A personal reflection on Liebeck v McDonalds

By July 17, 2017 Philosophy

Liebeck V. McDonalds: An Irritation

The McDonald’s hot java instance is an event that most Americans claim to cognize about but many really are unware of the facts. When I foremost heard about this case, I was working in a eating house that ironically served a batch of java. I was listen ining on the waiter line and catch a fellow employee’s remark, “did you hear about the lady who sued McDonald’s because she spilt java on herself, seemingly she won a clump of money ; I wish I could merely travel around actioning people because I’m stupid.” Fortunately, for me, I didn’t attention at the clip to hear much of their narrative, nor did I care about the narrative at all. As the old ages went by, I didn’t hear much about it any longer until I stumbled across a docudrama called “Hot Coffee” on Netflix. It was the first case mentioned in this docudrama along with a few others that pointed out the downside of civil wrong reform. The McDonald’s instance, as I shortly learned was nil as my colleagues had mentioned, but of class, this was old ages ago.

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I was certain that by 2014, certainly the facts of the McDonald’s hot java instance had been distributed and everyone knew it was so non a frivolous case. I was proven rather incorrect when merely last hebdomad, a colleague of mine was rattling on about her thought of “stupid” cases and she mentioned “well I suppose you can action anybody these yearss, I mean you can even action McDonalds over hot java! ” Upon that note, I had no pick but to inform her that the McDonald’s instance was so a legitimate suit. She preceded to state, “Coffee is supposed to be hot, so what so, can you action for cold java? ” Technically, she wasn’t incorrect, java is supposed to hot, but so once more, java isn’t supposed to do 3rd grade Burnss either, or hospitalise you for eight yearss. My irritation a small pushed responded to my colleague, “I don’t see why non, I suppose if cold java was to do you serious physical hurt, so why non! ”

Traveling on, as I proceeded my research I learned more lurid facts of this universe broad known case, every bit good as how it became so deformed. It all started in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Feb 27Thursday, 1992 when 79 twelvemonth old Grandma Liebeck ordered a.49 cent cup of java from a McDonald’s thrust through. Small did she cognize that this.49 cent cup of java would stop up bing her $ 11,000. She was sitting in the rider ‘s place when her grandson, Chris, parked the auto in the McDonald’s parking batch so she could add sugar and pick to her java. She placed the cup between her articulatio genuss and began drawing the lid towards her to take it. In the procedure of making so, she spilled the full cup on her lap. She was have oning cotton sweat pantss which is a fabric prone to absorb great sum of liquid rapidly ; in Liebeck’s really luckless state of affairs, it was blistering java. She sat in the hot liquid for over 90 seconds, firing her thighs, natess, and inguen. Her grandson instantly drove her to the infirmary where it was so discovered that she had obtained third-degree Burnss on six per centum of her tegument. She was hospitalized for eight yearss, underwent tegument grafting, and subsequently debridement interventions ( Cain ) . During this clip, she besides lost a batch of weight conveying her down to a really chilling 83 lbs. In add-on to her interventions at the infirmary, she faced two more old ages of medical intervention ( Cain ) .

Liebeck’s infirmary measures became more than a small hard to manage and that’s when she wrote a missive inquiring McDonald ‘s to cover her out-of-pocket disbursals, which amounted to $ 11,000. This included her girl ‘s lost rewards for the clip she took off work to care for Liebeck during her three hebdomad recovery at place. McDonald’s responded with a refusal. It was during this clip that Liebeck felt no pick but to seek out Reed Morgan, a Texas lawyer. He had dealt with another McDonald ‘s instance refering a burn victim as good ( Levenson ) . That peculiar instance in 1986 involved a adult female who received 3rd degree Burnss from buying McDonald’s java, which resorted in a colony of $ 27,000. McDonald’s had stated during that instance that they “ had no programs to turn down the heat. ” Before a suit was even filed, Liebeck one time once more asked McDonald ‘s to pay for her medical disbursals, now including her hurting and agony in the sum of $ 90,000. McDonalds offered merely $ 800. Finally, in 1993, a merchandises liability case was filed in New Mexico District Court saying that McDonald ‘s was responsible of “ gross carelessness ” for selling java that was “ unreasonably unsafe ” and “defectively manufactured.” Punitive amendss were besides sought based on the allegations that McDonald ‘s acted with “conscience indifference for the safety of its customers” ( Levenson ) .

During the pretrial, in January 21, 1994 McDonald ‘s moved for drumhead judgement, but the gesture was denied. On July 29th, a hearing was conducted on Liebeck’s Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. The Parties agreed that the Burnss were so caused by the java. On July 29th in a missive determination, Judge Scott denied Liebeck’s gesture as to liability ( Dedman ) . Morgan, Liebeck’s lawyer, along with the suggestion of a go-between, offered to settle for $ 225,000, but McDonald’s refused and finally decided to travel to test ( Ruschmann ) .

The test took topographic point on August 17th 1994 before Judge Robert H. Scott. Liebeck ‘s lawyers argued that McDonald ‘s java was “ faulty ” in a sense that it was excessively hot and likely to do more serious hurt than any other java sold at different eating houses. They besides discovered that McDonald ‘s developing manual required their java to be brewed at 195 to 205 grades Fahrenheit and so held and served at 180-190 grade Fahrenheit. They debated that java should non be served hotter than 140 grades ( Ruschmann ) . Baxter, an expert in thermodynamics as applied to clamber Burnss, stated that liquids at 190 grades can do 3rd grade Burnss to the tegument in two to three seconds, if at 180 grades it can do the same Burnss in 12 to 15 seconds, and at 160 grades it can do Burnss within 20 seconds ( Cain ) . Their purposes were to turn out that if McDonald’s java had been merely a small less scalding, it would had added critical seconds to Liebeck ‘s response clip. This would hold allowed her to acquire out the auto and take her apparels within clip to forestall serious Burnss ( Cain ) . Unfortunately, in Liebeck ‘s state of affairs, it was estimated that she merely had about 2 to 3 seconds before 3rd grade Burnss began puting. A undertaking performed by a jurisprudence pupil working for Liebeck ‘s attorneies took temperatures of java at other local eating houses and found that McDonald ‘s java was at least 20 grades warmer ( Ruschmann ) . Witnesss testified that between 1982 and 1992, McDonald ‘s had received at least 700 studies of clients being burned by hot java ; some incidents affecting 3rd grade Burnss ( Cain ) . McDonald ‘s had been sued infinite times over java Burnss and had spent over $ 500,000 in settling these instances, including the 1986 instance that Morgan himself was portion of. He so questioned McDonald’s as to why they have non considered mooing their java temperature.

McDonald ‘s fought back with their ain experts. They argued that java served at 130 grades could do 3rd grade Burnss every bit good, hence functioning java at 180 or 190 grades was irrelevant. Besides, a safety adviser hired by the company testified that hot java Burnss were “ statistically undistinguished ” and that 700 burn ailments out of 24million cups over 10 old ages was a good study ( Levenson ) . A McDonald’s executive admitted that the company choose non to warn its clients of the possible Burnss because “ there were more serious dangers in the eating houses. ” In add-on, they admitted that their java was non “ tantrum for ingestion ” because it would do hurts to the oral cavity and pharynx if rummy at a temperature of 185 grades. They added that due to Liebeck ‘s age, the Burnss were worse than usual because older tegument is more vulnerable to serious hurts ( Cain ) . During McDonald ‘s shutting statement, they pointed the incrimination on Liebeck for unthinkingly puting the cup of evidently hot java between her legs and non taking her apparels speedy plenty.

These statements offended jurymans, one even stating, “ There was a individual behind every figure and I don’t believe the corporation was attaching adequate importance to that ” ( qtd. Ruschmann ) . They were besides non convinced by McDonald ‘s failed effort at warning clients with a “ cautiousness: contents Hot! ” label on the cup ( Levenson ) . At the beginning of the test, Jerry Goens wondered why he was make up one’s minding a hot coffee-spill instance ; after seeing all the grounds, he rapidly changed his head. In the terminal, the jurymans who ab initio felt insulted and inconvenienced by Liebeck ‘s “ frivolous ” case were now more disquieted at McDonald’s unsympathetic attitude toward victims ( Levenson ) . One Juror even forcing for amendss numbering about $ 10,000 ( Levenson ) . Even the test justice had no jobs with the jury ‘s finding of fact. After 7 yearss of test, the jury would hold to make up one’s mind if McDonald’s would be held apt, therefore curtailing people from what they truly want, “ good hot java ” ( Levenson ) .

The jury nem con found McDonald’s apt. They sided with Liebeck on her claims “of merchandise defect, breach of implied guarantee, and breach of the implied guarantee of fittingness for a peculiar purpose” ( Dedman ) . The jury awarded $ 200,000 in compensatory amendss, but because they besides found her 20 % at mistake for her ain hurts, her award was reduced to $ 160,000 ( Ruschmann ) . The Jury awarded 2.7 million in punitory amendss ( two yearss ‘ worth of world-wide java gross revenues ) , in which the Judge subsequently reduced to $ 480,000. Judge Scott commented that the sum was justified due to “ wilful, wanton, reckless, and what the tribunals find were indurate ” behavior on McDonald ‘s portion ( Ruschmann ) . Liebeck’s entire award was $ 640,000.

McDonalds responded ‘We knew the initial amendss awarded were inordinate and undue, and yesterday the Judge acknowledged that and agreed, but we feel they are inordinate and we will appeal the determination ” ( Dedman ) . Judge Scott denied McDonald ‘s gesture for new test on September 16, 1994 and ordered the parties to a post-verdict colony conference. On November 28th, the parties eventually ended up settling for a confidential sum. Those knowing of the sum Liebeck received, agreed that the sum was far less than what the jury had awarded her.

McDonald’s had made some alterations since Liebeck ‘s case by adding the warning mark “ Coffee, tea, and hot cocoa are VERY HOT! ‘ on their thrust through Windowss. Their hot drink palpebras are besides now label with the words “ HOT! HOT! HOT! ” ( Cain ) . Myself, as a really admin java drinker, halt by McDonalds often for java has besides noticed that McDonalds employee will most immediately and pushily inquire if I need pick and sugar in my java. If I do, they will so continue to make it for me. Now whether or non they do it because its portion of their function in supplying great client service, I’m about certain that some of it has to make with avoiding another hot java case.

So how precisely did this instance acquire so deceptive? Well, as a legal philosophy, the instance of Liebeck v. McDonald ‘s Restaurants has no precedential value. It was a individual jury ‘s finding of fact that ne’er made it to the appellant degree ( Levenson ) . The facts were non decently distributed and citizens merely choose to hear what they wanted. The media excessively had a great function in falsifying this narrative. At first go forthing out a few facts, and so shortly merely go forthing three facts such as, “Woman spills java on herself, Woman sues McDonalds, and Woman wins 2.7 million dollars.” In add-on, immense corporations conduct big public dealingss runs to falsify the truth in an effort to restrict people ‘s cognition of the tribunal system. They turned this peculiar instance into a “witch hunt” for civil wrong reform, confounding the media and the general populace into believing Liebeck was the bad cat in this narrative ( Hot Coffee Case ) . With the public presuming the truth lies within these large corporations, they tend to hold with them, missing the cognition that a civil wrong reform will really do it more hard for them to register a case, obtain a jury test, and places a cap on their amendss, if and when they are injured by these companies ( Lane ) .

In add-on to the Liebeck V McDonald’s Restaurant instance, there are other instances across the United States that involve hurts from hot java. You’d besides be interested to hear that most of them end with the burn victim at a doomed. An illustration is the instance of Steven Olliver vs Heavenly Bagels, Inc. from the Supreme Court of New York in 2001. Having similar fortunes as the McDonald’s instance, Olliver purchased his cup of java from Heavenly Bagels and accidently spills it on himself while driving in his auto. The java was really put in a bag in which he had placed between his legs. He suffered 2nd grade Burnss and sued the company. Heavenly Bagels argued that there was no defect in the industry or maintence of their java machine, and that they had no responsibility to warn the client of the dangers of hot java. A service papers showed that the brewing temperature was 194 grades, but “industry criterions required a brewing temperature of 200 degrees” . Under New York case in point, the fact that “the java was hot plenty to do hurt if non decently handled did non intend that it was faulty or negligently served” . Coffee, a “product by its really nature had a unsafe property and liability was imposed merely when the merchandise had an property non moderately contemplated by the buyer or was unreasonably unsafe for its intended purpose” ( Olliver v. Heavenly Bagels ) . The tribunal held that Olliver failed to supply grounds for which the jury could separate the java to be unreasonably hot, basically, his 2nd grade Burnss were non sufficient.

Another illustration of a hot java instance is Christopher Nadel V Burger King. This instance made it to the Court of Appeals of Ohio in 1997. Nadel and his household stopped by the Burger King thrust through and order some nutrient along with two cups of java. Initially there was an accident and the hot java spilt all over everyone sitting in the vehicle including Nadel’s immature boy. They filed an action in “breach of guarantee, merchandises liability, and negligence” against the franchisor and franchisee of Burger King. The tribunal granted the gestures of both suspects for sum-up, which after the Nadels appealed. The tribunal affirmed the grant of drumhead judgement to Burger King for of “breach of guarantee, premises liability, and negligent imposition of emotional distress” . But, Summary judgement was reversed as to the “products liability and punitory harm claims” because of fact issues as to whether thecoffeethat burned Nadel’s boy was faulty. The tribunal held that it was up to a jury to make up one’s mind whether 2nd grade Burnss ensuing from spilled java was an unanticipated danger or common cognition. The tribunal besides decided that a jury would be better able to find whether the 175 degree java purchased from Burger King was hotter than what Nadels would hold expected, and whether the hazards of this hot java outweighed its benefits.

Here we have three different hot java instances with all different determinations. Liebeck’s instance did non do it to an appellant degree but the determinations of appellate tribunals across the state suggest that Stella Liebeck would hold probably lost if the entreaty had gone frontward as these last two instance proved. As of 2014 Ho

Plants Cited

Cain, Kevin G. “ And Now the Remainder of the Story… The McDonald ‘s Coffee Lawsuit. ”Journal of Consumer & A ; Commercial LawJuly ( 2007 ) : 14-19. Web.

Christopher Nadel, by and through his following friend, Brenda Nadel, his natural female parent, Evelyn Nadel, and Paul Nadel v. Burger King Corporation and Emil, Inc. Court of Appeals of Ohio. 21 May 1997.LexisNexis Academic. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.

Dedman, Jim. “ The Stella Liebeck McDonald ‘s Hot Coffee Case FAQ ” .AbnormalUse.com. Gallivan, White & A ; Boyd, P.A. Attorneys at Law. 25 January 2011. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.

Lane, Justinian. “ What Is Tort Reform, Anyway? A Guide for the Average Citizen ” .WhatisTortReform.com. N.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.

Levenson, Barry M.Habeas Codfish: Contemplations on Food and the Law. Madison: Uracil of Wisconsin, 2001. Print.

N.a. “ Hot Coffee Case. ”ForThePeople.com. Morgan & A ; Morgan, 11 July 2012. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.

Olliver v. Heavenly Bagels, Inc. Et Al. Supreme Court of New York Nassau County. 26 July 2001.LexisNexis Academic. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.

Rami, Zachary. “ Courts Split as to Whether Consumers Injure by Hot Coffee Can Seek Recovery. ”Loyola Consumer Law Review6th ser. 10.4 ( 1999 ) : n. pag. Web.

Ruschmann, Paul.Tort Reform. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2006. Print.


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