Liebeck v. McDonald’s, also known as the McDonald’s Coffee Case, is a 1994 product liability lawsuit. This lawsuit became one of the most famous in the US history because after the court’s awarded Stella Liebeck $2. 9 million, after she was severely burned by the coffee she brought from McDonald, there were debates over tort reform in the US. Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman was in the passenger seat of her grandson’s car, while she ordered a coffee from McDonald’s. Liebeck’s nephew parked the car to allow his grandmother to add cream and sugar to her coffee.
When she placed the coffee cup between her knees and pulled the far side of the lid toward her in order to remove it, the entire cup of coffee was spilled on Liebeck’s lap. As she was wearing cotton sweatpants, the coffee was immediately absorbed and she was sitting in a hot liquid scalding her thighs, buttocks and groin for about 90 seconds. After, Liebeck was taken to the hospital for a medical checkup which confirmed that she had suffered full thickness (third-degree) burns on 6% of her skin and over 16% of lesser burns.
She remained in the hospital for eight says for skin grafting procedures and debridement treatments. After the incident, it took about two years in order to complete the treatment and eliminate the consequences of the accident. Liebeck sought to settle with McDonald’s for $20,000 to cover her actual and anticipated medical expenses, but instead the company offered only $800. So them, Liebeck retained attorney Reed Morgan. Morgan filed suit accusing McDonald’s of “gross negligence” for selling coffee that was “unreasonably dangerous” and “defectively manufactured. During the case, Liebeck’s attorney discovered that McDonald’s required franchises to serve coffee at 180 – 190°F which would cause a third-degree burn in two to seven second. He argued that coffee should never be served hotter than 140?F and that other establishments served coffee at a substantially lower temperature than McDonald’s. McDonald’s claimed that the reason for serving such hot coffee in its drive-through windows was that those who purchased the coffee typically were commuters who wanted to drive a distance with the coffee. The high initial temperature would keep the coffee hot during the trip.
However, this contradicts the company’s own research that showed customers actually intend to consume the coffee while driving. The decision of the jury was based on the principles of comparative negligence. McDonald’s was found guilty and responsible 80% for the coffee burn. Liebeck was found responsible 20% for the occurrence of the incident. Though there was a warning on the coffee cup, the jury decided that the warning was not large enough nor sufficient. They awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages, which was reduced to $160,000, and an additional $2. million in punitive damages, which was reduced to $480,000. The decision was appealed by both McDonald’s and Liebeck, and both parties settled out of court for an undisclosed amount less than $600,000. This lawsuit had impact on both the business world and the rules of the law. McDonald’s was forced to reexamine its policy. McDonald’s was aware of the risk and hazard, but undertook nothing to mitigate or reduce the risk of injury. The company knew about burn hazards and continued to serve coffee hot to save money and get away with cheaper grade coffee.
After reexamining their policy, McDonald’s has been serving coffee at a temperature low enough not to cause immediate third-degree burns. This case is an example of a product liability lawsuit that has become a flashpoint in debates in the US over tort reform. This was a frivolous lawsuit, but consumer safety is a priority. Also, we must curb excessive jury verdicts.
http://www. lectlaw. com/files/cur78. htm
http://www. associatedcontent. com/article/2545263/liebeck_v_mcdonalds_restaurants_or. html