatments she required, Mrs. Liebeck originally offered to settle with McDonald’s for $20,000. The corporation offered her a mere $800, so the case went to trial.

The settlement. The jury awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages to Mrs. Liebeck, which was reduced to $160,000 because the jury felt that only 80% of the fault lay with McDonald’s, and 20% with her. They also awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages, essentially as punishment of McDonald’s for its callous treatment of Mrs. Liebeck, and its years of ignoring hundreds of similar injuries. This amount was held to be reasonable given that it represented only two days’ worth of McDonalds’ revenue from coffee sales alone. The trial judge reduced the punitive damages, however, to $480,000. After further negotiation, Mrs. Liebeck ultimately received $640,000.

The aftermath. In subsequent investigations, it was found that the Albuquerque McDonalds where the incident occurred had reduced the temperature of its coffee to 158 degrees. The corporation as a whole ultimately changed its policies as well, and now explicitly forbids serving coffee at the scalding temperatures that injured Mrs. Liebeck. There is no way of knowing how many additional injuries have been prevented by this case, which forced McDonald’s to change its policies, and which has doubtlessly served as a warning to other restaurants as well.

So what’s the bottom line? The case was neither about a gold-digger, nor a defendant that was taken to the cleaners based on a flimsy pretext. Rather, a huge corporation had knowingly injured hundreds of people as the direct result of a needlessly dangerous corporate policy, and was finally held accountable by one of the victims. The loss to McDonald’s soon disappeared behind the decimal point in its financial statements, in which not the dollar, but the million is the unit of reporting. Mrs. Liebeck’s financial gain hardly made her rich, but it did serve as reasonable compensation for her extensive medical bills—and for the extensive pain and suffering that her injury caused her.

Those interested in reading more about the case can find additional documentation here, here, and here.

68 Responses to “The famous/infamous “McDonald’s Coffee Spill Lawsuit” revisited”

  • BrianD

    01 Dec 2007 at 9:07 am

    Amazing. I’m going to pass this on. I had no idea. I wonder if the better known version of the story was planted by the insurance industry…

  • swag

    01 Dec 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Anyone who still cites urban legends and folklore without checking the facts is ignorant and should stay home for the elections in 2008.

  • spaceman

    04 Dec 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Perfect answer Swag! Let’s make it so that only those people that spend their lives researching stupid, dumb and *sometimes* incorrect stories have the right to vote. I mean, that’s so much easier than researching important matters like envorinmental issues, national security, etc. etc.

    By the way, exactly what does this issue have to do with the elections anyway? :rolleyes:

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    08 May 2008 at 12:39 pm

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  • MaximRecoil

    06 Nov 2008 at 9:40 am

    This article changes nothing about the absurdity of the lawsuit. She spilled the coffee, and it was no one’s
    fault but her own. Putting a flexible cup of hot liquid between your legs and then attempting to remove the
    cover (a cover which doesn’t need to be removed in the first place due to built in sipping provisions) is
    pure foolishness.

    Regarding the claim that “Coffee served at home is typically 135 to 140 degrees”; that would only be if
    you have a poor coffee machine. The optimal brewing temperature for coffee is between 195 and 205
    degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, there is a lot of instant coffee served at home as well, and this is typically
    made by boiling water in a tea kettle. Boiling water is of course, 212 degrees.

    It doesn’t matter how many people spill coffee on themselves. It is always their own fault. It is pretty sad
    when you can’t buy a cup of coffee brewed at a proper temperature because it is considered too
    dangerous and too much of a liability. Welcome to the Age of the Wimp.

  • cuban

    17 Dec 2008 at 7:44 pm

    maximum recoil is smart. I just cut myself with a pocket knife, let me go sue the company because now i have a scar. wtf is up with this.
    I can understand if the worker spilled the coffee on her and it caused he to crash her car. Thats realistic, but sueing a company for it having hot coffee. Lets go sue an ice cream place because when i went swimming in a pool of ice cream, i got hypothermia. idiots

  • Jessica Eve-Domino

    22 Dec 2008 at 11:43 am

    I do understand that corporations need to be held liable for dangerous and ineffective policies. Indeed. However, when a jury says that it is only 20% your fault when you spill a drink on yourself, I feel like they’re saying, “We really don’t care that you’re a klutz. We just want the big company to pay up.” Examples like this may avert people from taking necessary risks in life, like starting a Fortune 500 company.

  • Dale

    27 Dec 2008 at 9:36 pm

    Oh.

    For the ignorant – while it may be necessary to brew coffee at 195 degrees F for optimum flavor, that doesn’t mean it should be consumed at that temperature.

    A person removes the lid from a cup of takeout coffee to add cream and sugar, for the fool who rejected the idea that any reasonable person would remove the lid.

  • Martin

    26 Feb 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Regardless of the amount of effort made in this article to present this case as reasonable, I for one, still think its ridiculous that any money was awarded at all.
    If anything, i’m surprised to find out there are no other exceptional untold details of this case.

    A women held a cup of coffee between her legs and tried to open it. That is a stupid thing to do, and it is 100% her fault for getting burnt!

    Should companies be forbidden from selling kettles which heat water to boiling point? This is completely absurd!

    And who cares if she attempted to claim $20,000 dollars first? Some idiot though that heating a coffee to a normal temperature deserved millions of dollars of punishment.

    I’m sorry but i’m completely unconvinced by this poor attempt to justify such stupidity

  • Mary

    04 Mar 2009 at 9:49 am

    It isn’t some random temperature suggested to brew coffee, go on any brew website and it will tell you a range to brew coffee. If you brew at a lower temperature then the coffee tastes really bad. Then people complain about bad coffee. Did McD’s brew higher than recommended temps? If they were brewing within anormal and accepted brew range I don’t see where someone can say they were negligent or responsible, coffee is hot!

  • Greyness

    17 Mar 2009 at 1:07 pm

    I do feel sorry for the womans pain. I’ve been there. While in the Navy I was carrying a 5 gallon bucket of steaming hot water across the galley deck when my feet slipped out from under me on some liquid soap. My own dumb ass fault…Hurt like hell for several months. However, I have NO FREAKIN clue how in the hell a jury came up with the thought that living to the age of 79 and still somehow not having sense enough to NOT put a cup of hot coffee between your knee’s is 80% McDonalds fault??? I couldn’t possibly care less about McDonald’s. Thier food is sodium injected crap flavored with MSG. But still,.. there is something fundamentally wrong with the fact that the woman recieved ANYTHING….. Much less 640 Grand………..

  • Jim

    22 Apr 2009 at 3:10 pm

    I do have some knowledge of the case. The lady suffered 3rd degfree burns over 8% of her body, 2nd degfree over another 10% or so, a circumcision by scalding, and was horribly disfigured and in pain for the rest of her life. She died a few years ago.

    The coffee McDonald’s served was substantially hotter than other franchises. Msr. Liebeck wrote McDonalds asking if they could assist with her medical expenses, she made no financial demands, and politely asked them if they could reduce the temperature of their coffee; they responded with an insulting letter implying she was a gold digger and offered her $800.00. The insulting tone of the reply from McDonalds prompted her suit.

    Once in court, the judge and, more importantly, the jury, found McDonald’s attitude to be arrogant, disrespectful to the court, and untruthful. One of their executives in charge of quality control admitted that the coffee was unusually hot by restaurant standards, that an unsuspecting customer may not know it could be disfiguringly hot, that accidents do happen, and that they had had 700 scalding incidents over the past several years, some quite serious. He then anounced arrogantly and impatiently in open court that “I have better things to do than worry about people spilling coffee on themselves.” That sealed the verdict.

    Everyone is for tort reform until they need a lawyer.

  • MaximRecoil

    27 Jun 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Dale said: “For the ignorant – while it may be necessary to brew coffee at 195 degrees F for optimum flavor, that
    doesn’t mean it should be consumed at that temperature.”

    If you want the coffee fresh, you drink it as soon after brewing as possible. This means you take small
    sips at first. Additionally, plenty of people start drinking their instant coffee as soon as they have made it,
    and that stuff was just *boiling* moments before.

    Dale said: “A person removes the lid from a cup of takeout coffee to add cream and sugar, for the fool
    who rejected the idea that any reasonable person would remove the lid.”

    I don’t know what takeouts you’re going to, but McDonald’s puts the cream and sugar into the coffee
    before handing it to you at the window, based on what you specified when you ordered it. Also, I didn’t
    “reject the idea that any reasonable person would remove the lid,” I rejected the idea that any reasonable
    person would put the coffee beween their legs and then try to remove the lid.

  • Mark

    06 Jul 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Max, I agree 100% with all you say, but must make a correction. McDonald’s puts in the cream & sugar now days, but this is a fairly new thing for them (it was only about a year ago that they began advertising this “thrilling new concept” of them doing it for you).

    Jim, who states to “have some knowledge of this case” (how he would have any more than anyone else here I don’t know. Everything on this case is avail. on the net and is used in many law classes as the poster child of frivolous lawsuits), conveniently leaves out some important aspects. Yes, McDonald’s did have 700 complaints of burns ranging from scalds to real injuries., but this was over a ten year period. This brings up the point of the amount of coffee McDonald’s sells. The amount of course is in the TENS of BILLIONS. In fact, that number of 700 complaints works out to 1 in 24,000,000. A product that hurts one in twenty-four million people is not “unreasonably dangerous” , especially when the vast majority of the 700 incidents were not the sort of grievous injuries Ms. Liebeck had. (McDonald’s had settled previous cases, but the cases were incidents where the McDonald’s employees had spilled the coffee.) However, the jury took the 1-in-24 million statistic not as evidence that McDonald’s coffee was not dangerous, but as evidence that McDonald’s cared more about statistics than people — when in fact the statistic should have been used to throw the case out.

    Instead of the court ordering McDonald’s to pay out large sums of cash to extremely stupid people, they should have put her (and people like her) under a court order not to breed.

  • Nose

    29 Jul 2009 at 2:58 pm

    For those of you who think this is unreasonable, think about it. The coffee was spilled in her LAP, meaning her genital area had either second or third degree burns. She wanted 20 thousand so she could pay for the medical bills. After those, there wouldn’t have been much money left from it.

    I just burnt the tastebuds from the roof of my mouth. Never having McD’s coffee before, my friend who bought it didn’ t think to warn me of the tempurature, nor the person at the window. The only spot on the cup that said anything was the lid, black with the BLACK warning,”I’m Hot!”. Not only is it slightly hard to notice this because of the color, it seems as if it’s supposed to be cute, and not seriously burn worthy.

    You all act as if they warn you every time.

  • Lee

    19 Aug 2009 at 8:06 am

    -Nose:
    “You all act as if they warn you every time. ”

    You need to be warned every time you buy a coffee that it’s hot?
    In fact, you need your friend to warn you?

    Maybe you should write on your wallet “Remember, stuff you buy that’s not cold is hot!”

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  • Paul E. Smith

    03 Nov 2009 at 11:28 am

    There is hot and then there is Melt your face off hot. I remember when they use to serve it that hot and it always seemed over the top.
    Funny how Republicans STILL site this case as an abject lesson they feel points to the need for Tort Reform. The real story clearly shows that “Big Business” needs to be held accountable and sometimes is.

  • Clay

    05 Dec 2009 at 2:21 pm

    The real problem is not that the lawsuit was justified or was frivolous. It is that it was used by the insurance companies to get tort reform enacted.

    Because of the tort reforms there are many persons who cannot get justice because of a true injury which was not their fault.

    Lawyers will no longer take a malpractice case because the upper limit of allowed damages are so low that they actually lose money even if they win.

  • Hannah

    07 Dec 2009 at 9:00 am

    She shouldn’t have gotten anything because it was her fault.

  • pamela

    08 Jan 2010 at 10:00 am

    i, for one, used to feel like the lawsuit was frivolous. until 3 days ago. i went to mcdonalds and ordered a filet of fish. i order them a lot. i have never had a problem with mcdonalds food until now. i got the sandwich and drove across the parking lot to pick up a friend after work. while waiting outside…in bitter cold weather, i bit into the filet of fish. i received burns on my tongue when the scalding liquids in the fish washed over my tongue. the bun did not feel hot and i had never had this happen before. i assumed the sandwich was ok to eat. the pain in my tongue has yet to subside. i made a report with mcdonalds because i want them to be aware of the danger of scalding from the sandwich if it is eaten too soon after coming from the cooker. the package should have a caution hot food label. so i know how the lady felt. any lawyers want my case? because of the way the mcdonalds acted when i filed a report, i would definately sue them. they told me in no uncertain terms, oh well, we are sorry for your pain but it is our goal to serve HOT fresh food. we will send you some coupons for the trouble you went through. assholes. what if a you child gets burned? this really ticked me off.

  • Nate C

    04 Feb 2010 at 9:22 am

    Now you should be forced to sign a waver every day before you leave your house…

  • Deb

    08 Mar 2010 at 11:48 am

    @Pamela..You are joking right? I’ve eaten a lot of fish sandwiches from McD’s and some of them have been hotter than others. but common sense made me check the food before taking a huge bite.

    Looks to me like you are looking for a little bit of cash. Common sense seems to have left the building.

    this case is a fiasco no matter how you look at it. It’s just people being too lazy to take responsibility for their actions and trying to blame someone else for their mistakes

  • Really??

    11 Mar 2010 at 9:05 am

    I have always thought that this case got TOO MUCH attention and that the plaintiff got TOO MUCH money for this. Granted when someone is hurt because of something in your company it it not a great idea to be arrogant and insensitive about it. BUT if you order something COOKED (Pamela) or HEATED it would be safe to assume that you should assume IT IS HOT!! I feel so sorry that the lady was burmed and that sustained all of the injuries that she did BUT she ordered HOT BREWED COFFEE not Ice coffee! If no one in the establishment did something to cause that coffee to fall on to her skin then it was her fault and unfortunately she should have been liable for her own injuries.

  • kram

    16 Mar 2010 at 7:53 pm

    This is illustrative of our society; we are all victims and someone should pay. This lack of any responsibility being placed upon individuals is the same problem with why physicians practice defensive medicine. If any rare event occurs even though commonly practiced and accepted standards are followed, someone with money should pay and that will bring justice (lets see if the lawyers will accept just a sincere apology and covering the actual expenses for a settlement). Its the best illustration of how our US society is going down the tubes as life should be perfectly orchestrated and if you sneeze in my presence and I get a cold you will pay!

  • Greg P

    26 Mar 2010 at 6:10 pm

    LOL… you forgot to add the part where she sat in the scalding coffee for 90 seconds!!! I would be more understanding if it had been an instant one or two seconds of exposure kind of thing. But 90 seconds?!

    Other than that, millions of customers now get cold coffee because ONE PERSON can’t figure out how to add cream and sugar without dumping the entire contents in their groin. Makes me wonder how she survived to 79.

  • Hobbes

    03 Apr 2010 at 7:07 am

    This article, while mostly true, is only telling half the story.

    -Yes it is sad that an old woman was injured so badly. However the point of law isn’t simply award money to pitiable people, but to deter bad behavior. Let’s look at the objectively, not from the point of view of the pitiable old lady.

    -185 degrees F is a base standard for good coffee. High quality home coffee makers make it at LEAST at this temperature and usually higher. Also, the most successful restaurants in terms of coffee hand out their coffee at a similar or even higher temperature. This includes places such as Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and, to this day, McDonald’s – the bit about them lowering their temperature is completely false as it is company policy to keep the coffee between around 175-190. Yes, it is a very hot temperature. It is also, however, an industry standard which people enjoy. If they didn’t the market would demand a lesser temperature.

    -700 complaints of coffee burns over 10 years is very miniscule. We are talking numbers around 10 BILLION cups served, at least. There is a better ratio for being struck by lightning by a pretty hefty margin. Also keep in mind that these complaints were not all the same as this one. They ranged in severity and accountability.

    -The woman did herself no favors. She attempted to balance the cup between her legs as she opened the cover, was wearing a fabric which soaked in the coffee and pressed it tight to her skin, and sat burning in a puddle of the stuff for a good 90 seconds. It takes two to seven seconds to reach third degree burns at 185 degrees, correct? In the case they were claiming other restaurants they tested typically were around 20 degrees less. At 165 degrees for 90 seconds, the injuries she suffered would be nearly the same.

    -The woman’s medical bills were $11,000. $20,000 was simply too much, especially considering it was her own negligence and clumsiness which caused the injury. That was the lowest amount she ever asked for. The next time she offered a settlement the number had somehow jumped up to $300,000.

    -To say the $2.7 was punishment for McDonald’s ignoring other burn cases is simply ignorant. They had settled with others before, typically when one of their employees was responsible. Also to claim this number is reasonable blatantly ignores the fact that the judge disagreed or else he wouldn’t have reduced the amount so significantly.

    -To say this case prevented further injury is also downright ignorant. Temperature for good coffee has only raised since then, if anything, and the only things which have changed since the incident is the size of the warning label which, let’s be honest, is completely worthless. Everyone knows coffee is hot and everyone ignores the warning because they know it.

    Now let’s be simple about this. McDonald’s handled the situation supremely arrogantly and poorly. This does not make them any more at fault for the situation. It was the woman’s clumsiness which spilled the coffee and she sat in it long enough in the worst conditions that she would have been severely burned no matter the place she got it from as long as it was fresh. I can buy a 100 lbs. air conditioner, try carrying up the stairs only to have my pants catch on something and overbalance only to fall and break my back, but do we say it’s the seller’s fault for giving me an air conditioner that was too big? Would it have even made a difference should it have been half the weight?

  • and Calvin

    26 May 2010 at 11:30 am

    I can’t understand why the woman didn’t also sue the driver of her car, her grandson, for not offering to lend her a hand with the coffee? Makes more sense to me.

  • Lorrie

    06 Jun 2010 at 1:27 am

    Some people really have no sense or compassion. She was an elderly woman who was horribly injured. Would you hand your own grandmother coffee that was that hot? Or a child? No? Than why should a restaurant do it? Serving coffee to a customer that is so hot that is could be disfiguring is irresponsible to the point that restitution must be made. They knew of other injuries prior to this one that were caused by coffee that was far hotter than is safe for anyone. McDonalds could have chosen to do the right thing, but decided not to. There was no excuse for McDonalds thoughtlessness or bad behavior.

  • joseph

    07 Jun 2010 at 12:50 pm

    Lorrie you stated Would you hand your own grandmother coffee that was that hot? Or a child? No? Than why should a restaurant do it?
    It was her grandson that gave her the coffee she was a passanger not the driver so McDonalds did not hand it to her.

  • Dan

    12 Aug 2010 at 10:43 am

    Sad as it is that this sweet little old lady got the burns she got, is no excuse for stupid lawsuits! Which I certainly throw this one into. If you have to be told that coffee is hot…you don’t deserve to drink it. And if you do…you get what ya get. At what point did “people” discard responsibility? If an employee spilled it on her, than you’re darn right McD’s should pay the tab. If I were using a hammer & in the course of using it the hammer bounced off the nail & hit me in the face. Does this mean I can sue Stanley tools? NO WAY! This carap really pisses me off because this is one of the big reasons our country is in the sad shape that it is! Need more proof? Go to an auto parts store & take a can of degreaser off the shelf. Now check out the warning label on the back. It’s flammable, it will cause skin irritation, and should be stored in an environment not to exceed 70 degrees F. But just below that warning label is a very special label. It’s a warning label SPECIFICALLY FOR THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA! Really!?!?!?! If you want to rely on the government or Corporate America to take care of you maybe you should go to California. God knows they’re in a much better place financially!!!!

  • Box

    29 Aug 2010 at 1:08 am

    The point was that the coffee was way hotter than the industry standard. If you buy a product there are certain expectations of what that product is, and the dangers included in that product. Yes, people expect coffee to be hot. Do they expect coffee to be so hot that if they spill some on themselves, they get third degree burns? I don’t think so.

    That’s why everyone’s analogies are sh…. When you buy a knife, you expect it to be sharp. It’s your own damn fault for cutting yourself. Even Dan’s little rant didn’t make sense at all. He claims that if the MCDonalds employee had spilt the coffee on the lady, the suit would have made more sense. That’s utter nonsense. The lady was not suing McDonalds for the spilt coffee. Get that fact into your heads. Then she should have sued the universe for the laws of physics. No, like I mentioned previously, lady was suing McDonalds for unreasonably, unnecessarily, and unexpectedly hot coffee.

  • get real…

    11 Sep 2010 at 8:46 am

    unreasonably, unnecessarily, and unexpectedly hot coffee…..that she (or her grandson) obviously paid for at the drive thru window. They purchased the coffee, did they expect it to be cold?

  • Joe

    23 Sep 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Really this is what we have come to. When I was a kid I learned the difference between hold and cold. Why she was trying to open the lid doesn’t mean anything, the coffee tipped while in her possession. If the cup had burst, or the attendant had dropped it in her lap, yea medical bills should have been paid and a happy meal coupon given to the woman. I cannot find any fault that ties this Mcdonalds.

    We need to start taking responsibility for our own actions, not blaming others!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Whizerd

    23 Sep 2010 at 5:23 pm

    The woman didnt use the cupholders that were in the car… she bought HOT coffee, and put it between her legs instead. She deserved everything she got from the burns by her stupidity. Why shuld there be a “Caution; contents may be hot” on a cup if you know you bought HOT COFFEE!!??!! Its BS, and I would tell her so, even after reading this article.

  • Rachel Henderson

    23 Sep 2010 at 5:25 pm

    I think that the women burned derserved every penny she got..

    I have a friend who was severly burned from Mcdonalds coffee as well…..He ordered coffee through the drive through the women who handed him the coffee had extremely long finger nails and dropped the coffee in his lap and burned his genital area and the whole bit..lawsuit pending..I have no doubt he will and should win….admiting coffee was served to hot and having poeple serving coffee and other hot food items when they obviously cant hold on to the items is certainly Mcdonalds fault and they should pay.

  • Sassy

    23 Sep 2010 at 5:57 pm

    No, she didn’t expect it cold, but she obviously didn’t expect it to be so hot that it would give her third degree burns as well. Who order coffee from anywhere, expecting it to be THAT hot? So if there are no disclaimers that it can be so hot to the point that you’ll need hospitalization if you spill it on yourself, than Mcdonald’s deserved to be held accountable. As someone in the insurance industry, I’ve seen some silly claims come throught, from people trying to earn a few bucks by suing. But I completely agree with the claimant on this lawsuit.

  • Jack Asson

    07 Jul 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Holy Crap, this whole article is such BS. First lets visit “Coffee served at home is typically 135 to 140 degrees”. Do some googling and learn how a coffee pot works, then you’ll quickly debunk this statement. Coffee pots move water by boiling it in a tube w/ a one way valve. When the water is delivered its temperature is just under 212 degrees. There is some cooling effects during some minor evaporation and heat loss when passing through the coffee and filter, and when it reached the pot, its can be at about 190 degrees.

    This is a very simple case, the lady was clumsy and spilled hot coffee on herself. If she couldn’t tell it was hot when she grabbed a hold of the cup and placed it between her knees, then she had other medical issues or was clumsy and stupid.

    The lady then hurt and with medical bills, obviously felt because of her ignorance and inability to balance a hot cup of coffee between her knees felt that McDonalds obviously done her wrong.

    Now had someone who delivered her the coffee spilled it on her, that would be a whole other case.

    When I order coffee, I expect it to burn me if I spill it on me. But then I haven’t lost my common sense, such as the 12 jury members who granted her such a nice reward.

  • Defenseless

    08 Jul 2011 at 3:39 am

    Those 700 “(!)” complaints were over 10 years and include every McDonald’s owned by the corporation — a multimillion dollar corporation that proudly boasts of its billions served. That, in addition to the common knowledge that coffee is generally made with boiling water (212 degrees), leave me unable to feel she deserved to win the case. Corporations screw up but sometimes, it’s just user error.

  • Heather

    10 Jul 2011 at 4:11 pm

    What a joke. She didn’t deserve a penny. We already know coffee is hot. She was a moron. Nothing like good old freaking personal responsibility. She deserved nothing. How come people aren’t suing coffee pot companies? Ur home cup of coffee is brewed as hot if not hotter than dumb bimbos. Its all about don’t be a freaking moron.

  • rickmcq

    14 Jul 2011 at 12:21 pm

    “During discovery, McDonald’s was required to produce corporate documents of similar cases. More than 700(!) claims had been made against McDonald’s, and many of the victims had suffered third-degree burns similar to Mrs. Liebeck’s.”

    So there were “More than 700(!) claims” made “of similar cases” against an international corporation that serves millions of customers daily. I wonder how great thew peiod was for the claims and what the specific number was – and why it wasn’t specified in the article. (The use of “700(!)” pretty much tells us where the author is coming from. Although millions of coffee customers somehow managed to open coffee lids and to drink the coffee WITHOUT being hospitalized, this evil and dangerous practice was stopped. Indeed, “The Age of Wimps”.

  • OG

    19 Jul 2011 at 10:33 am

    There’s a lot of argument here about the brewing temp – but it wasn’t the brewing temp they were citing in the suit. It was the HOLDING temp – the temp the warmer was designed to KEEP the coffee at after it was brewed. Not what temp it was brewed at.

    McDonalds claimed that their holding temp wasn’t dangerous because people were not going to be drinking the coffee right away, but would be waiting until they got home or to their destination. Eh? I’d say that probably 1/3 to half of the people who go through a drive-through consume the goods in their vehicle rather than when they get to wherever they’re going.

    A holding temp of 135-140 (home coffeepot) would not cause similar burns; simply because of the time of exposure vs. natural cooling. If you spilled that on your lap, wearing sweats, the liquid is first cooled a bit by the interaction with the cooler material, and then by its dispersion through the material. You can withstand 20-30 seconds of that exposure at that temperature – but what’s not being brought out here is that it wouldn’t be at that temperature for that long to begin with. It would cool more rapidly than that dispersed in clothing, vs. sticking your finger into a mug of it and holding it there for 20-30 seconds, with only the surface cooling at the mouth of the container possible.

    At 180-190, and two seconds (1/10 to 1/20th the time) to significant tissue damage at that temperature – there wasn’t (and never would be) the time for that dispersal-cooling to happen before the damage would be done. I honestly never preferred McDonald’s coffee to what I brew at home – so I do not agree with their claim that *holding* it at such an extreme temp (again, we are not talking about the brew temp, but what temp it was kept at *after* brewing) improved its flavor. Liquid cools pretty rapidly if the heat isn’t kept on it, and the person continually talking about instant coffee or tea isn’t taking that into account. Ever walked away from your kettle after it switched off, and tried to brew tea after it’d been off for a full minute? Didn’t work out too well, did it? Because once the heat was gone, it cooled off below a good brewing temp in a relatively short period of time; and kettles also aren’t usually insulated to keep the heat in longer.

    The point isn’t so much that she is the one who spilled it; it could just as easily have been spilled on someone’s arm by the window attendant in the handoff, and would have caused similar damage. I don’t disagree with them finding _some_ fault with her, I just disagree that it makes her entirely culpable. They were keeping (not brewing) their coffee at a temp significantly higher than any other establishment at the time (the next highest holding temp found at any other place was 160, IIRC at a Dunkin Donuts) – with the argument that people did not intend to consume it until arriving at their destination. It wasn’t just hot, it was *extremely* and unusually hot. Not just a risk of damage if spilled – a virtual guarantee of unavoidable damage. That, to me, is what made them liable even though she was the one who spilled it. Nobody expects third-degree burns from a cup of drive-thru coffee – and in other establishments, it would be much less likely that anyone would get burns that severe with the difference in holding temps before the lawsuit.

  • Karl

    23 Jul 2011 at 12:27 pm

    Everyone thinks they know this case, but so many people have a view that was provided to them by the moronic media.

    If you are a guest in my house and I offer you a cup of coffee that is 212 degrees F, if you spill it on your lap you will suffer terrible burns. Your fault, or mine? If the coffee I provide for you is 135 degrees F it will still be too hot to gulp it, but if you spill it on your lap it will only be unpleasant and make a mess. The difference is not that it’s your fault that you spilled it. That could happen to anyone. The difference is the TEMPERATURE of the coffee I GAVE you in each scenario. MY FAULT.
    NOTE: She was not driving. She was a passenger in the car and it was parked. The cream and sugar were provided to her in little packets. She was attempting to remove the lid to put them in the coffee. If it had been at a reasonable temperature she would not have been injured and would not have had to endure painful and expensive skin grafts. THE ISSUE WAS NOT WHO SPILLED THE COFFEE BUT WHO SERVED COFFEE THAT WAS THAT HOT.

    It is not a matter of her not knowing it was hot. IT WAS HOT BEYOND REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS. IT IS reasonable to expect that coffee will be hot. It is NOT reasonable to anticipate that it is so hot it will give you deep tissue burns.

    Stop believing the media: They strive to sensationalize and will misrepresent, misquote, sneer and giggle to appear “cool” and get ratings. They don’t care about the truth, they care about viewers and readers. This woman was injured by an indifferent and even snide corporation and was vilified by the media. All she ASKED for was to have her considerable medical bills paid. ALL SHE GOT was that much. She did not ask for or receive MILLIONS of dollars. The JURY awarded 2.5 million in punitive damages, but she did not receive anything even close to that amount. She only received BARELY enough to pay her medical bills. PERIOD.

    If you get e-coli from their hamburger is it your fault for eating it? NO! — because you consume what they give you. You have reason to assume it is safe to do so. If it’s NOT safe, they should be held accountable.

    OKAY!?

  • dmarks

    25 Jul 2011 at 6:32 am

    Sassy: What you said isn’t true at all. Stella had actually purchased and consumed many cups of coffee from this exact same McDonald’s before. So she knew exactly how hot it was. As does anyone who knows what they are doing.

    “Who order coffee from anywhere, expecting it to be THAT hot”

    Millions and millions of customers. that’s who. In the time leading up to the case, McDonalds had sold $12 billion cups. There were 700 burn cases, almost all of which involved someone (not McDonalds) choosing to do something stupid with the coffee. Do the math: that’s an extremely safe product.

    You can blind yourself if you jab the end of a McDonald’s plastic spoon into your eye, you know.

  • Morgaonboy

    16 Sep 2011 at 10:47 am

    These people are so silly. They’d say, “shoot the old lady.” If the coffee was 700 degrees. If it is so hot it will cause third degree burns on skin. What WILL IT DO TO YOUR INNERS FOOLS? Skin is meant to protect your inners brainiacs! McDonalds not only gave her something it KNEW was very dangerous, it then lied and lied and lied about it. When does the company have any responsibility? Until one of these non thinking lemmings tells me this I will lump them all together. They are also proud they’ve all been able to avoid jury duty and being forced to listen to facts. 99% of Americans think like they do, “suing corporations is evil!” But then when a fair trial is held, even though the jury is made up of these same people, and the corporate lawyers get to be in on the choice of jurors PEOPLE!, and they find against the corporations. These fools who refuse to listen or think start screaming, “UNFAIR” This is how Sarah Palin and Bachman can run for office.

  • Awsomeness

    22 Sep 2011 at 8:05 pm

    When I heard about this my teacher made us do a story about it, My group found out the coffee was obviously hot but a little over the hotness limit. Why she sued? I dont know. I know she got third degree burns but come on! The coffee obviously wasnt gonna be cold!! Also, Who takes the lid off of there coffee in a car while the coffees in her lap?!?! like what the hell?!?! I dont fully agree at all on the lawsuit. AT ALL.

  • wtf

    26 Sep 2011 at 10:21 am

    are you people stupid lol, # pamela was obviously joking.. i suppose you guys failed to see the humor in that. How stupid do you have to be to spill coffee on yourself.. and how even more stupid to blame it on someone else, the only way that would fly through me is if someone bumped you in the arm causing you to spill it on yourself. Dame people looking for easy money, taking advantage of the system by any means necessary are whats wrong with this country.. no wonder all our courts are packed and you have to wait years to have your legit case heard cause people have crap like this tieing up the courts.

  • Don Kantor

    14 Oct 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Speaking to McDonalds arrogance towards their customers, here’s my story:

    While walking across a Pa. McDonalds parking lot in the winter 2 yrs. ago, my wife, only 10 feet from the front door, slipped in a large area of unshovelled ice (still there, even though it hadn’t even snowed since the morning and it was then 5pm.

    She did a fall reminiscent of Charlie Brown when Lucy pulls the football out from him, and landed hard on her hip, head & shoulder. I called for an ambulance after the manager incredibly showed no concern and my wife was hospitalized over night with severe contusions.

    We contacted McDonalds insurance company and corporate offices and 6 months and a dozen letters, calls and faxes later, they concluded that she was at fault and would not even compensate us for the ambulance ride!

    Our lawyers informed us that suing would take months, possibly years, and since she had no broken bones, it would be near impossible to recover our costs or her lost wages (she missed nearly 2 weeks of work)…

    I do believe the system needs fixing, but I believe it needs to be revamped to hear out the individual more, not the corporation.

  • Tegra

    18 Oct 2011 at 12:05 pm

    While it does suck and I’m sorry she had to go through so much paing (though she was fully compensated and then some) Why would you put hot coffee or anyhot liquid for that matter between your legs??? Yes, maybe McDonald’s should hace ASSISTED with her hospital bills, but it is still absurd to award so much money for a coffee spill. I don’t believe the women is stupid or anything like that, I just think it was her fault for what happend. Its like these people who feel like capitalists are evil. So McDonalds is a big company and there are some very rich and successful people out there. Don’t begrudge them because they’re more successful than you. Not all business owners are heartless. If you need someone to hold your hand and treat you like an imbecil who doesn’t know that when you order hot coffee..its freakin HOT, then move to North Korea, the government will tell you how to live and whats best for you. Geeze, the greedy people in this world are not the big business owners and higher ups, but those who live off wellfare and think the world owes them somethning, atleast business owners are self suffiicient regardless of money. (hey im poor as heck and payin for college, can anyone tell me why I deserve something from anybody)
    - In reply to “Rachel Henderson”, your friends case is a bit different, this women spilled it on herself.

  • truth teller

    30 Oct 2011 at 12:35 am

    “Tort Reform” is about nothing more than maximizing profit and getting out of responsibility. What is with the ultra conservative mantra of “personal responsibility” to the point of not wanting to hold greedy and highly profitable businesses responsible for anything? We are all under the false impression that they “can not afford” lawsuits that will “take away jobs,” and that probably informs attitudes, even if subconsciously. It is sad, because it is an effective and untrue manipulation to believe that. Blame the victim, blame the poor, blame everyone but big business, even though they often have NO sense of ethics whatseover, nor are they forced to. That is the popular view now and what probably the majority of commenters here portray. ZERO COMPASSION.

    It doesn’t matter how “stupid” this “old lady” was. Perhaps the lid was too tight to open easily, and the pressure caused it to spill. Maybe that was McDonald’s fault. They PROVIDED the product which maimed her, without her contributing to the injurious aspect of the product. Had she “stupidly” spilled 120 degree coffee on herself, that’d be a different story, but she did not control that temperature, they did. THEIR actions/decisions are what made the difference between maiming and a little discomfort, not her “stupidity.” THere was apparently testimony that the coffee was unreasonably hot., above that of industry standards. Even if people choose to serve their coffee at 200 degrees at home (where they have ceramic mugs, stable surfaces and all the time in the world to let it cool) it does not mean a public establishment should. They are required by the nature of doing busines with the public to preserve the safety of the public. THey gave her a product which maimed her. If each of us were penalized like she was for doing something “stupid” we’d all be walking around maimed in some way. You act as if what happened to her is “nothing.” You wouldn’t like it if it happened to you! And you would in no way feel it was “all your fault.” Callous, with no compassion, that is what many of you seem to portray. It is sad.

    The “personal responsibility” movement is a way to identify with the powerful; meanwhile, you are not powerful, they are. The second you are injured by them, you’ll change your tune, like the woman with the fish sandwich. I don’t blame her either- yes you expect hot, but not lava running over your tongue, and you have certain expectations of sameness each time you eat a sandwich, which makes that extreme hotness even more unexpected. Whether a fried food burns your mouth from boiling, flowing, “exploding” grease can be a matter of proper drainage after frying and waiting a proper amount of time to serve it. That is up to them and is their “fault.” Just knowing that “a sandwich is hot” (some are not so hot, actually) is not enough to blame the customer. Not everything that happens to everyone from OTHER people’s products is “their own fault.” Nowadays it seems like it is always “the victim’s fault.” I think anger in our society in general is just displaced toward the victim in an attempt to identify with the powerful- until it happens to you. The second you lose that “vicarious” power by becoming a victim, you will change your tune. Again, it could happen to you. When it does, you’ll be cursing tort reform, and crying “foul.”

  • Faith

    03 Nov 2011 at 7:22 am

    I feel horribly for that old lady…..I couldn’t imagine the amount of pain she went through. With that being said….I’m now after reading this article supposed to feel like her lawsuit was justified. If anything I feel more strongly that it was frivilious. Let’s first review that the lady was 79. Old and shaky…and she’s thinking at this age she has enough stability to open a lid on a super hot cup of coffee while it being between her knees. WHAT? I wouldn’t not do that and I’m only 36. Somewhere common sense has to take over. No one forced her to buy a hot cup of coffee…or open the lid. Yes that coffee is hot…if you do not have a stable surface to put it on might I suggest you wait till you do. Don’t get me wrong…I HATE McDonalds. I view them the same as Wal-Martt…they both are the anti-christ.

  • Peter

    27 Nov 2011 at 10:05 pm

    In approximately Christmas 2008 I purchased black coffee via the drive through at my local Macdonalds. I placed the holding container securely between the seats and the console before I drove off. As I approached the carriage way I braked suddenly to avoid an oncoming car entering the Macdonalsds car park. I immediately felt a severe sting in my left side (mid stomach area) and thought I had clipped the seat belt to my skin somehow? How ever the coffee had spurted out of the small drinking hole on top, wetting and staining my shirt on the left side. The coffee was so hot it burnt me through the shirt and continued to do so more painfully as I drove. I immediately went to a nearby chemist who suggested some cream for now but that I should definitely see a doctor that day!. The doctor was amazed at the extent of the damage and I had to see him every two days for a week to change the dressings etc. I was off work for two weeks. The night after the burn incident I rang my local Macdonals to report the incident. The Managers view was that I did not burn myself in the restaurant so it was not their problem! and took no further action. I then visited the premises the next day to show the burn personally and got the same reaction. I did this primarily to show the extent of the damage their hot coffee had caused and suggested that if it had have been a babies arm that the coffee splashed on to (instead of my stomach) it could very possibly have caused a very serious injury with the baby being hospitalised etc and possibly a life time scar on the baby also!

    I was never and have never been contacted at any stage by staff at my local Macdonalds to see how I was. Fortunately I took photos of the injury at that time and I now have two white patches on my stomach which looks quite strange especially with a bit of sun tan etc. I have even had children laugh at the scar. The main thing for myself is I am still quite angry as I am not the type to sue etc. However this situation really annoys me…. even today. Thanks for your time and attention!

  • Jim

    21 Dec 2011 at 6:11 am

    I’d like to know what parents would do if while walking from McDonald’s counter with your child and your child bumps into a table causing someone’s coffee to spill down his chest leading to 3rd degree burns? Most would sue because what is any restaurant doing serving a beverage item capable of causing a 3rd degree burn. Remember, McDonalds caters to kids. While I like my food hot, I don’t want it served to me at 3rd degree burn hot. Nor do I want my kid to suffer through and me to pay for my kid’s yearly scar adjustment surgery as scars do not grow just because McDonald wants to serve optimum flavored coffee capable of causing 3rd degree burns.

  • Kimberly

    21 Dec 2011 at 8:59 pm

    I used to think this was a petty lawsuit that ended up being a lottery win for the lady. But, once I saw the images of the damage on an HBO special, I change my opinion. It was brutal what she endured. No one would ever want nor expect to have put up with what she had. And, I do go and order hot drinks from places and careful when sipping. There are times when it is exceptionally hot. A drink never needs to be “scalding” hot!!!

  • Jane deaux

    23 Dec 2011 at 8:18 am

    If I burned my vagina off with a cup of coffee that, yes, I expected to be reasonably hot, but no, was unaware could cause burns down to muscle tissue, then yes, I’d want some help with my hospital bills. Seriously, it was her lady jewels. I bet if it was a guy in this case and his penis was burned and scarred severely people would have a different view. Cause we all know how much a man values his penis. >;)
    Oddly enough, having heard of the case, but not knowing the details, I was still unaware Mcd’s coffee could cause burns like that! I’m glad I know now. Although I rarely order restaurant coffee. I don’t prefer the taste.

  • TGIA

    18 Jan 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Although I agree that McDonald’s was in the wrong for serving coffee at the temperature they served it at, I do NOT agree with the 80% / 20% culpability. The reason is because you KNOW the coffee is hot. You may not expect to be burned by it, but you already KNOW that it is hot. It is like telling a company that makes knives that they are too sharp.

    I believe Ms. Liebeck is still responsible for her injuries since she is the one that opened the coffee, while still hot, and while still in her lap. That is not to say I don’t have sympathy for her.

    If the lid had been loose when the coffee was served and she burned herself because it spilled once the car started moving, then it would be a different story.

    I hate this whole lawsuit (even if it is commonly misunderstood) because it started a movement where people are no longer held accountable for their own actions, and juries reward them for it.

  • Robert

    14 Feb 2012 at 6:53 am

    I think things people totally overlooked in this case …
    1. What person in there right mind (meaning the driver or other passengers) would hand a 79-year old a cup of coffee in a moving vehicle o begin with?!? That person should have been liable and receive a Darwin Award.
    2. In response to whether to open the lid or to not open the lid … I repeat … consumer was in a moving vehicle! How about, ” Hey … could you pull over for a minute for me to fix my coffee up with cream and sugar?” … or … how about asking the server before handing it to you to put cream and sugar in it?
    3. Up until this case … how many cups of “hot” coffee had McDonald’s served up beforehand? I’m thinking likely in the millions … maybe even billion worldwide? And according to this article … and at that time … there were 700+ incidents. Maybe none of those incidents ever went to trial because they had bought the obviously “hot” cup of coffee and just the feel of their hand on the container’s outside should have been enough of a common-sense warning … for real!
    4. And really just an addition to point 3 … do you really need a label to tell you that a cup of coffee is hot? Whether made at home/work or from a fast-food realated business?
    5. I feel bad for the woman’s pain, but not the loss of common sense that resulted within our world.
    Robert

  • Robert

    14 Feb 2012 at 7:46 am

    Additional thoughts to my above post:

    1. Was the 79-year old of sane mind at the time of incident?

    2. Did the trial ever bring up the common-sense factor for the driver or other passengers involved to not hand her a hot cup of coffee? Or to let her attempt to add cream and sugar, which is the logical reason assumed that she was attempting to remove the lid int he first
    place?

    3. Further found out her grandson was supposedly the driver and supposedly was pulling over to let her add cream and sugar. Were they truly at a stop or not? She may still have attempted to take the lid off while the vehicle was still moving! and this still does not take away that the grandson, whom I’m guestimating to have been at least in his 20’s or maybe 30’s should never have handed a hot cup of coffee to a 79-year old to attend to in a moving vehicle. How about, “Grandma, please wait till we get there and I’ll add the cream and sugar. This will give the coffee time to cool down.”

    4. Why was the 79-year old attempting to pull the lid off a “hot” cup of coffee to begin with? Most people would lean forward to a position where the coffee would not be over them. If she was too frail to lean forward to take the lid off … yet again, why did the 79-year old have the cup of coffee to begin with? Grandson liable here too, yet again. And furthermore, I wouldn’t even attempt to add cream and sugar to a cup of “hot” coffee while being a very dexterous individual. Meaning setting “hot” coffee in your lap while you fiddle with tearing open a sugar packet and opening some sort of packaged cream too. Main point of this point is that the coffee should never have been in the person’s lap to begin with. And a label would have helped how … in this case?

    5. McDonald’s testified to having 1 incident per every 24 million cups sold of “hot” coffee. Over ten years, that was 23,999,999 cups of coffee/people without incident. And to add to this point as support, McDonald’s was not required to have labels because/and they were totally within standards of New Mexico (where the incident happened) for “willfull, wanton, reckless or
    milicious conduct” for awarding punitive damage. McDonald’s was actually under The National Coffee Association’s (NCAUSA) lowest recommended temperature of 195 degrees by 5-10 degrees (McDonald’s serves between 180-190 degree temperatures.
    Some of this information was found at the following link … http://www.stellaawards.com/stella.html

  • Justin

    14 Feb 2012 at 10:31 pm

    So the guy said “i have better things to do than worry about people spilling
    Coffee on themselves” to the jury? Cool. Thats what i would have said. Was it
    Like he was being rude? No. He was saying that she was making to big a deal out of it. And “she politely asked them to help her cover the medical expenses but then they replied insultingly shes a gold digger and offered her 800 dollars”? Hey buddy, if i drive to your house and crash a ferrari and politely ask you to huy me a new one would you do it? Yeah, didnt think so. You use so many small adjectives to try to justify a seriously stupid case. ” “She POLITELY asked” oh yeah so what? Your so biased. Its not mcdonald’s fault, obviously you shouldnt need to be warned that coffee is hot.

  • Robert above is a dumbass

    08 Mar 2012 at 9:16 pm

    “What person in there right mind (meaning the driver or other passengers) would hand a 79-year old a cup of coffee in a moving vehicle o begin with?!?”

    Read the fucking story, the car wasn’t moving

  • Juliet

    09 Mar 2012 at 6:34 pm

    I can see both sides. I believe the fault was Liebeck’s. In seventy-nine years this woman should have known not to open HOT coffee between her legs. And I don’t care what the temperature was. All HOT coffee will burn a person, and the elderly burn more easily, having more fragile skin. Liebeck acted stupidly. I feel sorry for her, but she was being stupid.

    But, she wasn’t a golddigger. And she offered to settle with McDonald’s for far less than the jury awarded her. I don’t believe McDonald’s was responsible for her burns (I feel sorry for her), but I do believe McDonald’s needed to learn a little about human decency. In arbitration, the arbiter suggested both sides settle for $225,000 – Liebeck was willing, McDonald’s was not. The judge ultimately reduced the punitive damages to $480,000. Each side appealed, but it was settled out of court, and Liebeck eventually walked away with less than $600,000. Not a big payday. Not from a giant like McDonald’s.

    A British court showed that liquid at 149 F. could cause third degree burns in two seconds. So Liebeck’s lawyers arguments were wrong.

    I don’t think it was McDonald’s fault. I think they acted like *****, but people should know, HOT things are gonna be HOT! They are gonna BURN!

  • Georgian

    14 Mar 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Definitly she was in the right to this lawsuit.. They served her “a harmful substance.. She is 79!!! Older people have thin skin and reflexs are abit slower.. for godsake.. McDonalds and any/all companies should be held accountable.. Coffee served should have a warning label.. Don’t feel sorry for these huge Corporations.. this is not acceptable..doesn’t matter how she held her coffee.. think about it..I bet if this happened to you or if it spilled on your grandma or KID!!! you would see it differently.. I mean look at your menus now..most of them have to disclose eggs,peanuts,etc..that are in their dishes.. Its served on their premises..and was from them.. YES!!! they are reliable…

  • Scott

    17 Mar 2012 at 7:07 am

    You can’t plan for stupid. As has been said, good coffee is made at that temp. I am sorry for this woman’s injury, but she made it happen. The lesson of the fact that McD’s had multiple such injuries before changing their coffee temp is not their negligent coffee temps, it is that they serve to a clientele that has the brain power of children, and therefore have no business handling hot liquids. To that end, I guess McD’s should have understood their target population.

  • Warrior

    05 Jun 2012 at 8:28 am

    The jury did take into consideration that Mrs. Liebeck was partially responsible for what happened. I would have put a bit more than only 20% on her but hey, the jury ultimately did the right thing.

  • Bob C.

    25 Jun 2012 at 7:32 am

    Did Mrs. Liebeck accept the coffee? Did Mrs. Liebeck put the coffee in an acceptable container to perform the work? Another example of this could be: She was stealing the $$ from the McDonalds cash register and tripped over the “Door Mat/Carpet” on my way out. As a result, she twisted her knee and tore some ligaments. Yes it did happen on the property, and we know that the 40% of the “Door Mats” cause problems with injuries. McDonalds should pay restitution for the injuries plus plain and suffering. This is the typical legal maneuver to manipulate the facts and put the burden on someone else. The real facts are: Mrs. Liebeck took possession of the container and chose what she wanted to do with it. Since she is a grandmother, the “Ambulance Chasing” lawyer was able to use that to their advantage. The “Ambulance Chaser” didn’t take the case “Pro-Bono”. It’s really about the money plain and simple.

  • Really….

    13 Sep 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Some of these responses I swear… A warning label? Don’t lie to me and pretend like anyone here follows those.

    What should a company do to protect itself from general stupidity? Should a waiver be signed every time you go to McDonalds?

    And accountability? You demand McDonalds to be held accountable for serving hot coffee? You are the same morons that would complain if the coffee was even slightly too cold. But who cars about making mistakes. Some rich person or company should totally pay me for being stupid.

    Bottom line, that lady chose to go to a McDonalds, she chose to buy coffee, which, in the United States is served after boiling water is mixed with coffee grounds. Uhh Okay? So it shjould be hot correct? If she had worked at McDonalds, thats one thing. But she willingly went to McDonalds for coffee. I don’t understand why anyone would ever feel or think themselves entitled to having “idiot insurance” when just shopping at McDonalds.

    The reason why so many think this is stupid… think about it. Think about some of the lawsuits. This isn’t just some ridiculous isolated incident. Wasn’t McDonalds sued also for making people fat? Wasn’t a homeowner sued by a burglar when he fell on a knife that was left out? I know the latter won that case. Really?

    No, I will 100% tell anyone right now, I have never thought about, tried, or wanted to sue someone else when I did something stupid. Even on the property of a company like McDonalds, should they be help liable for your getting hurt unless they did something out of malice or neglect of their own. You willingly, and knowingly go into a business, whether there is ice and its winter, or ordering coffee and knowing its served hot and fresh. Do you know what fresh means?

    In response to some moronic democrat blathering on about how republicans demand responsibility, while calling for compassion…. Compassion must mean ONLY CARE ABOUT MEEEEEEE where you are from.

  • Burnt and Mad

    19 Sep 2012 at 11:54 am

    I hope everyone of you naysayers get a nice burn like that and they have to operate on your to remove layers of clothes from under your skin. Coffee does not need to be brewed at that temperature, obviously or since they did lower the temp of it, who would be buying it? Ill fitting lids, coffee that is so hot that it burns the hands just holding the cup, and I can go on and on for the reasons why coffee could be spilled. Go through it, it’s not like having a little blister or a little sunburn. I’ve been there and it wasn’t my fault they didn’t use heavy enough cups for the temp of the coffee and didn’t have the lids that are made to sip from but just cold cup lids which are flimsy and once that steam hits them – well try it and see, dare you. Watching and feeling your skin literally peel away isn’t fun. Nor is debriding dead skin or taking week up on week of antibiotics. The McDonald’s case has been used as a case study. McDonald’s was in the wrong, plain and simple. Now they’ve corrected and that is what punitive damages are supposed to make someone do when they have done wrong.

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