MCDONALD'S COFFEE - THE REST OF THE STORY
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Most people, whether associated with the legal system or not, know about the “McDonald’s Coffee Case”; or, at least they think they do. A wonderful 2011documentary, entitled Hot Coffee, sets forth the facts of the case in great detail. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Not only is the McDonald’s case shown, but the entire pattern and practice of insurance company propaganda is detailed. Before reading further, ask yourself what you really know about the case. Likely, the entirety of what you know about this now world-famous case can be summarized as follows: an old lady spilled McDonald’s coffee in her lap in a car, sued, and recovered millions of dollars. Was I right? Do you want to hear the rest of the story?
- Between 1982 and 1992, McDonald’s had more than 700 claims as a result of people burning themselves on their coffee;
- Some of the 700 claims also involved third-degree burns similar to Stella’s;
- At the time, McDonald’s actively enforced a requirement that all franchisees hold the coffee in the pot at between 185 and 190 degrees;
- Almost all other fast-food franchises hold their coffee at 135 to 140 degrees;
- McDonald’s agreed that 180 degree coffee is not “fit for human consumption” because it would immediately scald. They assumed people would wait before attempting to drink;
- Thermodynamics experts testified that coffee at 180 degrees will cause third-degree burns in two to seven seconds. However, at 150 degrees, Stella would likely have received no burns at all, except maybe some slight reddening of the skin; and
- McDonald’s argued that most customers preferred their coffee hot, but admitted on cross-examination most customers probably didn’t know their coffee was hot enough to cause full-thickness, third-degree burns, which literally destroy human skin, flesh, and muscle.