California Woman Sues McDonald’s Over Coffee Burns

October 25, 2013

  • October 25, 2013 at 1:33 pm
    Nothing surprises me anymore says:
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    “HOT” coffee, hot is the key word…and she spilled it on herself at that…now IF the McDonald’s employee spilled it on her, yes I could see seeking medical compensation…but damn, spilling coffee on ones self constitutes a lesson learned to me…don’t drink-n-drive!!

    • October 30, 2013 at 3:19 pm
      Jack says:
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      Driving and drinking anything is considered an infraction. It is known as distracted driving and puts everyone else at risk. The other woman needed a lot of reconstructed surgery as a result of her burns and her burns got infected. She simply needed her medical bills covered which were bankrupting her. This case is night and day from the original coffee case. She just had bad dreams? Maybe all the money the lawyer promised her kept her from sleeping soundly.

    • October 30, 2013 at 4:13 pm
      MrInsBrokerSF says:
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      Yes I fully get the distracted driving examples. I once had an accident because I was changing radio stations, but never due to eating or drinking while driving. The reason is simple: keeping my eyes on the road – the radio interrupted that. You have to ask why anyone would be handling any hot drink while driving. Then ask why you would want your drink so hot that it could deliver a
      2nd degree burn? How could you drink it that hot?

      The bigger Q asked by others already is why any customer’s stupidity should lead to a legal claim for damages from the seller
      of a commonly used product that anyone with basic intelligence has
      to know how to safely handle and consume? WHy would any court accept this case?

      I haven’t read details that explain why McDonald’s was found liable for the injuries in the 1992 case. Maybe the court/jury found that their cups were cheap and flimsy, or the tops were not
      reliable to prevent a spill? In any case, $2.9M seems extreme! And I read that many such high awards are routinely reduced on
      appeals.

      Reconstructive surgery, permanent scaring or not, if it’s your own
      fault, it’s not the restaurant’s fault.

    • November 1, 2013 at 3:32 pm
      Renee says:
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      She didn’t spill it on herself the employee did not secure the lid on all the way and when she handed her the coffee cup, thru the drive thru window, as she took hold of the cup from the employee and started moving it the lid popped off and spilled down her groin and butt area. she wasn’t driving either. If you want to sound smart educate yourself on the facts before posting.

  • October 25, 2013 at 1:54 pm
    philip says:
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    MacD needs to sell its’ customers cold coffee and tell them to take it home and put in the Microwave.

    • October 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm
      Cheetoh Mulligan says:
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      Because of the last case of hot coffee burning a McDonald’s customer, she should have the knowledge that coffee is hot.
      The bigger question here is that if this woman has had a burning sensation between her legs for a year now, shouldn’t she go to a doctor and get some penicillin?

      • October 25, 2013 at 3:35 pm
        Exactly, Cheetoh says:
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        More like BS than Burning Sensation!!!

        • October 30, 2013 at 4:22 pm
          MrInsBrokerSF says:
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          After a year? I’d think you are right, but I’ve never had a burn that bad in such a sensitive area. Just accept that she’s honest about the pain – I still wouldn’t award her a penny!

      • October 30, 2013 at 4:19 pm
        MrInsBrokerSF says:
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        Funny, but not very nice.

    • October 30, 2013 at 4:17 pm
      MrInsBrokerSF says:
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      Cute. But, why not just put a stop to this nonsense?

      Attorny’s have not yet succeeded in collecting from alcoholic beverage manufacturers for people who OD and die from drinking too much. Ditto municipal water or private water sellers for frat idiots who drink too much water and die.

      All injuries are unfortunate, some are tragic, and many are avoidable.

  • October 25, 2013 at 2:08 pm
    insurance is fun! says:
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    Yes, we all know that coffee is hot. But, in the earlier case, McD’s was wrong. They were “double heating” cheap beans to a near-scalding temperature in order to get more flavor out of them. Over the years, many people were burned and McD’s paid them to go away as their standard cost of doing business.

    The court “punished” McD for continuing the practice of double heating their coffee, knowing full well people would get burned. That’s why they paid so much to the woman who wouldn’t settle and go away.

    I think they probably learned their lesson. So, McD…what’s going on this time?

    • October 28, 2013 at 11:15 am
      Irene Ochoa says:
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      Insurance is Fun! is correct. Yes, coffee is hot, however if you studied the 1992 loss beyond the sensationalized headlines you’d learn why the settlement was high. We’ve all burned ourselves; but a coffee spill shouldn’t produce injuries requiring the extensive medical care the 1992 woman required. By my understanding it was a tragic and preventable incident. Instead of mocking her, she should be thanked for exposing and changing a business practice that caused many prior injuries. If other companies are committing the same practice today it should be a wakeup call for commercial risk managers everywhere. Hopefully, more details will be provided regarding the current situation. Personal responsibility doesn’t mean accepting what others pressure you to accept; it requires taking a stand against what you know to be wrong despite the personal cost and inconvenience to you. Live and work well.

      • October 30, 2013 at 9:09 am
        Jon says:
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        Except the only business practice that changed was the adding of the warning label on the lid.

        McD’s has never changed their brewing policy. Particularly because everyone else brews at the same temperature.

        • October 30, 2013 at 3:05 pm
          James says:
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          McDonald’s did drop their brewing temperature fro 180-190°F to 170-180° after the 1994 case.

      • October 30, 2013 at 4:39 pm
        MrInsBrokerSF says:
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        Irene: Live well and prosper!

        You’re right that we don’t need to mock the woman in the 1992 case. No, most of us haven’t bothered to read the legal briefs on it. I’d imagine that the reason the lady’s burns were so severe was a combination of the coffee’s temp and the length of time before any first aide was applied?

        It’s different if the person takes their food to a table, then accidently spills the coffee in their lap, screams, and has no idea how to stop the burning, and the restaurant staff has no training to help her, or just doesn’t bother trying etc. That I would award her money for. If she put that hot coffee next to her privates and began driving, she has my sympathies, and nothing else!

    • October 30, 2013 at 4:25 pm
      MrInsBrokerSF says:
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      It sounds like you’re saying McDonald’s was guilty of selling coffee that was “Too hot to drink”. The answer to your Q is apparently their QC was not sufficiently uniform to prevent this recurrence. Of course most readers in this forum would be aware that some restaurants are corp operations, and others are franchisees.

  • October 25, 2013 at 2:20 pm
    Huh! says:
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    She spilled the coffee in her own lap and wants McDonald’s to pay for her mistake? I’m sorry she was burned; however, I don’t think her injuries are extensive enough to warrant much of a settlement or judgment. On the other hand, if you are going to sue, make sure you sue everyone who shares the blame: McDonald’s, the employee that took the order, the employee that filled the order, the employee that handed her the order, the contractor that built the McDonald’s, the architect/engineer that designed the structure and the individual that said it was okay to sell hot coffee in the first place.

    • October 25, 2013 at 2:24 pm
      wvagt says:
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      How about the coffee bean grower, Juan Valdez, and his donkey?

      • October 25, 2013 at 2:53 pm
        PM says:
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        Need to add the car manufacturer to that list. Obviously they did not provide a cup holder! Oh,and the root of all issues, the manufacturer of the coffee cup lid. The last clear chance to avoid a spoil.

        • October 25, 2013 at 7:08 pm
          Former Status Quo says:
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          you all forgot about the manufacturer of the coffee maker.

  • October 25, 2013 at 2:23 pm
    Jon says:
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    Actually, they found that McD’s is heating their coffee at approximately the same temperature as other coffee places, like Starbuck’s.

    The SPecialty Coffee Association says coffee tastes best if brewed between 195 – 205 degrees.

    In fact, most home coffee machines brew at that temperature.

    The 1992 incident that led to the 1994 $2.7m award was a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances for the elderly woman.

    Ultimately though–a pure maxim for everyone, regardless of the coffee temp is–”be aware of what you put between your legs.”

    • October 25, 2013 at 3:28 pm
      Charli says:
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      Are you talking about coffee now?

      • October 25, 2013 at 4:47 pm
        Jon says:
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        Some statements have universal value, Charli…

    • October 30, 2013 at 4:30 pm
      MrInsBrokerSF says:
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      A most imformative post! Adding greatly to the Q of what’s so special about this hot coffee v any others?

      You be aware maxim should be required instruction from junior high/middle school forward.

  • October 25, 2013 at 2:39 pm
    Scott says:
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    Well, duh: I’m sure the attorney “hopes to reach a settlement”. I’m sorry, but unless she’s been living under a rock, there has been ample warning about their coffee….and why you DON’T put hot coffee (theirs or other’s) in your lap. Really? Does she put cups of hot coffee in her lap at home?

    • October 30, 2013 at 4:44 pm
      MrInsBrokerSF says:
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      To emphasize the accurancy Scott’s comment noting how stupid Americans appear to have become, no less than former Presidential loser, and currently illustrious SOS (Sec. of State), John Kerry recently told a European press conference that “Americans have a right to be stupid”! So there you have it.

  • October 25, 2013 at 2:45 pm
    InsGuy says:
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    “We’re going of the rails on this Crazy Train.”

  • October 25, 2013 at 2:51 pm
    AZ Ins Man says:
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    When will this crap end? Why does McDonalds owe her anything for her stupid mistake?
    Cup says “contents are very hot” Do not spill on your crotch”

    Well, even if it DID include all that, would it matter?

    IF ANY CA jury allows this 74 year old a dime, they should have to pay out of THEIR pockets.
    Why do you think CA is such a financial WRECK?
    Thank you to the lawyers. Yes, I am blaming them as personal responsibility is GONE but blame and sue someone is here.

    Start with the idiot in the White House. Blame Bush when you know you screwed up?

    How is Busy guilty of the trainwreck obamacare???

    • October 25, 2013 at 3:30 pm
      Charli says:
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      Can McD sue her for ignorance and stupidity?
      Is she not embarased to say she was Stupid to put a HOT cup of coffee between her legs, or was this her way of doing Woopie?
      Why is hse even driving? Where is the DMV to test this woman, how about an IQ test?

    • October 30, 2013 at 4:55 pm
      MrInsBrokerSF says:
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      AZ Ins Man:
      Take a deep breath, and think of calming beautiful thoughts. We don’t want your bp to jump.
      Attornies represent our society’s equivilent of the hired gun slinger from wester movies. Instead of us duking out our little
      battles, and hopefully resolving our differences to go forward as
      friends, we now get all twisted up in emotional knots over legal
      battles where the attornies always win, and most others usually lose.

      None of this will stop until personal responsibility becomes the
      basis of each person’s moral character. No one can teach this
      unless they are first prepared to live it by example.

      President Obamanation is doing his best, unfortunately, as I heard John Madden once say reqarding his assessment of a former football player: “he just wasn’t very good”!

  • October 25, 2013 at 4:31 pm
    Jay says:
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    Woopie?

  • October 25, 2013 at 4:32 pm
    SCTEX says:
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    What if this was your grandmother? Would you be saying the same things?

    • October 25, 2013 at 7:10 pm
      Former Status Quo says:
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      sadly yes. And she’d probably laugh after she realized the error of her ways.

    • October 28, 2013 at 9:57 am
      jw says:
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      Duh. If you do something stupid, don’t expect me to be sympathetic.

    • October 28, 2013 at 10:30 am
      My Grandma's says:
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      Both of my grandma’s would have been embarrased that they spilled coffee on themselves and they would hope nobody ever found out. It would have never crossed either of their minds to sue someone for coffee being hot.

    • October 30, 2013 at 4:59 pm
      MrInsBrokerSF says:
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      Excellent and most appropriate Q!
      Yes! I think we would be saying the same things, because most of us are not interested in hitting the legal lottery. We’re not out to sell our souls just because some creative and greedy lawyer told us we’d be stupid “get the irony” not too sue. BTW, neither of my grandmothers had even a high school education. They both cooked on wood and later gas and electric stoves, and neither one of them ever managed to burn anyone, including themselves.

  • October 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm
    lundberry says:
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    I guess I would say that if this is similar to the 92 case where the cup fell apart then she would be right in suing them. Yes coffee is hot but one does not nor should they expect that the container will fall apart on them. Spilling coffee on oneself implies negligence on the part of the plaintiff. If a starbucks or mcdonalds or whoever’s employee spills a hot liquid on me I am going to likely sue the restaurant. Not everything is as clear as some pundits want to make it out to be. They like spouting off before facts are known.

    • October 30, 2013 at 3:14 pm
      James says:
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      Even in the interview no mention, whatsoever, was ever made in regards to the cup falling apart. Can’t put history in place afterwards.

    • October 30, 2013 at 5:03 pm
      MrInsBrokerSF says:
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      If the cup disintegrated, or the top just popped off it, then I can see negligence in that. I’d expect the restaurant to change suppliers in that case. We tend to not hear the exact chain of events in these abbreviated stories, but the demands and settlements see extreme.

      • October 30, 2013 at 6:14 pm
        Too many variables says:
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        If “the just popped off” who’s to say what caused it?

  • October 25, 2013 at 6:14 pm
    perplexed says:
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    Where is Jackie Chiles?
    In the 92 case the woman spilled the coffee on herself also. The extent of the injuries doesn’t make her any less responsible. Coffee should be hot, everyone knows it, and spilling it on yourself can cause burns. The responsibility rests with the consumer once the coffee is purchased. Very sorry if you burned yourself, accept your own responsibility and move on rather than looking for a deep pocket to pay.

  • October 25, 2013 at 7:11 pm
    Former Status Quo says:
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    so she burned her crotch because she spilt the coffee. would she also be suing had she burned her mouth on the hot coffee? I burned my mouth on a slice of pizza the other day, you don’t see me suing Sabarro.

  • October 28, 2013 at 11:43 am
    LiveFree says:
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    Funny timing for me, just yesterday I went to McD’s for coffee and it spilled all over my hand as soon as I pulled out of the drive through. And it burned like the fires of hell! I thought about the famous case and laughed. It did hurt but I treated it right away and was pretty much back to normal by the afternoon. If anything I have a better case because the spill was a result of the lid not properly being put on it by the employee. Maybe I should cash in too! haha

    • October 30, 2013 at 5:09 pm
      MrInsBrokerSF says:
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      Yes – we’re all stupid for not suing everytime we burn out tounges etc. If all restaurant protected us from our own stupidity by serving everything luke warm, then this would only happen at the hands of our own personal microwaves.

      If restaurant were really careful and provided real sturdy safety oriented to go cups and food packaging, it would raise the cost of food, but then, I wouldn’t mind that either. I just don’t like the idea that it take a lawsuit to build a community.

  • October 28, 2013 at 12:39 pm
    uct says:
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    Last night, as I was in the bathtub blow drying my hair, my pop tarts popped up in the toaster. I was fortunate enough to have the toaster on the ledge of the bathtub, so I didn’t have to reach far. When I did though, I dropped the hair dryer in the tub. Surprisingly, it only provided a mild shock and the doctors say I will stop convulsing in 2 to 3 months. My attorney says I can sue the company that manufactured the blow dryer for it not stating specifically that it shouldn’t be used in a bathtub. It only had a tag showing the dangers of using it over a body of water. I really though it meant to not use it in the ocean, you know, while surfing or something. I’m going to sue the manufacturer for not being clear enough on the label. God I love this country.

    On another note, I was watching The Walking Dead last night. I couldn’t go to sleep afterwards. I now fear a zombie invasion. The show obviously caused me mental distress, so I’m going to sue them too. While I’m at it, the weatherman was off in his prediction yesterday by about 11 degrees. That was the difference between me wearing a jacket and not wearing one. I was a bit chilly outside last night. I may catch a cold. I think he needs to be held accountable. A class action suit should settle this matter. Anyone with me?!

    • October 29, 2013 at 3:11 pm
      You got it, uct!!! says:
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      I think there will be a LOT of people with you!! Love it!!!!

    • October 30, 2013 at 6:44 pm
      Don't Call Me Shirley says:
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      I can relate, uct. That new silverware set I recently got didn’t have any warning about sticking any of the pieces into a toaster. On the other hand, I think we’re all very fortunate that the Pop Tarts instructions say to remove the pastry from the wrapper before inserting into the toaster (vertically). Maybe they were sued in the past.

  • October 28, 2013 at 4:46 pm
    youngin' says:
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    Stella!

    • October 30, 2013 at 6:46 pm
      Don't Call Me Shirley says:
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      Check out the Stella Awards website. It’s almost as good as the Darwin Awards.

  • October 29, 2013 at 10:45 am
    Libby says:
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    The original McDonald’s coffee lady wanted to settle her claim for $20,000 and McDonald’s refused. She was only awarded $200k in compensatory damages, later reduced to $160k, but $2.7M for punitive because the Micky D lawyer was such a jerk. This, too, was later reduced. She suffered 3rd degree burns, had skin grafts and debriding, and was in the hospital for 8 days. Not just a stupid mistake on her part. Get the whole story at:

    http://www.lectlaw.com/files/cur78.htm

    • October 30, 2013 at 5:28 pm
      MrInsBrokerSF says:
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      Libby – THANKS! What a great source. Imagine if IJ had included the link you provided us in their article? More of us would’ve learned sooner and spouted off less.
      I may be a harsh judge, but I’d make if more 51/49 on compensatory. And I’d have awarded the punitive damages in order to create the public awareness hoping McDonald’s would change their behavior before this happens again. I was not surprised to read the settlements were reduced.
      I was surprised that McDonald’s refused to settle for $20K – that in face of their 700 prior cases was clearly greedy and short sighted. The FDA ought to be able to prohibit all private stores/ restaurants/food estabishments from serving any food/beverage items at a temp capable of delivering a 2nd degree or worse burn.

      It’s rare these days for microwaves to not be present just about everywhere, so there is no justification for this practice.

      • October 31, 2013 at 12:09 pm
        Irene Ochoa says:
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        We’ll never know all the facts, because the final settlements were not public. However, based the on the full information the jury/judge had, I believe they made the correct call. I’m with you 100% regarding the punitive damages. For those who feel they are excessive there is a reason for this. As a matter of public interest, punitive damages are partially based on the financial standing (wealth) of the defendant; because it is the only way to truly affect the defendant in the hopes of deterring future reprehensive behavior that endangers the public. Several of the 700 “documented” prior injuries were severe. How many of those may have been avoided if someone had been willing or able to stand-up sooner? It amazes me how everyone hates lawyers, except their own. For the record, I’m not a lawyer. I just have the opportunity to see the result of the good work they do. Live and work well.

  • October 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm
    Tammy says:
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    I got second degree burns on my right thumb and ring finger (from a steam burn) and first degree burns on the rest of my right hand and after only a couple of days the “burning sensation” was totally gone.

    This woman is such an ambulance chaser, I hope McD’s can countersue her and teach her a lesson.

    • October 31, 2013 at 3:13 pm
      Nothing surprises me anymore says:
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      Although I do not agree with her law suit, I do think that comparing a hand burn to a lap burn is not comparable by any means. The skin on your lap/groin area is much more sensitive to burns that your hand. My mom served me hot cocoa when I was a child that I in turn dropped and spilled from my neck to my lap and all in between, the lap and arms hurt the worst…and YES, I sued the crap out of that woman!! LOL KIDDING FOLKS! Have a great day!



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