Stella Lieback purchased a cup of coffee at her local McDonalds’ drive-thru, spilled her coffee in her lap… know the rest? You might think you do but what you may not realize is that the media, McDonald’s, and other big businesses have distorted and hidden the facts of this case to make it seem like injury lawsuits are becoming frivolous.
The Real Facts Behind the Infamous Hot Coffee Case:
Stella was not driving the car, nor was the car in motion at the time of the spill.
Stella suffered 3rd degree burns – the worst kind – to her groin, buttocks, and legs. She underwent multiple painful skin-graft surgeries as a result.
McDonald’s knew that keeping their coffee at 180 degrees was dangerous to it’s customers. Prior to Stella Lieback McDonald’s had received over 700 complaints of coffee burns. McDonald’s claimed these 700 victims were “statistically trivial” in comparison to all their coffee sales.
Liquid ranging from 180 degrees or higher will produce 2nd to 3rd degree burns within seconds. Dr. David Arredondo, Stella Lieback’s surgeon testified to this fact.
Stella had only asked McDonald’s pay her medical bills, $10,000. They offered her $800.
The highly publicized $2.7 million verdict is nowhere near what Stella actually received. The punitive damage award was based on 2 days worth of McDonald’s coffee sales. The Judge in the case reduced that amount to $480,000.
The day after Lieback won her case McDonald’s lowered the required temperature of their coffee from 190 to 158 degrees. The lower temperature takes about a minute to cause severe burns as opposed to seconds. The important thing to take away from this highly publicized case is not the fact or the amount that Lieback won; it’s that Injury lawsuits are not frivolous. They are necessary for change; change from small businesses, change from big corporations, changes to the way people operate vehicles, and ultimately, changes to make the world we live in a safer place.
Information on the Hot Coffee case was found in interviews with Susan Saladoff, the film “Hot Coffee,” and on the film’s website. To learn more about the Hot Coffee case, film, the issues connected to it, and it’s director Susan Saladoff visit hotcoffeethemovie.com.