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Woman sues McDonald's after being burned by hot coffee

The case is reminiscent of a 1994 trial when McDonald's was accused of serving its coffee at temperatures too hot for human consumption.
Woman sues McDonald's after being burned by hot coffee
Posted at 5:28 AM, Sep 20, 2023

A California woman filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of California of San Francisco last week claiming she was injured by McDonald's coffee that spilled on her body. 

The plaintiff, Mable Childress, claims McDonald's failed to properly secure the lid on the coffee she purchased in June 2022, causing the coffee to spill out when she took a sip. After the coffee spilled out, Childress' attorneys say that she suffered severe burns to her body. 

A court filing says that Childress, who is in her 80s, experienced scarring in her groin area and continues to suffer from pain. The court filing says that Childress asked for help from three different McDonald's managers who refused to help her. 

"As a result of Defendants’ breach, Plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer physical pain, emotional distress, and other damages," Childress' court filing says. 

"My restaurants have strict food safety protocols in place, including training crew to ensure lids on hot beverages are secure. We take every customer complaint seriously – and when Ms. Childress reported her experience to us later that day, our employees and management team spoke to her within a few minutes and offered assistance. We're reviewing this new legal claim in detail," McDonald’s Owner/Operator Peter Ou.

SEE MORE: McDonald's removing soda fountains from dining rooms

McDonald's was the subject of a highly publicized case in 1994 involving a 79-year-old woman who was burned by the company's coffee. According to the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Stella Liebeck sued McDonald's after coffee spilled on her lap, causing third-degree burns to 16% of her body. 

She originally wanted to settle for $20,000, but McDonald's refused. A judge subsequently ordered McDonald's to pay $200,000 in compensatory damages and $2.7 million in punitive damages for McDonald’s callous conduct, the Texas Trial Lawyers Association said. 

After having the punitive damages reduced to $480,000 on appeal, the two sides entered a post-verdict settlement. 

In that case, McDonald's acknowledged that its coffee was served at temperatures that could cause severe burns and was not fit for consumption. 

While the National Coffee Association of the USA recommends brewing coffee to a temperature of 195-205 degrees, researchers from Oregon State University say those temperatures can cause burns. Researchers recommend brewing coffee to a temperature of 130-160 degrees to balance it being hot enough versus the safety problems of coffee being served too hot. 

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