This assignment is regarding the Liebeck vs McDonalds case back in 1992. The issues involved are discussed thoroughly as well as the difference between consumer protection laws in Malaysia and also the United States where the case took place. This assignment will also discuss the implications of the case and also businesses/consumers responsibility when handling accident prone products.
The 180 degrees coffee caused full thickness or third degree burns to Liebeck’s skin. 6 percent of her body suffered the third degree burns and 16 percent suffered lesser. The incident caused her to be hospitalized for eight days followed by two years of medical treatment. She lost almost 20% of her bodyweight due to the incident. After having to go through skin grafting and debridement, it would not be entirely wrong to assume that Liebeck also suffered tremendous emotional trauma especially since accident happened at the age of 79.
Carelessness of Liebeck in handling the coffee cup also plays a major role in the accident. It would be totally understandable if the incident happened to a kid below 5 years of age. Liebeck who has lived for 79 years at the point of accident should have known better than to rush into putting cream and sugar into the hot coffee in the car right after she bought it. The cotton sweat pants that Liebeck was wearing could indicate that she was in no hurry to go anywhere.
Prior to Liebeck’s lawsuit against McDonalds, there were more than 700 claims by people who have been burnt by the coffee and some reportedly suffered similar third degree burns. The documented complaints show that McDonalds chose to turn a blind eye and continued to serve their coffee at 180 degrees as they claim that it is the temperature to maintain optimum taste. Later in the case, McDonalds also argued that people generally buy the coffee on the way to work or on the way home. Hence, the coffee would have cooled to a lower temperature by the time they reach the office or home.
The accident did not only cause physical and emotional pain for Liebeck but she was also financially scarred as the family thought she was due about $2000 for out-of pocket expenses. This amount was hefty as she earned $5000 a year as a Sales Clerk. Her daughter who had to stay at home to look after her suffered loss of wages.
If McDonalds insisted to keep serving their coffee at 180 degrees to maintain the optimum taste, the least they could have done to protect their customers was to enlarge the “Caution:Contents Hot!” sign on the coffee cup. The tiny warning print is almost invisible to the naked eye. One who is hungry or particularly craving for morning coffee could have easily overlooked the miniature sign.
McDonalds was quick to turn down the $2000 Liebeck asked for her expenses. The family said that they were only offered $800. McDonalds clearly wanted to wash their hands off the case. When they saw an opportunity to file a lawsuit against others, they were quick to jump on it as they did with the Mccurry case in Malaysia.
In regards to this case, McDonalds should have served their coffee at a lower temperature such as between 135-160 degrees. Even though they argued that the 180 degree is the optimum temperature for their coffee, they should have realized their responsibility to serve good coffee and yet protect their customers at the same time. They should have realized this after the first accident that was reported to them and not still ignore the demand to reduce the temperature 700 cases later.
As a huge franchise, McDonalds should be more sensitive towards consumer complaints as their margin of profit relies on customers’ satisfaction. If they still insist on serving the coffee that hot, they should really consider making the caution sign noticeable. A bigger, bolder and more obvious color such as red would not cost them more than the tiny caution sign they...
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