The “Mcdonald’s Espresso” Case

In some of the extensively misreported and misunderstood circumstances in latest reminiscence, a Albuquerque, New Mexico jury awarded 79 year-old Stella Liebeck $2.9 million for extreme burns suffered after she spilled a cup of McDonald’s espresso, which she had positioned between her knees.

The jury’s award was for $200,000 in compensatory damages and $2.7 million for punitive damages (due to McDonald’s callous conduct). The jury additionally discovered Mrs. Liebeck 20% negligent, decreasing the compensatory damages to $160,000. The trial decide additionally diminished the punitive damages to $480,000.
Mrs. Liebeck didn’t obtain $2.9 million, or $2.86 million, or $740,000. The events entered a post-verdict settlement for a undisclosed quantity mcdonalds monopoly.

(States have totally different authorized requirements with respect to negligence. New Mexico makes use of a comparative negligence rule, which assigns blame and, due to this fact, judgments proportionally. Different states corresponding to North Carolina use a contributory negligence commonplace, which bars a plaintiff from restoration if their actions contributed even 1% to the accident!)


Mrs. Liebeck, whereas a passenger in her grandson’s automotive, bought a cup of espresso on the drive-through window at McDonalds. Whereas the automotive was stopped, she positioned the cup securely between her knees and tried to take away the lid. The cup unintentionally tipped over and poured the scalding (180-190ยก Fahrenheit) scorching water onto her lap.

She suffered third-degree burns over 16 p.c of her physique. Throughout her eight day hospitalization she underwent pores and skin grafting and painful whirlpool therapy for debridement (removing of broken tissue) of her wounds. She has intensive scarring and was disabled for greater than two years.

Regardless of these very painful and debilitating accidents and their costly medical therapy, Mrs. Liebeck provided to settle with McDonald’s for $20,000.

McDonald’s refused to settle and the case went to trial.


The jury heard the next proof within the case:

o McDonalds’s espresso gross sales are $1.three million per day.

o By company specs, McDonald’s sells its espresso at 180 to 190 levels Fahrenheit; Espresso at that temperature, if spilled, causes third-degree burns (the pores and skin is burned away right down to the muscle/fatty-tissue layer) in two to seven seconds; Third-degree burns don’t heal with out pores and skin grafting, debridement and whirlpool therapies that value tens of hundreds of and lead to everlasting disfigurement, excessive ache and incapacity of the sufferer for a lot of months, and in some circumstances, years;

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