Everyone loves a nice cup of coffee in the morning. The ideal cup of coffee is tasteful, bold and hot, but not too hot. Not everyone has time to brew coffee in the morning, so at times consumers must turn to a fast food establishment to get their morning refreshment. Since the case of Liebeck v. McDonald’s in 1994, however, both fast food establishments and consumers alike have taken a bit of care into the production and consumption of their coffee, respectively.
But what exactly made that case? Since the verdict, the “McDonald’s Coffee Case” has been looked at either as an example of frivolity in tort law, or a highly influential case shaping our legal landscape. Even today we can still see some cases of coffee spills leading burn victims to the courtroom. But would any of this be happening without Liebeck?
Liebeck v McDonald’s
Many remember the case of a woman suing McDonald’s after she suffered burns from a cup of coffee. A common public misperception of this case is that the plaintiff, Stella Liebeck, caused her own injuries due to carelessness. Many believe this lawsuit is ridiculous, or that it should never have gotten so far. Contrary to popular belief, Liebeck was actually not the one driving the car at the time of the spill. In fact, the car was parked, and she was just trying to take the lid off to prepare her coffee, when it spilled on her abdominal area. Another misconception is that Liebeck had only suffered minor injuries, in reality, the burns she suffered were traumatic. She suffered painful third degree burns and needed several skin grafts. Her medical bills vastly outweighed her initial settlement offer from McDonald’s. Even after her procedures were done, she would require attention from caretakers for the rest of her life. In the end, McDonald’s was at fault for their scalding hot coffee. But did this case begin a trend in what some would call frivolous lawsuits?
Not quite. During the case itself, it was noted that Liebeck wasn’t the only person to bring up legal action against the fast food giant over coffee burns. While she wasn’t the first, she was most certainly the most recognized. Her case gained national attention and is now an important case when looking at liability.
What it Means for You
It is the responsibility of any lawyer to take your claim to heart. Burn injuries are not pleasant nor are they a means for a cash-in. Stella Liebeck experienced actual pain, and all too often, the public forgets the pain that a burn victim, or any other injury victim goes through. It is easy to write these cases off as frivolous or meritless, but public opinion is influenced by whatever light the media wants to cast upon them. Your pain and suffering are not jokes, and responsibility to provide safety and care to customers is not optional for corporations. If you’ve been burned badly, take a moment and think about what happened. Ask yourself, could this situation have been prevented on the company’s part? The answer to that question, which an experienced personal injury attorney can assist you in reaching, may lead to compensation that you are entitled to.