We’ve all heard one version or another of the infamous McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit legend: a woman bought coffee from McDonald’s and had the genius idea of holding it between her legs while she was driving. And, because driving is bumpy and coffee is hot, it bumped and spilled, and because coffee is hot, she got burnt. She then decided to sue McDonald’s because the coffee cups didn’t have warning labels because this silly ol’ lady likes suing people and found a way to go after a business that had lots of money that didn’t think to protect themselves by doing something so that defies common sense: label that coffee could be hot. And, because she found this loophole, she could now go for millions of dollars from this mega corporation for a frivolous thing, and have a good chance at winning because the legal system is a joke.
Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, that’s because it is. And, although that’s how the media reported it, in an episode of Adam Ruins Everything from TruTV we learn, with numerous sources cited, that this simply wasn’t the case.
So, here’s the real story about the woman who sued McDonald’s for spilling hot coffee on herself. The woman bought coffee and was in a car that was parked. She then managed to accidentally spill the coffee on herself, but the coffee was served at near boiling temperatures. The woman suffered 3rd degree burns on her legs and genitals, and these coffee burns required skin grafts. Due to all of this, she went into shock and nearly died. In fact, a doctor said it was one of the worst cases he had ever seen. The woman racked up $20,000 in hospital bills, and she actually didn’t want to go to court. The woman who spilled the hot coffee on herself wanted to settle outside of court and even agreed to outside mediation, simply so that she could get her bills paid. But, after all of that, she was only offered $800 after 6 months of haggling with the McDonald’s corporation.
When she went to court for her hot coffee bills, that’s when everything started spiraling out of control. The jury found out that over 700 people had been burned by McDonald’s before this, and they had done nothing to change it. So, to force McDonald’s to change and to use this coffee woman to set the precedent, they decided to go after McDonald’s for 2 days worth of coffee sales. 2 days of coffee sales from McDonald’s at the time was $2.7 million.
Immediately after this, McDonald’s did change their ways, so it would seem that this lawsuit actually prevented them from other people being burned in the future.
So, when you catch a story on the news, perhaps the moral of the story is to look into the facts and not the sensationalized entertainment version. Oh, and to be careful that your hot coffee isn’t too hot.