Everyone, from the media to the general public, dismissed Stella Liebach’s case against McDonalds as frivolous, and proceeded to mock and undermine it. “America;” they said, “the country where you can take the case of your hot coffee to court.” When they should have been saying something along the lines of, “America; the country where coffee can be so hot that it causes 3rd degree burns.”
That’s exactly what happened when the 71 year old lady spilled her McDonald’s coffee on her lap. She required extensive surgery and her medical bill totaled a staggering $10 000, of which McDonald’s only offered to pay $800.
The manual for the McDonald’s franchise explicitly states that the water temperature must not exceed 180 degrees, as severe injury can occur if it does. Stella was not alone; there were 700 similar burn cases prior her incident. When questioned by jurors on these, McDonald’s was “totally indifferent and ignored consumers’ safety.”
The jury awarded Ms.Leibach $2.7 million; only 2 days worth of MacDonald’s coffee sales. The judge reduced this to $480 000; as if that could cover the pain and suffering of this woman who on top of everything else was unjustly criticized, and teach a lesson to a huge company that showed zero regard for its customers.