In 1992, Stella Liebeck (age 79) went into a McDonald’s in Albuquerque for breakfast. When she spilled her coffee on her lap, she ended up hiring a burn injury lawyer and suing the fast food chain. When the jury awarded her $2.9 million in punitive damages, many people thought it was evidence of a frivolous lawsuit because everyone knows coffee is supposed to be hot but there was a lot more of the story.
Contrary to popular belief, Liebeck was not driving nor was she even in a moving vehicle when the accident happened. She was in a parked car in the parking lot. She set the cup in between her legs so she can open it and pour in some cream and sugar which is what is what some of the liquid fell onto her lap giving her degree burns and some of the most private parts of your body. She was hospitalized as result of her injuries and needed several skin grafts. She did not ask for $2.9 million. She only wanted McDonald’s to pay for her lostandnbsp;work, her medical treatment and some pain and suffering. Through her burn injury lawyer, it was found that afterandnbsp;the jury reviewed all of the evidence they found that McDonald’s had committedandnbsp;gross negligence and a disregard for its customers’ well-being and safety. That was the reason for the larger verdict.
At the time, the public outcry was pretty extensive. People assumed it because everyone knows coffees meant to be hot that Liebeck had filed a frivolous lawsuitandnbsp;and should not have been awarded that amount of money but there were a lot of facts of the case it never came out into the media. The first place, she never actually fully recovered from injuries. When a judge reduces settlement to $640,000 later, they included a provision to give her and in home nurse for the rest of her life. Her daughter later saud her quality-of-life never returned after that. She passed away in 2004. At least her burn injury lawyer got her the nurse.
Whileandnbsp;the basic nature of her injuries was not reported in theandnbsp;media, other factors never got disclosed either. Thermal burns can happen at a temperature of 115 degrees or higher. McDonald’s policy is to serve its coffee is very high temperatures. The reason they give is that by keeping it at, the time between 180 and 190 degrees, temperatures that have long known could seriously burn someone, is to keep the coffee tasting fresh longer say make less coffee to save money. The chain says this policy save some $1 million a day. Most experts agree that this is more then they’ll ever pay out in these lawsuits. They have sinceandnbsp;lowered the temperature by 10 degrees. To put the temperature incontext, most coffee that is made at home is brewed out about 140 degrees.
At temperatures like that, people can suffer from third-degree burns in as little as three to seven seconds. These are themost severe. As any burn injury lawyer will tell you, any injury that requires skin grafts is not frivolous.
Earlier this year, the publication Eaterandnbsp;Darlene Jenkins and Robin Bebout hired a burn injury lawyer to sue McDonald’s for the same problem Liebeck had. That same publication notes the fast food chain has been sued numerous times over the years for this issue. They also point out that McDonald’s is not alone in this infraction.
Starbucks has had similar lawsuits for serving its hot beverages way too hot. Just this year, this man in Florida and a woman in California sued the coffee giant for entries they suffered after spilling their coffee. For his part, the Florida man is a alleging that it was a Starbucks employee who spilled hot coffee on his groin.
Nobody wants to need a personal injury lawyer, accident lawyer, car accident lawyer or worse a wrongful death lawyer. The truth of the matter is did they serve a valuable purpose. When people are injured or worse by the negligence of others, the personal injury law firm offer some help and hope. While on the surface, lawsuits deemed to be “frivolous” may be anything but.