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What You Didn’t Know about the McDonalds Hot Coffee Case

January 16, 2012
Colson Hicks Eidson

Forget what you likely know or remember about the 1994 McDonalds hot coffee case. Like most Americans, you likely remember the headlines that said a woman received millions of dollars for spilling some hot coffee on herself. None of that is true, and a new documentary entitled “Hot Coffee” sets the record straight on the landmark case that ignited the tort reform debate.

Seventy-nine year old Stella Liebeck was in the passenger seat of a car as it pulled up to the McDonald’s drive-through window in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was not driving the car when the coffee spilled as critics often cite. She purchased the 49-cent cup of coffee from the McDonald’s drive-through window in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She had her grandson park the car so she could put cream and sugar in the coffee.

The faulty coffee lid caused the scalding hot coffee to spill on her lap. Liebeck was wearing cotton sweatpants, which absorbed the coffee and held it close to her skin. The liquid scalded her thighs, buttocks and groin area. Liebeck’s past medical expenses stemming from the coffee burn were over $10,000, and she had over $2,000 in future medical expenses. In addition, she lost about $5,000 of income from missed work. McDonalds offered her $800.00 to settle the case.

McDonald’s initial settlement offer was not nearly enough to compensate Ms. Liebeck for her injuries. Her personal injury attorney took the case to trial and the jury awarded her $2.7 million in punitive damages. The judge reduced the award and McDonalds finally settled the case for a lesser amount.

Colson Hicks Eidson – Florida injury attorneys