Stella Liebeck (1913 – 2004)

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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3 COMMENTS

  1. A obviously frail 79 year old boba decides to order coffee from McDonald’s drive-through counter and spills the coffee over her lap. The Safety-first philosophy was not on her mind either, if common sense prevailed she would have avoided the drive-through option, and opted for the safer solution, entering the restaurant.
    $2.9 Million in damages for 16% Third degree burns is a very good result. Injured British servicemen must establish which Law firm she used.

    • Read the story and watch the video Chaim. She was the VICTIM of overly hot coffee. She had her character assassinated and it is only in death that the wrong has been finally righted.

      • What formula was applied to calculate the settlement amount that was disbursed to the plaintiff Stella Liebeck. The injured party responsibility factor equalled more than 20%. Both the plaintiff and defendant are equally guilty of breaching Health and Safety principles. The plaintiff was in the passenger seat of her grandsons vehicle, they parked the vehicle, there was no cup holders in the vehicle, the plaintiff positioned the cup of coffee between her legs to add sugar and cream ( a act of irresponsibility and stupidity) The grandson made no effort to assist his elderly grandmother. Consumers and service providers have equal responsibility to Health and Safety regulations.

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