The lawsuit is often sighted as a prime example of a frivolous lawsuit. She’s the one who spilled it on herself. She should of expected it to be hot. She shouldn’t have been trying to drink it while driving. Now they have print “Caution: Hot” on the coffee cups at McDonald’s.
But you probably don’t know the real story.
In February of 1992 Stella Liebeck was in the passenger seat of a car being driven by her grandson. They went through a McDonald’s drive-thru and ordered a coffee. They then proceeded to park to get themselves situated. As Mrs. Lieback went to put sugar in coffee, is when it spilled and burned her.
These were not just simple burns though, they were third degree burns. It seems that McDonald’s had a policy of keeping their coffee at 180 degrees. By comparison, your Mr. Coffee only heats your coffee to about 135.
At first Mrs. Liebeck had no interest in suing, she was just looking for McDonald’s to cover the $20,000 in medical bills. McDonald’s only offered about $800. So to the courts they went.
In the course of the lawsuit it came out that McDonald’s knew of many cases of people getting burned by their coffee, but chose not to change their policy of selling lava in a cup. It was because of this, the jury decided to award Mrs. Liebeck 2.7 million, even though she never asked for that much. The jury wanted to punish McDonald’s for their negligence.
The judge lowered the amount $480,000, and even that wasn’t the final amount as the two sides later came up with a settlement out of court. That amount has never been made public.
If you are interested in learning more about this lawsuit, or hearing from people who are no in favor of Tort reform, check out the documentary “Hot Coffee” which is currently streaming on Netflix.