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Hot Coffee- The Mcdonalds Case and Americans who Sue


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  #1  
December 31st, 2011, 12:21 PM
Lash's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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So most of us know the old case of the woman who sued over hot coffee spills. It's almost become a joke in modern society, an example of how sue happy we are, and is often used in examples when people plan to sue for gaining weight.

But do you know the fact of the Liebeck case? Did you know about her 3rd degree burns and skin grafts? Have you ever seen the pictures of her body after the coffee spilled and how hot the coffee truly was (Right near 200 degrees). If you want to see it, and it's GRAPHIC, you can see her deep burns Hot Coffee, 2011, Directed by Susan Saladoff

She also wasn't driving. She was sitting in a parked car, adding cream and sugar to her coffee, which was also held up in court by workers who viewed her in the parking lot and then of course when they called for medical help. Did you know that if they agreed to simply lower the heating temperature to 160 degrees, the severity of the burns would not and could not happen to any consumer?

She also originally only asked for her medical bills to be covered. The JURY awarded 2.7 million to her. She never asked for that. She actually only got $450,000 or something along those lines.

Quote:
The sweatpants Liebeck was wearing absorbed the coffee and held it next to her skin. A vascular surgeon determined that Liebeck suffered full thickness burns (or third-degree burns) over 6 percent of her body, including her inner thighs, perineum, buttocks, and genital and groin areas. She was hospitalized for eight days, during which time she underwent skin grafting. Liebeck, who also underwent debridement treatments, sought to settle her claim for $20,000, but McDonalds refused.
So the question really is: Why do we joke about this woman and consider her to be frivolous? Who spun the coverage of this verdict to make us all think she was attempting to take advantage of corporations?

The larger point of the documentary that covered the Liebeck/Mcdonalds case, called Hot Coffee, was about Tort Reform which apparently is much more contentious issue than I ever knew.
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  #2  
December 31st, 2011, 12:25 PM
KimberlyD0
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Because anyone with half a brain knows not to open HOT coffee in their lap. Moving or not.

Its gotten so bad with labels because of people suing, that Peanuts have a peanut warning. Are people really that stupid?

Common sense being common sense says if its hot open it somewhere safe, if it's sharp it will cut you, of its wet you can fall, if its peanuts it has nuts.

Sad sad world.
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  #3  
December 31st, 2011, 12:32 PM
Tammyjh's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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I haven't seen the pictures but I am familiar with the case. Burning your tongue is one thing but being burned so bad that you need to be hospitalized and skin grafts is another. If the coffee sold is "too hot for human consumption", its too hot and I support her lawsuit.

Its joked about because most people have no idea of what the real facts of the case are and don't care to know. All they think is: Coffee is served hot so suing McDonald's over "hot coffee" is dumb. I'm sure if the people who make fun were the ones who were burned, they wouldn't think the lawsuit so dumb.

If they want to make fun of frivolous cases, they should look at the one where the lady wanted sue Cap'n Crunch because the crunch berries were not real fruit.
Judge Dismisses Suit Claiming Cap’n Crunch ‘Crunchberries’ Aren’t Real Fruit | Attorney At Law
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  #4  
December 31st, 2011, 12:33 PM
Lash's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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Kimberly I had a long response written. Before I post it, look at the picture of her burns. Then tell me that the coffee was acceptable to hand to a consumer at that temperature.

The woman in the McDonalds case required 2 YEARS of medical treatment and had severe scars. She needed multiple skin grafts.
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  #5  
December 31st, 2011, 12:38 PM
Lash's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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McDonalds had also settled previous cases out of court for the same issue, up to $600,000 total in settlements in other burn cases. They could have covered Liebeck's medical treatment issues, multiple times, but they continued to refuse, taking it to higher court.

Quote:
During the ensuing trial, Mrs. Liebeck’s physician testified that her injury was one of the worst cases of scalding he’d ever seen.

The coffee. At the time, McDonalds’ corporate specifications explicitly called for coffee to be served at a temperature between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit. An expert witness testified that liquids at this temperature will cause third degree burns of human skin in two to seven seconds. (Coffee served at home is typically 135 to 140 degrees.)

McDonalds’ culpability. During discovery, McDonald’s was required to produce corporate documents of similar cases. More than 700(!) claims had been made against McDonald’s, and many of the victims had suffered third-degree burns similar to Mrs. Liebeck’s. Yet the company had refused to change its policy, supposedly because a consultant had recommended the high temperature as a way to maintain optimum taste. Some have speculated that the real reason for the high temperature was to slow down consumption of the coffee, reducing the demand for free refills.

Greed? Despite the pain caused by her injury, and the lengthy and expensive treatments she required, Mrs. Liebeck originally offered to settle with McDonald’s for $20,000. The corporation offered her a mere $800, so the case went to trial.

The settlement. The jury awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages to Mrs. Liebeck, which was reduced to $160,000 because the jury felt that only 80% of the fault lay with McDonald’s, and 20% with her. They also awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages, essentially as punishment of McDonald’s for its callous treatment of Mrs. Liebeck, and its years of ignoring hundreds of similar injuries. This amount was held to be reasonable given that it represented only two days’ worth of McDonalds’ revenue from coffee sales alone. The trial judge reduced the punitive damages, however, to $480,000.After further negotiation, Mrs. Liebeck ultimately received $640,000.

The aftermath. In subsequent investigations, it was found that the Albuquerque McDonalds where the incident occurred had reduced the temperature of its coffee to 158 degrees. The corporation as a whole ultimately changed its policies as well, and now explicitly forbids serving coffee at the scalding temperatures that injured Mrs. Liebeck. There is no way of knowing how many additional injuries have been prevented by this case, which forced McDonald’s to change its policies, and which has doubtlessly served as a warning to other restaurants as well.
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  #6  
December 31st, 2011, 12:45 PM
Poncho06's Avatar Mega Super Mommy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KimberlyD0 View Post
Because anyone with half a brain knows not to open HOT coffee in their lap. Moving or not.

Its gotten so bad with labels because of people suing, that Peanuts have a peanut warning. Are people really that stupid?

Common sense being common sense says if its hot open it somewhere safe, if it's sharp it will cut you, of its wet you can fall, if its peanuts it has nuts.

Sad sad world.
Because one does not expect to be handed any item 12degrees shy of boiling contained in a paper cup. If I spill a cup of coffee, regardless of the catalyst, I have the expectation of being red and wet not that I would have to endure several skin grafts to my bajango.

What if she tripped over her own two feet on her way to the car and suffered the same injuries? Should the restaurant not be held liable but serving their product hotter than industry standards as well what the general public's expectations are.

As for you peanut reference I have generally seen warning that the product was processed at a plant that processes peanuts AS WELL AS other tree nuts. Meaning although I may have no allergies to peanuts I could have the potential for exposure to other nuts that I am allergic to (not really allergic to anything).
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  #7  
December 31st, 2011, 12:48 PM
New Mama's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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I watched the documentary and found it FASCINATING. What really got me was the fact that McDonalds had numerous complaints and settlements about the SAME THING. On top of that, the woman who spilled the coffee's family only asked for medical expenses and an APOLOGY and McDonald's refused. Come on!

The documentary definitely changed my opinion on tort reform.
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  #8  
December 31st, 2011, 12:53 PM
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I'm going to have to watch the documentary. I have always thought she was well within her rights to sue for medical expenses, even if she was moving. There is no reason at all ever that the coffee needs to be that hot. This is not about common sense vs doing a dumb act at all, it is about a establishment serving products too hot for human consumption. Anyone with half a brain could see that. I still believe she is well within her rights to sue.
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  #9  
December 31st, 2011, 01:33 PM
plan4fate's Avatar I may bend, but not break
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The picture is horrific, that poor woman.

I've always felt that coffee served in "stores" is too hot in general. At home I can add cold water to the cup, I usually can't when ordering. And if I'm ordering a drink, usually want to drink it NOW, not later. When Dh's cousin and I got the Peppermint Mocha's from McD's in November, we drove for 45 minutes before they were cool enough to just be uncomfortable to drink, rather than "scald your tongue" hot.

I think she was well within her rights in this case. Coffee should be hot, but not hot enough to cause 3rd degree burns. I mean, it could have sloshed over her hand or arm when taking it from the person... would it have been frivolous then since she was "clumsy"? . It's simple.. it should never have been served that hot.
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  #10  
December 31st, 2011, 02:21 PM
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There are frivolous lawsuit and then there are legit ones. This was legit. The product was served that was way too hot for human consumption. Is it smart to open a coffee on your lap, no. But if it was at the proper temperature, she wouldn't have needed the extensive medical care she required. McD's was at fault here. You can't deny that fact one bit.
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  #11  
December 31st, 2011, 03:40 PM
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Coffee shouldn't be served to the public at temperatures that would land them in ICU if it came in contact with their skin. That's bottom line for me. I can't imagine anyone that could look at that woman's burns and think any different.
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  #12  
December 31st, 2011, 03:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by New Mama View Post
I watched the documentary and found it FASCINATING. What really got me was the fact that McDonalds had numerous complaints and settlements about the SAME THING. On top of that, the woman who spilled the coffee's family only asked for medical expenses and an APOLOGY and McDonald's refused. Come on!

The documentary definitely changed my opinion on tort reform.
I watched it too. Really opened my eyes and made my opinion firm that McDonalds is at fault here. Anyone who thinks otherwise isn't informed and just talking out of their ***.
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  #13  
December 31st, 2011, 04:16 PM
foxfire_ga79
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I remember when this first happened and people on the radio and at school would joke about it. (I was a kid when this first happened.) It wasn't until maybe a year or two ago that I learned how serious her injuries were.
Like a PP said, a hot coffee spilled on you should make you soggy, not land you in the hospital.
I haven't seen this documentary though. In general I support tort reform because it's a huge factor in how insanely expensive American health care is, but after I watch the documentary I might have a different opinion. Just because this case wasn't frivolous doesn't mean that other cases aren't. There really are plenty of stupid lawsuits.
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  #14  
December 31st, 2011, 05:05 PM
Lash's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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I agree there are plenty that are frivolous, but it also really highlights how many cases have been presented to us as the common public that are meant to be the major examples for tort reform... and they are drastically altered when presented to us. In essence, it assists big companies in protecting themselves and enforcing arbitration clauses where it CAN'T ever go to court and stays tied up in private arbitration.

We might all be surprised to find out how few people are actually suing and winning these big claims we all hear about, or at least what the actual payout is to these people compared to what a jury originally awards.
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  #15  
December 31st, 2011, 06:25 PM
WineKeepsMeSane's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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Once I heard the facts of this case instead of just jokes, I agree, she was right to sue. I've now even corrected people when they complained about that case

What are the tort reforms being considered? I'm familiar with tort law (had to study it as part of my degree), but not with the reforms you are talking about.
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  #16  
December 31st, 2011, 06:44 PM
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The way it was presented in my intro to health care system class, it would be along the lines of putting a cap on what could be awarded. Medical cost coverage obviously, but millions for pain and suffering supposedly shouldn't be happening.
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  #17  
January 1st, 2012, 02:30 AM
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This is too funny that you bring this up now since I haven't heard anything about it in ages, that is until recently. I totally got balled out by my MIL over the holidays because someone brought this up & I said her suing was NOT excessive & they all (the family) basically thought it was crazy & that she needed a bandaid but got 2 million & there was no talking sense to them. Oh well.

I do not think she should be the subject of jokes or the example held up of "what is "Wrong with America". If you have ever heard someone say something like "and the stella award goes to...". Well Mrs Liebeck IS Stella & the source of that name. I think she was treated unjustly in the media. The media, the same ones who get paychecks from places like McDonald's and not from people like Mrs. Liebeck, are very good at not pissing off their sponsors & keeping them happy whenever possible. They ahve learned thsi over time - check this out if you want to understan dit better: Mass Media There is an intersting story about reporters trying ot report on Monsanto. There isn't a full story on teh site, but there are links. Basically Fox news got threatened by Monsanto - directed the reporters to report FALSE info - the reporters sued Foc under the whistle blower laws(as their jobs were threatened) they won. Later the decision was overturned on appeal & Fox news plastered everywhere that they had been "vindicated". What had actually happened in that court case was NOT that Fox was found not to be at fault or not to be reporting "false news" but rather that the case could not be considered a whistle blower case because reporting false news isn't actually against any laws so the reporters could not invoke those rights ....so they had no legal right to refuse. Nice.

It's not hard for them to do either since the vast majority of the public seems blissfully unaware of the impact this kind of reporting has had on shaping their opinions. So it's self perpetuating. The media tells us Liebeck is a money grubbing idiot who dumped hot coffee on herself & saw dollar signs & then WE run around regurgitating that garbage to eachother as if it's fact.

I do think people can be sue happy & frivilous of course, but you also have to remember who the generations before us were. My grandfather lost a finger at work. Did he sue? No. Was he compensated? No. He literally said it was a "Risk of the profession". He had medical insurance & I think his time off was paid, and at that era his insurance paid 100% (far from how they pay out today) but he got nothing else at all. Another relative (long before I was born) was killed at a hospital from receiving the wrong blood type after an injury. Again no compensation was asked for & none given. The reason for that? The explanation I have been given is no one "thought about suing then". Well really? He was newly married (less than a year) and had a pregnant wife who delivered a few weeks later. At that era she had no employement & no real prospects to gainfully employ herself in a way to support herself & a baby. She moved back in with her parents (we are talking probably 1940's or a bit earlier) & later married his brother (who interestingly was also a widower due to a medical mistake in his wife's care post-op). Today? You bet your a55 any of us would sue & NO ONE would think it's frivilous. But back in THAT era - not suing was pretty standard, regardless of the significance of injury, the impact it had on the recipient or family and regardless of how reckless or irresponsible the perpetrator of that injury was. I don't want to go back to that either. There HAS to be some middle ground.
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  #18  
January 1st, 2012, 02:41 AM
beck12's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KimberlyD0 View Post
Because anyone with half a brain knows not to open HOT coffee in their lap. Moving or not.

Its gotten so bad with labels because of people suing, that Peanuts have a peanut warning. Are people really that stupid?

Common sense being common sense says if its hot open it somewhere safe, if it's sharp it will cut you, of its wet you can fall, if its peanuts it has nuts.

Sad sad world.
So would feel any differently is she was a person with "half a brain"? What if she had a mental impairment? I have worked with people that were mentally impaired who were fully capable of caring for themselves & keeping jobs, but certainly would no understand at all the ramifications of spilling a cup of coffee that hot. What if she was a minor child who stopped in on her way to 7th grade while walking to school on a cold morning & dumped it on her gloves & got full tissue burns on her hands? Still not at all liable? Should the person handing the cup over warn them that it is hot enough to give you 3rd degree burns in the chance the person receiving it has no idea it is THAT hot? I have been warned a ton when they bring a sizzling skillet of food to my table how hot it is. I think that is generally what should be done when the person offering the service has a much better idea of how hot an item is as compared to the recipient of that item. Frankly I had no idea it was that hot (180-190 degrees) before this & I HAD been burned by McDonald's coffee. This all happened the year I graduated & not long before that I actually burned my tongue & esophagus on a cup of coffee from Mc Donald's and I had requested ice to be put in it even. I never notified them, and I am sure lots of people never notified them of injuries...but 700 HAD notified them of injuries from mild to severe in the decade prior & they didn't change one single thing about their policy directing their chains to serve coffee at 180-190 degrees - a temperature medically known to cause 3rd degree burns in 2-7 seconds.
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If a man has been his mother's undisputed darling he retains throughout life the triumphant feeling, the confidence in success, which not seldom brings actual success along with it. ~Sigmund Freud
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  #19  
January 1st, 2012, 06:04 AM
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I absolutely agree. I had no idea about the details of this lawsuit until one of the last debates we had on it- it absolutely blew my mind and was different from everything I had ever heard.
Now I want to watch the documentary though! It's not on Netflix.
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  #20  
January 1st, 2012, 06:53 AM
Tammyjh's Avatar Platinum Supermommy
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What exactly does the saying mean
"Anyone with half a brain"
That people who only have half of a brain must be stupid?
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