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liebeck vs mcdonald's case facts

She was in the passenger seat of a car driven by her grandson. They awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages. [2][12], Liebeck was taken to the hospital, where it was determined that she had suffered third-degree burns on six percent of her skin and lesser burns over sixteen percent. (To put this in perspective, McDonald's revenue from coffee sales alone is in excess of $1.3 million a day.) In reality, the majority of damages in the case were punitive due to McDonald's' reckless disregard for the number of burn victims prior to Liebeck. Liebeck Vs Mcdonald's Case Study 1605 Words | 7 Pages. [2] McDonald's quality control manager, Christopher Appleton, testified that this number of injuries was insufficient to cause the company to evaluate its practices. A large portion of the film covered Liebeck's lawsuit. She had already incurred medical expenses worth $10,500; future medical expenses were estimated at $2,500 and the whole incident cost her loss of income amounting to approximately $5,000. The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages -- reduced to $160,000 because the jury found her 20 percent at fault -- and $2.7 million in punitive damages for McDonald’s callous conduct. A McDonald's Quality Control manager testified that McDonald's knew of the risk of dangerously hot coffee. The jury learned that 700 other people—including children—had been burned before, yet the company did not change its policy of keeping coffee at between 180 and 190 degrees. That amounted to about two days of revenue for McDonald’s coffee sales. [2] However, it came to light that McDonald's had done research which indicated that customers intend to consume the coffee immediately while driving. Because of extreme hot coffee she got third degrees burn in … McDonald's refused Morgan's offer to settle for $90,000. As this is a regular and normal transaction, the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff to provide reasonable care in handling the coffee served 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. After a weeklong trial, the 12-person jury used comparative negligence to find that McDonald’s was 80% at-fault for Mrs. Liebeck’s injuries. [16] Instead, the company offered only $800. Liebeck's attorneys argued that these extra seconds could provide adequate time to remove the coffee from exposed skin, thereby preventing many burns. It only cost her 49 cents but it serving her that drink would cost the restaurant a lot more than that when it was all said and done. Liebeck placed the coffee cup between her knees and pulled the far side of the lid toward her to remove it. However, McDonald’s refused to settle. Before you answer first read about the case by googling Liebeck v. McDonalds on Wikipedia to educate yourself about the facts. McDonald’s offered a mere $800 which Liebeck rejected. Liebeck's attorney, Reed Morgan, and the Association of Trial Lawyers of America defended the result in Liebeck by claiming that McDonald's reduced the temperature of its coffee after the suit, although it is not clear whether McDonald's in fact had done so. Scott. Liebeck’s attorney Kenneth Wagner said Liebeck was concerned about the number of other people who had been burned by McDonald’s coffee—and that the number included children. According to news accounts, this amount was less than $500,000. Case Study: The True Story Behind the McDonald's Coffee Lawsuit. During this period, Liebeck lost 20 pounds (9.1 kg) (nearly 20% of her body weight), reducing her to 83 pounds (38 kg). This case received a great deal of publicity and became a prime example for frivolous lawsuits which garnered large monetary damages. Scott. Reality: Mrs. Liebeck spent six months attempting to convince McDonald's to pay $15,000 to $20,000 to cover her medical expenses. The case is Liebeck v. McDonalds. Back in 1994, Stella Liebeck v. McDonalds Restaurants became one of the most talked about lawsuits in American history. She spilled the hot Coffee causing a third-degree burn on her inner thighs and buttocks. Liebeck’s story, like many personal injury lawsuits, got started because of one person’s injuries but revealed a larger pattern of corporate behavior that put consumers at unreasonable risk. [37][38] The New York Times noted how the details of Liebeck's story lost length and context as it was reported worldwide. That is usually enough time to wipe away the coffee. But even after that, the myth of “the woman who got rich after abusing the court system over spilled coffee” persisted. Her past medical expenses were $10,500; her anticipated future medical expenses were approximately $2,500; and her daughter's[13] loss of income was approximately $5,000 for a total of approximately $18,000. As we all know, the case became fodder for late … [4] ABC News called the case "the poster child of excessive lawsuits". Liebeck offered to settle the case for $20,000, but the company refused. It turns out there was more to the story. [40], "Hot coffee case" redirects here. This sample paper explores the facts behind the lawsuit and concludes that Liebeck was more than justified in suing the company for its poor business practices. She had to be hospitalized for eight days, and she required skin grafts and other treatment. 252, 254 n.1 (1995), U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, "A Matter of Degree: How a Jury Decided that a Coffee Spill is Worth $2.9 Million", "Legal Urban Legends Hold Sway | Tall tales of outrageous jury awards have helped bolster business-led campaigns to overhaul the civil justice system", "Hot Coffee Filmmaker Says Contributions Produce Biased Judges", "Watch Hot Coffee, a Powerful New Film on HBO June 27", "Frivolous Lawsuits and How We Perceive Them", "The must-watch TV show of the night: 'Hot Coffee' on HBO", "The McDonald's Coffee Cup Case: Separating McFacts From McFiction", "Urban legends and Stella Liebeck and the McDonald's coffee case", "Angelina and Jack McMAHON, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. BUNN-O-MATIC CORPORATION, James River Paper Company, and Wincup Holdings, L.P., Defendants-Appellees", "Bogle & Ors v McDonald's Restaurants Ltd", "Local woman sues National Franchise over coffee", "McDonald's hit with 2 hot-coffee lawsuits", "A Hot Tip for Coffee Lovers: Most Retailers Prefer to Make It Scalding", "Huntingdon & St Ives latest news - Burger chain sued after boy's ordeal", The Stella Liebeck McDonald's Hot Coffee Case FAQ. The Facts: This case was filed by Stella Liebeck of New Mexico, who, in February 1992, while in the passenger seat of her grandson’s car, was severely burned by McDonalds’ (The Actual facts About the McDonald’s Coffee Case, n.d.) coffee after it spilled on her legs, groin and buttocks causing third-degree burns (Bracken, 2005). States’ products liability laws contain instructions about warnings: They must be in a conspicuous place and must warn the product’s user of possibly dangerous features, Wagner said. McDonald's current policy is to serve coffee at 176–194 °F (80–90 °C),[35] relying on more sternly worded warnings on cups made of rigid foam to avoid future liability, though it continues to face lawsuits over hot coffee. In 1992 Stella Liebeck, a 79-year old retired sales clerk, bought a 49-cent cup of coffee from a drive-through McDonald’s in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 113 (October 2001), which describes the accident in detail, Amended Complaint about Damages, Stella LIEBECK, Plaintiff, v. MCDONALD'S RESTAURANTS, P.T.S, Inc. and McDonald's Corporation, Defendants. [17] Applying the principles of comparative negligence, the jury found that McDonald's was 80% responsible for the incident and Liebeck was 20% at fault. They heard experts testify about how hot coffee should be and that McDonald’s coffee was 30 to 40 degrees hotter than coffee served by other companies. The Full Story Behind the Case and How Corporations Used it to Promote Tort Reform? Coffee that other restaurants serve at 160 degrees can also cause third-degree burns, but it takes 20 seconds, which usually gives the person enough time to wipe away the coffee before that happens. 190 degree coffee causes 3rd degree burns in under 3 seconds. The case is cited frequently as a sign of lawsuit-happy citizens, and frivolous cases. Case brief Parties: Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants. Something went wrong. The trial judge reduced the punitive damages to $480,000, while noting that McDonald’s behavior had been “willful, wanton, and reckless.” The parties later settled for a confidential amount. The plaintiffs argued that Appleton conceded that McDonald's coffee would burn the mouth and throat if consumed when served. [18], Other documents obtained from McDonald's showed that from 1982 to 1992 the company had received more than 700 reports of people burned by McDonald's coffee to varying degrees of severity, and had settled claims arising from scalding injuries for more than $500,000. “All the cup said was ‘contents hot,’” but that isn’t enough, Wagner noted—the warning should say how hot it is and that it could cause serious burns. Liebeck was hospitalized for eight days while she underwent skin grafting, followed by two years of medical treatment. News reports claimed that Liebeck drove with her cup of McDonald’s coffee between her legs, and spilled the contents of her cup on herself, winning millions of dollars from the company. The trial judge reduced the final verdict to $640,000, and the parties settled for a confidential amount before an appeal was decided. He argued that all foods hotter than 130 °F (54 °C) constituted a burn hazard, and that restaurants had more pressing dangers to worry about. The company knew its coffee was causing serious burns, but it decided that, with billions of cups served annually, this number of burns was not significant. Liebeck's attorney argued that coffee should never be served hotter than 140 °F (60 °C), and that a number of other establishments served coffee at a substantially lower temperature than McDonald's. Facts: Stella Liebeck, a 79-year old woman from Albuquerque in New Mexico, bought a cup of coffee at McDonald’s drive-in restaurant. The goal of the lawsuit was to try to right a wrong. [17] During the case, Liebeck's attorneys discovered that McDonald's required franchisees to hold coffee at 180–190 °F (82–88 °C). This particular product liability issue affected the lives of … At that temperature, the coffee would cause a third-degree burn in two to seven seconds. Politely, Chris pulled into a parking space so that his grandmother could add cream and sugar to her coffee. They awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages, which was then reduced by 20% to $160,000. Other restaurants served coffee at 160 degrees, which takes twenty seconds to cause third degree burns. [2], The trial took place from August 8–17, 1994, before New Mexico District Court Judge Robert H. 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. a) The coffee was heated at that temperature for an unrelated capitalistic reason, and. Though there was a warning on the coffee cup, the jury decided that the warning was neither large enough nor sufficient. Liebeck was in the passenger's seat of a 1989 Ford Probe which did not have cup holders. She was a passenger in her grandson’s car. A month after the trial, the judge reduced the jury’s punitive damages award to $640,000. “We knew, before the lawsuit was filed, that the temperature of the water was 190 degrees or so, and the franchise documents required that of the franchisee,” said Kenneth Wagner, an Albuquerque lawyer who represented Liebeck. Her past medical expenses were $10,500; her anticipated future medical expenses were approximately $2,500; and her daughter's loss of income was approximately $5,000 for a total of approximately $18,0… As per the New York Times, the jurors arrived at this figure from Morgan's suggestion to penalize McDonald's for two days' worth of coffee revenues, which were about $1.35 million per day. Liebeck v. McDonald’s, also known as the McDonald’s Coffee Case, is a 1994 product liability lawsuit. [28], In McMahon v. Bunn Matic Corporation (1998), Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote a unanimous opinion affirming dismissal of a similar lawsuit against coffeemaker manufacturer Bunn-O-Matic, finding that 179 °F (82 °C) hot coffee was not "unreasonably dangerous". When McDonald's refused to raise its offer, Liebeck retained Texas attorney Reed Morgan. [3], The case was said by some to be an example of frivolous litigation;[4] ABC News called the case "the poster child of excessive lawsuits",[5] while the legal scholar Jonathan Turley argued that the claim was "a meaningful and worthy lawsuit". When the case went to trial, the jurors saw graphic photos of Liebeck’s burns. [26][needs update] They further stated that the vast majority of judges who consider similar cases dismiss them before they get to a jury. McDonald’s Coffee Case – Myth v. Facts. Liebeck v. McDonald's Introduction The Liebeck v. McDonald’s case is a very popular case that occurred in 1992. 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