The “Mcdonald’s Espresso” Case

In one of the extensively misreported and misunderstood instances in current reminiscence, a Albuquerque, New Mexico jury awarded 79 year-old Stella Liebeck $2.9 million for extreme burns suffered after she spilled a cup of McDonald’s espresso, which she had positioned between her knees.

The jury’s award was for $200,000 in compensatory damages and $2.7 million for punitive damages (due to McDonald’s callous conduct). The jury additionally discovered Mrs. Liebeck 20% negligent, decreasing the compensatory damages to $160,000. The trial decide additionally decreased the punitive damages to $480,000.
Mrs. Liebeck didn’t obtain $2.9 million, or $2.86 million, or $740,000. The events entered a post-verdict settlement for a undisclosed quantity.

(States have totally different authorized requirements with respect to negligence. New Mexico makes use of a comparative negligence rule, which assigns blame and, subsequently, judgments proportionally. Different states resembling North Carolina use a contributory negligence customary, which bars a plaintiff from restoration if their actions contributed even 1% to the accident!)


Mrs. Liebeck, whereas a passenger in her grandson’s car, bought a cup of espresso on the drive-through window at McDonalds. Whereas the car was stopped, she positioned the cup securely between her knees and tried to take away the lid. The cup by accident tipped over and poured the scalding (180-190¡ Fahrenheit) sizzling water onto her lap.

She suffered third-degree burns over 16 % of her body. Throughout her eight day hospitalization she underwent pores and skin grafting and painful whirlpool treatment for debridement (removal of broken tissue) of her wounds. She has intensive scarring and was disabled for greater than two years Mcdonalds meal deals.

Regardless of these very painful and debilitating accidents and their costly medical treatment, Mrs. Liebeck provided to settle with McDonald’s for $20,000.

McDonald’s refused to settle and the case went to trial.


The jury heard the next proof within the case:

o McDonalds’s espresso gross sales are $1.three million per day.

o By company specs, McDonald’s sells its espresso at 180 to 190 levels Fahrenheit; Espresso at that temperature, if spilled, causes third-degree burns (the pores and skin is burned away right down to the muscle/fatty-tissue layer) in two to seven seconds; Third-degree burns don’t heal with out pores and skin grafting, debridement and whirlpool remedies that price tens of 1000’s of and lead to everlasting disfigurement, excessive ache and incapacity of the sufferer for a lot of months, and in some instances, years;

o The chairman of the division of mechanical engineering and bio-mechanical engineering on the College of Texas testified that this threat of hurt is unacceptable, as did a widely known knowledgeable on burns, the editor in chief of the main scholarly publication within the specialty, the Journal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation;

o McDonald’s admitted that it has recognized in regards to the threat of great burns from its scalding sizzling espresso for greater than 10 years — the danger was dropped at its consideration by means of quite a few different claims and fits, to no avail;

o From 1982 to 1992, McDonald’s espresso burned greater than 700 individuals, many receiving extreme burns to the genital space, perineum, internal thighs, and buttocks;

o Not solely men and girls, but additionally youngsters and infants, have been burned by McDonald’s scalding sizzling espresso, in some cases as a consequence of inadvertent spillage by McDonald’s workers;

o No less than one lady had espresso dropped in her lap by means of the service window, inflicting third-degree burns to her internal thighs and different delicate areas, which resulted in incapacity for years;

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