Skip to main content

Exit WCAG Theme

Switch to Non-ADA Website

Accessibility Options

Select Text Sizes

Select Text Color

Website Accessibility Information Close Options
Close Menu

Remembering the McDonald’s “Hot Coffee” Case


A jury recently awarded a girl money for burns she sustained when a McDonalds Chicken McNugget fell on her lap and burned her. The case has brought back many memories of the much-misunderstood but very infamous “Hot Coffee” case. The case became the poster child for a broken personal injury system, and for calls for tort reform.

But the facts of the Hot Coffee case were not fully understood by the public, and in fact, cases involving burns when coming into contact with food, are very legitimate cases.

Facts People Don’t Know About “Hot Coffee”

Many people derided the hot coffee case, because it simply seemed like a woman spilled coffee on herself in the McDonalds drive through and got money for it. Many people blamed the victim for spilling the coffee on herself, not to mention the fact that everybody knows coffee is hot.

But the general public really never appreciated just how hot that coffee was. It was so hot that when it contacted the woman’s body, it caused third degree burns, and the woman needed skin grafts, and was hospitalized for over a week. Graphic pictures of the scarring on her inner thighs were shown to the jury.

Scientific evidence in the case showed that the temperature of the coffee was so hot that it could (and did) cause burns down to the fat and muscle tissue, in only about 2-7 seconds of contact. These kinds of burns need skin grafts; they do not heal on their own.

McDonalds also knew their coffee was too hot—from 1982 to 1992, about 700 people had been burned by McDonald’s coffee. That includes burns to the elderly, or young children. Some had long term disability because of burns sustained after contact with hot coffee.

And yet, McDonald’s did nothing about the temperature of their coffee (which would have been a very easy fix). McDonalds admitted in the case that it did not warn people of the scalding hot temperatures of the coffee it was serving, and that in fact the coffee was often so hot when served, it was not fit for human consumption.

All of this dangerously hot scalding coffee was served in drive throughs—where it is foreseeable that people may be distracted, or driving, an environment where spills are much more likely than they are in a traditional sit down restraint.

Later, McDonalds policy would be changed, lowering the temperature of coffee, to a temperature that would take a full 60 seconds to cause third degree burns.

The Chicken McNugget Case

Recently, a jury awarded a young girl $800,000 for scarring he sustained when coming into contact with a McDonalds chicken McNugget. The McNugget was served in a children’s happy meal. Although some are deriding the verdict, the Hot Coffee case is evidence that McDonalds—as well as many other fast food, drive-through restaurants—are often serving food at temperatures that are not only unsafe to eat, but which can cause serious, instantaneous injuries.

If you have been injured by any type of food product, we can help. Contact the Tampa personal injury lawyers at Barbas, Nunez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian and schedule a consultation today.


Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
Skip footer and go back to main navigation