The McDonald’s Coffee Case Back in 1992 when Stella Liebeck spilled McDonald’s coffee on herself, she never intended to sue. She simply asked for money to cover her medical charges and for the time her daughter was out of work caring for her. When she received an inadequate response from McDonald’s, that’s when she sought an attorney. This case has turned out to be one of the most misunderstood cases of our times. In Stella Liebeck’s defense, it can be said that McDonald’s should not have been serving coffee so hot.
As mentioned in the article “McDonald’s policy at the time was to serve its coffee at 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. ” After hearing a statistic like that, it’s hard to believe that anyone would enjoy drinking something that hot. “180 degrees Fahrenheit is hot enough to cause severe third degree burns in less than a second. ” That is exactly what the coffee ended up doing to Stella Liebeck. She ended up with burns all over her buttocks and thigh. In McDonald’s defense, they can use the principle of Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware. McDonald’s can say that once they hand out their coffee they have no control over what happens to it.
McDonald’s was not the one to actually spill the coffee on Stella Liebeck, she did it to herself. She knew that it was very hot, and she should have used more caution when opening up her coffee. Using the “Reasonable Person” principle, people are expecting the coffee that they buy to be very hot. A person would not deliberately pour hot coffee on themselves because that will hurt badly. In this case the “Reasonable Person” theory does not apply as much because she did not spill coffee on herself on purpose. The “Industry Standard” principle seems to have the greatest range of a course of action.
Depending on the size of the corporation will dictate their course of action. For example, a global company like McDonald’s would be more able to pay money to a burn victim rather than an owner of a deli. To determine the results for this case, two precedents were used. Buyer beware prevailed in one case, and in the second case the court ruled that a warning should have been given to the victim. It is safe to say that in both of those cases and the McDonald’s case, if a warning had been issued then the result would have probably never happened.