Back a lifetime ago in 1994, McDonald's was sued over the temperature of its coffee when a woman accused the fast food chain of serving coffee so hot, it gave her third-degree burns when the cup spilled on her legs and groin. Now it's déjà vu all over again, as McDonald's is defending itself against yet more hot coffee lawsuits, this time filed by plaintiffs in Illinois.
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According to the Chicago Tribune and Crain's Chicago Business, a 4-year-old girl asked a McDonald's employee to refill her grandmother's cup of coffee; the employee did so but failed to secure the lid. The girl spilled the coffee on herself, suffering second-degree burns and permanent scarring. The suit accuses McDonald's of violating its own policy against serving coffee to minors, failing to place the coffee in a holder and failing to warn the girl about the temperature of the coffee. The plaintiffs are requesting almost $4 million in total damages, including $2.5 million in punitive damages and $1 million for pain and suffering.
The lid also is the culprit in the second case. Crain's Chicago Business reports that a woman ordered coffee from a McDonald's drive-thru window and suffered "horrific burns" when coffee spilled onto her thighs and abdomen. The lawsuit contends that the burns were a result of an improperly secured lid.
Lest we forget the 1994 hot coffee lawsuit that launched countless tort reform bills and a documentary, the 79-year-old New Mexico woman in the case ordered a cup of coffee from a McDonald's drive-thru; she spilled the drink, severely burning herself, when she took off the lid to add cream and sugar. Her attorneys argued that the coffee was itself defective, because it was significantly hotter than other coffees served at nearby establishments. The jury eventually found McDonald's to be partly responsible for the woman's injuries, awarding her $2.7 million in punitive damages. The final award amount was appealed by both sides, and the parties eventually settled the case.
As for the first of these most recent lawsuits, McDonald's tells The Chicago Tribune that it is very sorry for the "unfortunate accidents" but "customers must handle hot beverages with care, as indicated on all of our coffee cups."