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Remember McDonald's Hot Coffee Lawsuit? It Has Happened Again

Thursday, August 24, 2017By Nina Shapirshteyn

The landscape of personal injury litigation was forever changed in 1992 when a McDonalds’ customer spilled coffee on her lap and successfully sued the company for her injuries. McDonalds ended up being liable for a nearly $3 million punitive damages award.

Now, some 25 years later, yet another merchant of hot coffee has been held liable for injuries from spilled coffee. This time the defendant was Starbucks, and the plaintiff was again a woman who purchased her coffee at the drive through. The employees of the Starbucks allegedly failed to warn the customer that the coffee was very hot and that the lids on the cups could pop off. When the woman was left with severe burns and scarring from the 190 degree coffee spilling in her lap, the jury found Starbucks liable.

It seems that coffee retailers have not completely learned the lesson from the McDonalds incident. The Starbucks coffee was served at 190 degrees, like the coffee from McDonalds which had a company policy of providing customers with coffee that was maintained at a temperature of 180 to 190 degrees. A liquid at that temperature is hot enough to cause burns in approximately 3 to 7 seconds. Similarities do not end there, McDonalds did not warn its customers about the temperature of the coffee, and apparently Starbucks did not either.

Also, like McDonalds, Starbucks has had complaints that the coffee was very hot and its lids were often prone to popping off of its cups. This last fact might be the crux of the problem for companies and their spilled hot coffee. In the McDonalds case, one juror is reported to have said that the company’s disregard for the health of their customers and their lack of responsiveness to complaints was the tipping point in their liability. McDonalds knew their coffee was hot enough to burn, they had been told repeatedly that it hurt people, but instead of lowering the temperature or even warning their customers, they kept on with business as usual until someone was seriously injured. Apparently, Starbucks did not learn from McDonald’s mistake.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a faulty product or the misdeeds of a business or corporation, please contact Alexander Law Group, LLP immediately to discuss your rights. Call 888.777.1776 right now, for a free, confidential, and personal consultation with one of our attorneys, or contact us online.

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