Introduction to an Infamous Personal Injury Lawsuit Controversy:
A normal woman in a small town drives up to a McDonald’s and orders a cup of coffee. The rest is history. In the weeks and months to follow this encounter, great controversy would swirl around this woman and her latte. Television shows, pundits, and politicians across the country debated the matter vigorously. A documentary was even produced depicting the incident (called Hot Coffee). Yet, what actually happened?
On February 27, 1992, Stella Liebeck, 79 years old, pulled into the drive-through of a McDonald’s restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico and ordered a cup of coffee. It only cost her 49 cents but it serving her that drink would cost the restaurant a lot more than that when it was all said and done. Stella was not actually driving; her grandson, Chris, was driving his 1989 Ford Probe.
Politely, Chris pulled into a parking space so that his grandmother could add cream and sugar to her coffee. In the process, some of it spilled out of the cup and onto her groin, burning her butt and thighs. She was only wearing cotton pants and they did not effectively guard her from the high temperatures of the coffee (said to be over 180 °F).
Quickly, she was rushed to the hospital where doctors determined she had suffered third-degree burns on a small part of her body. She stayed at the hospital a little over a week where she received skin grafting. The incident left her with significant weight loss, permanent disfigurement, and disability for years to come.