The woman in the video was elderly, obviously unsteady with her hands, and probably short on reflexes. Meaning she probably not only spilled the coffee on herself, but neglected to rise from the chair, causing deeper burns.
Name one other person who has spilled coffee from McDonalds and NOT received these types of burns. Obviously this is not the norm, so the norm, the coffee, should not be blamed.
During discovery, McDonalds produced documents showing more than 700 claims by people burned by its coffee between 1982 and 1992. Some claims involved third-degree burns substantially similar to Liebecks. This history documented McDonalds' knowledge about the extent and nature of this hazard.
After reviewing the facts, including the above, I would have ruled in favor of the plaintiff.
McDonalds also said during discovery that, based on a consultants advice, it held its coffee at between 180 and 190 degrees fahrenheit to maintain optimum taste. He admitted that he had not evaluated the safety ramifications at this temperature. Other establishments sell coffee at substantially lower temperatures, and coffee served at home is generally 135 to 140 degrees.
The point isn't the temp. The point is the damage to the customer, and a history of the same behavior. The more than 700 prior claims can't be written off as: "Oh, it's an old lady."
Still not an accurate comparison. Some people are (rarely) susceptible to athletic exertions, there is no way without extensive medical testing to determine they will be adversely affected.
The same can be said of hot drinks. Most people would only suffer minor burns. But the lady's age, slow response and the thick absorbent clothes made the injuries much worse than what one normally expects.
People are served boiling hot drinks all the time at home. It is reasonable to expected them to be well versed of the potential risks. Even my 8 year old niece knows better.
In order to prove negligence, it would be necessary to demonstrate that McD ought to have known that skin grafts were the likely outcome of spills and that most customers are unaware of the dangers of hot liquids. The jury made an emotional ruling based mostly on the deep pockets of the defendant. That was why the ruling was overturned on appeal and eventually settled for an amount far less than the jury award.
I'm wondering that too. I've had many similar things happen to myself and got light first degree burns at the most. I've seen someone spill fryer oil on themselves, which was about 400 Fahrenheit, and have a lot less severe burns than that.
Maybe an unfortunate skin, clothing and disability combination.
I've had many an oil splatter on me, as well as accidents with boiling hot water. In all these situations, the temperature of the liquid was over 200 degrees F and didn't have third degree burns of that magnitude. Most were first to second degree burns. The coffee was below 190 degrees F since it traveled from pot to cup to drive through window to window attendant to son to his mother.
This woman was 79 years old. What kind of moron son would let his aging mother tend to her own coffee with nothing solid to rest her coffee on?