If you were watching the news way back in 1994, then you probably remember the infamous McDonald’s hot coffee spill case in the USA. 79-year-old Stella Liebeck suffered third-degree burns after spilling a McDonald’s coffee in her lap while parked outside the restaurant. After McDonald’s refused to settle, her case went to trial, where she was awarded the equivalent of two days of McDonald’s coffee sales.
The media has commonly positioned these sorts of suits as a justified “David vs. Goliath” – however, an individual must prove that a restaurant was negligent before they receive any compensations for burns that they may have suffered from a spilled coffee. In other words, a plaintiff must show that the restaurant breached their duty of care to serve beverages of a reasonable temperature in a non-defective cup, and that such breach caused harm.
Hot coffee and hot tea spills are not uncommon. Fast food chains such as Tim Hortons and Starbucks serve thousands of hot beverages a day, and as such, there is a reasonable expectation that some spills may occur on occasion.
Suffering a burn from a spilled coffee does not automatically entitle an individual to compensation. They must prove that that the spill itself was a result of the negligence of the restaurant. That means that the temperature of the tea had to be so hot that the temperature was beyond industry standard and caused a burn injury that was beyond what could be “reasonably” expected in such settings.
Another angle of proving negligence may be that the cup itself was defective, or the lid was not properly secured. An individual will likely not be able to recover any money if they caused the spill themselves by, for example, not paying proper attention or taking off the lid of the cup prior to drinking it.
If you are involved in a hot beverage spill incident and become injured, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to help you protect your rights.
If you or someone you know is injured by a hot beverage spill, you may be entitled to compensation. Please contact our team at JEWELL RADIMISIS JORGE LLP for a free consultation.