Over 20 years ago, on February 27 1992, 79 year old Stella Liebeck ordered and received a $0.49 cup of coffee from a McDonald’s drive-thru – and it was an event that would change the landscape of product liability lawsuits forever.
While the case was touted by some (such as ABC News) as “the poster child of excessive lawsuits”, there are several pertinent lessons that each of us can learn from this case in which an inexpensive hot cup of coffee caused a woman to sustain third degree burns, and to receive compensation of well over half a million of dollars.
Know Your Rights
As much as the media referred to this case as “frivolous” or even downright “ridiculous”, the fact is that Mrs. Liebeck had every right to bring her injury to court, because of 3 important failings by the fast food company:
- Negligent design
- Negligent manufacturing
- Failure to warn
The poor design and manufacturing of the cup caused the hot coffee to spill and soak through Mrs Liebeck’s sweatpants, which then resulted in severe burns. While some scoff at the fact that Mrs Liebeck wasn’t “warned” about how hot the coffee was, the truth is that a hot cup of McDonald’s coffee is significantly hotter than your standard cup o’ joe, ranging anywhere from 180-190 degrees (Liebeck’s attorney argued that coffee should never be hotter than 140 degrees.
Don’t Suffer in Silence
It is important to understand that you should not suffer a personal injury that has resulted from a faulty product. What may be a seemingly minor injury at the time could cause long term problems and incapacity – and you should be compensated for your pain, suffering, and lost income.
The attorneys at Bertoldo, Baker, Carter and Smith have decades of experience in handling personal liability claims, including those surrounding product liability issues – we understand what it means to suffer because of another organization’s negligence.