hot coffee; neligence; wacky law suit; burnt, frivolous

Coffee’s Too Hot

Not That Hot Coffee Case

When you think about someone suing over being burned by spilling hot coffee on themselves, you tend to think about the original McDonald’s case where an elderly woman received third-degree burns – yes, the case was very horrific and not the punchline that many people believe. However, we’ve covered that case in the past and we’re not going to rehash it today. Instead, we’re traveling to Murphysboro, IL and the year 1998.

Teresa Reed Sues Everyone

In 1998, Teresa Reed was in the drive-thru of a McDonald’s with her mother, who was driving. She ordered a coffee and placed it in a cup holder in her mother’s car. The coffee was too hot to be consumed, and she discovered that it was hot enough that it would scald the human body. It toppled out of the holder and caused severe burns to her ankle.

She decided that she would sue. However, she was not merely suing Short Enterprises, who were owners of this McDonald’s. She also sued Cobb Manufacturing who made the cup and Wal-Mart who manufactured the cup holder. In addition, she named her mother in the suit, who she claims was negligent. She said that her mother “owed a duty of care for the safety of others riding in her vehicle.” She asked for $450,000 in damages.

Keep in mind that in the first hot coffee case from 1994, the plaintiff won. Initially, she won 2.9 million dollars, but after review, it was estimated that she got around $600,000. After that case, McDonald’s and other companies started to take more precautions by making sure their items had labels mentioning how hot they were. That’s possibly why Reed named several other companies in the suit – cup maker and cup holder manufacturer.

Not the Last

While this wasn’t the first nor the most famous of the McDonald’s hot coffee cases, it also wasn’t the last. In fact, every few years, it seems as though someone sues a company for food that’s too hot. It happened in California with coffee at McDonald’s again in 2012. It’s happened with fajitas and other items at plenty of other eateries as well.

It is also important to remember that each case is different, and as observers, it is not always possible to see and know everything that’s happened that has led to the injury. In some cases, people have every right to sue because someone was negligent in how things were handled. Other times, the lawsuits are frivolous and merely people looking for a way to cash in and win the “lawsuit lottery”.

Whenever you are out and grabbing a bite to eat or something warm to drink, take care and always let it cool down a bit. Make sure the lid is on tight and that you don’t touch a burning plate. A little precaution can help you avoid accidents that might otherwise cause you to become involved in one of these strange lawsuits… which just might show up here one day.