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Dispelling Rumors: The Lady Who Sued McDonald's After Coffee Spill Burn

Many have heard about the lady who became a millionaire after spilling McDonald's coffee on herself. The 79-year-old lady, who was seriously burned by a cup of McDonald's coffee, became "famous" because of the media coverage on her product liability case. Unfortunately, although practically everyone in America heard about this case, she did not turn out to be a millionaire, as most people believe. In fact, although the jury awarded Stella Liebeck $2.7 million in punitive damages, McDonald's appealed, and the appellate judge reduced the award to merely $480,000.

Dispelling Rumors

To dispel more rumors about this widely known product liability case, Ms. Liebeck was not driving while she spilled the coffee. Rather, she was sitting in the passenger seat of the car, which was not in motion, attempting to remove the lid to add sugar and creamer while the cup of coffee sat between her knees. She suffered severe burns, which were insufferably painful, to her buttocks, thighs, and groin. A seven-day hospital stay and multiple skin grafts added up to nearly $200,000 in medical bills.

Was There Product Liability?

In a product liability case, there are four elements that need to be proven. First, you must have suffered an injury or a loss. Second, you have to prove that the product was defective. Third, you have to show that the defect in the product caused your injury or loss. Finally, you have to establish that you were using the product in question as it was intended. Punitive damages can be awarded if the company being sued knew that their product was defective or potentially harmful.

McDonald's already knew, well before the coffee spill incident that happened with Ms. Liebeck, that they were making the coffee too hot. The company served coffee that was 190 degrees Fahrenheit, while they were aware that other restaurants did not serve coffee hotter than 160 degrees. Additionally, McDonald's had already faced numerous burn claims and had paid more than $500,000 to burn injury victims. The jury for Ms. Liebeck's case felt that McDonald's had acted willfully, recklessly, and maliciously.

Contact Our Firm Today

Product liability spans further than car parts and children's toys, as you can see in this nationally known case with the coffee from McDonald's. If a company is selling any type of product that is hazardous to consumers, people need to be warned and the company needs to be stopped. To inquire about a product liability case, our Oklahoma product liability lawyers are available for your entire defective product inquires. Call (918) 992 7743 today for a free consultation.

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