The Infamous McDonald’s Hot Coffee Lawsuit
More than 20 years ago, a 79-year old woman received a jury award of $2.86 million dollars after she was burned by a cup of coffee served to her at a McDonald's restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants became known as the "hot coffee lawsuit" or "hot coffee case" and gave critics who believed the United States had become "lawsuit happy" plenty of ammunition to argue for legal reform. The lawsuit also became an easy target for comedians and satirists looking for a quick joke. However, this personal injury and product liability lawsuit was no joking matter for the accident victim.
Liebeck was not driving with a cup of hot coffee between her legs when the accident occurred. She was sitting in the passenger seat of a parked vehicle when the 180-degree cup of hot coffee (30 degrees hotter than coffee you brew at home) spilled onto her causing severe burns over 16% of her body. She spent a week in the hospital and incurred $10,000 in medical bills in addition to the physical pain and emotional suffering. Liebeck only sued McDonald's after the company refused to pay her medical expenses.
The jury awarded Liebeck $2.9 million for her damages; however, the judge reduced the jury award to $650,000. The parties eventually settled the matter for $500,000 - far less than the $2.9 million everyone remembers. Unfortunately, the case is mostly remembered as a woman cashing in on a little bit of hot coffee spilled in her lap when she should have never been driving with coffee between her legs.
Lawsuits Still Being Filed Regarding Hot Beverages
After the infamous McDonald's hot coffee lawsuit, many restaurants added very specific language to their cups warning customers of hot beverages. Even with this added warning, lawsuits are still being filed for injuries sustained from hot beverages.
- A woman in Seattle, Washington filed a lawsuit against a local Starbucks alleging over $130,000 in damages when she was burned because a lid popped off a cup of hot water. The lawsuit alleges the cut was defective in addition to the beverage being too hot to be safe for consumers.
- In a similar lawsuit, a Philadelphia man has sued Starbucks and Solo Cup for injuries he claims he sustained when the rim of the cup collapsed causing the lid to come off. Hot coffee spilled out of the cup causing severe burns. The lawsuit is alleging negligence and product liability.
- An ABC News report states that a New Jersey woman is suing Dunkin Doughnuts for injuries sustained when her hot apple cider was too hot. According to report, the lid was not properly secured and the beverage was hotter than industry standards.
- In another Starbucks lawsuit, a Pompano Beach, Florida man suffered second-degree burns after an employee "failed to confirm his hold on the cup" and "exceedingly hot" and dangerous liquid spilled in his lap.
Have You Been Injured by a Defective Product?
Some of the above lawsuits deal with product liability, negligence, premises liability, and other personal injury actions. Regardless of how you are injured, if you are injured by another person, you may have a valid personal injury claim. You deserve compensation for your damages. Contact the experienced Harrisburg personal injury lawyers of Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLP for a free consultation. We will evaluate your case and provide legal advice free of charge so that you can make an informed decision whether you need to pursue a lawsuit for compensation against the party who caused your injuries.