IntroIn 1994, Stella Liebeck , of New Mexico, filed a lawsuit against McDonalds Restaurants when she spilled scolding coffee from McDonald’s drive through. The coffee spilled when she removed the lid to add cream and sugar. The coffee was between her knees when it spilled causing her to suffer 3rd degree burns in groin area and thighs.
Liebeck v. McDonald’s RestaurantsKey Facts•McDonald's coffee was served at a temperature between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit. •McDonald's had long known that this was twenty to thirty degrees hotter than the coffee served at most other restaurants. •In the ten years before the case, more than 700 people who were scalded by coffee burns made claims against the company. But McDonald's never lowered the temperature of its coffee.•Stella Liebeck put the cup between her knees and removed the lid. As she did so, the slick Styrofoam cup flipped backwards, dumping the scalding liquid onto her lap and saturating the cotton sweat suit she was wearing.
Liebeck v. McDonald’s RestaurantsKey Facts•Stella Liebeck's family initially asked McDonald's to cover her out-of-pocket expenses. This amounted to about $2,000 plus her daughter's lost wages. McDonald's offered $800.•The company had no plans to either turn down the heat or warn their customers of the scalding danger.•Her lawsuit asked for $100,000 in compensatory damages (including for her pain and suffering) and triple punitive damages. These punitive damages were sought in order to send a message to McDonald's that their coffee was dangerously hot.•In September 1997, a seventy-three year old woman suffered first and second degree burns when a cup of McDonald's coffee spilled on her lap. At the time, McDonald's still kept its coffee at 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Liebeck v. McDonald’s RestaurantsKey Facts•Third degree burns occur at 185 degrees Fahrenheit in just two seconds. Skin grafting and other expensive medical treatment may be needed to treat injured customers. The costs can exceed tens of thousands of dollars and inflict prolonged pain. Some customers can become permanently disabled.