Originally Posted by MLeake
Or the woman who was awarded $1M (I think) for spilling hot coffee in her own lap...
I am posting this response because snarky comments about the McDonald's 'hot coffee' case are typically a throw-away applause line in many venues that people do not think much about. This is a pet peeve of mine.
The story of the woman in that case goes as follows.
The woman who was involved in the litigation was 79 years old. She ordered coffee from McDonald's at a drive-through while a passenger in her grandson's car. After getting the coffee, he parked the car so that she could add cream and sugar. As she removed the lid, the coffee spilled into her lap.
As a result, the woman suffered third degree burns on her thighs, buttocks, and vagina. The lady remained in the hospital for eight days for skin-grafting. Two years of medical treatment followed.
The woman's past medical expenses were $10,500; her anticipated future medical expenses were approximately $2,500; and her loss of income was approximately $5,000 for a total of approximately $18,000. She offered to settle the case with McDonald's for $20,000. McDonald's refused, offering $800.
McDonald's had received hundreds of reports of people suffering burns from spilled coffee in the previous ten years, and had settled those cases for approximately half a million dollars. McDonald's quality control manager, claimed that this number of injuries was insufficient to cause the company to evaluate its practices. At the temperature served, McDonald's coffee would burn the mouth and throat if people drank it.
The jury found Liebeck 20% at fault, and McDonald's 80% at fault, awarding her $160,000 of damages. The jury further awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages because of the pattern of behavior of McDonalds. At the time, McDonald's revenues from the sale of coffee alone was $1.35 million per day
. This constituted two days' revenues.
The judge then reduced
the punitive damage award to $480,000 (for a grand total of $640,000.)
The decision was appealed. Both parties later settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.