top of page

☕Liebeck Case vs Mc Donald: A coffee temperature issue that resulted in damages of 160,000 $

Liebeck v. McDonald's, also known as the "McDonald's coffee case," was a highly publicized product liability lawsuit in the United States. The case involved Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old woman who suffered third-degree burns when she spilled a cup of McDonald's hot coffee in her lap in 1992.

Stella Liebeck initially sought to settle with McDonald's for $20,000 to cover her medical expenses and lost income. However, McDonald's only offered her $800. Frustrated by the company's response, Liebeck decided to sue McDonald's for damages.

During the trial, Liebeck's attorneys argued that McDonald's served excessively hot coffee, which posed a danger to consumers. They claimed that McDonald's coffee was brewed and served at temperatures around 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit (82-88 degrees Celsius), significantly hotter than coffee served at other establishments. They also argued that McDonald's was aware of previous burn injuries caused by their hot coffee but failed to take appropriate action to prevent such incidents.

The jury found McDonald's liable and awarded Stella Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages. However, they also found Liebeck partially at fault for the incident and reduced the amount to $160,000. Additionally, they awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages, intended to punish McDonald's for its conduct. The punitive damages were later reduced to $480,000 by the judge.

The case received substantial media attention, and many viewed it as an example of frivolous litigation. Critics argued that Liebeck was trying to profit from her own carelessness. However, supporters of Liebeck contended that the lawsuit shed light on the need for corporations to ensure product safety and take responsibility for their actions.

The Liebeck v. McDonald's case became a widely cited example in discussions about tort reform and personal responsibility. It led to changes in warning labels on coffee cups and prompted some restaurants to lower the temperature at which they serve hot beverages.

The case also sparked debates about the role of juries in determining damages and the overall state of the legal system in the United States.


bottom of page