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January 01, 2007

McDonalds Coffee Case - The Truth

Mcdonaldscoffeelawsuit I found a some fascinating blogs and sites which lay out why "frivolous lawsuits" are nothing more than a myth.  Corp Reform, Not Tort Reform highlights why frivolous lawsuits are mythological urban legends.  The legal system has many, many safeguards against the filing or maintaining of meritless lawsuits.  This article discusses these safeguards in detail. 

Findlaw has written a fascinating article debunking The McDonald's Lawsuit Myth. Things are not always what they seem or are publicized to be.  In this case, a 79 year old grandmother spilled 190 degree coffee in her lap and suffered third degree burns.  McDonald's knew for years that the temperature of their coffee was unfit for human consumption at this temperature but, since many people like their coffee very hot, they chose profits over safety.  To be sure, at the time of this tragic incident in 1992, McDonald's served up $1.3 Million in coffee daily! 

The plaintiff in the famed McDonald's case, Stella Liebeck, only wanted McDonald's to pay for her medical bills.  They refused and she was left with no alternative but to sue them or walk away and let others suffer the same fate.  Take a look at in the McDonald's Blog in the Corp Reform blog and read the pros and cons as perceived by the writers/readers.  Please read ALL of the opinions before you make up your own mind. 

You may also want to read Mythbuster or a 1994 Wall Street Journal which, again, go through the facts of the McDonald's coffee case.

Your comments are most welcome.

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Lowell, thanks for posting this, especially the references. In looking through the comments on the referred blog Corp Reform, I was amazed at the proliferation of comments such as "It's her fault, she spilled the coffee." I think those people miss the point.

The point is McDonald's knew they were serving coffee at 190 degrees, and that at that temperature, third degree burns ensue after very brief contact (2-7 seconds, according to Corp Reform). Fast forward to the lawsuit verdict, and low and behold, Micky D lowers the serving temp to 158 degrees.

It's not that the grandma got rich off this. It's that the media attention and lawsuit outcome spurred MCD to reduce a hazard about which they had constructive knowledge. I love it when a plan comes together.

And I am not even a lawyer.

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