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Nearly 30 Years Later, the McDonald’s Hot Coffee Lawsuit is Still Misunderstood

 Posted on April 05, 2021 in Personal Injury

Cook County product liability lawyerIndividuals above a certain age may remember news stories about a woman suing the McDonald’s restaurant chain because her coffee was too hot. The 1994 lawsuit made international headlines and became the go-to example of “frivolous” lawsuits. For almost 30 years, the McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit has been touted as the epitome of American litigiousness. However, the real story behind the infamous product liability lawsuit may surprise you.

The Real Facts of Stella Liebeck’s Hot Coffee Claim

If you are like most people, you may remember reacting to the “hot coffee” lawsuit by rolling your eyes in disbelief. After all, everyone knows that coffee is hot. You may remember hearing that the woman spilled the coffee on herself because she was attempting to simultaneously remove the lid while driving. You may have also heard that the woman received an exorbitantly high payout for the incident.

Unfortunately, the real story is much more disturbing. The coffee that the 79-year-old plaintiff spilled on herself was not just hot – it was outrageously hot. The coffee was approximately 190 degrees Fahrenheit. That is only 22 degrees shy of boiling. At temperatures this high, coffee is capable of causing full-thickness burns in less than three seconds. Furthermore, the woman was not driving at the time of the incident. She was in the passenger seat, and the vehicle was parked. When she took off the lid to add sugar to the coffee, the coffee spilled on her lap. Liebeck suffered third-degree burns down to the fatty tissue and muscle on nearly 20 percent of her body. Her burns were so severe that she required multiple surgeries and years of recovery. McDonald’s had also received hundreds of reports of the coffee burning customers previously, but the company did not lower the temperature at which coffee was served. Liebeck eventually settled for an undisclosed amount.

The Story Highlights the Importance of Product Liability Claims

Product liability law deals with the obligation that companies have to design, manufacture, and distribute reasonably safe products. When an individual is harmed by a product that is defective or unreasonably dangerous, the person may file a product liability lawsuit and recover compensation for their damages. The injured individual may be awarded monetary compensation for medical bills, future medical care, and lost income from missed work. Compensation for the non-financial harm caused by the injury, including the individual’s physical pain and mental suffering, may also be available. Furthermore, product liability lawsuits are a means of holding companies accountable for negligence that causes a consumer to be injured or killed.

Contact an Elk Grove Product Liability Attorney

If you or a loved one were harmed because of a defective product, contract Kaiser Hafezi Law. Our team of skilled Bensenville personal injury lawyers can help you bring a strong claim for receiving compensation for your damages. Call us at 630-233-9946 for a free consultation.



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