You’ve probably heard of the famous lawsuit against McDonald’s over spilled coffee. Stella Liebeck who was burned by hot coffee and a jury awarded her $2.7 million (the judge actually reduced her award to $480,000). What’s often missed is that:
- The award was medical expenses and two days’ profit from coffee
- Immediately after the award fast food restaurants started serving coffee at around 158 °F — a temperature where it will take 60 seconds to cause third degree burns (enough time to react to a spill and avoid burns).
McDonald’s in Bangkok
The car was stopped and Liebeck removed the coffee lid to add cream and sugar. The coffee spill caused extensive burns to her legs and her groin. She needed skin grafts. McDonald’s had received hundreds of documented complaints about the dangerous temperature at which they were serving coffee, and they conceded it was at a temperature where it couldn’t be consumed immediately. So McDonald’s was deemed negligent.
A year ago Virgin Australia was sued after coffee slid off a tray table onto a 15 year old boy. The family claimed the airline refused to keep giving them water for the burn, preferring to save bottled water for business class passengers.
Ronald McDoanld Takes to the Skies!
Now a Southwest Airlines passenger says that on Monday morning’s Southwest Airlines flight WN268 from Phoenix to Albuquerque “she was woken by scorching hot coffee soaking through her heavy sweater and onto her skin.”
The passenger reports that a flight attendant “yanked off her sweater and rushed her to the bathroom.” The woman “was completely exposed” and the “front half of the plane could see [her] completely exposed” while she cried. Though she didn’t have the hot coffee soaked sweater burning her further.
On arrival in Albuquerque she sought medical attention for first and second degree burns on her left arm and her hands.
I hope the woman recovers quickly — and whatever the outcome of her complaint that hot drinks won’t become less available on board. I get frustrated with airlines that won’t serve coffee with the seatbelt sign on. I’d be happy to sign a waiver of liability in exchange for my coffee..!