This pensioner spilt coffee on her lap in 1992 in the carpark of a McDonald’s drive-through in Albuquerque, New Mexico and won $2.9 million in damages in 1994. The story became the stuff of legends and punch lines yet it wasn’t till a video was produced by Retro Reports in October 2013 that it was revealed that Liebeck suffered burns to 16% of her body and nearly died. This “touchstone for cases about excessive litigation” resulted in McDonald’s reducing the holding and serving temperature of their coffee from 180–190°F to 170–180°F. It turned out there had been over 700 similar reports of burns incidents caused by coffee in McDonald’s between 1983 and 1992. The annual The True Stella Awards®, named after her, now seem rather inappropriate. Here, indeed, was a case of “You can’t believe everything that you read in the newspapers”.
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