The case of the woman who sued McDonald’s over burns while handling a hot cup of coffee may have more to do with your personal injury case than you think. Extensive publicity about this landmark lawsuit tainted many potential jurors by prejudicing them against plaintiffs in personal injury cases in general. According to critics, this case demonstrated:
- That we were becoming an out-of-control litigious society.
- That ordinary people acting against common sense could cause great financial harm to businesses seeking to serve the public in good faith.
- That jury awards were getting excessive and out of hand.
To this day, many people use references to “the McDonald’s hot coffee case” as a short form for something like “unfair court decisions doing harm to honest business owners.”
However, the facts of the McDonald’s hot coffee case paint a very different picture: a picture of corporate callousness, greed and failure to consider the well-being of ordinary consumers.
What does this case have to do with your personal injury claim? It means that your personal injury attorney should be sensitive to unwarranted prejudice against you when you pursue compensation in cases of clear negligence. Dankner Milstein, P.C., is skilled at turning counter arguments in favor of its clients. The law firm often takes misconceptions and uses them for a client’s benefit during settlement negotiations or courtroom testimony and cross examination.
The basic parameters of the McDonald’s hot cup of coffee case have been reported in many publications as follows:
A 79-year-old woman was scalded while trying to open a cup of hot coffee purchased at McDonald’s. She suffered burns over 6 percent of her body, and required skin grafts.
She attempted to settle the case at $20,000 to cover her medical bills, but McDonald’s refused. Discovery proved that there had been more than 700 burn cases involving hot coffee at McDonald’s restaurants between 1982 and 1992. McDonald’s habitually served its coffee at scalding or nearly scalding temperatures, around 180 degrees, even though most other fast-food establishments served coffee at a maximum of around 130 degrees.
Eventually, a jury awarded Ms. Liebeck $200,000 compensatory damages and more than $2 million in punitive damages. The trial court reduced the $2 million to less than $500,000. Ultimately, the case was resolved through a private settlement.
To some people, this case may seem to represent an unfair economic attack on a private business. In fact, however, most reasonable people understand the woman’s right to compensation once they know what really happened and how McDonald’s did and did not respond.