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McDonald’s finally admitted that its coffee was not “fit for consumption” because of the severe risks. Here are the facts of this widely misreported and misunderstood case: Stella Liebeck, 79 years old, was sitting in the passenger seat of her grandson’s car having purchased a cup of McDonald’s coffee. McDonald's Hot Coffee Lawsuit In 1992, news media across the United States exploded over a now-infamous personal injury case in which a woman (Stella Liebeck) was awarded just short of $3 million in damages when she spilled a cup of scalding hot coffee in her lap. The skin is burned all the way down to the muscle/fatty tissue layer. JOHN LLEWELLYN (ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF COMMUNICATIONS, WAKE FOREST UNIVERSITY): The public perception of it is, Stella Liebeck won a lottery. After hearing the evidence, the jury concluded that McDonald’s handling of its coffee … A woman believed it was too hot, sued, and won the trial. In September 1997, a seventy-three year old woman suffered first and second degree burns when a cup of McDonald's coffee spilled on her lap. This is why now you can go to a museum in Winsted, Connecticut, and look at exhibits starring Erin Brockovich and Big Tobacco ... and a senior citizen in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who was concerned about kids getting burned by hot coffee. In fact, I bet that everything you thought you knew about the McDonald's Hot Coffee Case was wrong. But the facts told another story. The lawsuit names Kory Management, Kory Family McDonald’s… According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), third Degree burns destroy both the epidermis and the dermis to where the skin cannot regenerate. McDonald’s When four-year-old Lynn Abdelal gave a cup of coffee to her grandmother, Mona, the lid fell off, resulting in third-degree burns all over Mona's body. The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages and $2.7 million in punitive damages for McDonald’s callous conduct. Introduction to an Infamous Personal Injury Lawsuit Controversy: A normal woman in a small town drives up to a McDonald’s and orders a cup of coffee. McDonald’s only offered $800, leading her to file a lawsuit in 1994. Stella Liebeck, the 79-year-old woman who was severely burned by McDonald’s coffee that she spilled in her lap in 1992, was unfairly held up as an example of frivolous litigation in the public eye. Her case became the poster child of the widely touted corporate misnomer 'frivolous lawsuits' in America. In the weeks and months to follow this encounter, great controversy would swirl around this woman and her latte. Liebeck pursued the case in court, and not to gouge the fast-food giant for cash, but to make a difference. She is a sustainability expert and author whose work has been published by the New York Times and National Geographic, among others. The jury awarded her $2.9 million dollars. Liebeck was awarded $200,000 in compensation for her pain and medical costs, a figure that was reduced to $160,000 because the jury found her 20 percent responsible. But there’s more to the story. The shocking part of this ordeal is that McDonald’s had admitted to knowing about the risk of serious burns from its coffee for more than 10 years! This fake news stories may invoke memories of another “frivolous” lawsuit against McDonald’s from the 1990s when the company was sued for serving coffee that was too hot. Among histories of exploding Ford Pintos and Joe Camel, the facts behind Liebeck’s case come to light. Call 361-792-2358 to schedule your free consultation today! Consumer advocates suggest that painting McDonald’s as the victim was a way for business interests and certain lawmakers to create a narrative about frivolous lawsuits in an effort to advance a tort reform agenda that would hamper consumer rights and strengthen a lack of corporate accountability. With the opening of Ralph Nader’s new American Museum of Tort Law in Winsted, Connecticut, the truth behind some of the more enduring cases of corporate shenanigans are explored. One of the most famous lawsuits in recent history is the case of Liebeck v. McDonald’s. Joe: Doing good. This particular product liability issue affected the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of people. The Hot Coffee Case By Allison Torres Burtka Stella Liebeck, the 79-year-old woman who was severely burned by McDonald’s coffee that she spilled in her lap in 1992, was unfairly held up as an example of frivolous litigation in the public eye. The McDonald's coffee case began when a 79-year-old woman went with her son to a McDonald's drive-thru and ordered a cup of hot coffee. After purchasing a cup of coffee, as the car stopped, Liebeck tried to hold the cup securely between her knees while removing the lid. On the one hand, truly frivolous lawsuits make sensible people want to bang their heads against the wall, but the importance of holding corporations responsible for wrongdoing shouldn’t be diminished. She sued McDonald’s and a jury awarded her nearly $3 million in punitive damages for the burns she suffered. I have several Million dollar awards and in every one, I proved my case to the insurance company or jurors. A mediator later recommended that the parties settle for $225,000. ARCHIVAL (NBC NEWS, 8-18-94): JANE PAULEY: An 81- year old woman has been awarded $2.9 million after she sued McDonald’s, claiming their coffee was too hot. Although third-degree burns are often painless, the pain comes from the first and second-degree burns that surround the third-degree burns. “Tort law is being run into the ground, maligned, caricatured and slandered because it’s effective,” says Nader, who described the conservative agenda of tort reform, which seeks limits on lawsuits and financial awards, as “the cruelest movement I’ve ever encountered.”. Television shows, pundits, and politicians across the country debated the matter vigorously. What had actually happened was far different than what news outlets and late night TV hosts were saying. The “McDonald’s coffee” case. But there’s more to the story. Places Where Your Visit Could Double the Population, Wildlife Photographer of the Year Winners Will Take Your Breath Away, Celebrate NASA's Birthday With These Incredible Images, There's a Great Story Behind This Cute Face, Collaborative Conservation: The Story Behind the Nation’s Newest Wildlife Refuge, What Went Wrong: The Story Behind the Atlantic Yards Prefab Tower, 'Up in Arms': Book Reveals More of the Story Behind the Bundys' Takeover of National Lands, The Story Behind Iceland's Volcanic Elephant, The Story Behind Spider Christmas Ornaments, 5 Work Policies U.S. Companies Should Emulate. McDonald’s coffee was not only hot, it was scalding – capable of almost instantaneous destruction of skin, flesh, and muscle. In 1992, Stella Liebeck, who was 79 years old at the time, spilled an entire cup of McDonald’s coffee in her lap and received third-degree burns on 16 percent of her body. 700 other people prior to Liebeck had suffered from McDonald’s scalding coffee, yet the company maintained its policy. In 1992, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck ordered coffee at a McDonald’s drive-through in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A month after the trial, the judge reduced the jury’s punitive damages award to $640,000. They saw it and weighed the evidence. The sad part about all this is that poor Liebeck wasn’t even trying to sue for millions of dollars but instead wanted only to be compensated for her medical bills. The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages and $2.7 million in punitive damages for McDonald’s callous conduct. 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