Liebeck v. McDonald’s, also known as the McDonald’s Coffee Case, is a 1994 product liability lawsuit. This lawsuit became one of the most famous in the US history because after the court’s awarded Stella Liebeck $2.9 million, after she was severely burned by the coffee she brought from McDonald, there were debates over tort reform in the US.
Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman was in the passenger seat of her grandson’s car, while she ordered a coffee from McDonald’s. Liebeck’s nephew parked the car to allow his grandmother to add cream and sugar to her coffee. When she placed the coffee cup between her knees and pulled the far side of the lid toward her in order to remove it, the entire cup of coffee was spilled on Liebeck’s lap. As she was wearing cotton sweatpants, the coffee was immediately absorbed and she was sitting in a hot liquid scalding her thighs, buttocks and groin for about 90 seconds. After, Liebeck was taken to the hospital for a medical checkup which confirmed that she had suffered full thickness (third-degree) burns on 6% of her skin and over 16% of lesser burns. She remained in the hospital for eight says for skin grafting procedures and debridement treatments. After the incident, it took about two years in order to complete the treatment and eliminate the consequences of the accident. Liebeck sought to settle with McDonald’s for $20,000 to cover her actual and anticipated medical expenses, but instead the company offered only $800. So them, Liebeck retained attorney Reed Morgan. Morgan filed suit accusing McDonald’s of “gross negligence” for selling coffee that was “unreasonably dangerous” and “defectively manufactured.” During the case, Liebeck’s attorney discovered that McDonald’s required franchises to serve coffee at 180 – 190°F which would cause a third-degree burn in two to seven second. He argued that coffee should never be served hotter than 140ºF and that other establishments served coffee at a substantially lower...
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