VeggieBoards banner
1 - 20 of 22 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,902 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Avalon mentioned this in another thread, so I thought I would post this, since most people don't hear the whole story. (Especially since the plaintiff agreed to not talk to the press as part of a secret settlement).

I don't mean to pursuade anyone, just to alert you of some facts next time someone brings up this case.

Quote:
There is a lot of hype about the McDonalds' scalding coffee case. No one is in favor of frivolous cases of outlandish results; however, it is important to understand some points that were not reported in most of the stories about the case. McDonalds coffee was not only hot, it was scalding -- capable of almost instantaneous destruction of skin, flesh and muscle. Here's the whole story.

Stella Liebeck of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was in the passenger seat of her grandson's car when she was severely burned by McDonalds' coffee in February 1992. Liebeck, 79 at the time, ordered coffee that was served in a styrofoam cup at the drivethrough window of a local McDonalds.

After receiving the order, the grandson pulled his car forward and

stopped momentarily so that Liebeck could add cream and sugar to her coffee. (Critics of civil justice, who have pounced on this case, often charge that Liebeck was driving the car or that the vehicle was in motion when she spilled the coffee; neither is true.) Liebeck placed the cup between her knees and attempted to remove the plastic lid from the cup. As she removed the lid, the entire contents of the cup spilled into her lap.

The sweatpants Liebeck was wearing absorbed the coffee and held it next to her skin. A vascular surgeon determined that Liebeck suffered full thickness burns (or third-degree burns) over 6 percent of her body, including her inner thighs, perineum, buttocks, and genital and groin areas. She was hospitalized for eight days, during which time she underwent skin grafting. Liebeck, who also underwent debridement treatments, sought to settle her claim for $20,000, but McDonalds refused.

During discovery, McDonalds produced documents showing more than 700 claims by people burned by its coffee between 1982 and 1992. Some claims involved third-degree burns substantially similar to Liebecks. This history documented McDonalds' knowledge about the extent and nature of this hazard.

McDonalds also said during discovery that, based on a consultants

advice, it held its coffee at between 180 and 190 degrees fahrenheit to maintain optimum taste. He admitted that he had not evaluated the safety ramifications at this temperature. Other establishments sell coffee at substantially lower temperatures, and coffee served at home is generally 135 to 140 degrees.

Further, McDonalds' quality assurance manager testified that the company actively enforces a requirement that coffee be held in the pot at 185 degrees, plus or minus five degrees. He also testified that a burn hazard exists with any food substance served at 140 degrees or above, and that McDonalds coffee, at the temperature at which it was poured into styrofoam cups, was not fit for consumption because it would burn the mouth and throat. The quality assurance manager admitted that burns

would occur, but testified that McDonalds had no intention of reducing the "holding temperature" of its coffee.

Plaintiffs' expert, a scholar in thermodynamics applied to human skin

burns, testified that liquids, at 180 degrees, will cause a full

thickness burn to human skin in two to seven seconds. Other testimony

showed that as the temperature decreases toward 155 degrees, the extent

of the burn relative to that temperature decreases exponentially. Thus,

if Liebeck's spill had involved coffee at 155 degrees, the liquid would

have cooled and given her time to avoid a serious burn.

McDonalds asserted that customers buy coffee on their way to work or home, intending to consume it there. However, the companys own research showed that customers intend to consume the coffee immediately while driving.

McDonalds also argued that consumers know coffee is hot and that its customers want it that way. The company admitted its customers were unaware that they could suffer third degree burns from the coffee and that a statement on the side of the cup was not a "warning" but a "reminder" since the location of the writing would not warn customers of the hazard.

The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages. This amount was reduced to $160,000 because the jury found Liebeck 20 percent at fault in the spill. The jury also awarded Liebeck $2.7 million in punitive damages, which equals about two days of McDonalds' coffee sales.

Post-verdict investigation found that the temperature of coffee at the local Albuquerque McDonalds had dropped to 158 degrees fahrenheit.

The trial court subsequently reduced the punitive award to $480,000 -- or three times compensatory damages -- even though the judge called McDonalds' conduct reckless, callous and willful.

No one will ever know the final ending to this case.

The parties eventually entered into a secret settlement which has never been revealed to the public, despite the fact that this was a public case, litigated in public and subjected to extensive media reporting. Such secret settlements, after public trials, should not be condoned.

-----

excerpted from ATLA fact sheet. ©1995, 1996 by Consumer Attorneys of

California
http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cur78.htm

http://lawandhelp.com/q298-2.htm

http://www.vanfirm.com/mcdonalds-coffee-lawsuit.htm
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
295 Posts
Hmmm... That's an interesting look at the other side. One I had never heard before. Thanks, Thalia.

If McD's coffee was 180F, then the temperature of Chinese Take-out Soup has GOT to be 211F. I swear, that stuff is as hot as it can be before it's steam!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,192 Posts
Quote:
Originally posted by Michael

Yeah, that's McDonald's fault. Still ridiculous.
Agreed, it is still ridiculous. No one from McDonald's ran out and tipped the coffee over in her lap. It is mind-boggling to me how people are so willing to transfer blame to others for something they did to themselves.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,902 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Michael

Yeah, that's McDonald's fault.
Still ridiculous.
The way I figure if you sell something that is intended to be used in a certain way, one should be able to use it in that intended way without a huge risk of injury. Even if she had opened it on a table, it still conceivably could have spilled very easily removing the lid. One is given a cup with a lid on it, that one is supposed to remove in order to add cream and sugar. One assumes a certain amount of risk with a hot beverage. However, this beverage was well above your average hot beverage, (they compared it to other restaurant's temperatures) AND McD's knew about it, knew it was injuring people, and did nothing. There was one person who even testified that to drink it immediately at the holding temperature would burn one's mouth. How hot would the liquid have to be Michael, before you would find McD's liable? boiling?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,192 Posts
Thalia, I think a "reasonable" person would not immediately take any hot liquid and just start pouring it into their mouth without first "testing" it.

When I order my Horton's... it too is very hot. I put the edge of the cup to my lips and blow into the cup a little bit and this forces back a sense of the heat in the liquid. Not to mention you can feel the heat dissipate via the cup itself.

I think the temperature of the coffee was irrelevant here. I think her inability to open a lid combined with simultaneously placing a hot cup of coffee between her knees showed negligence on her part.
 

·
Administrator
Joined
·
19,873 Posts
Thank you.

Coffee is hot. Be careful. Duh. As I said, if she had gotten her sugar in there she probably would have started drinking it right away.

Second thing, if I had a drink that I knew was hot and I was having trouble getting the lid off, and I was in the passenger seat I would probably place it on the floor between my feet to get the lid off.

I thought the lid was not put on good and it spilled while it was being handed to her or shortly thereafter. I also thought she was the driver. After reading the article you linked to I think this is even more ridiculous than before.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
0 Posts
I still feel really bad for her. Can you imagine? 3rd degree burns on her genitals and butt..ugh that's gotta hurt! If it had been 140 degree it would have smarted, but would it have caused this much damage? Probably not. I do feel that McD's is to blame for the severity of her injury's. However, she's to blame for the actual injury occuring (due to her negligence in properly securing the cup). Both are at fault, IMO.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,866 Posts
l always used this as an example of ridiculous suits, but after reading this, it doesn't sound quite as nuts. Still, we all have to use a bit of common sense. Coffee is hot. Be careful.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
811 Posts
You know, part of all insurance and lawsuits have to do with forseability. Nearly everyone I know, opens the coffee and puts stuff in it in the car. This is a FORSEABLE act. McDonalds made their coffee too hot to drink in order to save money - if it is too hot to consume quickly, then people won't get refills.

Is there anyone on this post who can honestly say that they never spilled hot coffee in themselves or in the car? How would you have felt if that coffee was so hot that it would give you 3rd degree burns within in seconds? This is NOT HER FAULT. To me, blaming her for spilling her coffee is like blaming a woman who wears shorts if she gets raped. I think that most people would agree that spilling the coffee is a forseable event (my husband does it all the time), but to receive 3 degree burns that required extensive hospitalization and grafts are not. Imagine that the next time YOU spill some coffee!

McDonalds makes their money from their customers. They have a responsibility to make their products safe. What would everyone's opinion be if a toddler turned a cup of this coffee over on themselves and received these burns on their face? To have coffee that hot is to put your customers in danger. They knew it, and they continued to do it to save a few pennies.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
12,374 Posts
Quote:
Originally posted by EquiPro Is there anyone on this post who can honestly say that they never spilled hot coffee in themselves or in the car?
I can. I mean, I've gone around corners and had a little coffee slosh out of the top and over the edge, but that's probably not what you meant.

Cars are for driving. People shouldn't drive with coffee in their lap. That's stupid. Suing someone for being stupid is irresponsible. Irresponsible people should have to pay for the consequences of their actions.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,310 Posts
Quote:
Originally posted by EquiPro

To have coffee that hot is to put your customers in danger. They knew it, and they continued to do it to save a few pennies.
Wouldn't it save money to keep the coffee at a lower temperature? It seems like the electricity/heat needed to heat the pot to 185 degrees would cost more than that needed to heat it to 140 degrees.

I believe it is the fault of both groups. McDonalds should not keep coffee hot enough to cause 3rd degree burns in 2-7 seconds, and the woman should have been careful since she could probably feel that the coffee was hot when she held the cup. People should think enough to be careful with hot liquids.

But seeing that what she was awarded was only a couple of days worth of McD's coffee sales, do they really care that much?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
12,374 Posts
Quote:
Originally posted by Kurmudgeon

In cases like this it is hard to decide who to side with; the big evil corporation, or the McMoron who purchased the hot coffee. One needs to take a step back and point fingers at both.
That is why we have two hands, after all.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
878 Posts
ouch that would so hurt

but its not really mcdonalds fault

like they say be careful this product is hot and its not like they tripped her to make her spill her coffee on her

and if it was colder a lot of people would complain

but then again i feel bad for the old lady !

and the temp is pretty hot
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
811 Posts
I take it, Epski, that you don't have kids yet? When you do, you'll start to learn the true joys of consuming foods in the cars. Wait till that first chocolate milkshake (or Odwella) spills all over because the 2 year old just learned how to take the caps off. Wait until you have to deal with thrown crackers, dripped PB&J, spilled soymilk, not to mention trying to pull over quick before your pride and joy hurls all over your back seat....hehehe....you'll then truly understand the magnitude of anything that scalds...!

Keep in mind, sprout, that McD's made it so hot that it would give 3rd degree burns within seconds. They made it that hot so that people wouldn't get refills too quickly. I would understand all of the blaming of the victim, if there wasn't this underlying ploy on McD's part to save a few bucks. Also remember that there were over 700 other complains of injuries from the scalding coffee!
 
1 - 20 of 22 Posts
Top