Not that I ever drink McDonald's coffee, but I like the fact that after that silly "burned by coffee" lawsuit some years back, McDonald's didn't respond by serving lukewarm coffee. And neither did anybody else. Instead, you just got those silly signs warning you that a cup of hot coffee is hot.
So I guess we'll probably see warnings on hash browns too.
That McDonalds coffee issue is a bit different than most people understand. There are regulations that say how hot coffee and such can be when served, mainly because it really is dangerous when it's excessively hot. McDonalds, as a franchise, was warned about the temperature of their coffee over 220,000 times in writing, based on incidents, in the previous 10 years and did little to nothing about it. What some did was buy a coffee maker that would let the employee know when the temperature was low enough to safely serve, then largely ignored it and served it too hot anyways. They knew that a drive-up situation presents an opportunity for that same coffee to be spilled ON someone also, and in a situation where it would be hard to tell which party was at fault, which looked like a "even if it does happen, we just say it's the customer's fault" situation. That woman got second degree burns on her labia and other areas of her naughty parts, that had to completely suck, not only for her, but her husband was going without for a couple weeks while she healed. Much of the money she got was PUNATIVE damages, meaning they were fines to the company meant to punish them for their violations. I think we all can agree that if you order a cup of coffee, you can expect it to be hot, but there's no reason for it to be hot enough to give a person 2nd degree burns.
I'm not one for lawsuits, but in this case, I agree with the outcome. McDonalds ignored the warnings, presented a dangerous situation, and someone got hurt in just about the most painful way possible. The money she got was the amount they were being punished, which is consistent with the size of the McDonalds franchise, how much money it takes to constitute realistic punishment, and the number of opportunities they had to fix the problem before someone someone got hurt.
That's not exactly the situation, but it's essentially correct. A few additions: first, the lady in question was an elderly woman (so there wasn't really a serious loss of consortium issue). The fact that her skin was old meant that the burns she suffered were particularly nasty.
Alsa, it wasn't that McDonald's didn't do anything
about the many scaldings people suffered from hot coffee; the fact is, they routinely settled with them and paid for their medical care and pain and suffering. It was just a cost of doing business to them, and really a quite sensible tactic, since most people loved the hot coffee and only a tiny percentage were hurt by it. McDonald's thought that if they got a ruling in their favor in a test case, they could stop paying any settlements. So, they rolled the dice with this old woman who had suffered horrible 2nd degree burns, knowing that if they won against this highly sympathetic plaintiff, they could probably win against anyone. They lost.
The punitive damages were calculated by the jury to equal one day of McDonald's coffee profits.
It's ironic that this case has become everyone's favorite example of a frivolous lawsuit, because it's actually not that bad. There are many worse ones out there. The baseless silicone breast implant lawsuits were a good example of one.